I remember when I was contacted by a first time father of a newborn. He said him and his fiancé was currently in hospital and as breastfeeding had not gotten off to the best start due to the lack of support, mixed opinions and suggestions they thought it would be best to get some continuous support when they go home.
Knowing my role as a Doula and my speciality in breastfeeding, this couple decided to hire me for a few weeks as their Postnatal Doula.
The father (D) explained to me that he and his fiancé (K) were both visually impaired and yes with all the other life changes in having a newborn they had much to learn to be confident in caring for their baby independently and breastfeeding was the first thing on the list they wanted to achieve and do successfully.
How did I feel….., I was keen and confident to support this couple, knowing that they are visual impaired I explained that I would need to make more body/hand contact with K to help her feel how she could breastfeed her baby comfortably.
When supporting mothers with breastfeeding we are trained to be hands off, you do have the occasional mother who would like you to be hands on but the thing is, when your hands are no longer there, how does the mother then feed her baby on her own. You can learn more about the benefits of hands off when supporting breastfeeding here: Benefits of the Hands Off Technique
So what did I do and how did I support my client K to breastfeed her baby effectively and comfortably. I was her guide, I supported her body and helped her get into comfortable positions, I guided her hands onto her breast and her baby, I continuously spoke to her and listened. I asked her to touch and feel her baby to help her recognise if baby was in a good position, tummy to mummy, nose to nipple and as much as she could not see, K learnt how to recognise if her baby was in a good position though touch. Through touch and sensitivity to movement, K was able to notice when her baby opened her mouth, this was felt through her baby’s gentle movement, the feeling and sensation of how her baby latched onto her breast. Did I continuously have my hands guiding Ks, no. On the first day I worked with this family, I ensured I left knowing I witness that (K) was able to latch her baby on to her breast without my assistance but with gentle words of encouragement and reassurance, on the first day I visited this family, K had learnt the feeling of an effective latch and what to do if the latch did not feel right.
Breastfeeding is a skill for mother and baby to learn together, it can take some time for parents to feel reassured and confident all is going well.
My clients baby had a tongue-tie, I spoke with D and K about this and shared evidence based information with them on this to help them make an informed choice on what they wanted to do. K and D decided to get the frenulotomy (Tongue-tie division) by lovely Carmelle (full member of the association of tongue-tie practitioners). The procedure was done privately in the comfort of their home as the waiting list for the NHS was long and without a full tongue-tie assessment at the hospital my clients was told by the her midwife that there was no need for the procedure.
The procedure did make a positive difference and also made my clients feel reassured that they won’t have to worry about the implications Tongue-tie can cause for their baby in the future.
Read here to learn more about the implications Tongue-tie can cause: Facts about this little understood condition.
One morning when I arrived at D and K’s house, K mentioned her breast was feeling uncomfortable, very tight, hard and lumpy in some area. I explained that it looked like her breast was engourged and explained the feeling, symptoms and causes to her, I said that she would need to remove some milk from her breast to help her feel more comfortable. I remember K tell me she wanted to see if she could express her breast milk using her pump but was unsure how to put it all together. I went through the details on how to put it together, I also mentioned how convenient it is to learn how to hand express too and how effective it can be for engourged breast.
Hand expressing has many benefits:
• It is inexpensive.
• Can help soothe engorged breast more effectively than a pump as it releases breast milk and massages the breast at the same time.
• It saves you time and effort of sterilizing pumping equipment.
• It doesn’t require electricity.
• It saves the discomfort or sucking sensation caused by electric pumps.
• Skin to skin contact is more stimulating and accelerates the milk ejection reflex.
• Dads can be hands on and help ( I have thought many dads to do this with their other half when necessary, let’s keep them involved) .
Do you know a well latch baby is the best at removing milk from the breast and after that I say it would be your hands, yes it is manual so some people may feel that it is less effective and choose to use an electrical or manual breast pump but once that pump has stop removing breast milk you will find your hands can continue to express more milk from your breast and have a very good flow too.
When teaching K how to hand express she was surprised to hear the sound of how fast her milk came out her breast into the bottle, and was able ditinguish roughly how much milk was expressed through sound and weight.
I was so happy to see how my clients had blossomed into amazing parents, K was exclusively breastfeeding D was a supportive, loving, helpful father. There was no way I felt worried about parting from this family, I knew they were good and will continue to be good without me.
This family really showed how far you can go with a positive mind, determination and loving support. If you visited D and K, you would have never known they was visually impaired, but know that they was wonderful parents who did what they felt was best for their baby, full of character, jokes and laughter, it was a pleasure to work with them, supporting the beginning of their journey into parenting. There’s much more to this family than breastfeeding but that’s another story so I would leave it here and save it for another time.
Today is the last day of World breastfeeding Week 1st – 7th August 2018, so I felt the need to share an experience with you, please feel free to share yours with me in the comments section.
Here’s a video I made on how to hand express.