Women need very few things to make milk: a brain, a baby and a breast. Still mothers often divulge: “Breastfeeding was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” World-wide, mothers’ breastfeeding relationships are put at stake. In fact, “most moms are not making it past the first few weeks of breastfeeding because they are being sabotaged daily by cultural and institutional barriers”, otherwise known as Booby Traps. [Retrieved from: https://www.bestforbabes.org/what-are-the-booby-traps/]
Our bodies were made to feed and comfort our babies, but for most moms, breastfeeding is easier said than done. Below are practical suggestions on how to make breastfeeding second nature.
Educate yourself and others. Learn everything you can about breastfeeding well before you birth your baby. Request referrals to great breastfeeding classes from friends or other moms in your community. Suggest that your partner attend the breastfeeding class with you because his or her understanding of breastfeeding and support is vital to your success. Invite other support people to your breastfeeding class! EVERYONE is responsible for your success. Read books about infant feeding. Know where to get breastfeeding help in your community for potential, unforeseen challenges. Finally, know your rights!
Interview your health care professionals. Unfortunately, many health care professionals– including but not limited to obstetricians, midwives and pediatricians– have little to no lactation and breastfeeding education. Even well-meaning providers disseminate inaccurate information and advice that could jeopardize your breastfeeding goals. Ask your providers what kind of breastfeeding training they have received, how comfortable they are working with breastfeeding mothers and babies, and how they support safe, appropriate infant feeding options.
Hire a doula. Get the best start by hiring a doula who is well-versed in breastfeeding. Doulas offer invaluable support to laboring and postpartum mothers. One study showed that mothers who had a Birth Sister or doula had higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding, delayed their first formula feedings, and fed less formula overall. [Retrieved from: http://www.bestforbabes.org/why-a-doula-is-your-bff-breastfeeding-friend/]
Find a Mother- and Baby- Friendly birthing facility. Breastfeeding success is often dependent upon birth practice. Choose a maternity care facility that will support your goals. There are currently 182 Baby-Friendly Designated Hospitals and Birth Centers in the U.S. Ask if if your birthing facility practices the Mother-Friendly steps.
Take a baby moon! The first two weeks postpartum are crucial for your breastfeeding relationship. It’s when your body establishes your supply by laying down prolactin receptors. The more you breastfeed, the more receptors you’ll establish and in return the more milk you’ll make. Take a baby moon to establish your supply and get to know your new baby.
Don’t bother with bottles. Current culture makes it difficult for most moms to exclusively breastfeed, especially because the U.S. is the only industrialized country without mandated maternity leave for mothers with newborns. That said, if you have the opportunity, limit feeds from devices other than the breast. Bottles and other artificial feeding methods may interfere with your supply. They also interfere with the convenience of breastfeeding! Breastfeeding is always ready, always the right temperature and always packed with just what your baby needs.
Wear your baby. Breastfeed hands free! Visit The Badass Breastfeeder for resources on how to nurse while baby wearing. Wearing your baby allows her constant access to the breast which is great for your supply, your supply and your other responsibilities.
Sleep with your baby. Evidence shows that sleeping within sensory proximity of your baby lessens the likelihood of SIDS and increases the number of times babies breastfeed. Director of the Mother-Baby Behavioral Sleep Lab at Notre Dame Dr. James McKenna says it best. Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCZzzqFkyiU. Exclusively breastfeeding mothers also sleep more than mothers who supplement or do not breastfeed. Read Exclusively Breastfeeding Mothers Get More Sleep: Another Look at Nighttime Breastfeeding and Postpartum Depression by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. For safe sleep guidelines and other resources visit: http://www.uppitysciencechick.com/sleep.html.
Cherish the moment. Although breastfeeding offers a hands free feeding option, don’t forget to put down your electronic devices and drink in the loveliness of your baby. Watch your sweet one doze off nuzzled between your breasts. These moments are ephemeral.
Surround yourself with other breastfeeding moms. Peer support can enhance your breastfeeding relationship. Network with other breastfeeding mothers by contacting your local La Leche League to find a meetup. Birth centers, community centers and other health care facilities may also offer opportunities to meet breastfeeding families.