Goddess Guest Blogger: Helen Schwalme

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I am proud to welcome my first Goddess guest blogger, Helen Schwalme, for IBCLC Day 2010.  Helen is a Mother of 2 and currently training at The Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute to certify as an IBCLC.  Helen is also the co-founder/administrator for Natural Mothering.

Almost 9 years ago I had my first son. I was living in Germany and knew nothing about childbirth and left all of my decision making to the healthcare professionals. I ended up having a miserable birth experience which left me struggling to breastfeed, something I had always known I would do as my grandmother always talked about it when I was a child. I struggled for weeks to latch Scott and ended up pumping and bottle feeding for a couple of days and eventually ended up on a nipple shield. I was lucky; I had a lot of milk and managed to continue breastfeeding for 2  1/2 years until Scott self weaned. Other women are not so lucky or determined.

By the time I was pregnant with my second son, I had become a breastfeeding advocate and was very informed on birthing practices. I chose a midwife assisted homebirth and the experience couldn’t have been more different. The birth was amazing and breastfeeding was easy. My midwife however, was still trying to give me advice that made no sense to me and that was when I realized that sadly breastfeeding has become a dying art and that most of the information out there is widely inaccurate and that most healthcare professionals have had no breastfeeding education at all and some completely undervalue this normal way to feed a baby. Around this time I was introduced to Dr Jack Newman and his Co-Director at the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute (NBCI) Edith Kernerman. Since that day I have been involved in fundraising and support for this amazing clinic that sadly has no government funding.

Finally in September 2009 everything in my life lined up and I was able to begin on the path to my new vocation…IBCLC. An IBCLC is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant. The training requires over 500 hours of hands on breastfeeding education combined with theory based education too. I am incredibly lucky to be studying at the NBCI not only for my IBCLC requirements but I am also completing the NBCI diploma course concurrently.  We are taught only evidence based practices. The clinic never tells mothers anything that they cannot back up with good research and of course this includes Dr Newman’s 30 years of practical experience helping mothers. I have been in clinic since January 2010 and every day we see mother’s who have been given dreadful, although of course well intentioned, advice from other healthcare professionals and this advice has damaged their breastfeeding relationship. Fortunately, most of the mothers and babies who come to NBCI eventually continue to breastfeed successfully due to their own determination and also the excellent support from the IBCLC’s at the clinic.


There is very little that a new mother needs to know about breastfeeding to succeed. I honestly believe that prenatal breastfeeding education is key!! Here are some of the things, I think are most important to know.

1.    Skin to Skin!! I cannot stress enough the importance of skin to skin contact. Not only right after the birth but for as many hours a day as is possible for the first few months is vital to your baby. Babies who are skin to skin with their mothers are better able to control their blood sugar, body temperature, breathing and heart rate. They are also developing more neural pathways when they are skin to skin than at any other time. Another wonderful side effect of skin to skin is that your baby will be in his natural habitat, he will wake up near his food source, you will more easily notice his early feeding cues and this will make breastfeeding easier. A wrap is a wonderful way to have your baby skin to skin and still be able to get on with your day, especially if there are other children in the home who need attention too.

2.    Get a good deep latch. With a good latch, there will be no nipple trauma and the baby will be more able to transfer the milk from the breast. This will ensure that the breasts know to make enough milk for the baby. A good latch means that the baby comes to the breast with a wide mouth, the  chin is off the chest and in the breast and the nose is far away. You should be able to see more of the top of the areola and the bottom part should be completely covered by the babies mouth and chin.

3.    Know if your baby is drinking or sucking. When a baby is well latched on to the breast watch his chin movements. Small shallow movements are sucks, when the chin drops down towards the chest and pauses for a second…this is a mouthful of milk J When you know this, then you will also understand that timing feedings means nothing. If a baby is at the breast for 30 minutes but only sucking and not drinking they will not be satisfied. However, if a baby is at the breast and actively drinking then they will get enough milk. Watch THIS video to see this pause in the chin.

4.    Know how to manage a feeding. Watch the baby to make sure they are drinking. Babies are very simple creatures…they want flow! When the flow slows down they can become agitated and pull at the breast which many people confuse as gas.Some very new babies will also fall asleep at the breast when the flow slows down and this can confuse mothers who then assume the baby is full and wonder why they wake shortly afterwards to nurse again. If the baby is sucking but not drinking then add compressions. This should change the sucks to drinks. When the compressions no longer help, then it’s time to switch sides! Do not look at the clock…only drinking counts not timing!

5.    Switching sides. Most books will say to offer both breasts at a feeding. This is true but sometimes you might need to offer a 3rd or 4th or even a 5th breast. Keep watching for drinking and switch sides when it turns to sucking and compressions no longer help. While your baby is at the 2nd side your 1st side is already refilling and having more let downs. Allowing your baby to switch sides and drain the breast well will encourage milk production.

6.    Have access to breastfeeding resources before the birth! Do not wait until after the birth and have already run into trouble to seek out good help. An IBCLC can come to the hospital to assist you or to your home. Find out if there are any breastfeeding clinics in your area. La Leche League meetings can also be a great source of information and support too.

For further evidence based information on Breastfeeding please visit Dr Jack Newman’s website at www.nbci.ca.


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2 comments:

Mom*Of*3*Boys said...

I can say that even just meeting with Helen briefly I was able to get a better latch with my baby. You'll do great!!!!

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