Breastfeeding success has always been an important goal for Birth Boot Camp and breastfeeding education is included in our online and in-person classes through a long and detailed video presentation by Mellanie Sheppard, IBCLC. One thing that often throws people off in their breastfeeding journey is the very early days and the confusion and lack of personal confidence that unexpected growth spurts can cause for the nursing mother. We love this guest today from Alex Rounds, an experienced breastfeeding mother and lactation counselor. Our hope is that you will read this and share it with expecting mothers so that they can thrive during the first months of breastfeeding. And, if you are really passionate about breastfeeding, taking her advice and giving mom a gift during this “10th day growth spurt” just might change a life and help preserve a nursing relationship.
Experienced parents recognize some baby shower gifts don’t end up getting much use. We can’t predict what we’re really going to need until we meet our babies. But there are some things about infants that are predictable, like dirty diapers, sleep debt and growth spurts. We know babies grow quickly by the sheer volume of newborn to 0-3 month clothes on the registry, but the actual implications in terms of feeding aren’t often talked about. So I want to share a proposal that would make a fantastic tradition of giving a 10 day growth spurt gift/IOU to every mom out there. Women Infant and Children (WIC) Director Peter Schlichting brought up the idea with intent to give new moms extra attention and love at a time when hormone levels are dropping and infant needs are increasing as a way to promote continued breastfeeding, but a 10 Day Growth Spurt Gift should be for all moms.
All moms can probably use a little extra attention during the postpartum period, but breastfeeding moms and their newborns may especially benefit from a reminder around the time of the first major growth spurt. The gift of time and companionship when a new mom is home alone with what may seem to be an insatiable newborn can be incredible. In the United States, breastfeeding initiation rates are almost 80% but rates drop to 40% by 3 months (CDC, 2014), a drop largely attributed to concerns regarding milk supply (Li, R., Fein, S., Chen, J., & Grummer-Strawn, L 2008). Often this is misguided: it is not necessarily a supply issue but a growth spurt. If we can help moms get through the first growth spurt, maybe we can help increase breastfeeding rates at 3 months and beyond.
The gift can be anything from a pedicure, massage, lunch date or anything special for the mom. It should be something for the woman, not for her baby, and adaptable to whatever the mom’s needs are at the time. After giving birth, focus shifts from the woman to her baby, a new mother’s hormones are in flux and if she is like most women, she has lost a little sleep since her darling little one arrived. The combination of a baby with a growth spurt and a hormonal shifts can be rough on Moms to put it mildly, so a little extra attention and focus on the Mom can help her adapt and give Mom the boost she probably needs.
Getting out of the house might be a treat at this stage, but not all women are ready to venture out, so keep in mind your friend’s perspective. If you plan a trip out- you might want to include an hour of your time to help Mom get out the door with her little one, and to offer to drive. For Moms who aren’t ready to leave home, bringing take out lunch from a favorite restaurant or having a home visit by a massage therapist with postpartum experience can be phenomenal. Take the time together to ask how she is doing, if she’s getting enough help and how breastfeeding is going for her.
The first growth spurt usually occurs between 10 and 14 days and comes at an often difficult time for breastfeeding moms. Whether breastfeeding has started off without a hitch or with challenges, the breastfeeding mom may feel that things should be getting easier. But then a few weeks after birth the baby will increase the frequency and often amount of time spent at feedings. Uplifting mother centered support can be the light that helps her get through the frequent feedings that come with growth spurts. When you give her the 10 Day Growth Spurt Gift, talk with her, she how she’s doing, and ask her if she has noticed a growth spurt, and if she hasn’t yet, you can remind her to expect one soon.
Some points that are important to know about breastfeeding that can help Mom, family and friends understand breastfeeding are:
Milk production is triggered by demand. The more a baby nurses, the more milk will be produced.
Frequent feedings are normal for a few days during growth spurts but typically space out within 2-3 days.
Breastfeeding takes more time in the beginning but long term is less time consuming than formula feeding.
Breast milk is easy for babies to digest. It moves through their digestive system with ease. That’s why babies need to nurse frequently. Formula is more difficult to digest.
Newborns should breastfeed 12 or more times in 24 hours. At the same time, it’s important to watch babies hunger cues, and not necessarily go by the clock.
Babies may cluster feed, or feed several times over several hours, then take a break. This is normal.
If your friend who has planned to breastfeed is having trouble or has questions, many communities have La Leche League Chapters (find them here http://www.llli.org/webus.html) which typically hold monthly woman to woman support meetings. LLL leaders, Breastfeeding or Lactation Counselors, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) and other professionals who specialize in breastfeeding are great resources too!
A little extra support, a treat, and a reminder about normal developments can help a new Mom when things may seem hard. Let’s do our best to help new moms transition into motherhood. Let’s make sure new Moms know they have a community that cares, who they can lean on, and that there are resources. And most of all, let’s take care of them.
In a nutshell, Alex Rounds is a moderately well-adjusted human being. She is a member of La Leche League, a Breastfeeding Counselor, and Mom with a total of 8 years personal experience breastfeeding, not all of which were easy. She has three fun, quirky and ever-challenging sweet kids. Presently, Alex’s time is consumed with homeschooling, studying midwifery, volunteering, providing breastfeeding support, and attending birth as a doula.