LSH 2015 November Newsletter
Preparing to Breastfeed Your Baby
Getting Off to a Good Start
By Robin Elise Weiss, PhD
Pregnancy & Childbirth Expert
The truth of the matter is that breastfeeding success begins long before your baby is born. It has very little to do with luck and everything to do with good planning and education. So here are some ways to help ensure a positive breastfeeding experience and a prescription to help prevent and alleviate potential pitfalls.
1. Have a positive attitude.
"I'm going to try to breastfeed." When I hear that come out of the mouth of a client, my heart sinks because I know that her attitude will set her up. Granted I know it's hard to have faith in the process given some of the poor information or stories that we hear, but the right attitude is key to breastfeeding success.
Saying "I'm going to breastfeed." makes all the difference in the world. It assumes that you will have a positive experience or at least the information or resources to fix problems. It states to those around you who may not be as convinced that you know what you're doing. (Even if what you know is where to get help!)
2. Get a decent education.
Let's face it, not all breastfeeding classes are alike. A breastfeeding class that is taught by someone who has never breastfed, helped mothers breastfeed on a regular basis or is not really happy to be there is a sign that you're not getting everything you need. Try to find a class taught by an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) when possible. This states that your instructor has had adequate training in breastfeeding to help get you and your baby started on the right path. If your class spends a lot of time talking about supplemental feedings, other people giving baby bottles and pumping - you probably are not in the best class. While these may all be topics you might need or want to know about in the future you must have the basics of breastfeeding down. This includes:
How breastfeeding works
How to establish a good milk supply
How to get your baby to latch
How to know if your baby is getting enough milk
Positions for breastfeeding
When and where to get help should you need it
3. Find a support network.
Support comes in many forms, but for breastfeeding we hear time and time again how important support was to the success. This means that you need to find support within your family, particularly your husband or partner. They need to understand how they can best help you while you are breastfeeding. They also need to understand that in the grand scheme of baby care, breastfeeding is the only thing they can't do, but that their support of you while you nurse is critical.
You should also enlist the help of your friends and family. Give older siblings special things to do during the times your breastfeeding. Show them photos of them breastfeeding or tell them stories of when they nursed if possible. Have grandma help you get a snack or fix dinner while you're nursing if she needs something to do.
4. Be near other breastfeeding families.
Other breastfeeding families are good to be around as an extended support system. It's nice to hear how others solved issues or breastfed. It can be helpful for your husband to meet others who have helped their wives breastfeed. And it gives you a chance to see real live babies breastfeeding.
Sometimes you don't know any other families. Groups like La Leche League can help you meet other moms who are breastfeeding. This provides you not only with social support but with educational support as well through the meetings that they offer the community for free.
5. Get breastfeeding started on the right foot.
This one may seem like the odd man out, but what you choose in labor has a lot of effect on how well breastfeeding gets going. For example, medications that you receive in labor can negatively impact your breastfeeding experience. They may make your baby sleeping or simply have issues with suckling.
If your baby is born early, even just a week or two, or has a rough labor, your baby may need more help breastfeeding. Something as simple as vigorous suctioning can create problems for breastfeeding.
To prevent labor and delivery related causes of breastfeeding difficulties, make plans ahead of time to minimize them. If you're planning to use pain medications, including epidural anesthesia, use them for as brief of a time as possible. Ask your birth team to be very gentle, particularly when suctioning the baby's mouth. And probably the most important thing you can do is to be skin to skin with your baby as soon as possible, preferably from the moment of birth onward.
The skin to skin bonding of those first minutes is very important. This would ideally occur before your baby has been bathed, weighed or measured. Simply ask the hospital staff to delay all non-essential testing and to do their assessments while baby is with you. Even if you have a cesarean, you can have your doula or your partner help you with this skin to skin contact as the surgery is being finished. You can also extend this to the recovery room.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you breastfeed within thirty minutes of birth. Some babies will sit at the breast but not nurse, this is not a problem as you're still getting the rush of hormones form the skin to skin contact.