I’ve written about most of our NCT classes (here and here), so I think you’ve got a general idea about what went on, but several people have commented both on the blog and on Twitter that they’re keen to hear how the breastfeeding session went. I’d hate to disappoint so here’s my impression of the class…
The class lasted three hours. The lady running the class was a Breastfeeding Counsellor, rather than our usual NCT lady. She started off by telling us that over 90% of women are physically able to breastfeed. This surprised me as I was under the impression that around one third of women were unable to do so. She then went on to talk about cultural expectations and how these can interfere with successful breastfeeding.
I don’t know much about breastfeeding as none of my closest friends have had children so I haven’t had anyone that I can be too nosy with about it! I certainly haven’t seen a woman breastfeeding ‘close up’ as it were!
As a result I don’t know whether everything the breastfeeding counsellor was telling us was an accurate reflection of most women’s breastfeeding experience; but I must admit that I suspected she was presenting something of a rose-tinted view. The main message was that if you got attachment right, you’d have no problem breastfeeding.
Interestingly, a friend asked me afterwards if we found out what to do in a tongue tie situation, and I realised that this hadn’t been mentioned at all! So I’m guessing this breastfeeding malarkey isn’t as simple as all that!
We watched a lot of videos of women breastfeeding and how to get good attachment, hold the baby while feeding etc etc. They were very useful and explained things clearly, but all of these videos were filmed in Africa. There were lots of women with breasts that looked nothing like mine, in surroundings that looked nothing like mine. The session leader said that we have a big problem with breastfeeding culture in the UK; I can’t help but think that if these videos had been filmed in the UK then I might have identified a bit more with them. They were also all set in hospital. It would have been nice to see some women on their sofa at home, in front of a bit of daytime telly, feeding their babies.
It was amazing to see how babies instinctively seem to know how to breast feed. Again, that’s the impression that was given. But I’ve heard of so many women who say, “I didn’t know how to breastfeed, and nor did my baby. It was new to both of us!” All of these thoughts were going round in my head!
One thing that really struck me was the message that dads are essentially redundant when it comes to feeding. We were told not to express until ‘attachment is well established’ and the message was pushed that we should not use a bottle before this time because a bottle involves a different kind of suck for the baby and it could essentially mess up them breastfeeding.
Even after the babies had ‘learned’ how to attach well (even though they apparently come out of the womb knowing how to do it) expressing is discouraged because the milk in your breast is tailored to the time of day the baby is feeding (so day expressed milk in the night isn’t as good as a breast in the night).
The lady was saying how sometimes you think babies want a feed but really they just want comfort. So hubby innocently asked if, when he’s holding the baby and it displays signs of wanting to feed, he has to hand the baby straight over to me that instant.
Well. That question went down well. Cue a stern look and an incredulous, “why wouldn’t you?!” Poor man. I quickly jumped in to his defence and explained that she’d literally just told us that sometimes the baby looks like it wants a feed and sometimes it just wants comfort. So couldn’t the dad provide the comfort?
I hastily continued by saying perhaps we could ‘check’ whether the baby wanted a feed with me and then hand her back either afterwards or if she didn’t want to. This seemed to satisfy her!
I felt really sorry for the dads as it was obvious that they were feelings sidelined, and, being modern men (well, mostly!) they wanted to be involved in their child’s care.
Further to this, I enquired about roughly how long it takes for the baby to become a ‘breastfeeding pro’ so we can introduce expressed milk as I have a close friend’s wedding to attend in August and the baby isn’t invited.
Well, her first response was that I shouldn’t go to the wedding! I must admit I got a bit antsy at this point (as I am involved in the ceremony) and asked her to answer the question. She continued to be vague and suggested that I might like to discuss this issue with my husband…(not entirely sure what she was getting at here!)
Eventually she conceded that it’s usually by around six weeks but still suggested cup feeding of expressed milk rather than using a bottle. (Obviously it can take longer for some babies. That’s fine, I get it, I just wanted a ballpark answer!)
So, I’ve decided that I’m just going to wait and see. I’ll try to do all of the things that were talked about during the session and see how I get on. As for expressing and how to involve my husband in feeding, well that is something we’ll decide together.
I also took a photo of all of the feeding cues we talked about so I can use it as a crib sheet!