How To Succeed In Your Breastfeeding Journey

You plan on breastfeeding (or already are) and have gotten tons of good advice. But have you gotten any great advice? Let us be the first to offer it! Here’s a list of things to help you!

Be Intentional

Studies show taking an antepartum breastfeeding class is one of the most important factors in rates of breastfeeding beyond three months. Not only does it provide a foundation of knowledge about how milk production works, feeding positions, and troubleshooting techniques, but it will boost your confidence from the start. Until recent times, we didn’t need a breastfeeding class since all but the most upper-class citizens would have grown up surrounded by open breastfeeding, all day, everyday. Since we don’t all have that anymore, a simple class can do the job! Most hospitals have free or low cost breastfeeding classes.

Ask For Help

There are entire groups of professionals who are dedicated to a common cause: helping you succeed at breastfeeding. Lactation consultants, lactation counselors, lactation educators, childbirth educators, labor & delivery nurses, and birth/postpartum doulas are all trained to help you succeed in reaching your breastfeeding goals. As a birth doula and childbirth educator, I am qualified to help my clients initiate breastfeeding after birth and do some basic troubleshooting if there are issues, but I always refer to someone “higher up” if I feel the problem is out of my scope of knowledge. I also always encourage every client, whether it’s their first or fifth baby, to ask to see a lactation consultant (the highest level of knowledge) in the hospital before they go home. You might not know you have a bad latch or a tongue tie until days later, when it could have possibly been fixed right away in the hospital.

Surround Yourself With Support

You know what is another huge factor that can make or break breastfeeding success? Having supportive people around, especially a spouse or significant other. In fact, in some studies, having a supportive partner was the number one determining factor for breastfeeding outcomes. If they’re not on board before birth, bring them with you to a doctors appointment or lactation class and make sure they learn the benefits and importance of breastfeeding. If you’re on your own and don’t know anyone who breastfeeds, that’s alright! Most hospitals have breastfeeding support groups either free or very low cost. That is a great way to connect with others and get the support you need, and they are usually facilitated by lactation professionals. 

Think Positively

Remember that old saying, “If you think you can’t, you’re right. If you think you can, you might!” I’m not discounting very real medical obstacles to breastfeeding, but studies also show that a mother’s own confidence in their ability to breastfeed has a huge impact on whether they continue past three months (which is precisely when it gets easier!) As a doula, something I see all the time is if a client has many friends who’ve had difficulty breastfeeding (or chosen not to) for one reason or another, she is less likely to believe breastfeeding will work for her. Limiting beliefs like that set yourself up for a more challenging time right out of the gate. It frequently ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. The opposite is true, also. When a client is part of a community where breastfeeding is normal and women generally continue even if they have difficulty in the beginning (which we all do to some degree), they tend to assume they will reach their goals, come what may. If you recognize yourself in the first group, know that your friends’ experiences have no effect on your ability to produce milk. You can do this! Your body knows what to do! There are tons of people who can help you. Educating yourself with evidence-based information is the best defense against confirmation bias. 

Advocate For Yourself

In an ideal world, we would all have adequate time to spend at home recovering after birth (a year or more, with pay!) or we could bring our baby to work with us (like we do at Latched Mama!) That is not reality for many people, so stepping into the necessity of pumping at work very often requires us to speak up for ourselves. There are laws in most states that require some kind of time and place for lactating mothers to pump milk. It’s really important to try and pump the same amount of milk during the day that your baby eats while away from you. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to pump as many times as your baby eats (although every 2-3 hours is the longest you’d want to go while away). Depending on the laws in your state, you may need to have a difficult conversation with your employer. If your employer is unsupportive at first, we recommend taking the opportunity to educate them on the many health and economic benefits of breastfeeding, including the fact that breastfeeding mothers take less sick time to care for an ill baby. If this is still not successful, you may need to get in touch with an advocacy group in your state for more advice. 

Let’s be real. Breastfeeding is more than just following some advice or not doing the things on this list. There are real challenges, whether medical, emotional, or socioeconomic, that can make your situation more complex. We see you. Breastfeeding is not pass or fail. Be kind to yourself. 

What are some things you wish you’d known about breastfeeding before you started?

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