This is a guest post by Katie Dibenedetto, who is a doula I have gotten to work with firsthand. Please enjoy ~ Tiffany
On Tuesday night D called, my new postpartum client. She was worried about her milk supply and is supplementing with formula on the recommendation of the hospital nurses. I sort of gently reminded her that breastfeeding is supply and demand and in order to increase her supply she needs to nurse, nurse, nurse! And also relax! Because so often I see women and they're so tense. They're fretful about the positioning or the baby not latching right away or the baby not nursing for very long and you can see the beads of sweat forming on their brows. But if you can relax and let go and let it flow....you probably will! Same with labor - if you're all tense and tight and holding your breath and clenching....that completely goes against what your body is trying to do - open up.
We talked about how, if she is going to continue supplementing, then for each supplement she needs to pump. Your boobs don't know the baby is getting formula so how will they ever know to make enough milk? I mean obviously I don't want her to be supplementing with formula to begin with - this is another "intervention", "risk", whatever you want to call it of birthing in a hospital with a typical OB and an uneducated nursing staff versus either birthing at home with a midwife or birthing in a hospital or birth center with a supportive team that you love and trust. Hospital staff are all too often completely ignorant about breastfeeding. So they of course encouraged her at the hospital to supplement with formula because she had a 9 pound baby and couldn't possibly make enough milk to satisfy such a big boy's appetite. First of all - way to set a mom up mentally! And second of all - what a great evolutionary design! Let's make women's bodies inadequate so that they don't produce enough milk for their babies. I understand, yes, sometimes there are issues with supply. But in most cases our bodies are perfectly designed to feed our babies a more than satisfactory amount. I just wish people would try more things instead of going straight to formula. But it's just like with birth - I wish people would try more things before going straight to a cesarean. But then you have the ultimate issue - going straight to formula is way easier (for the doctor, nurse, hospital staff, etc. not for the mother obviously) than sitting with a woman for an hour and helping her to relax, reassuring her, helping her find the right position, etc. And going straight to a cesarean is way easier (again for the doctor, hospital, etc.) than having her labor longer and staying with her and helping her walk or change positions or helping her to open up about anything emotionally that she may be holding on to.
Now this is often the hardest part for me about being a doula - to be able to communicate effectively with my moms in a way that is educational and informative, but doesn't make them feel like they have done or are doing anything wrong. And I always try to take an attitude of 'you know, let's acknowledge what we maybe could have done differently and let's deal with any emotions regarding that (I'm not a big fan of denial), but let's move on and focus on what we can do now'. I think this is actually harder for me because I generally just blurt out whatever I am thinking at any given time. Trust me, my husband has spent the better part of our three year marriage trying to teach me "tact". And boy, can I rant and rave with the best of them. It's just another way that being a doula has made me a better person. These communication skills I've learned serve me in all aspects of my life. Anyway, I encouraged D on the phone and she seemed to feel better just talking it out. We set up a time for me to come over the next day."
To be continued...