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A Conversation with Corky Harvey,  IBCLC  & Callan, Editor  

Corky Harvey, MS, RN, IBCLC is the co-founder of The Pump Station & Nurtury®, the first new parent resource center of its kind in Santa Monica, CA. She is a registered nurse with a master's degree in maternal/newborn nursing, a certified Happiest Baby on the Block educator, and was a long-time Childbirth Educator.

In part three of our interview series, she and Motherhood Editor Callan, who was nursing her 15-month-old daughter, chat about latching, clogged ducts, and breastfeeding long term.

CALLAN: How do you know if you have a good versus a bad latch?

CORKY: A baby with a good latch would sustain the latch and not come off. So if the mother calls and says, “my baby's not nursing very well…he latches and then comes off in three seconds.” That baby was not latched at all or very little. So the baby should latch and sustain the latch. Rest, go, rest, go, rest, go without coming off the breast. So that would be a good latch.

CALLAN: Is there any specific position that you recommend to women or special tips for getting comfortable while breastfeeding?

CORKY: I nursed all three of my children with never having a nursing pillow. Of course, they can be nice, but they can also be worse than not having a pillow because the natural position of a baby is turned around - they're under my second breast. We love a backrest. The breastfeeding pillow called My Brest Friend has a very minimal one. And moms strap it on too high, but it can be used well. I'm not heavy breasted so I didn't have to do the rolled up washcloth under my breast thing, but you can.

Do a deep latch with the other hand on the breast, tip the head back, and come up from the bottom. That way, once the baby settles in, you can shift arms. I see a lot of moms leaning forward. You don't need to do that once the baby's on the right with you.

My favorite position for newborns is the football hold because you have a lot of good control that way, especially for difficult latches, etc. I think the football hold with a couple of pillows at your side with your baby's face right under the breast is my favorite.

CALLAN: I was a fan of the football hold for my daughter's first two weeks. I had a C-section, so I thought it was more comfortable to not have her on me.

CORKY: Unless a woman is incredibly small breasted I think it is the easiest position for to get comfortable, to get good at it. And so I taught all mothers as I rounded in the hospital in my early career how to do that.

CALLAN: Can you share why some women or babies may not be able to breastfeed longterm?

CORKY: There are probably around five percent, maybe more, of women who cannot make enough milk for their babies. Some of them may have had damage to their breasts. I've seen women who were burned, who got bit by a horse, who were in car accidents, had cancer…

And we see women with hormonal issues, like sometimes women with polycystic ovarian don't make enough milk and sometimes they make tons of milk. So don't think of that as a negative to start with. And we see women with breasts that weren't developed or who've had reduction surgery, so there are all kinds of women in those categories who might not make enough milk. But I have seen such miraculous work by mothers where they double the stimulation and bring their supply to the maximum. And we just put our arms around them, literally and figuratively, and try to help them achieve as much of their goal as possible.

Another reason would be if a mother had to go on a medication that was contraindicated for breastfeeding. Again, I've seen women who have breast cancer or multiple sclerosis. And I would tell you also that women sometimes actually inadvertently cause a little milk supply and are able to continue by using birth control. So estrogenic will take your milk out.

Another thing that can affect low supply is sleep training babies. Most babies would sleep through the night, which is considered six hours. Maybe they go to bed at seven thirty, but they get up at 3:30, feed once, and go back to sleep. That's an important feed for babies. My babies did that even past a year, but our culture thinks you're supposed to sleep 12 hours and they're not.

Some reasons are primary and can't be helped. Others are secondary. They're actually something we might have been able to do differently. Can I just say one of my great passions now is to help keep women on the long road because we now know there are so many benefits for women to breastfeed. It’s not just for babies, it's for us.

CALLAN: Can you talk about clogged ducts and how to resolve them?

CORKY: The leading cause of mastitis isn't clogged ducts, it’s an open wound in your nipple. But clogged ducts can lead to mastitis. Clogged ducts are caused usually by going too long between feedings. And sometimes you never know why. But what we would immediately do is try to get it out of there so we would double up on your nursing or we would breastfeed and pump afterwards. We would use heat to sort of open it up, lots and lots of massage or vibration, moving it toward the nipple area. We might put a woman who's getting these repeatedly on sunflower lecithin because it makes things more slippery and is not harmful.

Engorgement's the whole breast, and our biggest milk producing areas on the outside of our breast. So they're more commonly there, but they can happen anywhere. We sometimes send women for ultrasound treatments to try to loosen that and get it to come out when it becomes mastitis.

CALLAN: Any other words of wisdom or pieces of advice that you would want to share with our moms?

CORKY: It's worth it, to stay in the program and do everything you can to get the help you need to be successful with your breastfeeding because it's going to pay off for you and your baby. And at this time, where disease fighting is so important, it gives your baby that huge immunity that they need so desperately. And it becomes a peaceful thing.

There is help for you. That's what I would say. And I'm so glad that you guys are focusing on this important thing. It is so important.

Learn more about Corky and The Pump Station & Nurtury here.  

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