Your Questions Answered by Jennifer Suffin, ICBLC
DayOne Baby’s team of Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants are known and respected by local physicians and hundreds of families in the San Francisco area. Practicing evidence-based care, our lactation consultants provide non-judgmental support, providing you with options and suggestions to help you reach your breastfeeding goals. We are fortunate to have Jennifer Suffin, ICBLC at DayOne Baby because of her knowledge and warmth. Here are some of her answers to questions about breastfeeding.
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What are some typical issues you see women dealing with when they’re struggling to breastfeed?
Nipple pain and low milk supply are probably the most common issues I see, although babies challenged with latching and fussiness at the breast are also common. A bit of the work I do is related to helping moms get their heads around the idea of feeding so frequently. In many other parts of the world and at different times in our history, women have learned about breastfeeding from watching our sisters, our cousins, even our mothers while we lived in close proximity to each other. We would see the wide range of “normal” in regards to positions, frequency, and challenges. We also would get support from these women in the form of helping with older children and even taking the baby to breastfeed for the new mom if the infant was a very frequent feeder. Since we don’t live in that world or that culture, many moms understandably have no frame of reference for understanding and embracing all that breastfeeding is. My goal as a lactation consultant is to provide gentle support and guidance, along with evidence-based tools so that moms can feel grounded and able to make decisions that feel right for them and their individual situation.
Breastfeeding moms encounter a lot of different advice online about when to wean. What are your basic guidelines for when to wean?
I tend to look at it from the perspective of mutual benefit. If the breastfeeding relationship becomes too challenging for mom and/or baby, and it is affecting the connection and bond between them, then I think it is a reasonable time to consider moving on. Of course, theAmerican Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises providing breastmilk through the first year, but that isn’t going to be a reality for every mom. I feel in the early weeks and months, it is a good idea to set shorter goals and evaluate feelings about weaning accordingly. I think a big part of my job is to help moms through these periods with information and support so she and her partner can make a decision that works to her family’s benefit. Moms get feedback from all sorts of sources about their feeding choices and it can cloud what intrinsically feels right. I like to help a mom sort this stuff out and find her true feelings. I work with moms all over the spectrum of infant feeding choices (also recognizing that sometimes moms don’t have a “choice”) and can say that there are multiple ways to go about reducing or stopping breastfeeding. Occasionally, there are medical issues to take into account, in which case more abrupt weaning may be necessary. Again, asking the questions so you fully understand the reasoning and then working with a consultant who can help you do this safely is key.
Any super cool tricks of the trade to help a woman safely and easily wean?
If mom has the luxury of time, I think taking a gradual approach is nice because it gives both mom and baby time to adjust to the new norm. Also, it is important for moms to know that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing when it comes to breastfeeding. Many moms find that when they are going through the weaning process that, as they are doing less feeds at the breast, they may want to maintain a couple feeds a day since the pressure is now off to feed as frequently as they had been previously. A gradual approach will help moms reduce breast discomfort as well. Dropping the feed that is least interesting to the baby or the least effective over several days tends to work the best, and finding ways to distract the baby at those breastfeeding times seems to work well. Depending on the age of the baby, you may need to replace that feed with a bottle or sippy cup, so finding games that are fun and lighthearted (and distracting) while you are replacing that feed can help. Also, a lovey that baby associates with mom can be incorporated with the new alternate feeding method. If a mom needs to abruptly wean, I do recommend talking to a lactation consultant. Avoiding milk back-up discomfort and potential plugs or even mastitis (infection) is important and we can advise on how to do this best.