01 May 2022

Breastfeeding in the 21st century.

0 Comment

How can breastfeeding work well when 23% of mothers are back to work within 2 weeks of giving birth, with the average length of time for maternity leave being 10 weeks? https://www.thebalancecareers.com/how-long-is-the-average-maternity-leave-4590252

Here’s how:  breastfeed exclusively for as long as you can, sleep safely with your nursing baby, learn about your breast pump so that you can get the most milk in the shortest time, and wear your baby around the house and to the grocery store.

When a parent’s life is ruled by calendars and clocks, there is little room for change in daily routines. A baby, especially during the first year of its life, is a bundle of changes. The real problem is the disconnect between work schedules and the  infant’s operating system.

Infant sleep “problems” are the bane of parents lives. I put the word problems in quotation marks because it is most always the parents having the problems. Their babies are sleeping just fine, in harmony with their sleep hormones, their brain growth, and the rhythms of the day, aka circadian rhythms. It is the exhausted working parent, who may be away from their baby for 12 hours or more, who is too tired to be flexible, who wants baby to leave them alone so they can get some much needed rest.  The evidence that breastfeeding and parental sleep can work well together in certain conditions has been dissed by a one size fits all cultural message, when a harm reduction approach would be best.

Life with a newborn can be easier, even when a mother (or chestfeeding parent), has to leave their baby and return to the job. There are at least 4 simple things that you can do to survive this next batch of time.

  1. An easy way for a breastfeeding mother to get enough sleep is to breastsleep, also called bed-sharing or co-sleeping.   Make your bed a safe place for the infant, curl up on your side and breastfeed while sleeping. Breastfeeding hormones and the milk itself lead to you waking up rested with a happy baby, having stayed close to your baby all night, and without any idea how many times you breastfed. Like any little mammal, babies can scoot and squirm over to feed while mama snoozes.

Baby in bed is not safe for nor wanted by everyone. However, bedsharing can happen by accident so be prepared. Learn how to make your bed safe:  https://www.llli.org/the-safe-sleep-seven/

2) Help your baby be in synch with you Put baby to bed when you go to bed so that your schedules stay in synch. If you put baby to sleep at 6 pm, of course they will wake up before you. So everybody go to bed at the same time. (This works!)

3) Wearing the baby when you are home is a lovely way to keep you connected. Wearing your baby lets you use both hands to do your work, keeps baby secure and quiet,  and makes breastfeeding easier.

Wearing baby is also TummyTime, as baby is off their back. Baby wearing is a gentle way of teaching baby that days are active and full of light, while nights ore restful and dark. Check out this website to learn about safe baby wearing:  https://www.llli.org/breastfeeding-info/baby-wearing/

4) Before return to work, be sure that you have experimented with your pump.  Jeanette Mesite Frem (http://www.babiesincommon.com) recommends that you experiment with your pumping equipment. Play around with different flange sizes. Always be comfortable when you pump. Try bigger. Try smaller. Start with hard plastic. Find out how much milk you can pump. See what happens.. Jeanette reports that some people, who felt they were pumping plenty, were surprised to find that a different flange was more comfortable and collected more milk in less time.

If the USA had a national paid maternity leave policy, families could stay together longer and build an adaptable and strong foundation. This would make the transition back to the job much easier. Until then, learn about safe bed-sharing, get a good pump and learn to use it, and wear your baby when you are home.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.