Recently I had two different moms who I attempted to help with adjusting to breastfeeding with a new baby. Both moms had had difficult labors and births, but both avoided cesareans. But both babies ended up spending a week in the NICU on antibiotics. Meconium aspiration was the culprit for both. They do not allow a baby to be roomed in with its mom if the baby has an IV. So separation, although not continuous, is a problem. It becomes increasingly problematic when trying to recover and also develop a milk supply and learn to breastfeed since the baby is also being given bottles along the way.
The first mom returned home and her baby was discharged after the week. The baby was nursing some and also being given formula. The mom was only nursing some of the time- some of the time she was pumping and some of the time the baby was being bottle fed. She was concerned about her supply- and rightly she should have been. It is important that a baby nurse from the mom at a minimum of 8 times a day and ideally more like 10 to 12 times a day. The baby had been on a 3-hour feeding schedule in the NICU.
I encouraged this mom to take a babymoon. Crawl in the bed shirtless with only a diapered baby- and nurse around the clock- doing nothing but being waited on by helpful friends and family- fed but doing nothing else but having skin to skin time with the baby and nursing as frequently as possible for 24 hours.
I encouraged this mom to do just that- and give me a call in 24 hours with the number of wet diapers, the number of poops and number of times she nursed.
24 hours later she texted me, “Hey! we didn’t do it today. I had too many people over today.” I replied, “prioritize.” I did not hear from her again. But I saw on social media pictures of the family giving the baby a bottle.
Hey, that works- the baby is being fed, right? Well, sure- but ideally the mom had wanted to breastfeed. I think visitors were fun, but they sabotaged her ability to get a good supply going. And not having a good supply, having nipple confusion with bottles and the mom being a hostess instead of resting is not the way to help her make breastfeeding work. The mom could not find her voice to tell her family what she really needed.
The second mom worked hard to be with her baby in the hospital and was also able to bring her baby home after a week in the NICU. She had great family support in every way except with breastfeeding. Neither of her moms had breastfed so when the first problem with latch began, rather than helping to pay for a lactation support person, they undermined her breastfeeding.
How? By stating how they had dried up their milk quickly with ice packs- only took a few days. By saying how formula and bottle feeding had worked fine for them. By holding the fussy baby and giving him a pacifier when he was showing signs to nurse, but they were attempting to “help” the new mom by doing so.
I wish the family would see that the best way to help is to find supportive solutions that are in alignment with what the ideals of the mom are instead. The second mom reached out to me. I was able to provide postpartum help. The mom realized quickly some things to improve the baby’s latch and also was reaffirmed on what a great job she was doing. And how normal her baby was acting. And she was given time to share emotions and feelings with acceptance.
So, what does a new mom need? REST: Rest. Encouragement. Support. Time. If you want to come and help, then help do the things that need to be done- meals, cleaning, errands, holding the baby while she showers- but otherwise- keep the baby with the mom! Encouragement means giving her courage to move toward her ideals. That means getting her help if you are not an expert in the area she is struggling. Gift her a postpartum doula, a lactation consult, a ride to a breastfeeding support meeting. Encourage her to call an expert rather than undermine her ideas. Support her emotionally by allowing her space to share her feelings without judgment and without dismissing her feelings as invalid. Feed her- make sure she has her physical needs met as well. And remind her it takes a time to adjust to a new situation- to heal from the birth, to learn her baby’s cues and to figure out what works.
If you do not agree with what she is doing, keep your opinions to yourself unless you are concerned for her well being and her baby’s. Then reach out to an expert for advice and input.