Healthy Tahoe: Breastfeeding — just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s easy
March 21, 2017
Most mothers in the U.S. intend to breastfeed their children exclusively for at least three months, but only a third of them reach their goal. Low breastfeeding outcomes are not due to lack of desire; it is usually because of lack of support.
One question I am asked: Aren't we suppose to know how to nurse our babies instinctively? When we think about it, most of us do not see babies being nursed daily. So how are we supposed to know how to troubleshoot? Just because breastfeeding is natural doesn't mean it's always easy!
Some lucky moms are indeed able to breastfeed their babies easily but a large majority struggle with it at some point in small or big ways. You may have read books about it or even attended a breastfeeding class, but there might be issues that were not addressed:
Your baby might have been born early and needs some time and help "learning" and getting strong enough to suck, swallow and breathe properly.
She might have a condition called "tongue-tie," a condition where the tissue under the tongue (frenulum) is too short, tight or thick and hinders the proper movement of the tongue during nursing. This condition is pretty rare at about 5 to 10 percent of the population, but it is often underdiagnosed. With this diagnosis, the only correct intervention is a relatively straightforward and quick surgery.
Birth interventions such as forceps, vacuum extraction or c-section can leave the baby with restrictions in the body that disable him from nursing correctly. Even too fast or very long labors can interfere with breastfeeding.
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Below is Maya's story. Her story is a good for example of how labor difficulties can interfere with learning to nurse properly.
Maya's birth was very long, and her mom was in what is called back labor. After she had emerged her head was misshaped (which can be quite normal and can self-correct), and she had some visible bruising. She struggled with latching correctly from the very beginning which resulted in pain while nursing for the mother.
However, after a thorough examination, it became clear that during the birth process two of her cranial bones molded and irritated one of her main nerves that supply and move the tongue (hypoglossal nerve). After some gentle bodywork called Craniosacral Therapy (CST), Maya was able to move and use her tongue better, which resulted in a deeper better latch immediately. Her mom also got the homework of encouraging optimal tongue movement using simple reflex-exercises. Maya needed two more sessions to address her birth trauma and resulting restrictions but was eventually able to nurse happily and without any discomfort for mom.
5 things you can do today to help your breastfeeding relationship
At least 30 minutes daily of "skin to skin" contact with baby and mom (stimulates hormones that help with nursing and milk production).
Car seats are for cars only — instead wear your baby in a carrier or sling while shopping, walking, etc.
Reduce sensory stimulation, like loud music or the radio, dim your lights, reduce strong smells, avoid long outings to places like shopping centers or malls for the first few weeks of life.
Encourage daily "tummy time" — only do this for as long as baby doesn't cry. For ideas on how to encourage this visit: http://www.tummytimemethod.com.
Avoid letting your baby sleep in swings, rock 'n' plays or bouncy seats as this can contribute to neck stiffness and thus interfere with breastfeeding.
At Elevate Wellness Center we are excited to share our combined knowledge of over 30 years from Midwife Misty McBride, Doula Krystal Long and Craniosacral Therapist and Osteopath (G) Janine Blanchard with the community of South Lake Tahoe.
Please join us for our free presentation "Breastfeeding 101 & Troubleshooting" on Monday, March 27, at 6 p.m. Pre-registration is recommended by calling 530-541-9355. Space is limited. All who attend will be entered to win a Mama gift basket. Elevate Wellness Center is located at 2034 Lake Tahoe Blvd. at The Crossing at Tahoe Valley.
Janine Blanchard is a craniosacral therapist at Elevate Wellness Center.