I come from a long line of non breastfeeding mothers. My mother didn’t breastfeed me as it simply wasn’t in vogue, my grandmother didn’t breastfeed my mom as her doctors fed her some story that her breast milk was too thick (have you ever) and this was the pattern that went on for a few generations in my family but even with this family history, knowing that we had all turned out okay without “breast is best” mother’s milk I never thought, not for one moment while pregnant that I wouldn’t or couldn’t breastfeed. I always just assumed that I could and would.
My baby didn’t latch for a whole hour after his birth. I think ordinarily I would have been worried but my midwife and lactation consultant Sr. Sharon Marsay was with me reassuring me the whole time. Once my baby latched, it was smooth sailing from there.
I suppose I was one of the really lucky ones in that breastfeeding always felt like it came really naturally, I didn’t suffer with engorged breasts or bleeding nipples – I never even had the need for cabbage leaves! I give 98% of the credit to Sharon who visited me for seven days after my baby was born, showing me what to do to avoid the “nasty, really unnecessary effects” of breastfeeding, correct latching techniques and positions. She warned me of the what-to-expect-nexts from feeding frenzies to growth spurts. She taught me to trust my body and my baby when other well-meaning people would tell me that my milk supply wasn’t adequate when my baby would have extreme, once weekly growth spurts where his appetite was simply insatiable. When I presented this to Sharon, she would remind me that although my baby was born a mere 2.48kg, he had picked up 600gm in seven days where the average baby would only regain their birth weight 10-14 days after birth and my baby had doubled his birth weight before he was two months old. She would remind me that I could not possibly be starving my child with his kind of weight gain. The only problem I ever faced was at 9.5 months of breastfeeding I started to develop mastitis, my first course of action was to contact Sharon and with her advice, 24hrs later everything was back to normal. I do know that not everyone is as lucky as I am and I am truly blessed to have had such amazing support in the face of such general negativity towards the topic of breastfeeding.
Even though I was confident I was producing enough milk for my baby, I wasn’t able to express more than 5ml’s of milk, which lead me feeling a little anxious – I wanted to know that I could express if I ever needed to, for whatever reason.
I heard about a trial study on the effects of reflexology to support breastfeeding run by Laura Thomas, a reflexologist, pre and postnatal massage therapist and Doula. Laura openly accepted me into her study and I was extremely excited to be taking part in such exciting research but I would have no idea on just how well it would work.
We all know that research has established that exclusive breastfeeding is the best method of meeting infants’ nutritional needs and for ensuring optimal growth and development and exclusive breastfeeding also provides significant health benefits for both infants and their mothers. The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends exclusive breast feeding for the first 6 months of life without the addition of any food or water and continued breastfeeding for up to two years. Even with this knowledge, the CDC found that just 43% of U.S. mothers were still nursing at six months and at one year only 22% of U.S. women were still breast-feeding. South Africa falls even shorter than these recommendations: fewer than 7% of infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed. The most common reason given by mothers for premature cessation of breastfeeding is their perception of insufficient milk supply. Improvements in breastfeeding support could thus have a substantial impact on infant and mother health. For this reason, the purpose of this study was to assess the effect of therapeutic reflexology to support breastfeeding and increase lactation.
Reflexology is a science based on the principle that there are reflex areas in the feet that correspond to the internal organs of the body. Applying pressure to these reflex areas stimulates them and has an effect on the internal organs via a simple reflex action. Reflexology nurtures the body, mind and spirit, reduces stress, and aids hormonal balance, thereby helping to alleviate the problem of insufficient milk supply.
In this study, each research participant received ten reflexology treatments each, whilst a comparison of (expressed) milk volume before and after the reflexology treatments determined the effect of the treatments on lactation.
The overall increase in milk volume for the research participants was 88%. Therapeutic reflexology was thus an effective means of supporting breastfeeding and increasing lactation. Furthermore, the treatments contributed towards increased confidence and satisfaction with breastfeeding. In addition, reflexology helped to ease other maternal complaints including stress, anxiety fatigue and backache.
My personal success in the study was off the charts; my supply increased to over 300%, my baby is a very happy, chubby cherub. I only started to introduce solids when he was 7 months old. At 9.5 months old, he still isn’t up to a full meal, by his own choice mind, as we are very happily practicing baby led weaning.
For more information on reflexology to support breastfeeding, please visit Laura’s website Mamatoto.co.za