Learning for Baby: Breastfeeding

M & I have been to a couple of learning sessions in the past week to improve our skills as parents. First was a breastfeeding workshop by Interior Health – 2 hours in an evening about the benefits and strategies for effective breastfeeding.
Much of what the public health nurse shared was familiar: breastfeeding is the best food for baby, and is good for the mother too; while it might be sensitive at the start, breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt (and if it does, get help); frequent feeding stimulates more milk production; feeding on demand allows you to meet the baby’s food needs, promotes bonding, and supports milk supply. I also appreciated that they supported a low-tech approach: you don’t need a nursing pillow, you don’t need a breast pump – just nurse.

Helpful information included more details about what a good latch looks like (open mouth, as much of the nipple/areola as possible, nose to nipple, chin touching breast) and that babies go through growth periods where they will suddenly nurse a lot more for several days – this doesn’t mean your milk supply is low, it’s the baby’s way of increasing your milk supply.

Frustrating information included her take on when/how much it’s safe to drink and smoke while breastfeeding. I understand that much of public health has a harm reduction approach, but as someone who doesn’t drink or smoke, and who recognizes the toxicity they bring into your body, it was frustrating to have them in some way officially sanctioned. When describing the effect of drinking on a nursing baby, she said that the baby may get sleepy. In other words, the baby is drunk if you drink. Since early exposure to alcohol predisposes children to addiction later, I really wish they would investigate this more thoroughly so parents could weigh the risks of alcohol consumption more effectively, particularly during the first 6 months of a baby’s life, when breastmilk is their (should be their) only food and its quality and content directly affects their health and development.

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