Here’s the reality. Many families plan to breastfeed not realizing there are steps they can take during pregnancy to prepare for some of the possible challenges that can arise in the days and weeks postpartum. I was there once myself, thinking: how can this be so tricky or challenging? I have a baby, I have breasts and I’m supposed to make milk; It’s a natural part of life and my body is supposed to do this. Mothers for centuries have done this so how hard can it be? They’re good points, for sure, but like anything in life, just because it’s natural doesn’t necessarily mean it comes easy.
I also know how challenging and confusing it can be during the first weeks with your baby. I know how overwhelming and scary it can be when your child’s pediatrician tells you they aren’t gaining weight. I have been there personally and professionally, and I can tell you without fear of contradiction that many things can be learned when you prepare in advance. Breastfeeding is a wonderful choice for both baby and mom for so many reasons, but it takes practice and commitment from the very beginning to ensure success. Here are some steps you can take:
- Get great prenatal care. Having top-notch prenatal care can prevent premature births, and babies born too early can have difficulties nursing, especially if there is a lengthy separation between mom and baby.
- Find (and use!) breastfeeding resources. Take a breastfeeding parent prep class to learn the basics and get questions answered. Before delivery, visit the hospital and inquire about lactation services. Some hospitals have wonderful, supportive breastfeeding assistance while others do not. If there’s not a warm connection there, seek out alternative lactation consultants you can talk to in advance, if possible. Remember, knowledge is power particularly in breastfeeding, and women who prepare in advance are more likely to start off successfully and have the experience they desire for themselves and their baby.
- Ready your nursing necessities. Purchase nursing bras, camisoles and comfortable nursing clothes and have them with you for your hospital stay. You’ll also want to get a pump and prepare it for use well before your due date. I always recommend my clients bring their pump to the hospital because you can’t be sure one will be provided for you if needed. Nursing supplies such as a breastfeeding pillow, pads and nipple cream can also be a huge help.
- Communicate. Talk to your partner, family members and friends about feeding options. Get as much information from people you trust about their breastfeeding experiences to help you make your choice. Talk to your partner about how their feelings and be clear about how they can best support you in yours.
Breastfeeding may be natural and instinctive, but it’s not always easy!
A little help goes a long way. To better support new mothers and babies we’re collaborating with the team at Boston NAPS. Our common goal is to help babies thrive by providing the type of support services new mothers and families need to meet their feeding goals for their babies.