Your Confusing Little Mammal
We are honored to feature a guest blog from Kelly Wysocki-Emery, RN, IBCLC from baby beloved, inc. Kelly went to college to become a psychologist, but after the experience of birthing and breastfeeding her first baby, she was “hooked” on the incredible miracle of it all. She decided that she wanted to help other mothers with breastfeeding struggles (as she faced many of them with her daughter) and in 1994, Kelly became certified as a lactation educator and postpartum doula.
At my last breastfeeding class, I set out popcorn and Hershey’s chocolate kisses for the attendees to enjoy. The class started at 6:30 pm, so I asked them whether or not they had time to grab dinner after work before getting to class. All of them had eaten dinner, as had I. I had a huge, satisfying dinner at Blue Water Grill. I was stuffed. But wouldn’t you know it, I probably had 4-5 of those kisses, and the attendees of my class ALSO had ample popcorn and chocolate kisses. So what gives? If we were all just coming from dinner, and were presumably full, why would we grab popcorn and chocolate?
Turns out, we humans eat for comfort. And social bonding. And boredom. And pleasure (the chocolate kisses were quite pleasurable to me, I assure you). As new breastfeeding mothers, it’s helpful to remember this when baby is wanting to nurse again 1.5 hours after you fed him. I know it’s frustrating. Some day he will be able to walk to the refrigerator himself, but for now, his only way of communicating his needs is to cry and reach out for you. He is a little human who can’t walk or open his own bag of chocolates. YOU are the chocolate kiss in his life.
Babies have desires and preferences and irrational behaviors just like we do. If we just presume this from the start, it will make our lives as nursing mothers much more relaxed and understandable. I see mothers sometimes stressing about a baby’s 3 hour feeding schedule. Baby wants to eat at the 1.5 hour mark perhaps, and mothers get thrown off because the books, and the doctor and the Internet all say babies should eat every 2-3 hours. Conversely, I see mothers sometimes get concerned if baby sleeps a four to five hour stretch without eating. Now in the beginning, before baby is back to birth weight, it would be prudent to wake any baby who is sleeping longer than 3-4 hours, but a month old baby who is gaining weight well is probably just fine to be left sleeping (maybe not FIVE 5-hour stretches….but one stretch would probably be OK for a full-term, healthy newborn who is gaining gangbusters).
I know as a lactation consultant that when a baby wants to cluster feed, a mother (who is exhausted and perhaps “touched out”) may reasonably wonder to herself “But my baby just ate an hour ago. I must not have enough milk, otherwise why would he be wanting to nurse again?” Reasonable enough question. But if you substitute your baby for me (or yourself) and ask why a perfectly, well-fed, recently-fed woman would want to reach for 4-5 chocolates (when clearly my stomach was full), you might start to understand. If I were a dinner guest in your house, and I had just finished a fantastic, plentiful meal but then 45 minutes later I accepted your offer for dessert, would you find that odd? Or would you accommodate me?
I know it can be frustrating when you can’t measure what is in the breast. It’s reasonable for a new, “rookie” mother to be confused and worried. And unfortunately, we as lactation consultants and nurses sometimes set you up for all of this measuring the minute your baby is delivered (at least in the hospital) when we give you “feeding charts” so you can record the minutes you feed on each side and the number of wet/dirty diapers baby has so we can “tell if baby is getting food from the breast”. I totally understand that WE set you up to be anal about measuring things. I am constantly conflicted about having to do this, but as a new mother, I know you are looking for guidelines to ease your worry. You are looking for the guardrails so you can know if things are normal or not. If a baby is having lots of wet/dirty diapers, then chances are they are getting plenty of milk—and that is really what I want to drive home to parents so they can reassure themselves at 2 a.m. when I’m not there. So they can walk themselves down off the ledge when worry and sleep-deprivation kick in. And always know you can go to your pediatrician’s office for a weight check ANY time. Your doctor will let you know if the growth is normal or not. It might be a growth spurt, or a cluster feed, or any number of things, but please don’t automatically jump to the conclusion you don’t have enough milk. And if baby is not gaining well, then that is the time to reach out for help from a qualified lactation professional to help troubleshoot what might be going on.
But if the weight trend is good, and diapers are ample, your baby might just need you a little more at those times. If you are “touched out” and need a break, don’t hesitate to ask for help from husband or family, of course. You deserve a break, too, and you are not expected to do this all alone. Everybody needs space and time to rejuvenate and replenish. It’s not selfish, but rather a beautiful example to your baby or child of lovely self-care.
Kelly’s next breastfeeding class is on March 7th. Register at Renew Mama Studio today .