In the TODAY paper’s (Tuesday, July 13th 2010) health subsection, there is a notice about a talk on breastfeeding, entitled “be prepared for breastfeeding”. The text starts with the sentence “learn how to breastfeed with confidence”, which sets up certain expectations.
When I had my first child, I did all the reading. I was convinced that I wanted to breastfeed. Yet nothing prepared me for hard the act itself would be. Apart from the aches and pains post-delivery, there was the very distressing crying from the little scrap of humanity that I was willing to suffer any amount of pain for. Or so I thought. One week of screamingly sore nipples and many tears (mine!) later, I gave up. The look of relief on my son’s face as I plunged the bottle into his mouth cut me to the quick.
When my second one made his appearance, I was more prepared. By then I had had two years to figure out that improper positioning had led to the breastfeeding fiasco. I knew all there was to know theoretically about breastfeeding, but I still did not know how to actually hold my baby and put him to the breast so that he could latch on the right way and suck the way he was meant to. I made sure this time that I had some time with a lactation consultant who actually taught me some useful tips about holding the baby and positioning him. It worked because I had my baby in hand. Right place, right time.
Without a culture where breastfeeding is done openly, we cannot learn from watching the way our predecessors did. On-the-spot training is the next best alternative.
But to get back to the notice in the paper. It went on to state “A lactation consultant will talk about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child…”. Really? Why? Isn’t that preaching to the choir? Is this part just because it has the most strongly institutionalised rhetoric and is therefore the easiest to put across while looking like a socially aware expert?
It follows with “…and address common concerns which new mothers may have on breastfeeding particularly in the few weeks after delivery”. Sure, I understand that there are concerns. But the objective stated in the beginning: “learn how to breastfeed with confidence” will not be met by this sort of FAQ list.
What is needed is more help just after the delivery. And more accurate information about just what a talk is going to achieve. It is distressing when you don’t get the sort of help you need at the moment that you are best poised to receive it: baby in arms, consultant at hand.