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Preparing for Breastfeeding

I often ask women who are expecting if they have prepared for breastfeeding.  Sometimes I get “I took a breastfeeding class at the hospital” or “I read a book,” but often I just get a blank stare.  Prepare for breastfeeding?  Why prepare for breastfeeding?  It is natural, right?  Yes, breastfeeding is instinctual for babies, but babies don’t breastfeed by themselves and many things happen to get in the way of their instinctive behavior.  In that light, I would like to share some of the most common pitfalls that de-rail even the best of breastfeeding intentions.

  • We are living in a bottle-feeding culture.  Women have been imprinted from infancy with the sight of babies being fed by bottle.  Most of us grow up having rarely (if ever) seen anyone breastfeeding.  When most women begin to position their babies to breastfeed, they instinctively move the baby into a bottle-feeding position.  Why?  Because that is how we have always seen babies fed.  In order to combat that, it is a great idea to visit with groups of breastfeeding mothers during pregnancy so that you can begin to see babies breastfeeding.  Groups like your local La Leche League group, Breastfeeding USA group or independent breastfeeding groups, like For Babies’ Sake, are a wealth of real-life information.   In my experience, women who attend breastfeeding groups on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis during pregnancy experience far fewer problems and are more likely to meet their breastfeeding goals.  There are also websites that discuss breastfeeding issues, including positioning, like Biological Nurturing and Dr. Jack Newman’s videos.
  • Modern birth and post-partum practices interfere with baby’s and mom’s instinctive breastfeeding behaviors.  The current practice of induction of labor, often for reasons that are not medically indicated, as well as scheduled c-sections prior to 39 weeks can lead to complications, such as more difficult labors and delivery by forceps or vacuum extraction, respiratory distress syndrome,  poor suck reflexes, excessively sleepy babies, etc.  These complications have a big impact on how well baby is able to breastfeed.  I believe that it is no coincidence that a large portion of the clients that I see for breastfeeding difficulties were either induced or had scheduled c-sections prior to 39 weeks gestation.  As anxious as you are to meet your little one, and as uncomfortable as you may be in the last weeks of pregnancy, resist the temptation of early delivery, unless there is a true medical needBabies who aren’t quite ready to be born are much more difficult to breastfeed.
  • Aside from the birth, routine separation of infants from their mothers, whether it is for a mandatory “observation” period in the nursery or spending the night in the nursery so that mom can get more sleep, interferes with breastfeeding as well.  Babies experience significantly more stress when separated from mom and often are so exhausted by the time they are reunited with mom that they just want to shut down and go to sleep in the safety of mom’s arms.  If you are planning to give birth in a hospital, find out what the hospital policies are regarding routine post-partum care.  The ideal is 24-hour rooming-in with mom, no routine separation for non-medical reasons.  Look for a hospital in your area that is part of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative or the Mother-Friendly Childbirth Initiative Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC has written a great article about how birth affects breastfeeding.
  •  Misinformation and lack of support are often the final nail in the coffin.  Many women express frustration at the conflicting information they are given regarding breastfeeding.  This is a very valid frustration.  Women are told “feed baby for 10 minutes on each breast every three hours” or “feed baby on demand.”  They are told “only feed one breast per feeding” or “always offer baby both breasts.”  They are given so many “orders” that they become more and more confused.  So, how is a mother to know which advice is the best?
    • The first thing to do is realize that each mother and infant pair is unique.  Some mothers’ milk flows very fast, some slower.  Some babies get down to business and eat very efficiently, while others are little gourmands, taking their time and savoring every moment.  They do not feed according to a clock, but according to their own pre-programmed biological cues.
    • The second thing to realize is that anyone can give breastfeeding advice.  In order to determine its validity, you need to consider the source.  How much experience or training has this person had with breastfeeding?  It might surprise you to know that most doctors and nurses get very little training on breastfeeding during medical/nursing school. Some care providers who work with mothers and their infants take the time to find out more about breastfeeding but many do not.  If it is a friend or family member giving advice, find out the source of their information.  Is it a “they say” statement or first-hand experience from someone who successfully breastfed their own child?  The best source of information on breastfeeding will usually come from those specifically trained in breastfeeding support – the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant.)  IBCLC’s spend several years studying breastfeeding and training to support breastfeeding women before they can take a certifying exam.  They must maintain that certification by continuing education in breastfeeding related studies.  There are a myriad of good books written by IBCLC’s, such as Breastfeeding Made Simple by Nancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, Ph.D., IBCLC or  The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Diane Wiessinger, Diana West & Teresa Pitman.   My favorite on-line source for reliable, well-researched breastfeeding information is www.kellymom.comIf you are enrolled in a Birth Boot Camp class, you will receive a comprehensive breastfeeding class on DVD.  Take the time to watch it with your partner and support team.
  • For the second piece of the puzzle, line up your support network before baby arrives.  Make friends at a local breastfeeding support group or La Leche League; share breastfeeding information with your mother, husband, mother-in-law or anyone else who will be supporting you after baby’s arrival.  The more information your support team has, the better they will be able to support you, especially if the going gets tough.  Have you chosen a pediatrician?  How supportive is he or she of breastfeeding?  What about your obstetrician or midwife?  Here is an article by Dr. Jack Newman that might give you a clue:  How to Know a Health Professional is Not Supportive of BreastfeedingThe last trimester of pregnancy is also a good time to make contact with a lactation consultant (IBCLC.)  You can take the time to see if her teaching style suits you, find out what her qualifications are, find out if she makes home visits or if she is based out of an office or hospital.  Having your support system in place before baby comes will ease your mind greatly if you do experience difficulties with breastfeeding.

In short, preparing for breastfeeding during pregnancy paves the way for a successful breastfeeding experience.  Enjoy this special time in anticipation of the many joys that will come with the arrival of your new baby, including the special bond of breastfeeding.

Mellanie Sheppard, IBCLC, RLC, BBCI
For Babies Sake

Support Breastfeeding with us for #GivingTuesday

As part of #GivingTuesday, Birth Boot Camp® will be donating $75 from every online childbirth education class sale to Best for Babes from Tuesday November 27 through Tuesday December 4.

The Best for Babes Foundation is the only mainstream non-profit cause dedicated to helping women overcome the many barriers they face that end their breastfeeding journey too early. Their mission is to help moms Beat the Booby Traps®-the cultural & institutional barriers that prevent moms from making informed feeding decisions and from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals, whether that's 2 days, 2 months, 2 years, or not at all; to inspire, prepare & empower™ moms; and to give breastfeeding a makeover and give moms the solutions they need to make it work and feel fabulous!

They are harnessing the power of celebrities, the media, advertising, corporations, health-care professionals, health and disease foundations, moms and breastfeeding advocates to put positive pressure on the Booby Traps® to increase breastfeeding rates and improve the health of moms and babies.

Birth Boot Camp is committed to training couples in natural birth and breastfeeding through accessible, contemporary education and offers online childbirth classes.

Birth Boot Camp makes childbirth education easy, effective and accessible with live or online classes to best fit your needs and desires. Our unique and fun curriculum is geared towards couples working to have an unmedicated natural birth.

Sign up for the most comprehensive online natural birth classes available today and support a wonderful cause! Not expecting? Join us in donating directly to Best for Babes.

Breastfeeding in Public With Ease

Many new mothers worry about the first nursing session in public with their new baby.  This does not have to be a stressful time though, if mom is comfortable and prepared.

One thing you can do to prepare is to practice!  Nursing in front of a bedroom mirror may show you how covered you already are while nursing and give you confidence to do so in public.

Another thing that helps is layering your clothes.  A simple and inexpensive tank top worn underneath your regular shirt is an easy way to stay covered while nursing.  Simply lift your shirt, pull the tank down, and latch on the baby.  No tummy will be exposed and your over shirt will keep your breast covered.  While many people use covers, they can draw more attention than simply nursing in your clothes.  Also, many women find that as their babies get bigger they push off a cover anyway.

Keeping a hand near the breast to pull down your shirt quickly should the baby suddenly pull off is another simple thing that a worried mother can do that will make her feel a little more confident when nursing in public.

Nursing a baby is a beautiful and loving experience- but it doesn't need to keep mom cooped up in the house all day!

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