Infant Sleep – The RIGHT Way

I voted in this poll.

 Let’s be clear:  I voted because I like polls and because I am curious, not because I am trying to foist my opinion on others or because I expect any action to be taken once everyone has voted.  Why?  Because this debate seems so stupid!  Time to move on.

 What’s the topic?  Co-sleeping.  That is, parents (specifically mothers) sleeping with their infants and children.  Aside from breastfeeding, I think the topic of infant/child sleep gets us riled up like none other.  But… why?

 The practice of co-sleeping is something that our culture will never agree on, and you know what?  That’s not a problem!  There is nothing wrong with disagreeing about parenting and lifestyle issues – matter of fact, we do it all the time!  Even before we become parents, we form opinions about anything and everything having to do with babies and children; and then once we become parents, the fact that we have strong opinions remains constant, whether they have changed or the stayed the same.

 So, tell me, why do we have to prove each other wrong?  Why do we polarize ourselves in such extremes, such as in the co-sleeping ‘debate’?  Fact is, many families co-sleep. Some do it happily and without complaint.  Some do it reluctantly and wish to stop.  Fact also is, many families sleep separately.  Some do it happily and without complaint.  Some do it reluctantly and want to stop.  Fact is, there are some safety issues with co-sleeping.  Parents should know what these issues are and should act accordingly.  Fact is, there are some safety issues with sleeping separately.  Parents should know what these issues are and should act accordingly.

 The co-sleepers are not better than the separate sleepers.

 The separate sleepers are not better than the co-sleepers.

 They are just different.  We all have reasons for making the choices we make, and  as long as no one is acting recklessly and putting other people at risk, our choices should be respected and not debated.

 I admit, I have a personal bias on this issue and sometimes I share that bias in conversation with other people – friends, clients, colleagues.  Also, as a professional, I sometimes answer questions and provide information on the topic of my bias, but – and read this carefully, for it is the most important part of this essay – I do NOT share that info *because* it is my bias, but rather because the parents have asked about it.  Period. 

 I’ve long believed that if we spent less time defending our position and simply spent more time standing by the decisions that work best for ourselves,  we all would experience more peace and we’d have more time to focus on that which matters to us.

 So, let it go people! This is not a battle that needs to be won.  There is room in Grandma’s feather bed for us all!

Regardless of whether or not you are alone or have little critters in bed with you, sleep well tonight, friends.

Breast Bruising and Head Bobbing

Have you heard the latest?   The latest and most up-to-date techniques to help women breastfeed?  Listen up, it’s cutting edge!  There are two in particular that I think will interest you: Bruising and Bobbing.

I have been working with breastfeeding families for 17 years and have been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for 5 years, and was not aware of these techniques until just today, when I conducted a post partum consultation with a client I will call Mandy.  Mandy is a lovely, educated, aware woman.  A pleasure to be around, easy to talk to, informed.  She was planning a home birth, but ended up with a hospital surgical birth instead.  Unfortunate, but not uncommon, and not the topic for this particular blog.

Shortly after I arrived on day four post partum for an in-home consultation, Mandy described to me the treatment she received at the hands of a health care professional who was ‘teaching’ her to breastfeed:   The story began to unfold as I was showing Mandy how to gently massage her breast tissue before hand expression to soften her engorged breasts and release milk from the swollen tissues.  As I was doing so, Mandy casually remarked “Oh, is that how’s it done?  When I was in the hospital, Nurse Number Two [name has been changed] was squeezing and squeezing and squeezing my breasts super hard and for a really long time!  It hurt like crazy.  I remember thinking ‘do I have to do this to myself every time the baby wants to feed?‘.  She was squeezing so hard, she was gritting her teeth.  Like this …[Mandy bares her fangs at me].”

“Whoa…” says I, thinking I had misunderstood. “The nurse was massaging your breasts so hard that she was gritting her teeth?”

“Yeah.  Like this…[Mandy bares her fangs again] and this…[more fangs].”

I was mortified when I heard that… but like all good breastfeeding experts, I bit my tongue and simply made a little comment about how upsetting that must have been for her.

Later, when I had Mandy leaning her breast into a bowl of hot salt water in an effort to draw out some of the engorged milk, she spotted a funny mark on her breast and asked what it was.  I told her it was a bruise.  A rather large bruise,  about the size of a large thumb.  I’d never seen such a thing before – and I have certainly seen lots of breasts and nipples in different stages of wounding and healing!  Examining the bruise more closely, I could tell by its yellow and green colour that it was a number of days old; suddenly, the full weight of the treatment that this mother had received at the hands of someone who was supposed to be helping her,  became apparent for both myself and Mandy.  “Nurse Number Two,” Mandy proclaimed. “It was Nurse Number Two!”

Later, during a latch demonstration, Mandy was explaining how Nurse Number Two attempted to get their new baby daughter, whom I will call Dawn, attached to Mandy’s breast:  “She held the back of her head and just kept bobbing it into me, bobbing it into me…she was gripping Dawn’s little head so tight and bobbing it around like a toy… it was going back and forth, back and forth [Mandy waves her hand around, demonstrating a jerky motion] again and again’.

‘Gosh, that sounds violent.’  I say, mortified.

‘It was,’  was all Mandy could say.

The irony was not lost on me:  Just moments before, Mandy and her partner had told me about the ‘lecture’ they received in the hospital about the Period of Purple Crying, and how the person telling them about it went on and on and on about how dangerous it was to shake a baby.  My mind wandered at this point and I could not help but wonder if Nurse Number Two had heard this lecture and watched the video?*  As a matter of fact, I must admit that my professionalism slipped just a little and I actually said something out loud about whether or not Nurse Number Two was qualified to work with newly born humans and the women who birthed them.  I could hardly hold it together at that point, folks. 

*No disrespect is meant toward this program or it’s volunteers/staff, I am simply relaying the experience of these parents.

Listen, I am all for team work and a multi-professional approach to health care, especially when it comes to reproductive health issues.  I am aware team building requires relationships with other health care professionals, and that such relationships are built on trust, respect and good faith.  I am loathe to bad-mouth any other health care professional, knowing full well that I myself have made some mistakes as I offer care and expertise to breastfeeding families, and I’ll likely inadvertently do it again sometime.

But, you know… Mandy’s situation is NOT all that uncommon.  Ineptness and incorrect information seem to be the name of game when it comes to medical-system based breastfeeding support and expertise.  It’s like most of the health care professionals are just shooting in the dark, and hoping for the best!  And the results are frustrating, heart breaking, and down right shocking.

After all, Breast Bruising and Baby Head-Bobbing… is that what we call quality health care?  Is that what we call expertise?  Is that breastfeeding support?!?

I’m going to call it like it is:  SICK.  There, I said it.  It’s sick.  Treating a newly born human person so roughly that her little head is bobbing around, like an ocean buoy in rough seas, is SICK.  Squeezing breast tissue so hard that you cause bruising the size of your thumb print is SICK.  It’s sick and it’s wrong, and worst of all, it’s HARMFUL.  I’m not afraid to stand up and say it!  I’m not afraid to stand up for my clients, for mothers, for babies, for us all and say what needs to be said: 

Stop doing what you don’t KNOW what to do! Stop acting like an expert  in something that is beyond your scope of experience!  Admit it when you don’t know how to help, and seek assistance from someone who does! Stop disrespecting the individuals under  your care and treating them roughly!  Stop ignoring what mothers are saying to you!  AND, ABOVE ALL, BACK OFF AND GET YOUR OWN BREASTS!!!”

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