I am happy for having the opportunity to interview a lactation consultant in Tokyo and share it here with you.
Hi Jocelyn, thank you for having me!
You have a 2-year-old son and soon you will give birth to twins. When and why did you decide to become a lactation coach?
I decided to become a lactation coach when my son was about 18 months old. I found breastfeeding to be such an integral part of my parenting and way more important to me than I ever thought! I enjoyed attending La Leche League meetings and talking to other breastfeeding mothers. After breastfeeding myself for quite awhile, I felt like I wanted to educate myself so I could encourage more breastfeeding parents. That’s when I began studying to become a lactation coach!
Your reasons seem very similar to mine becoming a babywearing consultant.
I assume that many people don’t have enough milk or problems with pain or a baby that doesn’t latch well.
Are these the usual problems why people are calling you for help?
Yes! Struggles with milk supply and latch are probably the most common problems people come to me with. Luckily, they are also problems that can often be solved with the right support and perseverance!
What is your advice for parents who decide to breastfeed and to give the bottle for different reasons (father wants to feed too, mother wants to work, doing sport etc.)?
Many parents choose this option! The keys for doing so and maintaining the breastfeeding relationship on the breast are to wait at least 2-3 weeks or until breastfeeding is well established before introducing the bottle. You should also ensure the bottle you use has the slowest flow possible to mimic the breast. Some babies develop a nipple preference for the bottle because it’s easier to transfer milk than from the breast. A slow flow nipple will help prevent this. If you’re planning to return to work or want to give a bottle more than occasionally, you will also want to invest in a high quality electric breast pump. For occasional pumping, a manual or hand pump should work just fine!
I made the experience that some nurses tried to encourage me to give formula although I had enough milk, it seems this happens quite often in Japan?
Mixed feeding is quite common in Japan and so hospitals do recommend formula quite early. Usually the reason for this is because they want the mother to rest after childbirth or they think formula will make the baby “genki”. However, usually if you are adamant about breastfeeding only, they will support your decision. Always remember that in most cases your colostrum is enough in the first days after birth!
Do you have numbers on how many parents have to stop breastfeeding or need to give formula and milk because their bodies can’t cope with the situation?
Those types of numbers are difficult to come by and vary from place to place, but there are only a few rare health conditions that make it so you physically cannot breastfeed or your baby cannot digest breastmilk. In most cases, if someone’s milk “never came in” they probably didn’t have enough opportunities to nurse baby at the breast in the hours or days following the birth. Generally, you should aim to have baby on the breast at least 8-12 times in 24 hours from as soon after birth (hopefully a few hours) as possible. If you are separated from your baby, you can replace these feeds with pumping sessions.
Do you sometimes also experience the other way round, people calling you for help because they have too much milk?
Yes! Oversupply is also an issue some nursing parents face. This one can be frustrating as well, especially because you may have friends who don’t think it’s a problem at all. However, oversupply can lead to blockages and mastitis so it also needs to be managed.
What do you like best at your current work?
I think my favorite part is when pregnant mothers I work with give birth and know what they’re doing! It’s amazing how a little information and support can empower and prepare you to know how to handle various situations in hospital (such as saying “no” to formula or insisting baby rooms in with you even if it’s not common at your hospital). Many first time moms simply don’t know what to ask for or do in those first few weeks, so helping them get prepared is one of my favorite aspects of my job.
What would you like to tell parents who feel frustrated over not making any progress with breastfeeding?
Know that what you are doing is enough! Every single drop of breastmilk is worth something for your baby’s health and you should feel so proud of each one. And if you are feeling discouraged, please please reach out for help! There is an entire community of lactation specialists out there, myself included, who are willing to give advice or just a listening ear. Next, look into your local La Leche League group. Having a community of breastfeeding parents around you can make a world of a difference when you are feeling like giving up. And finally, don’t give up on a bad day! Your body was made to do this! You got this mama.
Thank you very much for this interview and I wish you a good birth and wonderful childbed with your twins!
Jocelyn is a certified lactation consultant in Tokyo. If you have any questions, please don‘t hesitate to ask her 🙂