A wise woman teacher of mine shares, “ritual is the act of doing something over and over again so it creates a groove in our lives, our spirit, our Universe …” Breastfeeding ritual creates a groove in our mother-spirit so that it can be a transformative and beautiful relationship.
A baby is born and as mothers we are drawn to protect it. Over and over we bring baby to our breasts to nurse, to feel, smell, see, sense, and taste our tiny gift. We touch their soft skin and imprint them on our hearts.
The weeks pass and each day we continue to dance in our nourishing ritual. Mother Nature also sees it as a way for you to connect to your center and your mothering impulses, to take a moment and breathe deep.
We progress and become more confident as new mothers. Intuition takes over and nursing our babies becomes like breathing. You’ve seen mothers do it while multi-tasking a dozen other things, homework for older children, crafts at the kitchen table, making breakfast, working from home, talking on the phone, reading a book, sitting at the computer (NAK = “nursing at the keyboard”).
How did we get here? How did success manifest? When did the mechanics of latching a baby on become routine and comfortable? When did the ritual of bringing a baby to your breast become instinctive, normal and joyful?
It started with fundamentals. With repetition and creating that groove, and hopefully finding the right support and tools to help you get through the difficult times.
There are many obstacles to breastfeeding. Cultural, anatomical, physical, emotional, relationships with those around us. Breastfeeding does not always come easily to many women. Finding the right support can make a difference. I always tell women they can not be a new mother in isolation. You need to find your tribe – your breastfeeding sisterhood with whom you can share and feel supported.
Part of that support is understanding three very key concepts. Yes, it is as simple as these three keys. Implementing them, however, in a harmonious way, is not as simple. Getting the help from a good IBCLC or care giver who can recognize potential problems and help you with technique and support is critical. Understanding and knowing these concepts going into motherhood will help you avoid the obstacles that may hinder developing a long-lasting positive experience.
1. Proper Latch & Positioning – learn what positions work best for you and your baby. Learn how to recognize both visually, as well as by feeling it, what a proper latch is. Give yourself a body scan before baby arrives – know your breast and nipple shape and what to do if your breast anatomy is linked to common difficulties. Surf the web for good visuals and videos on latch and position. Dr. Jack Newman is a great place to start.
2. Creating an abundant milk supply – milk begets milk! For most women it is as simple as the economics of supply & demand. Make bringing your baby to your chest, skin to skin optimally, a common regular event. Often mom’s will ask me about schedules. As much as I loathe the word “schedule” as used in context with a newly breastfeeding baby, let’s be honest – humans are creatures of habit and babies respond to regular, nurturing, loving care. Remember your ritual! The more you bring baby to you to nurse, the more abundant your supply will be. A healthy newborn should be nursed every 2 – 3 hours.
3. Milk transfer – you mean getting milk from breast into baby’s stomach? Yes! We don’t always think about this. Sometimes a latch is thought to be “just fine” but in reality baby may not be effectively milking the breast. Look for usual markers of a thriving baby like the number of diapers you’re getting in a 24 hour period (at least 6 wet and 4 poop ). Once let down has occurred and milk is flowing, listen for a good “suck, suck, swallow” pattern. Are you getting the relaxed “drunk” look babies get at the end of a feed? A satisfied baby’s body language can tell you a lot.
Ritual is a huge part of motherhood – how we feed our babies, how we sing to them, stroke their heads gently as they lay down to sleep, what music we play for them, how we bathe them and rub lotion into their skin, the lullabies we hum. The rituals you create now and the nurturing your provide by breastfeeding, are creating healthy bonds of attachment and trust that will carry children into the future.
(very cute baby, Henry, picture courtesy of his mama & papa, davidschlossphoto.com)