Saturday, December 28, 2013

Teaching Breastfeeding through Simple Analogies

We have to realize how vague our breastfeeding descriptions are to those who are unfamiliar with "normal breastfeeding behavior." Statements like, "babies breastfeed often" or "expect baby to wake frequently" can be misinterpreted based on the mom's expectations and definitions of the terms. The more specific lactation educators and consultants can be, the more successful moms will be. I try to use one of the "7 Laws of the Teacher": Teach from the Known to the Unknown.

Analogies can bring education to the forefront and help new parents relate to breastfeeding in a tangible way. I have shared these analogies or "advertisements" over the past year, but thought I would gather a few of them up and share them in one blog. I hope these analogies help others to educate on breastfeeding and convey the message that breastfeeding is the standard infant feeding practice.

I often describe breastfeeding anatomy and philology with house-hold items moms are familiar with. They may not have studied pictures of Dr. Coopers's Anatomy of the Breast, or read Dr. Hartman's research on the Mammary gland, but they have handled a bottle of glue.

Different posters convey the same message.  Having a variety of presentations can help reach the visual or auditory learner.  Some people like a quick, easy-to-read visual, while others prefer more detail. Advertisers state that a message must be seen at least ten times by an individual before it is "recognized." I think many educators can relate to this statistic.  I often feel like I am saying the same thing over and over again.
Unfortunately, some moms have been told that something is "wrong" with their breasts.  It is easy to blame a vulnerable, hormonal postpartum mom for difficult latch issues.  I like to remind moms that the baby doesn't come out of the womb, look at her breasts and announce, "those aren't like the ones I've seen in magazines." Babies have no basis for comparison.  There is a huge variation of nipples across the land and this could be a problem if babies were meant to "nipple" feed, fortunately for all the nipple challenged mommies out there, babies "breast" feed. I tell moms that nipples are like snowflakes--there are no two exactly alike. 

Anatomy concerns span from nipple formation to breast size. This is an easy description of "cup" size that everyone can relate to. 
Once moms gain the confidence that they will have what it takes to breastfeed, the next obstacle is milk supply. If I had a nickle for every time I heard the statement, "your milk hasn't come in," I would be a millionaire. 

I remind mothers that even though their meals were withheld from them, the baby had a steady supply of nutrient.  I sometimes joke that if they had been at the Home Town Buffet all day, they wouldn't be hungry right away either.  I encourage them to practice skin-to-skin, nuzzling, cuddling and offering the breast; but not be be discouraged if the baby is not ferociously hungry or "crawling to the breast right away.  In fact, the Breast Crawl has been documented to take up to 90 minutes to spontaneously occur. 

I invented the Lactation Lanyards as teaching tools to help with bedside education.  Seeing a formula bottle gives the impression that the baby should consume the amount in the container.  It is empowering to show a mom an accurate size of the newborn's stomach capacity.  The Lactation Lanyards are available from the Birthing, Bonding and Breastfeeding Store. 

Once a mom understands that her body is not only capable of growing her baby, it is also capable of 
nurturing her baby, the next obstacle is often overcoming any difficulties.  Prevention is key.  The first preventative step is not giving into the recommendation to bottle feed, or offer "just one bottle."
What about the accurately diagnosed "insufficient mammary tissue" or complications from breast surgery. What are those moms to do?  We have set the options as "breast or bottle" rather than "breast AND bottle." Some is still better than none, and this analogy points to that truth. 

I have many other posters and reminders about breastfeeding and breast milk.  I am working on my 2014 analogies.  Feel free to share misconceptions that frustrate you in the lactation field.  I may be able to make a visual to correct the erroneous advice. I hope you will join me on my Facebook Page: Birthing, Bonding and Breastfeeding and share some of the evidence-based information we post with others. Some of the posters are available for framing from the BBB Store

Happy New Year and let's work together to tackle myths and fears in 2014!