Both new and seasoned mothers know that breastfeeding, while natural, can be anything but easy. It can be difficult to discover how to breastfeed, what position to do it in, how to stimulate breast milk, how to get the baby to latch, and what to do when complications arise. These are elements of nursing that many mothers end up trying to figure out on their own, making the experience frustrating, lonely, and exhausting in a time when they are sleep deprived and may be experiencing a sense of "new mother" isolation as it is. In these cases lactation consultants can be a valuable help.
Breastfeeding requires patience and support - it takes a village - which is what inspired maternal healthcare expert Jada Shapiro to found Boober, an on-demand lactation consultant, doula, and postpartum support technician service. We sat down with Jada to learn more.
This article is 1 of a 3 part series discussing breastfeeding & lactation support, postpartum doula care, and mental health. Skip to the bottom to watch the full interview.
Why a Lactation Consultant?
"In the U.S. health care system, we drop moms right after they give birth, right when you need the most care. We get no clinical care for almost 6 weeks in this country," says Shapiro. "It's not mandated, although it's recommended that you have your postpartum visit at about 3 weeks after you give birth. Still, most people don't go for 3 to 6 weeks, and that gap in time is huge. [Women] need so much care at that time. [This is why] I created Boober, to help new parents who are struggling with lactation, postpartum depression and anxiety, or [are thinking], what do I do with this baby? I've never taken care of a baby before."
Services like Boober "fill a gap in our healthcare system, where people could text or fill out a form and get connected to in-person care quickly. Studies show that in-person care is critical to help people thrive, and [...] feel supported as they transition into this new role of mother, father, or parent."
When Would Someone Reach Out for Breastfeeding Support?
"Somebody would reach out because they have painful feedings, their breasts hurt, their nipples hurt, are cracked, or bleeding - which by the way, is common but not normal. Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, contrary to common belief. You'll hear all these stories about how much it hurts, and it certainly does for a lot of people; still, it's not supposed to. If lactation hurts, [you should] reach out as quickly as possible to connect with one of our lactation consultants who are professional, can assess the situation, help fix the latch, and work on breast milk supply."
The main reasons people reach out for lactation consultants:
- Painful Breastfeeding
- Cracked or bleeding nipples
- Low weight gain - baby not thriving or gaining weight quickly enough
- Feeling like they just can't figure it out, something's not right, and they're very uncomfortable while doing it
- [They are not producing] enough milk
Learning About Lactation While Pregnant
Shapiro also recommends learning all you can about lactation during pregnancy. "One of the big struggles for people [when] breastfeeding is that they really don't understand the fundamentals. For instance, in the first few days, you make a very teeny tiny bit of milk, which is called colostrum. It's this amazing rich [milk] called liquid gold, full of antibodies. It's so thick and yellow it doesn't look like flowing milk, [so] if people aren't educated about that, they will think they don't have enough milk. If they think they don't have enough milk, they will start to supplement their baby earlier than they might have needed to if they had just kept that baby feeding. [They would see], oh, I have the perfect amount of milk, it's called colostrum, and it's barely there.
[Another example is that your baby will only] take one to two tablespoons [of milk] in a 24 hour period. Your new baby will consume [small] amounts, and part of why they're trying to come to the breast so frequently is because they have a teeny tiny stomach the size of a marble, and they need to keep replenishing it. Also, every time they stimulate your breast, they're sending the hormone message up to your brain, which does make more milk. The first couple of days of lactation are all about the milk building phase.
It can make us feel like we don't have enough milk if we didn't learn about it in a prenatal breastfeeding class or read about lactation online. If I understand the fundamentals of lactation, then I'm not going to feel like I'm not feeding the baby enough. I'm going to know, [the baby does not suck more because they are starving but because] they're telling my body, hey, I was born, and I need you to make the full amount of breast milk, which is going to come in about 3 days. So education is helpful for parents getting prepared for postpartum because it takes the fear and the unknown away."
How Lactation Consultation Works
There are many different ways that lactation consultants and breastfeeding support services can work, depending on what is available in your area. Look up a Lactation Consultant near you for breastfeeding support, or ask your medical provider for a recommendation. Consultation can come in many forms, from virtual and in-home visits to phone calls to text-based communication that gets you in touch for an immediate provider visit (as Boober does).
Why Lactation Consultation Works
The main reason that services like Boober thrive and can "serve so many people is because new mothers, parents, and families feel left behind in the U.S. healthcare system," says Shapiro. "They don't have anybody to turn to. A lot of people don't have their family nearby to help them, and even if they do, maybe their family member or mother may not have breastfed, doesn't have education around that, gave birth a really long time ago, and things might have been a little different."
"People are desperate for these non-clinical care providers who come over. We know that when you have in-person, in-home care, it makes a huge difference. That's why almost every other government that has a nationalized health care program has visiting home care when you have a baby. It's just critical to somebody's well-being. We don't have to do everything ourselves. You don't have to do it all as a new parent or as a new mom, but we sometimes feel that way. When we open ourselves up, we allow ourselves to go, wait a minute, there's somebody who's trained to help me with my new baby, even if we haven't heard the term postpartum, we go, oh that sounds good right.
Studies show that when there is postpartum care, we see less postpartum depression and less anxiety. People say they're more satisfied with the parenting process, and with the birthing process - they feel heard, they feel listened to. They are allowed to express all of the complexity of their feelings about giving birth and having a new baby. They have somebody there by their side teaching them things like, that it's instinctive for a baby to latch on, that they have a sucking reflex. [These care providers] know how to feed newborn babies, but for us as new parents, we have to learn this, and there is a learning curve in figuring out your new parenting groove.
These kinds of in-home, in-person care providers make a big difference as you transition to parenthood. I think one of the most important things you can do for yourself is thinking about having some special care by somebody who's trained in childbirth and trained in postpartum when you're going through this."
Who is Jada, and What is Boober?
"I am a birth doula, postpartum doula, lactation counselor, mother, stepmother, and childbirth educator. I've helped hundreds of families give birth. Hundreds of families postpartum. I have taught thousands of families in the classroom all on this mission to help transform how we experience birth and postpartum in this country. I think that's important, and that's what Boober's mission is, to transform health care experiences and outcomes for expectant parents and new families. I feel really good knowing that, every day, we're matching people all day long to care so they can get the care they need to thrive."
Boober is a marketplace where expectant parents and new families can find all of their pregnancy to postpartum care providers. [This includes] birth doulas, postpartum doulas, lactation consultants, and soon, pelvic floor therapists, ' transition to parenthood' mental health therapists, and prenatal and postpartum massage therapists. All of the non-clinical care a new mother or parent would need as they transition to parenthood.
Watch the full interview with Jada Shapiro here!
Jada Shapiro is a maternal healthcare expert and the founder of boober, a marketplace that quickly connects expectant & new parents to virtual and in-person, on-demand pregnancy to postpartum care providers and online classes. She specializes in pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and is a birth/postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, birth photographer, and mother.