Monday, May 30, 2011

learning about breastfeeding

A young midwifery student who I will call 'B' wrote to me:

Today I had work on the postnatal ward, and I had one of my "What would Joy do?" moments, as I had a particularly hard case to deal with, well for me it was hard.

I was caring for a woman who had a baby girl at term. There was some concern about possible infection, so baby was admitted to the newborn nursery soon after birth. I found the mother in her bed crying. I found myself having to be 'with' her in a very human, tangible way that I find hard to put into words.

After having a talk and her calming down, I wanted to help her with breastfeeding. The issues I saw for this mother were:
a) separated from her child
b) bottles and formula
c) sick baby
d) the fact she had only expressed once since her baby had been moved to special care 24 hours before and had minimal skin to skin/ feeding attempts since.

I showed her how to hand express, showed her how to use a pump, and helped her attach her baby in the special care nursery.

It was just one of those cases where I especially wanted her to succeed in feeding, which was what she desperately wanted too, and I wonder if there is anything else I can do for her?

This is an all too common scenario that student midwives face. I congratulate 'B' on the way she has been working through her thoughts in this situation.

A key to supporting this mother and baby are to understand breastfeeding from the baby’s point of view, and to help the mother to see that perspective too. Babies want milk; they want it in abundance and from their mothers' breasts. Any artificial substitute is inferior in the baby's mind, as well as being inferior from a nutritional perspective.

A student midwife working in a hospital has very little authority or ability to change the culture within the unit. Did that baby really need to be separated from her mother? Were all the medical processes that followed the separation necessary and helpful? ...

The ideals of the Baby Friendly Health Initiative, or the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative, empowering women as mothers and promoting bonding, breastfeeding and health are not very useful to a person like 'B' working a shift in a postnatal maternity ward. 'B' needs a strategy by which she can impart hope and encouragement to the new mother until her child is returned to her care.

As soon as baby is well enough she will be looking for her mother's milk. It is usually possible to revisit the unhurried, skin-to-skin experience as could have happened in those magical hours after birth, when a baby intuitively seeks and takes milk. The midwife who is confident in understanding a baby's approach to breast feeding will also be 'with woman' in that natural process.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A personal question

"How are you?"

Grandpa and his girls

Three simple words; a question: "How are you?"
A question to which I reply "I'm OK, how are you?" - or something else.

A caring tone; a sympathetic look; honest, open concern from one who knows the deep waters I must traverse.

It's a question that needs a voice - not txt or email or a Fb poke! A question for which communication technology can never surpass the value of the human voice.

"How are you?" is a question that invites a response.

"Thanks for asking."

Dear Reader
Today I am writing about life, and not specifically midwifery. My thoughts have been prompted by a deeply personal experience which has brought me to a new appreciation of the value of that personal question, "How are you?"

As I reflect on my own experience I feel ashamed at my own failure to be with others in their distress. As I receive messages through the various (impersonal/technological) means of communication, my heart longs for the personal word.

I don't think this need to use personal communication will ever be lost, even as generations of young people who have been nurtured at the bountiful breast of information technology move into adult life.  Their basic need for human interaction will be most keenly felt when they face life's challenges and difficulties; when they need a caring voice to ask, "How are you?"

Thursday, May 05, 2011

My presentation at the Virtual International Day of the Midwife webinar

I am terribly disappointed that I was unable to properly participate in the webinar today. The facilitator Carole took over and read from my .ppt notes. Thanks Carole! I don't know why my microphone failed me, but I could not get a response, no matter what I tried.

I would like to share some of the presentation with my blog readers.
Two of the topics included in the presentation, Midwife-blogger, and Vernix can be found at another blog that I write,

There were some great messages sent to the classroom. Here are examples of comments (without names of the writers) on Vernix, followed by general discussion on blogging:

Baby ColdCream

Super moisturizer! If only we could market it!

something i did not expect to see on my baby! it was quite a shock but it truly is a miraculous substance!

When I was working near Mexico ALL the women in the birth room would wipe it off the baby and on their own faces :) So sweet

good for the crow's feet!

My last bub had it allon his back, eww! :) I think they wiped it off my hosp babies. :)


I am a student and other midwifery students are able to use it [a blog] for learning.

Thirst for knowledge

Lisa's blog is how I found out about true midwifery practice

It is a way for those who aren't yet apprenticing to be exposed to information that they may not be able to have a hands-on to yet.

comments are really mini conversations on a blog

I'm not a midwife yet, just going to become...But already thinking about a blog that can really help in my future practice. I'm from Belarus and homebirth here is not legal and not that popular yet. Hope to change this situation.

It creates a feeling of community to discover that someone somewhere else is interested in similar things

i found blogs to be the only way to uncover the real effect of the new legislations

I found it interesting to read overseas blogs by midwives who stated they would never work in Aus because of the ongoing battle between medical and midwives.

As students, blogs from practising midwives are excellent sources of "unconventional" learning. Dont ever stop!!

Thank you for the lovely comments on your slides, I'll be a reader from now on, if I can find you;-)

I learn so much from blogs

i have always been intimidated by blogging... but now it really doesn't seem so bad!

me too


You see, even though I wasn't able to do my talk, the audience took over and made the best of it! Thanks to all who participated.