Friday, March 8, 2013

Unintended consequences

One of the key components of a good latch is a big, wide open baby mouth that takes in as much mama as possible.  Pain can occur when baby slips down on the breast and treats the nipple like a straw.

One way to combat this tendency for newborns to "slip" is to have a partner help manipulate baby's lower jaw into better position after he has latched on.  We used this technique at almost every feeding to reduce pain and improve latch for the first week or two of nursing, and it worked well at first.

But at some point, Daddy had more and more trouble pushing down on Elliott's jaw, and in fact, it seemed like Elliott was actually fighting him, causing the problem to be worse--MORE clamping down--rather than less.  I found an article on kellymom that seemed to suggest that jaw manipulation may have not only diminishing returns, but the unintended consequence of actually making the pain worse after awhile. 

Why?  Consider would happen if you approached your partner, or parent, or friend and tried to physically open his or her mouth.  Or even if you tried to push him or her gently backward?  No matter how trusting the relationship, he or she would probably automatically exert energy in the opposite direction of your pushing.  Indeed, Elliott and his dad were experiencing their first power struggle, and in between was the tender skin of my nipple.

Is there a lesson in this idea that could help with my original idea?  Yes.  Try to push his mouth closed, not open, during latching on, and benefit from the reverse effect.

Even better, could we somehow tap into Elliott's natural instincts to get that wide open mouth we needed?  Yes.  Next post.

Problem, duct-tape solution, unintended consequence, aha moment, learn, succeed, repeat.

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