Breastfeeding can be hard. Or it can be easy. Our culture presents many stumbling blocks to breastfeeding success, which causes some mothers to believe it may be an unachievable goal.
From the moment your baby is born, there are a number of ways you can help ensure breastfeeding success. It starts with having plenty of support, learning good techniques, and having a committed, can-do attitude.
Here are some critical tools to help ensure breastfeeding success.
A can-do attitude
“I’m going to try to breastfeed.” This phrase comes from the belief that breastfeeding is inherently difficult, and that it either works or it doesn’t. Knowing that this simply is not true is the your first tool.
The percentage of moms who physically cannot breastfeed is low, so you’re more likely to be successful than not. If you plan to breastfeed your baby tell yourself instead, “I am going to breastfeed and if I encounter any difficulties, I have a list of breastfeeding professionals to help me be successful!”
Consider a lying-in with your new baby to help increase your bonding time and place more focus on establishing a good nursing routine with few distractions.
A Lactation Consultant on speed-dial
Breastfeeding often gets off to a great start in the hospital, but after arriving home difficulties may arrive. A private practice IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) is a helpful option after leaving the hospital. This is someone who will come to your home and has more experience caring for babies more than a few days old, and will take more time with you and your infant.
How do I find a lactation consultant?
It’s great to have a consultant’s info on hand before giving birth. But many of us don’t think that far ahead. Ask a fellow nursing mother, your local La Leche League leader or Breastfeeding USA counselor for a list of local IBCLC’s. Because early breastfeeding issues require immediate assistance, the quickest way to find a consultant is to check the International Lactation Consultant Association’s directory and search via your zip code.
Your intuition & a support system
The research shows that when moms think there’s a problem, they’re usually right. You’ll hone and use these mothering instincts throughout your parenting journey. If something doesn’t seem right or you could use some reassurance, pick up the phone and call a lactation consultant.
On the flip side, don’t let your baby’s lack of instinctive breastfeeding upset you. Most of us think that since breastfeeding is a natural process, our baby should know how to do it. Plenty of babies need a little nudge in the right direction, and this is what generations of mothers and grandmothers have done – support the new mother amidst their tribe. Your own mother may not have breastfed or may live too far away, so leaning on a lactation consultant or new mom friend is our new way of finding our tribe.
It can be difficult to ask for help, especially during the early postpartum time. However, if your partner has attended your breastfeeding classes or met your lactation consultant ahead of time, he or she can help you recognize signs of needing help and be the one to call.
I’m here to tell you that breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt. Your nipples do not have to get used to breastfeeding – that’s what they’re made for. Nipple pain and trauma is the result of an incorrect latch. This is an easy fix most of the time.
Nipple pain is the only way your baby can tell you that something isn’t right. If the latch is incorrect and causing pain, baby is probably not getting the full amount of milk you have available. Fixing latch issues early can be an easy fix, while waiting can lead to severe nipple trauma, low milk supply, or other issues that require more time and effort to correct.
La Leche League or other support group
I recommend going to a local La Leche League meeting or two while you’re still pregnant. Breastfeeding is a right-brained activity, which means that we learn it by observing. How many of us get that chance in our culture?
Group meetings also help breastfeeding seem normal when you feel like you might be the only person doing it, reaffirm your decision and give you practice breastfeeding around other people.
A good birth
Unfortunately, nearly every intervention in birth – even if it’s necessary – has an impact on breastfeeding success. This doesn’t mean you have to birth a certain way, but you should be aware of the risks ahead of time. How you feel about your birth is also a factor here.
You can have a natural birth in a hospital. Insist on birth Kangaroo Care (mom and baby skin to skin immediately after birth, keeping baby in your room) as this is the best practice standard of care for mom and baby.
The international La Leche League website is a helpful resource for breastfeeding families.
KellyMom and KellyMom’s Facebook page provide evidence-based information on breastfeeding and natural parenting.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger and Diana West
Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding
Image courtesy reader, Jennifer L.