“Breastfeeding the Right-Brained Way”

This is a great article circulating some of the breastfeeding forums I am on, and I wanted to share it with you.  Many thanks to my friend Anna for sharing it with me!

 

Breastfeeding the Right-Brained Way
By Kathleen Kendall-Tackett (PhD, IBCLC) & Nancy Mohrbacher (IBCLC),
co-authors of Breastfeeding Made Simple

In modern Western cultures, mothers have more information about
breastfeeding than any time in human history. Unfortunately, most of this is
information for the left side of the brain, which is fine for lots of tasks.
But too much left-brained information can make you anxious about
breastfeeding.

 

 

Breastfeeding is a right-brained activity. What do we mean by that? Think of
left-brained instructions as head knowledge. Right-brained learning yields
heart or body knowledge. To illustrate the difference, think about riding a
bike. Did you learn by reading about it? Talking a class? Talking to other
people about it? Or did you learn by just getting on a bike and doing it?

The Right-Brained Dance of Breastfeeding
Mothers and babies have physiological responses that draw them to each
other, that encourage them to look at each other, touch each other, and
interact. Much of this behavior is guided by the right side of the brain.
This is the side that has to do with affect or emotion.

A problem with the heavily left-brained, instructionally-oriented way that
many mothers learn to breastfeed is that it doesn’t allow mother and baby to
take advantage of their natural responses. So much breastfeeding education
focuses on all the things mother must to do get the baby to breastfeed,
which ignores the baby’s role. That type of instruction can be helpful to
solve a particular problem, but it can be a definite drawback when one
technique or strategy is applied to all mothers. It also discourages mothers
and babies from using their hardwiring.

Worse still, this kind of education can encourage them to tune out their
natural responses or to violate their instincts. It can be upsetting for all
who are involved, sometimes creating a crisis where none existed before.
Another problem with highly instructionalized left-brained approaches is
that they can leave some mothers feeling incompetent because it feels as if
there are 10,000 things they need to remember.

A different way to think about this is to consider how mothers throughout
human history managed to breastfeed without all of the information we have
now. When breastfeeding was the norm, girls learned about breastfeeding as
they were growing up by seeing women actually doing it. Dr. Peter Hartmann,
a well-known breastfeeding researcher, makes this point well. He asked a
young Australian Aboriginal mothers, “When did you learn about
breastfeeding?” She answered, “I have always known how to breastfeed.”

How exactly do you use a right-brained approach to breastfeed your baby?
First, take some deep breaths and let go of those worries about doing things
“wrong.” Instead of thinking of breastfeeding as a skill you need to master,
or a measure of your worth as a mother, think about breastfeeding as
primarily a relationship. As you spend time with your baby, you’ll be more
adept at reading her cues. As you hold her, your baby will be more
comfortable seeking your breast. Breastfeeding will flow naturally out of
your affectionate relationship.

Based on her extensive clinical experience with mothers and babies,
pediatrician and board-certified lactation consultant Dr. Christina Smillie
has developed some strategies that can help you help your baby. Here are
some specific things you can do:
* Start with a calm, alert baby- One mistake that many women make is to wait to try breastfeeding until their babies are either sound asleep or
screaming. Think about yourself. Do you learn best when you are asleep or
upset? Probably not. The other reason to start with a calm baby has to do
with physics. When a baby is screaming, her tongue is on the roof of her
mouth. You will never get your breast in her mouth when her tongue is like
that.
* Watch for early feeding cues- These cues include turning her head when
someone touches her cheek and hand-to-mouth. Take note of when she starts
smacking her lips or putting her hands to her mouth. This is an ideal time
to try breastfeeding.
* Use your body to calm your baby- One way to calm a crying baby is by
placing your baby skin to skin vertically between your breasts. Your chest
is a very calming place for your baby. Try talking and making eye contact.
All of these activities can get her to calm down, allowing your baby to seek
the breast on her own.
* Follow your baby’s lead- When a calm, alert baby is held vertically
between her mother’s breasts, often she will begin showing instinctive
breast-seeking behaviors, bobbing her head and moving it from side to side.
Once your baby starts these behaviors, help her in her efforts. Following
your baby’s lead, support her head and shoulders. Move her rump toward your
opposite breast. Encourage her explorations with your voice.
* Play while you learn to breastfeed- Play is something that is largely
absent from the mothers we see. It all seems so serious and they are
terrified of doing something wrong. If you are feeling frustrated, we’d like
to encourage you to look at this another way. Focus on your relationship
with your baby and consider breastfeeding as a part of the larger whole.
Breastfeeding will flow naturally out of your affectionate relationship.
In summary, if your baby is healthy, she is wired to know how to breastfeed.
It all doesn’t depend on you getting everything right. Relax and just focus
on getting to know your baby. The rest will follow.

Breastfeeding Made Simple is an awesome book, and I encourage you to search out the other books written by these two women.  Kathleen Kendall-Tackett in particular has done a lot of work with postpartum depression, depression and other less than positive feelings dealing with motherhood.  The works of these two wise women are well worth checking out!

Thanks,

Carrie

One of the 12 Senses: Warmth

This is an excellent article regarding one of Steiner’s 12 senses that is important developmentally for young children: warmth.

Please check out this link to read a great article on Warmth, Strength and Freedom:  http://tidewaterschool.blogspot.com/2008/12/warmth-strength-and-freedom-by-m.html

Happy, happy reading!!

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

Pregnancy is Preparation of the Soul – Part 3 of 3

This last step is one of the most important things to think about, especially in our society where children seem almost instantly “grown-up”:

Look at how your views regarding children and talk about them with your partner. I believe the child comes into life on earth slowly and there are things appropriate for one stage of child development that are not appropriate for a different stage. What are your thoughts and feelings about how children differ when they are just born, six months of age, a year old, two years old, nine years old?   We seem to be living in a very fact-based world where small children are met with facts and information from an early age on.  What would you tell a two year old, a five year old, a twelve year old about a particular subject? These are hard things to ponder when your child is not even born yet, but interesting and important questions nonetheless.   Go to the park and watch children of different ages if you have not been around a lot of children. Attend mother’s groups. Get to know the children in your neighborhood and their ages and how they act. This can be very eye-opening indeed and prepare you for some of the developmental stages that lie ahead.  Many mothers and families who have small children often feel that when their child is seven or eight or whatever the next age is, that the child will be very grown up and much more mature than they are now.  Your child is growing, but there are still developmental changes happening all the way through the cycle of life – even to us!

Many women and their spouses focus, and rightly so, on the physical preparation required for pregnancy and birth. However, the soul and the spirit of transitioning into this new role of parenting is one that deserves focus as well. Birth is but the beginning of parenting, much the way there is an entire life of marriage after the wedding.

Just a few thoughts from my little corner of the world.

Pregnancy is Preparation of the Soul – Part 2 of 3

 Here are some more ways to delve deeper into the transition of the heart and soul of mothering.  The hyperlinked book titles will take you into Amazon in case you want to check out some of these wonderful books for yourself.

3.  Investigate how you and your partner may handle such things as increased errands due to the baby, increased financial costs with possibly a loss of one salary, household chores and really talk about these things. It is hard to pinpoint everything before your baby arrives – babies come with their own unique personalities and temperaments, but these things are worth thinking about and attempting to plan a bit! Many mothers who are transitioning to staying at home from a full-time career have a thought that their home will be perfectly clean, that they will have time to exercise and greet their husband with a warm dinner every night, and are shocked when they find it difficult to find the time to take a shower. Talking about things ahead of time can at least get you thinking.

4.  Cultivate optimism , humor, and flexibility in yourself. These are essential tools in parenting. Look within yourself and see what areas you would like to work on as you will be modeling human emotion and interaction for your child as they learn about their world for the very first time. How do you handle stress or boredom? Do you have difficulty sitting still or difficulty getting outside and moving around? The height of imitative behavior is in the early years, so concentrate on having worthy things to show your child to imitate.

5.  Learn all you can about breastfeeding and infant massage. The baby’s first well-developed senses include sensation through the skin and the use of the olfactory system. Rahima Baldwin Dancy writes in her book You Are Your Child’s First Teacher:

“Compared with other cultures, Americans are touch-deprived. Cross-cultural studies have shown that the United States has one of the lowest rates of casual touch in the world – about two times an hour- compared with Puerto Ricans who have one of the highest rates, about 180 times an hour. Studies showed that French parents touch their children three times more often than American parents.”

Sobering but true facts in our society that so value independence instead of interdependence.

The benefits of breastfeeding are too long to list in this post! However, in general, breastfeeding offers protection from disease, promotes a sense of safety and security in the baby with bonding between mother and baby, promotes optimal facial and jaw development, provides neuro-protection and promotes optimal intelligence. Breastfeeding is also a natural part of a woman’s passage from menstruation, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and menopause with health benefits for the mother. To learn more about breastfeeding, please see La Leche League at www.llli.org and view all the wonderful resources there. Attend a meeting of your local La Leche League group to learn more.

My favorite books about breastfeeding include The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, Jack Newman’s The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers, and the book Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. Law Number Two of the Seven Natural Laws is “Mother’s Body is Baby’s Natural Habitat.” Chapter 2 of this book and the explanation of the animal studies, effects of skin –to- skin contact after birth, how skin –to- skin contact works, and the long-term effects of touch are just riveting. Every new mother should read this book!

A wonderful read on the importance of infant massage and how to do it is Vimala McClure’s book Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents. She talks about how the first language for a baby is done through the baby’s skin. She also discusses the debate regarding “infant stimulation” – such as the use of recorded noise, black and white images and other stimulation.

She writes in one thought-provoking passage, “Our great concern about our children’s ability to compete on intelligence tests can drive us to accept programs that may or may not be valuable and that may in fact be detrimental to a child’s long-range emotional and spiritual development.”

While graded developmental stimulation may be of use with children who are not developing normally, the healthy, full term baby is well-supported by giving him or her your touch, your face for them to look at, your singing voice, a calm, peaceful environment and your body as their habitat in which to grow.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Pregnancy is Preparation of the Soul – Part 1 of 3

Joan Salter, founder and director of The Gabriel Baby Centre in Melbourne, Australia writes in her book  Incarnating Child,

“The mother-to-be often feels obliged to continue at work right up to the last month. There are financial obligations to be met- the mortgage on the house, payment on the car, and the cost of equipment for the baby. These are pressing demands which necessitate two incomes for as long as possible. The morning rush, evening tiredness, and the demands of the work situation all take their toll of subtle inner stirrings.”

“It was not so for the previous generations. Then, the mother-to-be remained at home. There was knitting to be done, baby’s clothes to stitch, blankets to embroider. Friends called to admire the layette, to enthuse over Grandma’s hand-knitted shawl, to bring a gift, to share the growing anticipation.

This was much more than a time for collecting baby’s clothes; it was also a significant soul preparation.”

What a lovely way to think about pregnancy: soul preparation. While we cannot return to the years gone by, here are some suggestions for the preparation part of pregnancy.

  1. Think about ways to connect to your unborn baby that feel comfortable to you. We have all heard stories of women who did not know they were pregnant until they went into labor – the ultimate body-mind disconnect! Let your unborn child know how much you love him or her from the beginning. I suggest active ways to do this could include such things as talking to your unborn baby, singing to your unborn baby, massaging your pregnant belly, visualizing your baby, meditating on your unborn baby. Be assured this baby is a miracle. Christiane Northrup writes in her wonderful book Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Understanding the Crucial Link Between Mothers, Daughters, and Health,

“Regardless of the circumstances of your conception, be assured that your existence is a miracle. The odds against any one of us being born are staggeringly high. Your mother’s body had tens of thousands of eggs to choose from. Only one of them ripened the month you were conceived. That egg accepted just one of the millions of sperm available to her from your father at that moment. Then, guided by biology, destiny, and your soul qualities, the embryo that was you had to make it through the multiple stages of development necessary to launch your unique life into being. For a variety of reasons- genetic, environmental, or a combination of both- most conceptions never reach maturation. Of the relatively few eggs that do get fertilized, 80 percent never make it to the embryonic stage. The statistical probability of a particular egg and a particular sperm coming together to create the unique human that you are is infinitesimally small. On a soul level, of course, statistics mean nothing. If a creation or individual is destined to be born, it will happen. I’ve seen this repeatedly. Babies get conceived under mysterious circumstances in which conception is considered biologically impossible or highly improbable.”

2. Think about how you and your partner communicate with each other. You may consider such groups as The Center for NonViolent Communication for further information. See www.cnvc.org to get started. Changing from being a couple to being responsible for a baby who is completely dependent upon both of you for everything is exciting and wonderful but can also have challenging moments. Communication between you and your partner is one key in making this transition as wonderful as possible. Think about how you will invest in each other as your roles change and grow. Make a commitment to grow together!

More ways to connect to unborn baby and the experience of mothering with heart and soul to follow!