Emma McCabe, CBC (Certified Breastfeeding Counselor), has the kind of passion for what she does that one can only hope to find when hiring a lactation support person. She made discussing what can be an extremely frustrating and troubling time in a new mom’s life real, relate-able and dare I say, fun.
When asked what piece of advice she would offer to a new or expecting mom planning to breastfeed, she replied:
“Be gentle with yourself. Remember, this is a skill that you and your baby are building together, sometimes it takes time and perseverance. Surround yourself with people who support and nourish you.”
Her love for her chosen field radiates and within an hour’s time, I had learned invaluable information on how to get my unborn son’s feeding style and habits off to a great start. We feel excited and lucky to be able to share some of her energy, wisdom and tips with you.
One of the first things we discussed was your mom’s history in the field. But even without saying so, it was clear to me that your passion for breastfeeding support runs deep and is something that has been important to you for a very long time. With that being said, what was it specifically that inspired you to follow a similar path?
After the birth of my son I was looking to shift directions. I wanted to do something I felt passionate about but that could be flexible with my children’s needs and lactation support seemed like an obvious choice. I had been very involved in Le Leche League and mother to mother support while I was breastfeeding my son, it seemed like a natural extension to get certified.
As a mother with a toddler at home, was your own experience an influential factor when it came to wanting to help other women who may be struggling to feed?
Absolutely. In many ways I was incredibly fortunate, I had my own mother with me for a full month after my son was born so I had around the clock support for the breastfeeding challenges we faced. I remember thinking at the time that I didn’t know how women did it with so little support available to them – it’s not an exaggeration to say that it’s outrageous. Post partum isn’t meant to be done alone. Traditionally women would be surrounded by family and friends who provide support.
I have heard conflicting answers when it comes to when a brand new baby “should” (I say this loosely!) be able to latch while in the hospital. Can you help clear this up for those of us wondering if it’s something we should expect to happen right away or if it will take some time?
Yes, ideally a baby ‘should’ latch in the hospital. Sometimes there are factors that make breastfeeding very challenging and if your baby is struggling to latch in the first 24 hrs I would recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. That being said, if your baby doesn’t latch in the hospital then that doesn’t mean they never will. With the right help and support most challenges can be overcome. Often we get told that babies need to latch in the first hour post birth – this isn’t always the case.
Do as much skin to skin post birth as possible, this allows your babies reflexes to turn on themselves and more often than not they’ll initiate a feed themselves. If you have flat or inverted nipples then your baby may have a harder time latching at the beginning of your journey (it’s still totally possible!), sometimes nipple shields (used under the guidance of a professional) are helpful in this situation but again I’d just urge your to be proactive and get help!
And does the path the baby was born whether vaginally or cesarean, impact the initial colostrum from developing? What other factors should we be aware of that can influence the first feed?
How medicalized your birth was doesn’t impact colostrum from developing. Your colostrum will be there, don’t worry.
What it does impact is the time frame that your milk transitions from colostrum to milk. If you have a birth with a high amount of IV fluids – often the case with an induction, or you hemorrhage a large amount of blood then it can mean your milk transitions later (day 4, 5 or 6) rather than the ideal time frame of day 2 or 3. If you are intending on breastfeeding and your milk is delayed make sure you reach out for help!
A highly medicalized birth can also impact how alert your baby is in the first few days of life. Medication and IV fluid travels through the placenta into your baby. If you have a lot of IV fluids and medication during your birth you may need to be more proactive about waking your baby for feeds every 2-3 hrs. Finally, high levels of IV fluids can actually impact how much your baby weighs at birth. It takes about 12 hrs to diurese the fluids that have passed into their body.
If giving birth in a hospital, we can generally expect a lactation consultant to be available to help guide the experience those first 48 hours. When that’s not enough, it’s time to go home and things aren’t going the way one may have hoped, when would be a good time they reach out to you, or any IBCLC or CBC/CLC?
Some lactation support providers will come to the hospital but I would usually recommend having someone come for a home visit as soon as possible when you are discharged.
What services can one expect at that initial in-home visit?
Usually we’ll have a chat about what’s been going on to start – I’ll ask a lot of questions. Then we’ll weigh your baby and begin the feed. We’ll problem solve and make whatever adjustments are necessary during the feed. After the feed we’ll weigh your baby again to get an idea of what they’re transferring and go over the plan going forward. I’ll send you an email that recaps what we talked about and keep in touch with you until you feel your problems have been resolved.
What signs or struggles can a woman identify if she feels she may need help but has yet to reach out?
- Any and all nipple pain!
- Delay in milk transition
- Baby struggling to latch
- Weight loss over 10% for baby and or/not enough diapers
- Milk transfer problems
- Plugged ducts/mastitis
So much of the breastfeeding process (and really everything from birth and beyond) is out of our control as mothers. What can a mother control when it comes to feeding?
Offering the breast frequently and generously – it’s totally okay and normal to feed upwards of 12 times a day in the first few weeks. Ask for help when you need it!
If you could offer one piece of advice to a new or expecting mom who is planning to breastfeed, what would it be?
Be gentle with yourself. Remember, this is a skill that you and your baby are building together, sometimes it takes time and perseverance. Surround yourself with people who support and nourish you.
You co-host a weekly Breastfeeding Support Circle at Nest Space in Carroll Gardens. First of all, thank you! What a great resource that is for so many. Second, how is this group experience different than one of that in the home? And what are the benefits of seeking guidance in this way, opposed to one-on-one counseling?
Groups are great because they offer a very affordable alternative to an in home session. However, you do have to share time with other women and you also have to be mobile and come to us. The trade off is that you get to spend time with other women who are in the midst of a similar moment in their life and we hope you leave feeling validated and replenished with woman to woman support.
Are there any resources you would recommend a woman choosing to breastfeed read, study, watch before birth?
The Discontented Little Baby Book – Dr Pamela Douglas
Lastly, how can women looking for a CBC in Brooklyn contact you and do your services extend borough-wide or are there certain neighborhoods you serve?
I serve all over the five boroughs! Contact info below.