So you are pregnant. You took your childbirth prep class, your breastfeeding class and had a baby shower. You have a birth plan, a doula that you love and you even booked someone to encapsulate your placenta. Your goal is to breastfeed as long as possible, but because you have heard from so many friends and family how hard it was for them, you aren't feeling too confident.
STOP. RIGHT. THERE.
The main components to SUCCESSFUL breastfeeding are:
Education, Support and Confidence
Some people do have physiological issues that cause some real breastfeeding problems. But not as many people as you would think. Only about 2% of nursing people, actually have a low supply. Some of the problems that new parents have with breastfeeding can be avoided, or at least corrected.
As a lactation educator and counselor, a postpartum doula and a placenta specialist- I listen to many new breastfeeding people, and what their problems are. I hear a lot of the same common issues and hope to raise some awareness of those things here.
7. Lack of Good Lactation Education
This isn't your fault. Our medical system has taken on the responsibility of teaching you how to feed your baby, when they don't really know how. Even if you take a good lactation class, when you go to use what you learned, you suddenly have a wiggly baby who may not latch properly or may fuss at the breast. What needs to be taught prior to birth is confidence, patience and understanding. Breastfeeding is only an instinct for BABIES. We need to learn how by watching others do it.
6. Lack of Support at Home
Many of us don't live near family, don't have a proper village around us and don't know anyone who has successfully breastfed. Maybe your partner wants you to breastfeed, but doesn't know how to support you. Make sure you are really clear about your breastfeeding goals with the people around you and don't let people discourage you. Trust that you can feed your baby. If you actually cannot, make sure you get help from someone with experience and education.
5. Lack of Good Support in the Hospital
Do you know how much time labor and delivery nurses, postpartum nurses, pediatricians and OBGyn's spend learning about breastfeeding? Maybe a day. They are not the experts. Yet we look to them right after we give birth to guide us. We put baby on a schedule from the first hour they are born. Learn everything you can in advance from a teacher that is educated. Try multiple teachers, and multiple classes. Find someone who is confident in your body's ability to nourish your baby. Humans have been feeding their baby humans forever, you can do it too! If you truly have a problem, get help!
Stress is a huge contributor to low supply. When your body is stressed, you will produce less and your baby will sense your stress and may struggle with nursing as a result. Try to slow down, deep breathe with your eyes closed while you nurse or pump.
3. Not enough time off work
You were really looking forward to your maternity leave. You figured 6 or maybe 12 weeks would be plenty of time to bond with baby and may even feel like a vacation. You didn't realize that you would fall in love with your baby, how hard breastfeeding would be-or how much you love it, or how long it would take to heal. Now you have to go back and you feel like you were just getting into a rhythm with baby. You find yourself needing to pump, on top of feeding your baby and putting them in the care of someone else. Unfortunately, or society doesn't really encourage new moms to stay home longer for better bonding and going back to work many times-hinders milk supply.
2. Myths and Misconceptions
You have heard that breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt, this is not true. In the beginning it hurts a lot. Imagine hearing that it is not supposed to hurt. Will you keep going if it does? You may think there is something wrong with you.
There are many myths out there about breastfeeding that end up standing in the way of establishing a healthy breastfeeding relationship.
Fear that it won't work
Fear that you won't have enough milk, or baby won't be satisfied
Fear that what happened to you friend, sister, mother, cousin-will happen to you
Fear that alcohol can get into your milk and you will have to pump and dump
Fear that it will hurt
Fear that if it hurts, there is something wrong
Fear of someone telling you not to do it in front of them, or being shamed in public.
Fear causes stress, which hurts supply and kills confidence.
Surround yourself with those who support you and your efforts to breastfeed. Try to create a village of other parents, go to La Leche League meetings or other new parent support groups and know that this is a learning opportunity. You can do it!