Breastfeeding is a beautiful and natural process. It helps both you and your baby to be healthy. It helps you and your baby to connect with each other. It can be relaxing and save a lot of time and money. It is earth-friendly.
But sometimes there are difficulties – especially in the first few weeks. Fortunately, with adequate information and support, these difficulties can usually be overcome so that you and your baby can enjoy a happy breastfeeding relationship for as long as you both desire. Let’s talk about what you can do to minimize the chance of having difficulties, and what to do if they happen anyway.
Connect. Connect with other mothers who have had successful breastfeeding experiences. They may be relatives or friends. Or, you may wish to join a breastfeeding mothers group, such as La Leche League (www.lllstl.org ).
Research-based information. Have some excellent research-based information on hand when you have questions or concerns. Some books I recommend are The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding Made Simple. If you have concerns with milk production, Making More Milk is another wonderful resource. Or, if you’d like to hit the web, check out www.llli.org or www.kellymom.com.
Get your partner on board. Research has shown that when the partner is educated about breastfeeding, the mother is likely to choose to breastfeed and to breastfeed for a much longer time. Partners can provide emotional support; take a breastfeeding class with you; create a comfortable area for you to nurse; bring you lots of water, juice, or herbal tea while nursing; and bond with your baby in other ways besides feeding.
Plan for the most natural childbirth possible. A natural childbirth isn’t for everyone. If you are planning on one, then great! If not, planning for the least amount of medical intervention will help get breastfeeding off to the best possible start. Childbirth interventions can impact both mother’s and baby’s instincts and abilities to breastfeed.
Breastfeed soon, and frequently. Putting baby to breast during the first hour after birth is a great way to initiate breastfeeding when your baby’s instincts to breastfeed are at their peak. As soon as the baby is born, place her skin-to-skin on your bare chest for at least the first hour after birth. This is an active, alert time for baby and an excellent opportunity for baby’s first breastfeed. Avoid physical exam, bathing, eye drops, vitamin K injection, or hepatitis B vaccine until after baby has had her first feed. Unless medically necessary, avoid bottles or pacifiers until breastfeeding is well established. Keep your baby close to you (rooming-in at the hospital) and breastfed frequently, at least 8-12 times per day, watching for baby’s early cues for feeding readiness such as rooting, squirming, sucking on hands – crying is a late cue for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be part of your written birth plan, so feel free to include in your birth plan and discuss with your OB all or any of the above suggestions for initiating breastfeeding during your hospital stay.
Take care of you. When your needs are taken care of, it is easier to instinctively know how to care for your baby – and that includes breastfeeding. Also, a well-rested, well-hydrated, and well-nourished mother is likely to make more milk. So get rest, drink plenty of water, eat well, and get as much help around the house and with older children as you can.
When you set the stage for breastfeeding success, oftentimes difficulties can be avoided. However, challenges can occur despite all of our efforts to prevent them. If you find you are having breastfeeding difficulties that the above suggestions cannot resolve, get help from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) right away.
Breastfeeding is an amazing gift you can give to your baby and your baby can give to you. Get a good start if possible and don’t hesitate to ask for help – excellent support is out there if you need it. Good luck with your breastfeeding journey!
Alyssa has been helping mothers and babies in the St. Louis area with breastfeeding for the past 13 years. She has been accredited as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) since 2009. Her private practice, Sweet Pea Breastfeeding Support, provides prenatal, pre-adoption/surrogacy, and postpartum lactation consultations. Alyssa enjoys working with all mothers and babies, but she has an extra special place in her heart for helping mothers through adoption and surrogacy to breastfeed their babies. She is the author of “Breastfeeding Without Birthing: A Breastfeeding Guide for Mothers Through Adoption, Surrogacy, and Other Special Circumstances”. Alyssa is the proud mother of three breastfed children, two by birth and one by adoption.
Learn more about the services Alyssa provides at www.sweetpeabreastfeeding.com.