After a grueling labor and delivery, my baby had arrived, and I blissfully sank my head into the hospital pillow. Two hours later, I thought I must be dreaming as a starched demon-nurse was standing over me with my newborn in her arms.
“Time to nurse your baby!” she beamed.
I wiped imaginary sand from my eyes. “B-b-but I just fell asleep,” I stammered.
“Newborns have to be fed every two hours!” She was way too enthusiastic about this.
Every TWO hours? Why hadn’t anyone warned me about this? My new daughter was looking at me expectantly with her huge, saucer-like eyes. She started to root toward my breast, and I hoped she knew what she was doing, because I sure didn’t.
I called a close friend to tell her the good news, and she asked me how breastfeeding was going.
“Have you started leaking yet? Have you experienced let-down?”
Leaking? That didn’t sound good. Let-down? Was there supposed to be some sort of disappointment coming? She then elaborated on some details, and I realized at that moment how little I knew about breastfeeding.
The good news about breastfeeding is that it is a natural process that woman have been doing for thousands of years. If you have a baby in a hospital, they now have Lactation Consultants, who will help you with everything from the latch-on to the proper release. Most of them will even provide in-home assistance, if needed. Beware of the overly enthusiastic ones, however, as they can turn a beautiful experience into an anxious one.
By the time my third baby arrived, I was fairly comfortable that I knew how to nurse him. Unfortunately, my assigned Lactation Consultant was Nancy the Nursing Nazi. Nancy was a perfectly lovely lady, but she was a little too obsessed with breastfeeding. Nate would be happily gulping away at my breast, and since Nancy had too much time on her hands, I would have to endure The John Madden Play-By-Play of breastfeeding.
“See how his chin is two inches below your breast? That is NOT proper positioning! Move it up 1.5 inches. Now, see how his head is at a 45 degree angle? That’s terrible! It should only be 38.5 degrees! Your hand is not supporting his neck enough; babies don’t like that!”
This was news to Nate, who was now milk-drunk and ignoring every word she said as he emptied me of my last drop. I felt sorry for Nancy, so I humored her until she left the room, at which point I promptly returned to my own comfortable technique. When Nancy offered me an in-home follow-up visit, I briefly considered changing my address and phone number.
Are you comfortable while nursing? Is your baby happy, healthy, and growing? If the answer to both of these questions is “yes,” then relax and don’t get caught up worrying about the “perfect positioning.” Women nursing thousands of years ago did not have Lactation Consultants, and they somehow managed to feed their babies. Try not to let the beauty of breastfeeding be diminished by the anxiety of trying to achieve perfection.