Even if it takes some work to get the hang of it, breastfeeding is an inherent skill that you’re biologically programmed for. However, it can definitely help to surround yourself with support. You can join a breastfeeding support group, opt for peer one-on-one counseling, consult a lactation specialist, and ask your healthcare provider for help. You’ll find that lots of women have asked the same questions as you, as well as find advice for any struggles you may have.
Clinicians understand the numerous benefits of breastfeeding. Make sure you choose a doctor who values breastfeeding and is enthusiastic about answering your questions, both before and after you’ve given birth. By starting to talk about breastfeeding before you have your baby, you can know what to expect and start taking the steps to make it go as smoothly as possible.
Studies have shown that women are more likely to continue breastfeeding beyond the first twelve months if their doctor provides education, encouragement and support. Since you’ll be coming in for regular check-ups, this is a good way to continually get the support you need.
Lactation specialists are professionals who are passionate about working with breastfeeding mothers. You can find a lactation specialist through your hospital or through the International Lactation Consultant Organization. When you see a lactation specialist, she will provide a one-on-one consultation, and the two of you will work together to design a plan made especially for your situation. You’ll talk about how your family’s routine and lifestyle and how that will affect your breastfeeding. You’ll also learn how to address any problems with nursing. The lactation specialist will help you learn to pump as well as teach you about safe milk storage. Although you will receive detailed information in written form, it can be reassuring to talk directly with a specialist, and she will be able to help you better understand the material.
Your doctor and lactation specialist will provide a solid foundation for you, but it can be even better to join a peer group. It’s relieving to know you’re not alone, and you’ll be able to relate on an informal level with your peers. The proven benefits of being part of a breastfeeding peer group include developing a sense of self-assurance, bettering your mental health, warding off obesity, and even improve the diet of your entire family. Not only will you learn helpful tips, you’ll also gain more confidence and make friends in the same life stage as you.
Many women experience “the blues” after giving birth, to varying degrees. Being part of a peer group will help to alleviate your feelings of depression and anxiety, and you’ll also have friends to cheer you up.
One-on-One Peer Counseling
If you’d rather talk more intimately or don’t like being in groups, you can choose to talk one-on-one with a peer counselor. Your counselor will be a mother who has personally breast fed and gone through a training course. It’s been shown that working with a single peer counselor is helpful for new moms and increases the duration rate of breastfeeding for even longer than you might have if you didn’t ask for help.
Online Information and Forums
Sometimes, you just can’t get out of the house, but you’re still craving a connection with women in the same position as you. This is a great time to check out all of the fabulous articles, blogs, and forums available to you. Chances are, the questions you have about breastfeeding have been asked by other women, so make sure to check out reputable organizations’ web pages for a slew of answers.
We think Healthy Women is a fabulous place to start. (There are tons of other websites that you can find by doing a simple Google search.) Healthy Women is an easy-to-navigate, interesting site that breaks down the basics of what to expect when you first start breastfeeding, as well as solutions for possible bumps in the road. And once you’ve learned the essentials, they have a great selection of articles that go a little bit more in depth. Have fun learning, this stuff is fascinating!
Close Friends and Family
There are plenty of useful resources “out there,” but the support of your close friends and family is also an important part of a rewarding breastfeeding experience. If you can, surround yourself with practiced mothers who can be a source of comfort. They’ve been where you are, and they know how tough it can be to have a newborn baby.
Some friends and family members may feel uncomfortable being around when you breastfeed because it’s still seen as taboo in mainstream culture, though that is changing. Expect this, and talk to your peers about ways to respond to that. People around you who initially display an attitude of discomfort often just need time to get used to it. The more and more they see you breastfeed, they’ll get accustomed to it and see that it’s a beautiful, natural thing to do for your baby.
Where to Start?
You don’t have to tap into all of these types of support systems at once. Relax, and start by telling your doctor of your intentions to breastfeed. She’ll have suggestions for you and can tell you what’s available at your hospital. Prior to delivering, look for a lactation specialist and peer support. Don’t be afraid to consider multiple options before deciding what the best fit is for you.
Breastfeeding can be very challenging, but it is one of the best bonding experiences with your little one that you’ll always cherish. Get as much help as you get from those around you, and enjoy this phase of your relationship with your child.