Despite numerous blogs, media depictions and social media posts that make motherhood look natural and easy, for most new moms that is simply not the case. Sleep deprivation, juggling personal and professional responsibilities with a new baby and sometimes lingering complications from childbirth or post partum depression can turn what moms might have imagined as a blissful time in their life to a very stressful one. And for lots of moms, breastfeeding can add to the strain.
The most common misconception about breastfeeding is that mothers think it will happen naturally, without complications. Breastfeeding is very hard work in the beginning. The mother is learning her new baby and how to use her body in a new way and the baby is literally in a whole new world. There is a learning curve to breastfeeding and mothers need to know that it’s perfectly normal to feel like they need lots of assistance (and that it’s okay to ask for help!)
Here are a few tips for getting off to a good start with breastfeeding and getting help with challenges along the way:
Know Your Health. Breastfeeding is the best source of nourishment for new babies, but some moms may have medical conditions that prevent them from doing so. While this is not typical, you should still talk with your doctor early on to make sure breastfeeding is a viable option for you and your baby.
Be Prepared! Most communities have access to prenatal breastfeeding classes with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). This resource educates mothers-to-be on how to establish proper milk supply as soon as their baby is born and how to deal with any challenges or complications that may occur.
Start Right Away. Breastfeeding is based on the premise of supply and demand. When mothers’ bodies are stimulated, they make milk. It is very important to establish proper breast milk supply as soon as the baby is born. This is done best by feeding based on feeding cues, allowing the infant to have unrestricted access to the breast and mothers relaxing with their infants skin to skin as often as possible. Ensuring mother has proper milk production is deeply rooted in making sure breastfeeding is set up for success while mother and baby are in the hospital.
Work As A Team. Another misconception about breastfeeding is that partners can’t help take care of breastfeeding babies. It takes a village to breastfeed a baby! Partners and family members are crucial to mothers meeting her breastfeeding goals. These breastfeeding champions can help mother get comfortable to feed the baby, bring the baby to the mother, change the diapers, make snacks and bring water to mom, bathe and burp the infant and remind the mother to call their IBCLC for help if needed. The list goes on and on as babies have more needs that just feeding.
Prepare for Transition. Balancing work, home life and breast pumping is a very challenging task. During this critical time, some mothers decide to stop breast because they may feel they are not producing enough breast milk. Perception of not enough milk is a common misconception. This is a good time to reach out an IBCLC who can recommend ways to sustain or increase milk supply during this transition.
Ask for Help. It is not uncommon for moms to suffer in silence when they are having difficulties with breastfeeding. If you are having challenges, do not hesitate to reach out to an IBCLC right away. Many facilities offer follow up lactation appointments to address mothers concerns with her breastfeeding experience. These appointments serve as a vessel to provide mothers with invaluable individualized help that can help a mother meet her breastfeeding goals. Many hospitals also offer monthly gatherings for nursing mothers and their breastfeeding babies. This is an amazing time to talk with lactation consultants and to meet other moms, who are going through similar issues. Most hospitals also have a breastfeeding hotline, where any mother can call in and discuss her concerns with a lactation consultant. Having the correct resources at your fingertips can make or break a breastfeeding experience.
For More Information:
In addition to your local IBCLC, support groups or hotlines, here are a few online resources for moms who may be struggling with breastfeeding.