Liquid Gold

posted Mar 15, 2017, 11:22 PM by Camilla Conti

Think of the warmth of a home. Your mother's food, your favourite. A place where you know you'll always be loved, accepted and cared for. So familiar, so soothing. Nothing in the world will harm you. Voices are soft, lights dim. Well known sounds reassure you of your own existence.

An earthquake pulls you out. You do not know what's happening, except you have to go - where, who knows.

The outside world is unfamiliar. It smells. Cold air hurts your skin, flashing lights blind your eyes. You are forced  to eat unfamiliar foods.  You long for that lost connection, your safe base. You have a desperate need for  protection and comfort.

When a child is born, she looses all she knew about life - except her mother's heartbeat, the comfort of her skin and the smell of that so familiar amniotic fluid which she can still feel on her hands -- till they take her. And wash it away. An extreme and irreverent act of severance - most often just for the insignificant urge to weigh, measure, check, sanitize, dress.

Let's put ourselves in the skin of that baby. Just for a minute. It happened to us too, most likely long time ago.

Sadly, hospitals come out with all sort of excuses to separate mother and baby at birth - and unfortunately, to insist over babies needing a formula supplement. The real need for term healthy newborns to be assisted with top ups is really not as much as we are made believe, if we allow unrestricted feeding and skin to skin time right from birth. And if we are willing to make some effort to provide mothers competent breastfeeding support.

We often hear of moms being told that they have no milk the first days after birth - statment often supported by the abusive and miningless practice of pinching their nipples to prove that nothing comes out. Well, of course they don't have milk. For the first 2-4 days from delivery hey have colostrum, which is different and less in quantity compared to mature milk - because it is meant to be so. A newborn's stomach is the size of a teaspoon. Newborns require small frequent feeds, not a wedding buffet.

A mother's colostrum smells very similar to her amniotic fluid, so that her child can recognise it, be guided to the breast and naturally familiarise with breastfeeding and with the external world. This happens very smoothly when moms and babies are allowed to remain in close and uninterrupted skin to skin contact for the first one hour after birth. It is such a precious time that it has been referred to as 'the golden hour'. Even mothers who have had a caesarean delivery can be easily helped to keep their babies skin to skin immediately after the surgery. They in fact can be helped breastfeed their babies right from the time their wound is being stitched, while they are lying down flat on the operation table.

Colostrum is very special, too.

 It is so rich of antibodies and white globules that it has been called "the first immunisation": it helps babies develop a healthy gut flora and protects them from infections and allergies.

Its high vitamin A content protects them against eye diseases .

 It has a laxative quality which helps newborns clear off the meconium (first stool) and prevent jaundice.

Contrary to traditional believes, colostrum shall not be discarded: it is a gift for life to our kids.

Furtherly, early unrestricted breastfeeding is the key to a good latch and adequate milk supply.

Nature equipped mothers with all they need to help their babies adapt to the world out of their womb -- to nourish them and comfort them. As healthcare professionals, and as a society, it is our responsibility to enable them to provide their newborns the food which was designed for them by eons of evolution.

A Fable

posted Mar 9, 2017, 5:00 AM by Camilla Conti   [ updated Feb 24, 2018, 2:21 AM ]

This is for your bigger and smaller kids, to help them understand the normality of breastfeeding. But also for you, to think and enjoy. We hope you like it!

Who's got milk for baby monkey? -- A fable

--To my Mamma.

She had been waiting for more than past four full moons.

Now that Poornima was again shining and gifting energy to the plants and creatures of the jungle, Rya felt a dull pain deep in her belly and she knew that the time had come. Swinging from the high routes and branches of the banjan tree her clan had chosen as a home, she danced with the waves of pain till it became so strong that she felt like pushing. Down she was, leaning on the trunk of the tree, mother earth under her feet and her baby's head reaching the palm of her hand... And more of it and more... She'd call the baby Chanda, like the shining moon that night.... But where was it? Where had the benign eyes of Poornima gone hiding? It seemed like time had stopped. The voices of the jungle had gone silent, the leaves still, while a cold shiver crossed her body, now washed by a heavy rain... Just a wave more... Push Rya! A loud rumble in the sky followed the mighty light which had struck the banjan tree. It was Aag. Wild, burning and bright.

Just the time to see her clan running around in fear and then darkness.

What saved Rya from the flames that had chased away all her monkey friends only God knows. But there she was, head spinning but awake on a dusty morning, lying on the clays of what was once a tall banjan with hundrends of routes. There she was, alone and forgotten, her womb as empty as her heart  - and her arms, too.

There she laid, for minutes or hours, till her eyes begun to see and went searching past the pain, the loss and the emptiness and reached the tiny little thing bundled up against a rock not too far from her. She did not recognise him from his smell, nor from his eyes. Her own emptyness met his emptyness. Like in mirror, she recognised herself and there she knew that Chanda - her Chanda - was alive.

She knew she had to care for him and protect him, yet she did not know how.

Chanda could not eat bananas, nor the juicy mangoes that Rya loved so much.

He couldn't eat nuts and he was definitely not interested in the fishes in the river.

"What shall I feed my baby monkey?", Rya asked mama dolphin, who was swimming nearby.

"Surely I don't know  what mama monkeys do, but here's how we go", said the dolphin, whose little one was swimming by her side, his mouth tightly sealed at her breast, just in the middle of her belly. "My milk will make him into a good swimmer", she said  "And then he will catch his own fish".

Rya did not quite remember having seen swimming monkeys. Probably mama dolphin's milk was not what her baby needed.

Chanda on her back, she thoughtfully walked away from the river, looking in all corners for a better food.

Chanda was not interested in the peacocks' berries and creepy crawls and he refused the turtle's worms with great disgust.

'Roaaarrhh!!!" came out loud as Rya went looking into a leafy bush: mama tiger was guarding her newborn cubs! 'She is so strong and fierce', thought Rya... I'd want for Chanda the same food she is feeding her cubs...".

"Excuse me! May I...?" she asked mama tiger, trembling in fear... "May I have some... To feed my baby monkey?".

"Your ...?!  I have no more space... !" Roared mama tiger, sprawled under her four  cubs who were suckling avidly from her four breasts". In fact, these guys' suckling makes me quite hungry...".

Rya run and run as fast as she could, she ran past the bushes, she ran past the river, upto the grass fields.

 And there was mama deer, peacefully feeding herself, her fawn enjoying a sip of her milk after taking a byte of green grass.

But Chanda did not like grass.

"Little fawns love their grass, but they love their mama's milk, too! It makes their fur shining and their horns long and strong!

But Chanda does not need horns...

"You could try with the buffaloes" suggests mama deer, "Humans take their milk, sometimes... They might have some to spare for your baby".

There were the buffaloes, not too far at all.

But just while Rya asked: "Could you please let my baby monkey drink a bit of your milk?", there came a leopard, fast like the wind, and fast run the buffaloes and fast run their calves.

Surely baby buffaloes were big ... And they could run... But they were not as skilled as a monkey: they could not even climb a tree, or peel a banana. They could not hold tight on their mother's back - and anyway, they would have been so heavy to carry like that! Rya liked carrying Chanda on her back... And she wanted him to learn picking juicy mangoes, one day, and swing from banjan trees.

There seemed to be no right milk for baby monkey!

Foxie was smart, but a little too clever. Squirrel could climb, but so small and tiny! Rhyno? Ooh nooo! Elephant? Well... Curling his trunk above mama's full teat, surely he was cute but a little too big.

From grassfields to waters, forests to desert lands,  up and down mama monkey searched, upto a mountain cave.

"What do I feed my baby monkey?" she shouted in tears and the echo responded: "Monkey, monkey, monkey...". Clouds of black bats flying away disappointed by the noise, mama bat hugging her baby who promptly mastered an upside down improvised milk snack.

"Chanda would definitely not hang like that...." .

And here came old wise mama wolf from the back of the cave, ten cubs rolling over each other and grabbing her boobs: "Monkey needs monkey! The echo has spoken!".

Rya was confused. She didn't know what to do. She sat on the ground and hugged Chanda in despair. Her fur was so soft. Her body smelled good. It smelled of mom. Chanda smelled and smelled and Rya licked his tiny head. He reached for her breasts... They were heavy indeed. He suckled and suckled and both fell asleep. Baby's tummy was full and mama felt good. One day he'd eat bananas and juicy mangoes and mama and baby would swing together from tall banjan trees.


Fable by Camilla Conti

Drawings by Camilla Conti and Amoli Kaur

Breastmilk is the biological norm of infant feeding for all mammals.

Breastmilk is species specific, it keeps your baby healthy and helps her  grow into what she is meant to be.

Delivery practices impact breastfeeding.

Most breastfeeding problems can be solved with lots of skin to skin touch and a bit of competent help.


Skin to Skin

posted Mar 9, 2017, 3:26 AM by Camilla Conti

The healing power of touch

-- dedicated to all mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding, to all babies who are refusing to breastfeed and to those parents who just want to enjoy a deeper bonding experience with their children



When I think of my breastfeeding adventure, as a mother and not as a professional, the first memory that comes to my mind is the smell of my kids' head. I could smell them for hours! And there comes the association with the addictive smell of amniotic fluid and colostrum or God knows what they had on them during those first days post-partum. It lasted just for a short time and gradually changed into something different. But it was pervasive and inebriating to the extent that thinking about it gives me a sort of abstinence crisis type of craving.

I guess it's mother nature's way to help our bonding and our offsprings' survival.

Mothers recognise their child's smell and cry over hundreds and newborns recognise their mother's smell, heartbeat and even the smell of her colostrum.

We are mammals. Mammals of all species smell and lick their newborns at birth. It has been observed that animals who are not allowed to do so, develop a less caring attitude towards their babies.

I still remember when, as kids, my friend and I 'borrowed' a baby rabbit from a nearby place. Of course we didn't tell the farmer. But then my grandma found out and she was furious: by separating that baby from his mother even for the shortest time, we were putting his life in danger. Our touch might have hidden his smell making impossible for the mother to recognise it. There was a risk that by not recognising his smell, she might have refused her baby. All ended well but it certainly taught us a lesson.

Modern science saves lives but with its routines and practices it sometimes creates needless complications, too. So it happens with birth which is often hypermedicalised in hospitals and with the most natural of processes -- breastfeeding.

Those first bonding moments which a farmer would be very careful not to interfere with when it comes to his cattle, are often disrupted in humans. For a reason or the other mothers are separated from their babies at birth - note that sometimes, something as little as two hours of separation can be fatal! And here come the breastfeeding problems: a baby who refuses the breast or doesn't latch/suckle effectively, or simply sleeps at the breast; a mother who doesn't know how to work it out and feels empty, alone, helpless and confused.

It is very important for parents' not to blame themselves for such events, because it is just how things often go and catch us unprepared. We are also aware of the cultural power held by doctors in our society and how it can be hard to question their actions and prescriptions  - even more so for parents who are going through the physical and emotional roller coaster of a delivery and of the all new responsibility of caring for a new tiny life.

The good news is that like most events, even breastfeeding problems come with their own solution written in their DNA, if we are ready to allow it some time and patience.

When a wound happens at a physical level, it is our own body's messages that call for internal actions of platelets and repair mechanisms.

When the hurt happens at the level of bonding, it is in the subtle space of touching, smelling and feeling  that we need to act.

In few words: invert the tendency. Touch, smell, feel. Do it a hundred times more than the amount of touch, smell and feeling you have been deprived of. And why not? Remember that you are a mammal mama: kiss and lick, if you wish!

Spend time with your baby at a very physical, intimate level.  At the skin level.

Our skin knows more than we do and so does our nose: they are capable of healing wounds and building bridges, beyond theories and prescriptions. Beyond clocks, scales and numbers. The same capacity belongs to our baby's skin and nose.

So here's a simple yet magic formula that has been proven successful to solve most breastfeeding problems: keep your baby skin to skin and do it as much as you can.

Lie down on a 30 degree angle, in the comfort of your pillows, with your baby on your naked chest, snuggling amongst your breasts . Your baby's chest needs to be naked, too, which means no clothes above the nappy line. If cold or discretion are a concern, you can wrap yourselves up in a blanket or bedsheet or in a loose vest.

You could also try wearing your baby in a wrap or a sari, which allows you to do house activities hands free while you are keeping your baby skin to skin. The right arrangement will show nothing of your body and you can always wear a loose shirt on top.

Skin to skin contact is beneficial for babies of any age, whether they are born on term or prematurely.

It has been associated with more stable breathing and heart parameters, less cry, better sleep and growth and improved feeding abilities, higher immunity. If practiced with good frequency, confidence and tension free attitude, it has the superpower of bringing back to the breast a baby who refuses to breastfeed.

A mother and a child who spend time skin to skin become relaxed and attuned to each other. A silent communication between the two allows them to read each other's body and feel each other's feelings.

Yet in my practice I find great resistance to try this simple recipe, or to practice it to the right extent.

Could it be that we could all learn to let go, focus on the present moment and enjoy it despite of the odds?

As it is for perfectly imperfect systems, humans and their babies are not machines: here's their challenge and their strength. Like there is no mathematical equation of health, so it is not for optimal breastfeeding.

Yet as humans, we have the capacity to grow, regenerate, reorganise and learn. And so do our babies.

If we allow ourselves a brief deviation of focus from our problem and learn to enjoy the actual processes of bonding and touch with our baby simply for what it is, with joy and patience, we might be surprised by the effects. A temporary loss of control makes space for stuff that cannot be spoken or taught but just felt and experienced. Nature is allowed to set things right on our behalf - and normally it does it better than us.

Mom and baby feel each other like it used to happen before the separation.

As a note on this last point, it is very important to de-stress and concentrate on skin to skin as a cuddle time, a pleasurable bonding experience per se, apart from the goal, apart from your LC's advice or from the manual's prescriptions. We understand the tension generated by a baby who refuses to feed, yet we are deeply convinced that, at least for part of the day and night, we should focus on the process of bonding rather than on the fact that our baby is not breastfeeding.

If we trust our body and our baby, rest will happen.

Newborns have a sixth sense which instantly makes them feel our tension and anxiety, so it is wise to make a conscious effort to avoid those. All relaxation techniques can help in this regards (deep breathing, yoga, reiki, aroma therapy, positive visualisations, etc.) but if we learn to let go and enjoy it, skin-to-skin time spent with our baby will itself act as a relaxant.

Soon our baby will get used to it and enjoy it. He will smell, lick, suckle hands and end up finding the nipple and self-latch, just as he would have done at birth, if circumstances had allowed.

An interesting fact to know is the existence of a very powerful hormone involved in breastfeeding: it is called oxitocin and it is responsible for milk let-down and for the blissfull feeling of drowsiness and contentment that mother and baby feel when they are breastfeeding effectively. Our body releases it only when we are relaxed and at ease. Therefore if we are tensed when our baby latches onto our breast, we might be full of milk but this milk will not flow - or it will, but in less quantity. The effect is that our baby will not get a reward from latching and will soon loose his interest in suckling: he might sleep at the breast or even refuse it.

So be confident and be in the moment. Enjoy it for its uniqueness and for the opportunity to be in close contact with your baby.

It might take time and there might be back and forths, progress and regress, but in almost all likelihoods everything will fall in place.






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