What Is The Thompson Method?
Imagine a gentle birthing experience that goes by smoothly and unrushed, and is followed by a painless first breastfeed that sets the tone for a positive breastfeeding journey. One that can go on as long as you choose – without needing to be cut short due to unbearable nipple pain arising from breastfeeding complications.
Sounds ideal, doesn’t it? Well this is what The Thompson Method is all about – the short answer to the question that brought you here: what is The Thompson Method? But if you’re an expectant mum, you probably want to understand exactly how The Thompson Method can help you achieve this outcome in the exciting run-up to your Big Day.
So let’s dive right into the more detailed answer.
An evidence-based approach to birth and breastfeeding
Throughout her long career as a midwife with over 50 years’ experience, Dr Robyn Thompson – the mind behind The Thompson Method – wondered why so many women presented with breastfeeding complications in the early postnatal period, within mere hours or days of being discharged from hospital.
Fuelled by this ‘why’, Dr Robyn embarked on seven years of PhD research into the contributing factors to breastfeeding complications such as painful nipple trauma, breast engorgement and mastitis. Her findings have served as the foundation for The Thompson Method.
Pic: Dr Robyn Thompson observing a breastfeed.
Simply put, The Thompson Method, is a gentle, evidence-based approach to birth and breastfeeding, which reveals strong links between the way a woman’s birthing experience unfolds and her subsequent breastfeeding journey.
This is why The Thompson Method helps women prepare for breastfeeding from before they give birth. How?
- By educating them about their rights during and after they give birth in hospital.
- By equipping them with the knowledge and tools to successfully manage breastfeeding in hospital and when they arrive home.
- By showing them how to avoid or quickly overcome any nipple pain that should arise.
- And by supporting them all the way through pregnancy and breastfeeding – from nurturing them through the challenges to celebrating their successes.
- By reassuring women that breastfeeding is possible, even after a planned or emergency caesarean section.
All of this and so much more, as you are about to find out.
The reality of breastfeeding challenges
But first let’s get a better sense of the most common reality for breastfeeding mothers out there. If you, like Dr Robyn, have ever wondered why some women struggle to breastfeed while others don’t, here are some eye-opening stats and facts to give you some context:
- The majority of women give birth in the hospital system.
- 96% of these women start breastfeeding.
- Sadly, only 15.6% are still breastfeeding at five months.
- Most countries in the Western World have similar outcomes.
When a woman breastfeeds without complications, she is in control to choose whether she breastfeeds her baby and for how long. And every mother should have that option open to her, especially considering the significant health benefits of breast milk for a baby’s development.
But the truth is that, for many, that option disappears very quickly. Unfortunately, far too many women who give birth to their babies in hospital end up facing complications that inhibit their ability to continue breastfeeding, often much sooner than they’d hoped. These all too common complications include:
- nipple trauma,
- breast engorgement,
- low milk volume,
- failure to thrive, perceived low milk volume
- the case of the sleepy baby (due to opiate pain relief via epidurals, general anaesthetic).
Pic: The sleepy baby due to opiate pain relief
What causes breastfeeding complications?
So, what’s the root cause behind these prevalent problems?
Through her PhD research, Dr Robyn identified the following culprits, which largely come down to the policies and procedures enforced by the hospital system at large, and not individual health professionals themselves who, from their end, face enormous pressure working within these constraints:
- Time constraints within the hospital system and problematic policies that prioritise time efficiency, leading to the rapid processing of women in, through and out of hospital with early discharge. This shows little respect for the unique transitions of a woman’s labour, giving birth to her baby and breastfeeding;
- The increased risk of intervention as a result of these time constraints, often leading to abdominal surgery (Caesarean Section) and other medical procedures, which often lead to further cascading interventions;
- Routine (non-emergency) hospital procedures like injections that are not urgent (in the case of the healthy mother and baby with an Apgar Score of 7 or above), which hospital staff unnecessarily carry out immediately after birth, delaying or interrupting the first breastfeed that babies need soon after they’re born and increasing the risk of breastfeeding complications down the line;
- Forceful breastfeeding techniques such as the cross-cradle technique, commonly taught in the hospital system, that are statistically significant in relation to nipple pain and breastfeeding complications;
- Demonstration of these techniques by hospital staff who physically take over and handle your baby and your breasts themselves;
- Widespread breastfeeding misinformation in the form of conflicting and confusing advice surrounding breastfeeding techniques held as standard, which creates overwhelm for pregnant women and newly breastfeeding mothers.
Clearly, the above bullet points are anything but gentle!
Here’s the thing. The hospital system isn’t designed to be in your best interest. It’s designed for time efficiency.
At the end of the day, hospitals are businesses, they want you in and out as quickly as possible.
The measure of their success is how efficient they are, not how gentle.
Pic: Forceful Breastfeeding Techniques
Pregnancy preparation: a gentle approach over forceful breastfeeding techniques
After observing the way the hospital system handles women giving birth for more than 50 years – and witnessing the extreme stress experienced by women facing gruelling yet very common breastfeeding complications – Dr Robyn understood the importance of challenging the forceful approach to birth and breastfeeding practised within the hospital system.
She discovered that nipple pain, mastitis, low milk supply, and latching issues are usually the result of a lack of breastfeeding preparation, unnecessary routine procedures and the use of forceful breastfeeding techniques widely taught by hospital staff in most hospitals.
The alternative to this, which is at the heart of The Thompson Method, is a holistic gentle approach to both birth and breastfeeding that starts with preparation during pregnancy.
This is why our goal is to share information with mothers-to-be – not just about what to expect while they’re expecting, but also to help them understand as clearly as possible that the decisions made during labour and birth greatly influence the trajectory of their breastfeeding journey.
Likewise, we also strive to support women through the ups and downs of pregnancy and breastfeeding in our Breastfeeding Club, which is available with lifetime support. Because The Thompson Method truly cares about women’s breastfeeding success, we provide women with thoroughly researched and reliable information so they have the knowledge and confidence to make informed decisions of their own. Decisions that honour, rather than discount, their true maternal instincts.
A combination of allowing themselves to be rushed through labour at the hospital’s convenience, surrendering to the forceful handling of their body and baby, and adopting the forceful breastfeeding techniques taught in hospital once they’re back home, often results in a domino effect that negatively impacts a woman's entire experience of breastfeeding.
And so, we cannot stress enough that, when it comes to preparing for birth and breastfeeding, prevention really is better than cure.
The Thompson Method 101: what can you learn about?
The Thompson Method isn’t just a technique on how to get a good latch. It is partly that, but it’s also so much more. This should give you a clear idea:
The Thompson Method is all about:
- Having the knowledge to understand that what happens during your labour and birth will greatly influence your breastfeeding journey.
- Understanding how breast milk is produced so that you have the confidence to trust that your breasts will nourish your baby without fear of low supply.
- Being empowered to feel that you are in control of your labour, birth and breastfeeding experience because it’s your body and your baby, and so you have every right to advocate for yourself in hospital.
- Having the awareness that oral devices such as nipple shields, bottles, teats and dummies (pacifiers) have an impact on your breastfeeding journey.
- Understanding the importance of the first breastfeed and that routine hospital procedures should not delay or interrupt this precious time between you and your baby.
- Having respect for your strength to give birth to your baby, with full support of how incredible both you and your baby are.
And, at the very foundation of The Thompson Method:
Believing that every woman and her baby is unique, and that every baby will be born in its own time – not at the convenience of hospital policy. This is a very powerful belief that guides everything we do at The Thompson Method.
When you adopt The Thompson Method along with the thousands of women who’ve also embraced this method to give birth to and breastfeed their babies, you will reduce the risk of common complications and increase the likelihood of being able to bond with your baby and breastfeed (pain-free), for as long as you choose.
When you adopt the Thompson Method you are more likely to experience a positive breastfeeding experience
How to breastfeed pain-free and confidence-full for as long as you choose
For pregnant women wanting to breastfeed
If you are planning to get pregnant or are currently expecting a child and want to breastfeed, there are a few simple steps you can take to help you have a positive, painless breastfeeding journey.
In our Gentle Guide Towards Pain-Free Breastfeeding, you’ll discover evidence-based information that will help you prepare to breastfeed your baby comfortably and confidently – from the very beginning to the very end, whenever you choose that to be. You can check it out right here: https://thompsonmethod.com/free-guide
Inside, you'll learn:
- A gentle approach that does not involve forcing your baby to your breast, leaving you in pain, causing nipple damage, or any of the usual ‘breastfeeding tricks’ that you've heard over and over in free Facebook groups.
- How to avoid painful nipple damage by staying away from the forceful techniques commonly taught in hospitals and by many health professionals. This method will work both if you're a first-time mum and if you’ve tried to breastfeed previous babies.
- The simplest way to prepare for a pain-free breastfeeding journey. Hint: it’s all about the first 72 hours.
- Gentle positioning that empowers you to trust your natural maternal instincts and recognise your baby’s communication cues.
- How to establish your milk supply from the first breastfeed, without taking lactation supplements, drinks or cookies.
- How to feel more confident and well informed as you embark on your breastfeeding journey.
And so much more!
Click here to download your copy now: https://thompsonmethod.com/free-guide
For breastfeeding mothers who may be struggling
If you are already breastfeeding and experiencing complications, we’ve also created a special guide with some tips so that you can begin to understand or better yet, relieve the stress and/or pain that you may be experiencing.
Click here to download your copy now: https://thompsonmethod.com/free-guide (and just select ‘breastfeeding’ in the About You section.
For health professionals interested in learning more
If you are a midwife, nurse, lactation consultant, doula or you’re simply passionate about helping other women in their breastfeeding journeys, we’ve prepared a free guide for you too, which explains some of the key principles of The Thompson Method. We get it. It’s not for everyone. But if you’re genuinely interested in learning more about how The Thompson Method can work for the women in your care, please download our free guide and select ‘Health Professional’ in the drop down menu.
Click here to download your copy now: https://thompsonmethod.com/free-guide
Our hope, as we try to reach more women who can benefit from the great work Dr Robyn has done, is to put an end to breastfeeding complications through preparation and prevention, in the hopes that we help women reach their personal breastfeeding goals while boosting breastfeeding rates the world over.
Ready to allow The Thompson Method to guide you towards a gentle birth and breastfeeding journey? Check out The Thompson Method program here.