Improving Breastfeeding Rates, One Breastfeed at a Time
What is The Thompson Method?
The New Method of Breastfeeding That’s Caught The Attention of Australia’s Largest Maternity Hospital The Mater Mother's from Dr Robyn Thompson
Even before the Thompson Method evolved I wanted the world to know what women had taught me about their strength, competence and capability during pregnancy, in giving birth and transitioning to breastfeeding.
By being beside these women, I emerged as a strong, competent, capable and proud midwife.
My vision in a highly institutionalised, intervention-ised and systemised world is to reclaim respect for the innate knowledge, power and wisdom of women with midwives.
It’s one woman empowering one midwife during pregnancy, giving birth and breastfeeding unhindered and they empower another woman and midwife and so on.
The Thompson Method evolved over more than 45 years of observing women giving birth and breastfeeding without complications.
Primarily the Method aims to achieve prevention of painful breastfeeding complications from the time of the first breastfeed.
The high prevalence of painful nipple trauma in the early days and weeks of breastfeeding was the most common complication reported by women in my experience.
Another major principle is to improve the baby’s intra-oral function in the first instance and to alleviate pain for the mother to continue breastfeeding, even with existing trauma.
The approach is based on respecting a woman and her baby’s innate, instinctive and gentle way of knowing.
It’s also based on anatomical knowledge associated with functioning of the cranio-cervical spine and the intra-oral cavity of the breastfeeding baby.
Over 25 years of providing homebirth services for women I had the golden opportunity to observe breastfeeding babies from the very first undisturbed breastfeed, through to six postnatal weeks.
When given the chance, the highly intelligent newborn and young baby is capable of instinctively breastfeeding with only the gentle assistance of the mother.
I consider it a privilege to have been given the opportunity to mindfully observe thousands of breastfeeding women and their babies who presented to me privately during difficult times.
653 of these women participated in my PhD research.
I’m also very fortunate to have had three of Australia’s best academic professors, Professor Sue Kildea (Charles Darwin University), Professor Lesley Barclay (University of Sydney) and Professor Sue Kruske (Charles Darwin University) who assisted my direction toward a PhD by research, awarded in 2014.
The main research question of interest was, “Why do so many women present with breastfeeding complications, particularly varying degrees of painful nipple trauma in the early postnatal period?”
It remains the right of the Mother to choose to breastfeed her baby any way and at any time.
However, my experience and research has shown that the commonly taught cross-cradle technique is closely associated with nipple trauma.
Although the cross-cradle technique is commonly taught, many women were struggling with breastfeeding claiming that it was awkward and didn’t feel right.
The observed upper body twist didn’t appear to be comfortable.
During my research, women frequently complained of wrist, shoulder and lower back pain when using this technique.
This and many other observations alerted me to investigate the technique in conjunction with the head, neck, shoulder and intra-oral anatomy as well as exploring and simulating the function of drawing and swallowing with my thumb in my own oral cavity.
This actually gave me a greater understanding of the hard and soft tissue, the bony and muscular function and the variations in vacuum compressions.
The cross-cradle technique involves holding the baby by the highly sensitive cervical spine from the base of the head, down the neck and over the upper shoulder area.
This technique impedes the baby's ability to activate the sensory reflexes for breastfeeding.
Imagine how you would feel if someone held you by the base of your head, along your neck to your shoulders and pushed you to your dinner plate, every time you ate!
It is for this reason, I suggest a more gentle and natural way of cradling the baby.
The aim of gently cradling your baby is to feel comfortable and confident to breastfeed your baby anywhere, at any time.
I believe I have a responsibility before leaving Mother Earth to share the experience and knowledge that women and their babies have taught me.
By sharing the Thompson Method I hope to encourage women, midwives and others to understand the importance of the woman’s unique transitions through her pregnancy, labour and birth to breastfeeding and early parenting.
I believe that respecting this primal time can have profound benefits for the mother and her baby by reducing, and preventing painful nipple trauma, breast engorgement and early mastitis.
♥ Dr Robyn Thompson