Does it seem like your mom, grandma, sister, best friend, their friend, and even the lady on the train want to give you some advice or ‘wisdom’ on how to breastfeed or raise your new baby? While it can be nice and comforting at times to get advice from those close to you (especially when you’re the one asking and they aren’t just offering it), it can sometimes be advice that can feel a bit like criticism. There are so many opinions out there and the internet is full of different “sources of truth” that it can feel overwhelming.
Breastfeeding in the time of COVID has highlighted a prevalent inequality, not just in maternal health, but specifically for Black moms and babies. For families trying to get a fussy, screaming infant fed and back to sleep, experience latching frustration was already hard enough. That frustration became amplified during the past 5 months of isolation, leaving 96% of new parents lacking the support necessary when getting access to a healthcare visit has become a challenge that also further burdens the front lines of care in this pandemic.
As a Nurse Practitoner and Immunology researcher, I can see that moms just want reassurance from a health care provider that they are doing it right. They also need guidance in real time to navigate if they should show up at urgent care for their baby’s colic that has lasted for 3 days.
Sometimes, what is thought to be a breastmilk supply deficiency could actually be a result of an underlying medical problem. You need a virtual visit that can assess from your home if the problem is actually uncontrolled diabetes and what you need to do about it. That is something telehealth support can provide, but it is also useful for new parents to have the following information so they can provide and advocate for their baby’s needs:
Why care about Breast Milk?
In essence, Breast Milk is the first life vaccine that is free and accessible. It makes sense to focus on supporting women through the breastfeeding journey at a time we are concerned about viruses and challenging economic times. Breast Milk is so powerful, that even the smallest amount given to your baby, even after a C-section, can offset the negative effects of missing out on the microbial benefits of vaginal birth.1 Turns out that pumping also falls behind on the scale of the beneficial microbial transfer. The strains of bacteria and yeast that live on your skin are introduced to the baby once they begin breastfeeding and help to protect them from harmful bacteria that want to take up residence. Later on, when the baby begins to take on more solid foods, it’s definitely beneficial to include some probiotic foods in order to establish a healthy microbiome early. During the first 3 years of life, the foundation of the gut microbiome is being laid.2 If this foundation-building is disrupted by severe illness or antibiotics, the child is much more likely to develop autoimmune and metabolic disorders later in life.3
What is the Microbiome?
noun, plural mi·cro·bi·ota.
a [modifiable] army of 100 trillion microbial cells that we depend on to stay alive: influencing the way we eat, think, and function.
What can Parents do?
If you’re worried about how to help give your little one the best start to overall microbiome health, here’s what to keep in mind: opt for vaginal birth, if at all possible, avoid taking antibiotics while pregnant or breastfeeding, and if you’re able to breastfeed at all, every little bit is beneficial and can offset the negative effects of a C-section, formula feeding, or even antibiotic treatment. Here are some other tips to support your breastfeeding journey:
- Find a lactation consultant that uses language that is supportive and accepting – don’t allow anyone to ever make you feel like you’re not good enough.
- Fall in love with your pump – especially if you’re a mom who is going to need to go back to work or wants to breastfeed for up to a year. You’re going to need the support of your pump to get you through.
- You can’t Google a standard! So don’t try – everyone is different in how much milk they produce, and every baby is different in how much they eat and how often. So don’t go scaring yourself by Googling.
- Add in probiotic rich foods: After your little one starts eating solid foods, try a very wide variety of fruits, vegetables, beans (don’t forget hummus), and probiotic foods (yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha). You may be surprised by what they like!
- Get support: Remember you aren’t alone. During this unusual and challenging time it’s normal to feel stressed and postpartum depression is occurring more frequently. Understanding how to support your baby’s health and nutrition needs to be easy. If you’re feeling unsupported, find telehealth services you trust. The Natural Nipple’s clinical specialists offer virtual visits to offer medical insights and help you navigate this unprecedented time. To learn more about how you can give your baby the best possible start in life using the body’s original super food: breast milk and check if you qualify for an immuno-biome analysis, you can schedule a consult here.
Every parent wants what’s best for their child and that’s where understanding the microbiome, gut health, nutrition, and healthy supplements can make the difference.
Lauren Wright is a researcher & Nurse Practitioner that founded a biotech company and patented infant feeding system called The Natural Nipple. The need for an infant feeding device that does not create latching challenges was an unsolved problem she discovered while studying breast milk immuno-biology and the microbiome. Her passion is providing families with bio-feedback solutions to confidently build immunity and lifelong healthy development.