What's the most important thing you've learned as a lactation consultant?
To think like a baby is my answer, without question. That was when my light bulb of understanding went on.
For some reason we seem to think of breastfeeding as something a mother does for her baby. But really it is something a baby does instinctively together with their mum and her breasts.
A baby has a set of instinctive behaviours that work at their optimal point when allowed to be close to their mum, have their chest skin to skin with mum and ample opportunity to practice. They are an equal partner.
Babies know their appetite, they don't know clocks. They instinctively know that feeding frequently at night helps set up milk supply best and sees them gaining weight fastest.
As you breastfeed, your breasts learn to produce milk at just the times baby needs it, while over time babies space out feeds.
Investing in the beginning is key. Newborns are used to dark, constant warmth, constant sound and movement and cuddling and constant delivery of food with no hunger or rumblings and workings of a gut. They are often feeling a bit lost and missing home when they are first born. The breast and mum is their new ‘home’, and they want to be there a lot. As they learn about this new world and get more confident they need less reassurance.
Lactation consultants and midwives help explain and normalise baby's instinctive early behaviour for parents, and watch by as baby learns. If things get tricky we bring our expertise to the table.