Dear Health Care Professional,
Did you know that so many of us in the health field are failing breastfeeding women and their babies?
It’s happened so many times now since I started my private practice as an IBCLC. I cannot even begin to guess how often I’ve heard variations of the same heartbreaking story. A women remembering the many times she was told, “The latch looks fine” and then pushed on her way…
So she continues to muddle through the weeks and months. Questioning EVERY. SINGLE. FIBRE in her being that is screaming, “Something is wrong here!”. Yet she continues. She breastfeeds through the pain, through the unsettled tears from her child. She breastfeeds as everyone tells her that the latch “looks fine!” and her baby will settle over time. She is told it’s “Just the early days!” and that it will get better. Just, “Hang in there!” (Because, don’t you know that it’s just *normal* to feel this way?) Her relatives tell her to just “Switch to a bottle. Stop doing this to yourself and just wean. Your baby will be fine!” Has anyone actually taken to the time though to really LISTEN to this mother?
She continues to wonder if she is going crazy or if there is the possibility that there really is something that’s not right and there is an answer for her and her baby. She struggles to explain to her partner why it’s so important for her to breastfeed and how the money they are spending on the lactation consultants, chiropractors and doctors are worth it. All her partner wants to do is help but they just don’t what WHAT to do.
She sits alone on her couch as her partner is at work and wonders if she’ll ever feel normal again and if it’s worth it to see just one more person? The five professionals she has seen the past few months have all told her, “The latch looks fine!” and “Your baby just has reflux!”. Here are some meds…
She then often ends up on my couch at this point. Maybe it’s been three months since she had her baby…maybe eight. But the stories are so similar and incredibly heartbreaking for me to hear as I listen to her experiences.
How is it that we think we know more than the mother? How is it that we can completely brush aside a mother’s plea that something is not right just because we think the latch “looks good!”. Are the egos within the health care profession so ridiculously huge that we cannot take the time to actually listen to what a breastfeeding mother is telling us?
A mother knows her baby best. Not you. The look of the latch is completely irrelevant. Why? Because if it looks great and she feels as though there is something wrong…then the latch is not right. If you think the latch doesn’t look right but the mother says it feels fine and the baby is gaining weight…then the latch is right. Please, please, please can we STOP taking the glory by being the one to assess the look of the latch. It has nothing to do with what we think “looks good” or not.
A mother who is experiencing pain while breastfeeding is a mother who NEEDS TO BE LISTENED TO.
A mother who explains to you that she feels as though the latch is not right NEEDS TO BE LISTENED TO.
A mother who is experiencing ongoing low supply issues and has some insight as to what she thinks is going on NEEDS TO BE LISTENED TO.
A mother who thinks her baby might have a tongue or lip tie NEEDS TO BE LISTENED TO.
Do you have minimal education and experience doing an oral assessment on a baby and establishing if there are restrictions present? If so, PLEASE refer her to someone who does. Is painful breastfeeding and low supply always due to ties? No. But some are. An oral assessment is not just looking in a baby’s mouth and seeing if their tongue can stick out. It involves a suck assessment, establishing whether or not the lip and tongue are restricted in their movements (in all directions) and a thorough gathering of the woman’s breastfeeding history and symptoms in her and her baby.
A mother knows her baby best. It doesn’t matter if it is her first baby or her tenth baby. She knows if breastfeeding feels right or not. She knows if her baby is unsettled or not. SHE KNOWS MORE THAN YOU about whether or not breastfeeding is going well for them. Start to listen to her because you’ll learn more from her story than a textbook.
Meg Nagle, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.