Intersection of Challenges & Myths
Complicated. Difficult. Overwhelming. These are words often used to describe the earliest days of lactation, especially the first 100 hours (about 4 days.) While those words may feel accurate to many new families and those who provide early postpartum care in hospitals and medical offices, it does not have to be that way. There is so much research about the best ways to manage lactation during this timeframe - much more, in fact, than any other time period along the spectrum of normal lactation. Yet often it seems that misinformation or myths combine with the normal challenges to create overly complicated, overwhelming lactation situations which leave parents feeling as if their plans for infant feeding are no longer important and will never be realized. We can change that. We can create better, supported lactation experiences which leave parents feeling empowered and confident in their ability to feed their babies.
Most of the challenges that families encounter are fairly common and they affect many families. You can read more about these here in this free guide, Challenges & Myths. Because these challenges are common, that means there is a solid base of evidence on how best to manage them. Health organizations create protocols and recommendations on how to manage them in a way that is safest for the newborn and parent as well as being protective of the establishment of lactation and feeding in the long term. Health care providers and hospital staff can access these protocols easily and use them as a guide to how they help new families with lactation at every encounter.
However, when health care providers, hospital staff, and family and friends of the new parents bring in incorrect or outdated information, biases, personal experiences, and myths, new families who are facing common challenges (which have simple answers) can be given inaccurate recommendations, receive poor or incomplete infant feeding instructions, or be otherwise sabotaged, even when that is not the intention of the person(s) giving the information. This barrier to establishing normal lactation is incredibly common in the US.
During the first 100 hours, it is very common for new families to be given the impression, whether deliberately or unknowingly, that everyone is waiting for signs that breastfeeding is not working or that milk production is inadequate because it is not to be trusted. This mistrust in the process of lactation is everywhere. It is often accompanied by the message that breastfeeding is hard, that many people are unable to sustain it, and that it is not important or valuable. These concepts are perpetuated by mass media, commercial marketing, and culture in general.
In teaching the First 100 Hours strategy to health care providers over the years, I have seen it transform individuals from a sense of unease about supporting lactation to confidence in their ability to support a parent’s lactation experience. The strategy is simple, yet comprehensive, and the concept is focused around safely facilitating a new parent to feed their newborn at the breast and/or with their own milk through the first 100 hours of life with the goal of ensuring a supported lactation experience and appropriate, continued follow-up support as needed. Throughout the strategy, challenges are met with recommendations that are supported by all the major health organizations’ protocols. Interventions and interruptions to the expected lactation scenario are described accurately and with attention to how to mitigate their effects. The importance of continued lactation support after hospital discharge is emphasized and facilitated when this strategy is properly implemented. Most of all, a parent is provided the opportunity to feed their infant according to their own plans and goals with the appropriate information and hands-on assistance they require to make those goals a reality.
While we can’t always eliminate the normal, common challenges that happen during the earliest days of lactation, we can work together to ensure that those challenges are not made harder by misinformation and myths. New families deserve accurate information about infant feeding, access to hands-on assistance when they need it, and an environment and culture which support them to meet their own infant feeding goals.
Read more about the Challenges and Myths here in this Free guide!