When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out
There will be times when a mother decides not to follow or accept any of your suggestions. A mother may decide to stop breastfeeding before she had planned to. Or the mother may not want to wean but circumstances lead her to believe that she must. Any of these can be disappointing, but it is not helpful to second- guess a mother’s decisions. The breastfeeding counselor’s job is to help the mother sort out her feelings and suggest possible options, letting the mother make up her own mind. The decisions of whether to breastfeed or not, and how long to breastfeed, are the responsibility of the mother and the baby’s father, with input from their health-care professional.
For those times when a mother decides to stop breastfeeding prematurely, it may be helpful to have supportive responses ready. For example:
“That must have been a difficult decision. ”
“I’m so glad you ’re enjoying your baby.”
“You sound happier, relieved, calmer….”
“If I can be of further help, or if you want more information, please call.”
There are still several things you can do for the mother:
- Affirm the value of breastfeeding for whatever length of time she nursed her baby. Even one nursing at the breast is of value.
- Acknowledge any grief she’s feeling.
- Let the mother know that maintaining her close relationship with her baby is most important—and express confidence in her ability to continue to give her baby her best.
- Be tactful. Avoid saying anything that might make the mother feel guilty for “failing.” Keep the relationship positive.
When the counseling relationship ends, your last contact with the mother provides one more opportunity to reinforce the mother’s sense of competence and self-confidence.
It may be tempting to gauge how well you have done your job by how well breastfeeding has progressed and the decisions the mother has made, but a mother’s choices are not an accurate reflection of the quality of help she has received. Each situation is influenced by many individual variables. For example, the mother’s health, family situation, desire to breastfeed, support, access to resources, nutrition, and knowledge all affect the progress of breastfeeding. Other important considerations include the baby’s health, gestational age, temperament, physical anomalies, and nursing style.
So, how can a breastfeeding counselor know if she has done her job? Even if the mother stops breastfeeding before she had planned to, the best measure of success is how the mother feels about herself and about the breastfeeding relationship. Does she perceive that her feelings were respected? Did you help her feel good about being a mother and meeting her baby’s needs in the way that seemed most appropriate to her?
Although one of your goals as a breastfeeding counselor is to provide reliable breastfeeding information, your main message to each mother should be how important she is to her baby and how breastfeeding can be a wonderful part of this. Each mother should be left with a feeling of acceptance. Perhaps, most important of all, each mother should be left with a feeling of self-confidence and trust in her own instincts.
- When a mother weans prematurely, it may help to have supportive responses ready.
|❶||Introduction – Using Active Listening|
|❸||Giving Information and Suggestions|
|❹||Respecting Differences Among Mothers|
|❺||Helping the Mother Working with Her Doctor|
|❻||When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out|