Friday, February 1, 2013

Docking the space shuttle

The key to early breastfeeding success is the latch.  What is "the latch?"  It is the way the baby connects with your breast to feed, and it is way more than just putting his mouth on your nipple.

In  our case, it felt a lot like docking the shuttle at the international space station, except you only have control over the station.  The shuttle has a brain of its own, and it is a person named Elliott. 

Components of my good latch:
  • intense, driving motivation to breastfeed
  • four adult hands
  • three human brains
  • plan of action written out prior to birth by lactation consultant (LC)
  • great support team and medical providers at birth
  • no medications during labor
  • smooth, problem-free delivery
  • healthy, hungry baby with a big open mouth
  • hospital that supports skin to skin, feeding within first 20 minutes, and rooming in
  • LC available the first night
  • another written prescription for action by LC before leaving hospital
  • baby's dad who would  not let me settle for an imperfect latch
Elliott, Day 1
That the nurses and LC could see on my chart the breastfeeding prescription--which included strategies to avoid soreness--meant that everyone around me was prepared to help.  The first day and a half I let the baby nurse and nurse and tried a few times to latch him myself.  It felt OK.  His mouth was huge.  Edema wasn't a problem since I had received no IV fluids and no medications. The nurses said, "That latch looks perfect.  Textbook."

It wasn't until I got to meet with the LC who prescribed my breastfeeding strategy, Suzanne, on Day 2 just before we were discharged that I realized I was on a course to repeat my mistakes.  She said,  "On a scale of 1-10, what is your pain level?"

I said, "Maybe two or three."

She said, "It needs to be zero.  Take him off and try again."

When breastfeeding hurts, the latch is not good enough, and breakdown of nipples begins, leading to more pain and more breakdown.  This is the cycle I got trapped in with Sam.  Suzanne was taking no prisoners this time.  She wrote another plan for us before sending us home.  We took pictures and videos of the right way to do it.  At home, Max emulated her helping hands and rigorous standards.  He insisted on zero-pain latch.

Our life was a jumble of nipple shields, pillows, tylenol, breast pump parts, ice packs, cabbage leaves, waterproof pads, and used tissues.  But we made it.  We nursed.

1 comment:

  1. I love this post and will have to look back at it next time around (whenever that is) :)