Thanks for joining us on this breastfeeding journey with Marian*. This is # 2 of 4 posts in this mini-series. As you may remember from the first post, Introducing Marian and Kirat, we interviewed a second-time mom and chronicled her breastfeeding journey. Continue reading to learn about Marian’s experience with “Birthing Diana.”
We all go into major life events with some sort of expectation. For Marian*, the birth of her first child, Diana*, was heavy with anticipation and preparation. When the big day finally came, the reality of giving birth was very different from Marian’s expectations. Marian had been hoping to have a natural birth (free of medication), but she felt pressured by the doctor into being induced roughly 12 hours after her water broke. She was induced and after laboring on pitocin roughly 12 hours later had to get an epidural.. Due to the effects of Pitocin, the drug used to induce labor, Marian could not feel the rush of oxytocin, a hormone that makes moms feel euphoric between contractions and is commonly referred to as the “love hormone”. Studies have shown that the natural birthing process promotes an uncomplicated breastfeeding experience, since oxytocin is also the hormone responsible for contraction of small muscles around the mammary glands that allows for milk to flow towards the nipple, in short, the release of oxytocin during labor helps not only with uterine contractions, but also with breastfeeding.1-4
Marian initiated breastfeeding soon after delivery. This was because Diana was placed on Marian’s chest “skin-to-skin”; thus, she was primed to breastfeed by sensing the familiar scent of her mother and her heart beat. Skin to skin contact is important because it allows the newborn to normalize his or her heart rate and breathing. 3 – 8 Placing the infant on the mother’s bare chest can also regulate the infant’s blood oxygen saturation and body temperature . 3 – 8
“Feeding my baby girl for the first time was wonderful”
However, it soon became clear to Marian that breastfeeding was not as easy as she had first thought. The lactation consultant became concerned about Diana’s low weight gain near the end of Marian’s hospital stay and suggested that Marian use a hospital grade breast pump to express breast milk.
Over the next few weeks, Marian faced more challenges. Since Diana needed to gain weight, Marian pumped between feedings to provide a breast milk bottle supplement. However, using the bottle led to nipple confusion. Nipple confusion is the phenomenon that occurs when the baby gets used to sucking from the bottle or other artificial nipple and then, when offered the breast, becomes fussy because the artificial-nipple-sucking technique does not work on the human nipple.10-11 This can not only lead to a lower demand for the breast (thus, leading to decreased milk production)but also can cause some frustration and pain for the mother.
In a family effort to help Diana gain weight and overcome the nipple confusion, Marian’s own mother and in-laws helped fingerfeed between breastfeeding sessions. Fingerfeeding, seen here, is a technique where the baby is fed from the finger. It helps the baby practice sucking by correctly by placing the finger in the baby’s mouth, like a human nipple, and providing the skin-to-skin contact that is so essential at this early age. This process takes much time and patience, but can help with nipple confusion by controlling the milk flow to be more like mom’s breast.11,12
In spite of these efforts, Diana continued to have breastfeeding difficulties. Diana developed thrush- a yeast infection caused by the organism Candida albicans. A yeast infection can be very painful for the mother.13,14 Diana had to take Gentian Violet for the thrush. It was difficult for the baby to breastfeed because it was painful for both mom and baby, but they persisted. Marian continued to breastfeed Diana until she was 16 months old, but had to start and continue supplementing from when her baby was 2 weeks old. Her goal was to exclusively breastfeed Diana for at least 12 months and although it was a frustrating experience, she “was pleased that we persevered, albeit with supplementing, for that long despite all of the obstacles.”
After having such a hard time with Diana, Marian was a little nervous, but much more prepared, leading up to the birth of her second child, Levi. Next week, check out our post Birthing Levi to learn more about Marian’s strikingly different birth experience.
Hope this helps,
Written by: Kirat Sandhu
Edited by Ileisha Sanders, mother of 2
*Names changed to protect privacy
1 Lothian, J. A. (2005). The birth of a breastfeeding baby and mother. The Journal of perinatal education, 14(1), 42-45.
2 Matthiesen, A. S., Ransjö‐Arvidson, A. B., Nissen, E., & Uvnäs‐Moberg, K. (2001). Postpartum maternal oxytocin release by newborns: effects of infant hand massage and sucking. Birth, 28(1), 13-19.
3 Bramson, L., Lee, J. W., Moore, E., Montgomery, S., Neish, C., Bahjri, K., & Melcher, C. L. (2010). Effect of early skin-to-skin mother—Infant contact during the first 3 hours following birth on exclusive breastfeeding during the maternity hospital stay. Journal of Human Lactation, 26(2), 130-137.
4 Porter, R. H. (2004). The biological significance of skin‐to‐skin contact and maternal odours. Acta Paediatrica, 93(12), 1560-1562.
6 Charpak N, Ruiz-Peláez JG, Charpak Y. Rey-Martinez Kangaroo Mother Program: an alternative way of caring for low birth weight infants? One year mortality in a two cohort study. Pediatrics 1994;94(6):804–810.
7 World Health Organization. (1998). Evidence for the ten steps to successful breastfeeding.
9 Righard, L., & Alade, M. O. (1992). Sucking technique and its effect on success of breastfeeding. Birth, 19(4), 185-189.
10 Neifert, M., Lawrence, R., & Seacat, J. (1995). Nipple confusion: toward a formal definition. The Journal of pediatrics, 126(6), S125-S129.
11 Newman, J. (1990). Breastfeeding problems associated with the early introduction of bottles and pacifiers. Journal of Human Lactation, 6(2), 59-63.
12 Glenn, K., & Oddy, W. H. (2003). Implementing the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative: the role of finger feeding. Breastfeeding Review, 11(1), 5.
13 Brent, N. B. (2001). Thrush in the breastfeeding dyad: results of a survey on diagnosis and treatment. Clinical pediatrics, 40(9), 503-506.
14 Johnstone, H. A., & Marcinak, J. F. (1990). Candidiasis in the breastfeeding mother and infant. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing,19(2), 171-173.