Monday, June 20, 2011

Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know, and When - Introduction

The next series of posts will be a simple introduction to breastfeeding, formatted like the popular "week-by-week" style books. Rather than throw a breastfeeding text at you and tell you to read the whole thing before your baby is born (or worse, in those rough first few weeks after the baby is born!), I'm going to give you a break-down by time period. "Read this before the baby is born," then, "Read this in the first day or two postpartum," and so on. That way, you don't have to overwhelm yourself with information, most of which you're going to forget and have to re-read anyway, and you'll have topical, targeted information for what you're actually living through, rather than something related to five months from now.

First, an introduction. Why am I writing this? Where did I get this idea, anyway?

Well, first a personal plug. I am writing a breastfeeding booklet, to be sold in e-book format, certainly for Kindle and possibly for other readers. It's not available yet, but I anticipate publishing within the next month. I hope that you will check it out, either on your behalf as a potential or new nursing mother, or on behalf of a friend or partner who is planning to nurse or has a new baby. More on that when it's out, of course.

In writing this and discussing the outline with a friend, she suggested writing it in something of a week-by-week format, but I couldn't pin down what would go where. Breastfeeding isn't as straightforward a trajectory  as pregnancy. You can't say, "In Week 1, your baby is 7 pounds. Your breasts are producing X ounces of breastmilk per day." It just isn't realistic. But, there is definitely a growth curve, especially for the mother, in learning about breastfeeding and in the act of breastfeeding itself, so it became a matter of breaking it down into logical phases.

I remember being 39 weeks pregnant with my first baby, hanging around in the soon-to-be nursery after working a half-day at work. I was spread out on the futon in the room, books about babies and breastfeeding  stacked neatly for me to read. I picked up "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding," La Leche League's excellent text/manual on breastfeeding. It's incredibly comprehensive, offering advice and information on just about every aspect of breastfeeding from newborn to toddler and beyond. And I couldn't read it.

Reading a breastfeeding text before you are actually breastfeeding is a bit like reading the manual for a camera you don't own. It just doesn't apply. You don't know what you're going to need to know. You don't know whether you're going to have any problems. You don't know what you'll be able to figure out for yourself and what you'll need someone else to help you with. It's all theoretical, and therefore boring. Especially to a first-time mom who is already overwhelmed with all the "stuff" she needs to buy and all the "stuff" she needs to know about baby care. And, besides, if breastfeeding is natural, then who needs a manual, anyway?

And then, expecting a new mom to read such a book in the first few weeks postpartum, when she is overwhelmed by how much she didn't know but doesn't have time to go find out, is simply ridiculous.

But what if it were broken down into digestible pieces? One or two pages that apply right now. Tell me what I need to know before I give birth. Do I need to know about thrush, about weaning, about introducing solid foods? Do I need to know about nursing a toddler? Generally not. So don't waste time reading that now, when you can always look it up later. Don't overwhelm yourself with information about problems you may or may not have. No, learn just what you need to know, so that you'll know what to look for and what questions to ask when the time comes.

My next post, then, will be "What You Need to Know about Breastfeeding before You Give Birth." This will be followed by information for the first few days postpartum, then the first six weeks, six weeks to three months, three to six months, six months to one year, and then nursing a toddler and weaning. Peppered within all of this will be information that may apply at any time, about plugged ducts and mastitis, about thrush, nursing strikes, and so on.

But I intend for each section to be short and manageable, no more than, as I said, a few pages. It has to be something you can read quickly, understand immediately, and then follow up on by jumping straight to that chapter in your favorite breastfeeding book.

I look forward to seeing you all in Part I!

And here, just a gentle disclaimer that I'm just a mom like the rest of you, without any formal training beyond all the reading I've done and having nursed one child. As I'm not a medical professional, I can't diagnose or treat any problems, and I can't recommend medication or treatment regimens. For serious problems, please contact a local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, who is a medical professional who's job it is to help you figure out what's wrong and what to do to fix it. If you have any concerns about your baby's health, contact your child's pediatrician immediately.

No comments:

Post a Comment