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Trust Science And Your Gut While You Breastfeed

“You’re starving that baby... give him a bottle.”

“I knew my breastfeeding was going well... but when heard that, I wasn’t so sure.”

Nearly everybody has an opinion... and most are very happy to share it with you. Some opinions and advisories are more valuable than others and as a breastfeeding mother you will be continuously digesting these recommendations from relatives and friends - with varying degrees of experience, as well as from experts in the field of breastfeeding and lactation.

Bruno Bettelheim, the child psychologist, writes in A Good Enough Parent that “acting on the recommendations of others cannot evoke in us the feelings of confirmation that well up in us only when we have understood on our own, in our own ways, what is involved in a particular situation, and what we can therefore do about it.”

If you “know” that you are breastfeeding successfully say so!

If you know in your gut and heart that you can fully nurture your child with your breast milk... say it!

“I am doing perfectly well, thank you!”

If you “know” it, that’s because there are 100 million neurons and neurotransmitters inside you processing your life’s input and sending signals to your brain and heart. The brain translates these signals so we can make decisions and act.  

“Your gut is this collection of heuristic (problem-solving) shortcuts. It’s this unconscious-conscious learned experience center that you can draw on from your years of being alive. It holds insights that aren’t immediately available to your conscious mind right now, but they’re all things that you’ve learned and felt. In the moment, we might not be readily able to access specific information, but our gut has it at the ready.” says Melody Wilding, a licensed therapist and professor of human behavior at Hunter College.

Another new mom says:

“I don’t know who to listen to... should I wake my baby to feed him? Should I supplement him with formula when he seems to want to eat so often in the evenings? I am finding it hard to make a decision, will I ever feel confident?”

My education and experience has led me to know:

Mothers and babies are hard-wired to breastfeed; it’s all perfectly synced, from placenta delivery to colostrum. From transitional milk to mature milk, it’s all there, trust me. Now, trust your body to provide for your baby through time with experimentation and consistent breastfeeding advice from board certified lactation consultants to keep information science based and less confusing.

Your baby will let you know when he is hungry. Remember those feeding cues? The slow awakening, the stretching, mouthing hands, sucking sounds? If his previous feeding was short, he will likely awaken sooner. If he got into several letdowns, the fattier milk, he will sleep longer.

More breastfeeding now means more milk later. When you rely on cued feedings, your baby is removing the amount of milk he needs in the moment. This amount increases incrementally as your baby’s needs increase. Some feedings will be shorter and some longer as normal feeding patterns vary throughout the day. You should also expect cluster feedings – newborns tend to have certain times of the day where they feed frequently for a few hours, often in the evenings. You may then notice a longer stretch of sleep after cluster feeds. Supplementing with formula will do nothing to increase your milk supply. Try expressing breastmilk at the end of the shorter feedings and store it for the hungrier times when you feel unable keep him at breast.

More milk out equals more milk made. Breastfeeding and expressing milk tells your body to make more milk for your growing baby, especially if you express from both breasts at the same time.

As your healthy baby detaches from your breast, milky mouthed and sleepy, a feeling of confirmation that you are doing the right thing, no matter what anyone else says, awakens within you and leads to confidence, a feeling of self-assurance arising from the appreciation of your own abilities. Acknowledge your innate abilities. Affirm your strengths; your body created a new life and will sustain it with nourishment.

Consider yourself powerful in this! Don’t let anyone take that away from you.

Breastfeeding is a journey. It requires changes in thinking about parenting, partnering and what your breasts are all about. It is new, and with each subsequent baby, it’ll still be new. You are a strong woman; adaptable, accommodating, accepting, and informed.

“Change is not an event with an exact start and stop point; it's a process. Each step you make, even if it's a relatively small step such as making the resolution to change, is still a step in the right direction, bringing you closer to your ultimate goal. It's also important to recognize that even if you take a few steps back, it's not the end of the world. In fact, research has found that change rarely occurs in a straightforward, linear sequence, and when people falter, they usually don't fall all the way back to where they first began the journey." - Sherrie Bourg Carter, Psy.D, P.A.

Paula Zindler
RN IBCLC

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