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Episode 4: Is It Ever Too Late to Get Help?

February 12, 2020

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Jacqueline Kincer  [00:05]

As we dive into episode four here, we’re going to lead with the question of is it ever too late to get help in my breastfeeding journey? Now I dive into this question and how I get asked it all the time. And I talk about the answer, You will get to hear what the answer is. But I think the answer might surprise you! So stay tuned.


Welcome back to The Breastfeeding Talk Podcast. I’m so excited to dive into this episode with you. We’re going to be talking about one of the questions that I get asked most often. And that question really comes down to this phrase. And that phrase, is it ever too late to get help? I hear this question, whether it’s on social media when people call me up to try to book an appointment, or just emails that I get even sometimes it gets asked during the appointment. And it just is such a disheartening question. But I understand why it is a common thing to ask. And I’m here today to answer that question for you.


This whole podcast episode could be summed up right now. And I could just say the answer too. Is it ever too late to get help? The answer is no. It’s never too late. But I want to dive into why that is. So no matter how bad you think breastfeeding is going, there is always and I do mean, always something that we can do to improve the way things are going.


Now, probably some of you are sitting here in a little bit of disbelief and going. But I mean, I’ve tried it all. And I have this, this and this, and this in my journey is different than so many other moms and there’s no way that we could get anything going better.


Well, here’s what I have to say for you: is not that I am so high and mighty in my expertise that you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s not what I’m trying to say. What I’m trying to say is, that I believe you! I believe that you are doing and have done everything in your power that you can be doing.


But here’s the thing, let’s say you literally are doing it all. And you have done it all. And you’ve literally done everything that is possible to do to improve breastfeeding, but that’s still not 100% Here’s the thing, the longer you keep doing those things, the more effective they become. And there’s a reason for this. So let’s say it’s your baby’s oral function. So there’s something going on with the latch, or the suction or the amount of milk, they’re able to transfer or reflux or let’s just kind of throw that into the bucket of oral function.


Now, everything that happens with our bodies is really brain-based. I mean, even our heartbeats obviously controlled by our brain, but so is everything else. And there’s this whole process of you might be familiar with the phrase muscle memory, but there’s a whole process of motor learning, which is really what muscle memory is.


And motor learning is just how your brain wires for things. So whenever we do something new for the first time we’ve never done it before, we should not expect to be great at it because we’ve never made those neurological connections before. Now, thankfully, our brains are very strong. And there were quick learners, we also can be quick for getters!


So this whole process of motor learning is a process that takes time it gets more solidified as we go, and that goes in both directions. So when we’re talking about babies’ oral function, your baby could be doing some compensations, could be doing dysregulated or dysfunctional things. And the longer they do that, the worse it gets. Now we want to change that around and instill good feeding habits and good function to create those functional outcomes. And then we have to sort of set it and forget it and let motor learning take over and then check on that process a little while later to make sure it has gone in the right direction and continues to do so.


That’s the distinction that I wanted to make regarding giving it time even though you’ve done all the right things. Now, this even works the same way with increasing your milk production, let’s say that there are some herbs that you need to be taking, maybe a different pumping regimen or something else there. Well, just because you’ve done that one time doesn’t mean we’re going to see incredible results, it’s going to take time, you can’t just take an herb one dose and go, Oh, it didn’t work!  You’ve got to take it more than once, certainly even longer than a day, to see results. Just like changing up pumping, you’ve got to do that more than one time to see results.


There is a lot to be said for continued results. Because breastfeeding isn’t something you do once and then never do again, it’s a journey that you’re doing for several weeks, months, and maybe even years. So it’s dynamic, it’s always changing.


Now, here’s one that I want to make sure that I say in a way that everybody is understanding what I’m saying. But oftentimes, I do hear from moms. And they will say, Well, I’ve done it all. I’ve done this, I’ve done that. I’ve tried this, and I’ve tried that. And my response is, okay, great. I do want to hear what are all the things? You’ve said you’ve done all I want to hear what that list is! And they’ll list it out. And oftentimes, I will see that there are other things that we could be doing, or potentially the wrong things that they’ve done. So they may have done something they read online or heard about that was counterproductive. And then they might not be doing the right things. So those things just aren’t helpful. And then they may not just even know what to do. So I may have some of their knowledge, some expertise to offer them.


And this is the trap that I think that we fall into as a society these days where we think, Oh, we can just hop on WebMD, or Mayo Clinic or YouTube or Google or even PubMed, and that we can go research things ourselves and that we know all the answers. I will tell you, I was very humbled to learn this lesson myself.


A couple of years ago, I went through a really horrendous eye condition. And I won’t get into all the details. But essentially, it was the cornea of my eye. And I had what was called recurrent corneal erosions, which sounds very dramatic, but essentially just cringe alert here! Essentially, during REM sleep, or upon opening my eyes, when waking, the outer layer of my cornea, the epithelium, would be torn off. And if you’ve ever experienced this, if you’ve ever experienced this, to some extent, if you’ve ever gotten something in your eye, it’s the worst pain! I can’t even describe it to you.


And your cornea is actually the most innervated tissue in your body. And very, very painful! Thankfully, it heals very quickly, but in my case, it was not healing. So I basically felt like I had a giant grain of sand stuck in my eyes every time I blinked. In addition to having to have some surgeries. I had researched some things on my own. My doctor originally gave me some very conservative treatment options. To take some supplements to do some eye exercises and things like that. Now, that wasn’t working.


Now, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And I am so glad that I had an incredibly capable physician that could really guide me in the appropriate treatment path, which ended up being surgery. It is easy to say, Well, okay, of course, you needed a physician because you needed surgery. We don’t always need to look to our health care providers for when it gets really, really bad. And we did all the conservative things. First, those didn’t work. So we knew we had to go a different way.


And when you’re trying all the conservative things that you can think of on your own, but they’re not working, that’s a sign that you really are ready for another level of expertise, you’re ready for some outside help. What I never want moms to do is to struggle on their own, feel like they tried it all, but they still failed. Because then what ends up happening is they adopt this narrative in their mind that they have somehow failed.


The only failure there is just that you didn’t know what you didn’t know. And that’s not a failure! That word doesn’t even really apply. And so what I really like to remind people of is that the question comes back to is it ever too late to get help? No, it’s never too late.


Even if you’re like, you know what, I thought I could go alone. I thought I could save money. I thought I could try things myself. But now, I’m six months into breastfeeding. And things are even worse now than they were a couple of months ago. Probably just time to call it quits, and I’m going to end my breastfeeding journey early.


Sometimes I have people contact me at that point. And I say, Well, yeah, I can still help you. It’s a matter of what’s your level of commitment to continuing breastfeeding? We will have an appointment together, I can present some things, I can see what’s going on, and I can give you a very clear and concise treatment plan to get things back on track. But ultimately, you’re the one that has to do the work. You’re the one that has to breastfeed the baby, I’m not going to be there for every feeding, or you’re the one that has to pump or whatever it is you need to do.


And so, you have to be committed to seeing that through. And if you’ve already committed for six months, what’s another couple of weeks just to see if that treatment plan works? When people ask is never too late to get help, no, it’s never too late. But the sooner you get help, the better your results are going to be. And this especially is true when it comes to milk supply, but also that motor learning that I was talking about, it’s not that you can’t get results, it’s never too late to get help, but it just may take longer to get the results that you’re hoping for. So you may need to work with someone more intensely or longer-term than you would have had you started working with them earlier on in the process at the first sign of problems. Not necessarily always the case. But generally, that’s what I see.


And here’s the other thing with milk supply, as moms will say, Well, is it ever too late to get help? Well, no, it’s never too late. We can always do something to increase your milk production. There’s always another answer. There’s always something that we can do.


Now, can I promise? Can we ever say that you’ll get a full milk supply? Or that you’ll get an overabundance of milk just because we’ve intervened at this late juncture? No, I can’t ever promise that. But I can promise better, I can promise that you have tried everything that you could possibly try. So that you can have peace of mind moving forward and know that you did your best, we can do that.


And so that’s where some moms get a little discouraged. Well, if I can’t make a full milk supply for my child, then really, what’s the point? Well, you know, breastfeeding doesn’t have to be this all-or-nothing endeavor. Any amount of breastfeeding that you’re able to provide your child is wonderful.


And maybe we can create a breastfeeding journey that looks different than what you previously imagined or looks different than what you see in the media or pop culture. And that’s your journey. It’s your own special journey.


And, for the moms who have been through a difficult breastfeeding journey with their first child, what I always let them know is you don’t have to repeat that journey with your second child. So getting help during pregnancy to optimize and not at the very tail end of pregnancy. By the way, when moms contact me at 38 weeks, there are some things we can do. But had you contacted me in your second trimester, there’s a lot more that we could have done.


So if you’re thinking about this, if you’re listening to this episode, and you’re thinking, Is it ever too late to get help? Gosh, I really struggled with my first, and things didn’t go quite as planned. What can I do with my second? How soon should I contact your lactation consultant?


Well, hopefully, the second trimester, but as soon as possible, even if that’s right after your baby’s born, whatever it is, maybe it’s three weeks in, but that’s as soon as you realize, I do need to make that call and get the help that you need. Again, sooner is always better. But there are definitely times when problems don’t present themselves until later.


So you might have thought things are going fine. And then you go to that one-month appointment, and you realize your baby’s not back up at birth weight. And so is it ever too late to get help? No. It’s never too late.



You know, might you need to some formula in the meantime, absolutely. Go right ahead. Let’s feed that baby and make sure they’re doing okay. But there’s always something else we can do to offer. It’s not to late for a month. It’s not too late at six months. And I’m going to share this story with you because it actually blew me away. Honestly, even though I was involved in this particular case.


I was contacted by a mom who had a 16-month-old, so a toddler, and he had not been nursing at the breast for eight months. Now, this mom, I have to give her mad props because she was still pumping and giving breast milk to her child, which is phenomenal!


When I saw her son, he was a very complex case. Not only did he have a tongue and a lip tie, and possibly even buckle ties, I don’t exactly recall. But he also had some cranial issues. So the shape of his skull was very abnormal.


And so, when I worked with her, her goal was that she wanted to be able to continue to feed him at the breast. She wondered if it was even possible. But she knew she needed to do something to help him because he was just really struggling with his oral function.


And so we put together a treatment plan that was not necessarily intense, but it required her to go see an osteopath and to get the frenectomy done and then, of course, to work with me.


What’s so amazing about this story was in a week after working with her, we got the baby back to the breast part-time. And it was about another week and a half later that he was back at the breast 80% of the time.


So there were only a couple of feedings every single day that he took a bottle, which was really kind of out of necessity, just with her having to be away from her child. And the rest of the time, he was nursing at the breast at 16 months, and he had not been at the breast for eight months!


Not only were we able to normalize his oral function, to get his cranial head shape to a normal state, which was absolutely amazing to witness. But also, we got him back to the breast, and they continued their breastfeeding journey.


So for those moms who are going through a nursing strike, and thinking, is this it? One, two weeks away from the breast is gonna damage my breastfeeding journey. Or you go on a trip, or something happens, it is never too late, there’s always a way. And I have been so honored to work with so many clients who’ve really struggled to get their babies back at the breast. And we’ve gotten them back in some very, very serious, severe cases.


So that might be an extreme example, but that mom is not alone. I’ve definitely had clients in similar situations to her, but with younger babies, and it’s amazing to witness. And so I really believe, and this comes back to the mindset aspect that I love bringing back in this podcast, I truly believe that everything is possible 100% of the time, there’s no limit to what we’re capable of. And when you say that, well, my baby’s just never going to go back to the breast. It’s kind of like saying that you just don’t believe that that’s possible. And you may not believe it’s possible.


But I’m here to tell you, it’s possible. It’s possible, it’s possible to do a complete 180 on your breastfeeding journey. Now can I promise that? No, I can’t promise anything that would be disingenuous. And just, again, it comes down to what’s happening at home when you’re away from your care providers. But I really want moms to get this message.


And there’s a woman out there who I’ve never taken her programs, but I bought her book. And I definitely have seen some of her episodes, and this woman is Marie Forleo. And some of you might be familiar with her. But she released a book last year called “Everything is figured out able.” And this is sort of her catchphrase. And I love it because it’s very colloquial. And it’s so true.


Literally, everything is figure outable. And it’s just a matter of not necessarily the resources you have. But it’s how resourceful you can be. And I really love that message. Because this is true for anything, but especially breastfeeding, everything is figured outable!


At least if we can figure out why things aren’t going well, that they’re not a mystery, that there’s a reason behind it, then we can work to treat that reason. And then, we can work to create a sustainable plan for you.


And I know this probably sounds a lot like me talking about what I do in my private practice, which it is. But it also has to do with just you and your mindset. So if you take on that mindset of asking the question, is it ever too late to get help? Automatically, what you’re presuming is that, yes, there is a point when it is too late to get help. And I need to know what that date is.


But if we ask a different question, and we ask a question of, what am I able to recover at this point in my breastfeeding journey? How can I improve the way things are going? How can I continue my journey without so much struggle?


When you start asking those questions, now you start to have the mindset of someone who’s very resourceful now, you become resourceful. And it starts with your thoughts. And then those thoughts, those questions, start to lead to the answers.


And so when you’ve come from a very closed-off mentality of, well, you know what, my baby’s eight months old, forget it! I’ve done my best, whatever! You have two choices. One is that you can make peace with that and not have any guilt and say, You know what, it’s time for me to end this breastfeeding journey. I’ve done the best I can I’ve, you know, made it to eight months, this is huge. I’m going to celebrate. I’m very proud of everything I’ve done. I did the best I could with what I had.


But what I would say is definitely just leave that with peace of mind! Leave that journey and say this is what’s right for us, for me and my baby, or for me. And, we have a lot to look forward to, continuing to be the mother of this child. As opposed to getting hung up on I wonder if I could have done more. Or something’s wrong with me, or I failed my child, or I can’t believe I didn’t make it to a year. Those are all such negative loops that we can easily get stuck in and beat ourselves up.


But there’s no benefit to doing that! There’s no benefit to going down that road. Now, on the other hand, you might be a mom who says, Well, things aren’t going great. But I really don’t want to keep having this happen. What could I do? Is there a way that I could improve the way things are going?


And so maybe there is!  Most likely, there is. And here’s the thing, too, is, sometimes people think once an intervention is begun, it’s this sort of slippery slope, and we always have to keep going with it. And that’s really not true. So just because you’ve introduced formula to your baby doesn’t mean they have to always be supplemented with formula forever, it doesn’t mean that you’ll only ever be able to partially breastfeed. There might be a way that you can recover from full breastfeeding and phase out that formula supplementation. Now, there may not be, but generally, just because you have to introduce a nipple shield again doesn’t mean you have to use it forever, or just because you have to start pumping because it’s just too painful to nurse at the breast doesn’t mean you have to be an exclusive pumping mom.


So just because you make one shift in your breastfeeding journey doesn’t mean that you need to commit to that for the entirety of your breastfeeding journey. And so things are dynamic, you are a unique human being. So is your baby, you both have the gift of what’s called neuroplasticity, meaning that we can always change what’s happening in our brains. And what’s happening in your brain affects what’s happening in your body, there’s always a possibility out there.


Now, what I also want moms to get from this message is not to walk away from here and feel any sort of guilt or shame of why I just didn’t try hard enough with my first or anything like that. What I would love for you to walk away with is a message of empowerment, a message of, you know, maybe there is something else I could try. Maybe I should look outside myself for some help and some answers. Because most often, I do see that I have yet to work with a one-on-one client of mine who I couldn’t get some level of improvement for. That’s just never happened.


The only time I have seen things not go better in the long term is because the goals of the mother have changed where she said, You know what, things were going better. And we tried, but honestly, I just don’t think this is for me, and I’m ready to wean. And you know, we help with that. But I would still even say that that’s getting things going better.


I’ve had weaning consoles, weaning consults for very young babies, and helped moms dry up milk, because that was what was best for them. That was their decision. And I’m always going to support whoever I’m working with in their breastfeeding journey. It’s not mine, I don’t get to decide what it looks like for you.


And if that mom is happier and healthier because she made that choice, then to me, that’s her journey going better, not worse. So I hope that this podcast episode instilled a sense of empowerment, a sense of opportunity or optimism that things can go better, and whatever that looks like for you. Because really, like I said, in episode one, your words matter.


And you get to define what better breastfeeding looks like. You get to define that breastfeeding journey. And it’s really, really powerful when we think about the fact that we can always turn things around. Breastfeeding is just one segment of our parenting. It’s one segment of our health. And you can always change your parenting. Just because you used to yell at your kids doesn’t mean you have to keep doing it, right?


So you can always change things around. And it’s just a matter of the resources, the resourcefulness, and really the mindset more than anything. So thanks so much for listening, and I will catch you on the next episode.

In this episode, Jacqueline dives into what’s possible for you, even if you’re further along in your breastfeeding journey. This episode is about hope, optimism, and creating your own success along the way.

If you enjoy this episode and it inspired you in some way, I’d love to hear about it and know your biggest takeaway. Take a screenshot of you listening on your device, post it to your Instagram Stories and tag me @holisticlactation

I’ve got a special gift for all my listeners and it’s 38 powerful breastfeeding affirmations to support you on your breastfeeding journey, so go get that free audio now at

In this episode, you’ll hear:

  • Why it’s never too late to get help with breastfeeding
  • When is the best time to seek help for breastfeeding problems
  • How there’s always something you can do to improve things
  • Ways to accept and move on if it’s time to stop breastfeeding