Sunday, April 24, 2011

Conference Wrap-up: Insights for Breastfeeding Moms

Last week, I took Friday off of work to attend the La Leche League breastfeeding and parenting conference. It was great that the conference was in Indianapolis so we didn't have to travel out of town for it. It's a great benefit of living in the state capitol. Since it's a breastfeeding conference, babies and children are welcome to attend. So Ava and I went together. She nursed during the sessions, slept on my lap, and I carried her in the ring sling. By the afternoons she was ready to play so we stepped out when she got really vocal with talking. I was very pleased by how easy going she was during the conference, although on Sunday we were both very tired!

Dane from the milk bank was there and Ava a "Breastfed Hoosier" shirt. He said we've earned it since I've donated about 21 gallons! The breastfeeding community is fairly small, but active in Indiana so it was fun to meet other like-minded mothers. I'm very proud of what we've accomplished together since so many working moms wean much earlier than they intend. Our breastfeeding relationship is so special and worth protecting. I've talked to many moms (and dads) and they've shared the bond that they have experienced with their children through breastfeeding lasts a lifetime.

In March, I started the process to become a La Leche League Leader to help other moms and breastfeeding families. I should complete my training and preparations by December. Our group has 4 co-leaders and 4 more going through the process, but we have meetings and playgroups and a large group so having more leaders to share the burden is a great idea. I was really excited to go to the conference to learn information that would help me be more confident at helping other nursing mothers and to meet other leaders in our state.

The sessions on Friday were mainly a professional development day for lactation consultants, but LLL leaders and members are encouraged to attend. We had two major speakers, Marsha Walker and Dee Kassing, who have decades of experiences of helping breastfeeding families. Marsha Walker talked about the alarming rates and consequences of formula supplementation at hospitals and Dee Kassing talked about how to work with pumping moms, proper flange fitting, and adoptive breastfeeding.

On Saturday we breakout sessions and I learned about baby wearing, marriage relationship advice, child development, and breastfeeding information.

Here are some things that I learned at the conference that I wanted to pass along to other breastfeeding mothers.
  • If you want to succeed at breastfeeding, skip the formula samples at the hospital and refuse supplementation at the hospital. According to Walker, a likely predictor of exclusive breastfeeding at 1-year is to get a good start at the hospital with lots of instances of breastfeeding, a good experience, and refusing formula.
  • Breastfed babies develop 30% more lung capacity than exclusively bottle fed babies (no matter formula or breastmilk) since nursing requires more work for the baby. Bottles so easy for babies that they don't develop. I heard about breastfed babies with stronger jaw development, but never about the lung capacity. I wonder if my asthma would be better if I had been breastfed as an infant.
  • To bring a mother's milk supply in and the baby is having difficulty draining the breast, it's best to use a hospital grade pump. This usually takes about 2-6 weeks for a mother to achieve her highest milk supply.
  • Personal breast pumps are good for 1-year, 1-baby and for maintaining a mother's milk supply. I thought it was so interesting because I think many mothers don't know about this and they assume their pump from their previous child is still good to use for subsequent babies. But they start to pump less. It turns out that the pump may sound just fine, but they are not as effective.
  • The Medela Pump In Style is much more effective than their Freestyle version, which is handsfree. Kassing said that she's seen many mothers experience lower supply due to the Freestyle pump. She recommends mothers use a pumping bra like Simple Wishes (check out my review) so that mothers can have hands free to do other things or do breast compressions.
  • Breast pump cleaning: For Medela, remove the white membrane carefully by popping it out from the inside. If you have a full-term baby and not in the NICU, you don't have to clean your flanges more than once per 24 hour period and they do not have to be sterilized. Soapy warm water is fine. (I store my flanges in the refrigerator with my milk and they're warmed to room temperature in now time).
  • The flanges that come standard (24mm in Medela) with the breast pump only fit 20% of mothers so it's important to be fitted by a International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. At the highest point of suck, your nipple should not touch the sides of the tunnel and about 1/2 inch of the areola should be pulled into the tunnel.
  • If you have condensation in your tubing, it's likely your flanges are the wrong size.
  • Adoptive breastfeeding through induced lactation: it's not about feeding the baby 100%, but more about establishing a breastfeeding relationship. Some mothers can exclusively supply milk, but it's not common. You can wait for the baby and then begin the lactation process. You should to pump 8-12 times per 24 hours (preferably by double pumping with a pumping bra so that you can also do breast compressions). Hormone treatment is not necessary, but may give a mother better results. According to Kassing, it takes about a month to produce the first drops of milk and another month to produce the mother's highest supply of milk.
  • If a mother says "I'm going to try to breastfeed" it's a red flag. Breastfeeding in a bottle-fed culture takes perseverance and the lack of good breastfeeding information makes mothers second guess themselves. Marsha Walker made the point this weekend that most of the time mothers supplement with formula not by facts and science, but because of stories they hear! How scary! Supplementation is a slippery slope because your baby is getting calories from another source, which means you'll make less milk.
  • In the marriage and relationships sessions, the counselor told us that there are two root emotions that drive human behavior: Fear and Love. He says that love actions can cancel the fear actions. This is important because when you introduce children into a marriage relationship it likely creates distance. So during the heat of an argument, a loving comment or action goes a long way. He suggested making time for each other and being creative with what works for you.
I had a great time at the conference! It was very cool to see mothers with their nursing babies and small children manage to participate to the sessions and share their experiences. Very refreshing! It makes me sad when mothers don't have the best information to ensuring their breastfeeding relationship. We do the best we can to help mothers decide for themselves what works for them and their babies.

1 comment:

  1. That is unbelievable that the pump flanges fit only 20% of women - I had no idea! I also have heard about the difference in success rates of thinking/saying, "I'm going to TRY to breastfeed" vs. "I'm GOING to breastfeed". It's amazing how being committed to doing it truly helps to eliminate doubts and tackle any obstacles on the journey!