An Experienced Lactation Consultant
I have had an opportunity to shadow a Lactation Consultant as a practical component of becoming trained in the Baby Friendly Initiative. This Lactation Consultant has had years and years of various public health experience working with new moms. I was completely in awe of how effective her communication style was. As soon as I stepped into her office, I was overwhelmed with the need to tell her everything about me, and I wasn’t even her patient! It all came up like word vomit: What I had for dinner last night, how my toddler refuses to sleep through the night, and my own experiences breastfeeding my children.
If you have a question, she has the answer.
An Experienced Mom
When a mom came in, she began by discussing her plans for child care and feeding options when she returned to work – typical concerns that many moms face when transitioning back into the workforce. She was worried that her son wouldn’t take milk from a bottle, but he would from an open-faced cup. She didn’t want to start formula but was unsure if she would be able to pump enough milk for when she was away. She stated that her baby was doing well with solid foods. She wasn’t sure if she wanted to continue breastfeeding past the year mark but wondered if her baby may want to continue.
It all sounded brutally familiar.
All while listening to this mom relay her monumental life transition, the Lactation Consultant sat patiently, nodding her head from time to time, her gaze constantly on the mom. She was the picture of inner peace.
Meanwhile, I was literally vibrating in my seat, using all my willpower to refrain from interjecting. There were at least ten instances during the mom’s conversation that I would have came in with my highly relatable, while very personal stories about how my own children experienced that phase of our life.
An Experienced Baby
Thankfully I was able to keep my composure. We listened, until the mom said, almost to herself, “Well, he won’t take a bottle but he’ll take it from the cup so that’s pretty good, right? I can just give him some Homo milk from a cup? And if I nurse him before and after work, he’ll probably be OK eating his solid foods during the day. How much milk will he need to drink while I’m gone, then? I guess he’ll just drink until he isn’t thirsty any more…Right?”
The mom had just answered her own questions herself! While initially I was in awe of this Lactation Consultants apparent voo-doo magic, after a good head shake I realized that wasn’t it at all.
Baby had just been showing mom all of the signs that he was ready for transitioning straight to a cup, and all the mom needed was a bit of reassurance that she was indeed reading her baby’s signals correctly.
This mom would now be able to sleep tonight and breathe easier, all because this kind, caring health professional took the time to listen instead of immediately trying to diagnose and solve her problem.
The Most Valuable Lesson I Have Ever Learned
I was completely dumbfounded. While all breastfeeding issues are not this simple, when looking back on my past parenting practices I feel like many of my own children’s cues could have easily been missed because I was focusing too hard on what “normal” is.
How many naps should my toddler have? How many ounces of milk must he drink? When should he be out of his crib by? When does he have to stop using a soother?
I began to wonder whether these are all questions that we need to stop looking for answers in books. Instead, maybe we should try following what our kids actions are telling us, and trusting our own judgements.
Before I left, the Lactation Consultant apologised for not having a mom come in who required hands-on breastfeeding assistance.
I didn’t say much at the time, but I really wish I had told her the truth: She had taught me one of the most valuable lessons that I have ever learned, which I will include in my practice for years to come.
So, to all those moms out there wondering if they are doing it right, I have just one word for you.