Advocates for breastfeeding may be quick to tell you how natural breastfeeding is, but what some leave out is that natural does not mean it will always be easy! Being prepared for challenges and having a support network in place can help you and your baby get off to a great start.
Breastfeeding in public is becoming more common and many of those mothers make it look so easy. It is less common to see the struggles of getting the baby to latch, dealing with mastitis or other breastfeeding ailments, or the baby who frequently lets go and sends milk flying across the room! In the early days of breastfeeding your infant, these may be part of your reality. If that is the case, I want you to know that this is normal, it won’t be this way forever, and there is help.
As an expectant mother, it is likely you will prepare for the birth of your child by meeting with a doctor, doula, or midwife. Maybe you will join a pregnancy support group or join online forums. You may have magazines about pregnancy arriving at your door so you can read up (and see all the cute babies). The arrival of your upcoming baby is likely to be in the forefront of your mind, as it should be! What an exciting thing to be bringing a baby into your life! While you are doing all of these things, be sure you are also preparing for breastfeeding. This means finding a finding a lactation consultant or other professional, join a breastfeeding support group or forum, subscribe to a magazine for breastfeeding mothers, spend time learning about what to realistically expect in the early stages of breastfeeding.
If you hire a midwife or doula, it is likely that she can help you start your breastfeeding relationship and answer any questions you may have. If you deliver in the hospital, you will likely have access to a lactation consultant who will be there to help you as well. Utilize these resources as often and as long as you need to! In some cases, the lactation consultant is available for you as long as you are checked into the hospital. Be aware of policies like these before you deliver your baby and take full advantage of these services. That is why they are there!
Don’t let people pressure you into leaving before you are ready or make you feel insecure for needing more help. I was in the hospital for 2-3 days with my last baby, primarily due to breastfeeding challenges. Once I checked out, I continued daily appointments with the lactation consultant until we had worked out all of the kinks and my baby’s weight was back up to where we felt comfortable. Luckily my insurance covered this, but not all will, so be sure to look into it!
Another resource that may be available to you is a WIC consultant. WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) consultants help new and expectant mothers learn all about healthy nutrition for themselves and their babies, and this includes breastfeeding! If you have concerns and feel that you may need their support, let them know that before you deliver. They can help you and your baby overcome any challenges you may face and they can often provide women with free breast pumps if they are struggling with low milk supply.
Probably one of the most well known resources for breastfeeding mothers, Le Leche League, provides support groups in many communities and also has tons of information and links on their website. Sometimes new mothers are intimidated by such groups, which have gotten an unfair reputation of being too pushy or judgmental. In my experience, there may be a group member who feels that they are a better mother than their non-breastfeeding friends. She is not the majority. Most of these women will be nice and supportive, as will the group leadership. I would recommend getting in touch with a group leader and getting a feel for what the group is like. Even if you do not decide to attend any group meetings, the leader can serve as a resource for you and answer any questions that may arise.
This may seem unnecessary to some people and not everyone may feel they need the extra support, and that is fine. However, if you have any reason to believe you may want some support, it is much better to have these resources in place before your little one arrives. Even as a second or third time mother, you may want to have some support in place because all babies are different and your breasts may respond differently. If you feel confident that you could overcome any and all breastfeeding challenges that may come your way, you may want to consider becoming a resource for another mother who may really need and appreciate the support. Those early days of motherhood can be challenging enough, but with support in place, everything can run a little more smoothly for mother and baby.