During my first shift I had the opportunity to add some information and offer education to a few patients here and there. One of the most rewarding elements of my day involved aiding a new family in breastfeeding. The patient was interested in breast and bottle feeding. The newborn baby had received formula in a bottle after birth, before coming to the postpartum floor.
When my preceptor and I were first in the room the patient indicated a desire to breast feed for the "first week or so". After listening to her for a minute or too I began to feel as if she could use some more in depth education about infant feeding. We offered her a bit of information before moving on to the next task.
A bit later, at the nurses station, we had the opportunity to chat with the Lactation Consultant (LC) on the unit that day and asked her if she would be willing to offer some education/support to our patient. She was able to chat with our patient and later told us that she seemed interested in trying to breastfeed and the LC thought the patient would ask for help if/when she needed it.
Later I was in the patients room and was able to support her in latching the baby onto her breast, support them both, and offer a ton of information/education at the same time, but one of the best things I was able to do, the thing that appeared to have an impact on my patient, was the way in which I spoke to her about her baby, her breasts, and her ability to feed/provide for her newborn.
I said things like:
"Look at your colostorum, you have so much of it!"
" He knows just what to do, what an intelligent baby"
"See how his lips are flared out, that's just right!"
"Hear that puff of air sound? That means he is swallowing, getting just what he needs"
"Isn't it amazing how your body just knows how to provide this food that is just right for your baby?"
"You are both doing it. Look at what you're doing? You are both so amazing!"
It may sound over the top, but I assure you I was sincere, and my patient appeared to appreciate it. Every time I was with her throughout the course of the afternoon I offered her tidbits of information about caring for her baby, feeding her baby, her baby's amazing talents, relexes, and needs. I shared with her the wonders of colostorum and never even mentioned formula. ( I would have if she had asked/brought it up, but she didn't). I didn't say anything about bottle feeding. I focused on the moment, on what was happening right then, between that mother and that baby! I encouraged her to ask for help, even if it was for every time she wanted to latch her baby on, to use the resources available to her in the hospital, to ask questions, etc.
And you know what, she did! Once, I was at the nursing station, and she came out of her room ,walked up to me, and asked me if I could help her latch her baby on! It was so awesome! I did help her and the next time she asked me to come into her room to help her, I talked her through it and she was able to get that baby on effectively all by herself!
Watching her face, seeing the pride and awe eminating from her was magic!
From the first time my preceptor and I spoke to her about infant feeding until my shift was over, her demeanor and attitude regarding feeding her baby seemed to change completely. From my perspective, she went from vaccillating and unsure, to confidant and committed!
I can't explain to you how much this experience filled me. Even thought I've helped many, many women to feed their newborns, I walked around full and satisfied that evening. I came home walking on clouds. I had truly made a difference in the life of my patient, her baby, and her partner. Whether or not she chooses to continue breastfeeding, switches to formula, or does some of both, those moments she had with her baby, the opportunity she had to successfully feed him from her own body, with a supportive woman by her side, will always be with her. I have no doubt she will view herself and her baby differently from now on, consciously or unconsciously, in a big or in a small way...
It doesnt' matter to me. I know my being there changed something in her, uncovered something in her that she may never have known, or maybe had forgotten, and that is a miracle to me!!!