I’m ready to rave about The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington.
No less than a dozen people had already told me The Breastfeeding Center was awesome and one thing to be sure and take advantage of in preparing for Red Bean’s arrival. After one or two recommendations, I was ready to check them out. After the fifth or sixth, I was dying to find out why everyone loves this place so much. After the dozenth, I was actually giving people cool points in my mind for knowing about it. I wanted to be cool too.
I am sure that more reasons to love it exist than I can give today, since I’ve just been to one class, but that one class convinced me that no time spent here would be wasted. I took the Breastfeeding Basics class, which is free, and is held every other Wednesday during the lunch hour. There were around 20 women there today – in their very small and warm classroom – for the 1.5 hr class.
The class opened with a 10 minute video demonstrating successful “Baby-led” nursing – where the very new baby will actually seek out the breast and more often than not, achieve a successful and comfortable latch-on with only the slightest help from the mother. It was really cool to watch and learn about the reflexes infants are born with (they navigate by feeling with their cheeks), and how to provide them with the right circumstances for those instincts to work, and how much the baby can actually help make nursing successful.
Following the video, the center’s director, Pat Shelley, a board-certified lactation consultant who clearly has a huge heart for breastfeeding and a commitment to providing research-based information and support to nursing moms, walked us through an extremely informative hour and fifteen minutes on the topics of nipple preparation and prevention of soreness in the early days of breastfeeding, nursing bras, support pillows, other available items that can help (like gel pads, lanolin, etc) if you find that you need them, how to tell when baby is eating and when baby is just comforting at the breast, how to tell if baby is getting enough to eat, when to seek consultation or help, and how to track or journal breastfeeding in the early days. Pat had a fantastic teaching manner and I felt like that was one of the most productive hours I’ve ever spent.
After the hour was up, Pat offered to let any of us who wanted to learn how to hand express our milk stay and be taught how. About a third of us stayed – the brave, unsqueamish mamas of tomorrow! Why would we want to learn this? On Pat’s list of ways to prepare for breastfeeding was to learn before the baby arrives to express colostrum for four reasons: 1) Because colostrum is vital for your baby in the first few days, even if baby isn’t nursing well you can give him colostrum with a medicine dropper or syringe if need be, 2) gaining familiarity and comfort with your breasts will better equip you to establish breastfeeding when the baby is born, 3) colostrum is rich in antibodies and fats that will protect your nipples from infection and keep them soft and supple as they adjust to the onslaught of nursing, and 4) expressing some colostrum every day now will help to have a strong supply of it when baby comes. Cool! So there we were, eight or so strangers (except I knew one mom from my childbirth class!), and we pulled off our shirts, bared our breasts and learned to express colostrum (it took all of two minutes to learn this trick) – and guess what, we all had some, and in some cases, a lot. Our bodies are all about this business! Come on ahead, baby, dinner’s ready!
If you’re shuddering as you read this or your T.M.I. alarm is going off, I simply refuse to apologize, and I suggest that the loss of comfort with this aspect of human life is something Western women should be embarrassed by. As opposed to being embarrassed by the phenomenon of boobs feeding babies. It’s too cool, too fascinating, too magnificent to be prudish about. There’s knowledge to be gained that makes moms and babies happy and healthy. It’s a good thing and I’d say, if it bothers you to read the little tidbit I just wrote, please keep it to yourself.
And to anyone who shared my joy over learning such great things, smile at the next nursing mom you see out in public, give her a thumbs up if you want to, and you’re so inclined, make a donation to the Breastfeeding Center so more moms-to-be can take a free class and walk out excited about feeding their babies.