There is a certain irony in today’s topic for me. I’m on Baby Center’s mailing list for this pregnancy, because I do enjoy their “Your Pregnancy This Week” e-mails. But I’ve gotten two different e-mails today about breastfeeding that have made me laugh… and cringe. They’ve both listed “Breastfeeding Essentials” that you just have to buy. Things like breast pumps, bottles, nursing covers, and nipple cream. Now, I certainly wouldn’t consider any of these things bad to have on hand, but I think the message that you have to have certain supplies on hand to breastfeed successfully is very misleading.
To be honest, I think supplies have very little to do with getting off to a good start, and I’ve successfully breastfeed four children, for a combined time (so far) of almost 8 years.
If starting your breastfeeding journey right isn’t about supplies, what is it about?
A normal view of breastfeeding
This is one of the biggest advantages a mom can have, and unfortunately one that she doesn’t necessarily have as much control over as others. Through all of my teenage years, I was blessed to see my aunt breastfeed her babies and young toddlers. It was definitely not normal to me when I first witnessed it at 12, but over the years it became that way. By the time I got pregnant with my first child, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Although, I did think breastfeeding past 12 months was “strange” and I certainly wouldn’t do that (hilarious to me now, since I’ve breastfed all of my four children past 12 months, and 2 of them past 2 years!).
So, what can an expectant mom do if she wants to breastfeed, but hasn’t seen a lot of it? Seek out opportunities to witness normal breastfeeding! Probably the easiest way to do this is to join your local Le Leche League. And trust me, LLL will come in handy for several other parts of getting a good start! Start attending meetings as early in your pregnancy as you can. You are bound to see plenty of breastfeeding going on, and hopefully you can even make some friendships that can extend into park days and other visits, where you can witness even more breastfeeding. It may make you uncomfortable at first. That’s okay, it really will become normal to you if you stick it out!
Going into the early days of breastfeeding with the understanding that breastfeeding is the normal way to feed babies, and something our bodies were designed to do, can give you huge confidence. As Ina May Gaskin says about childbirth, “Your body is not a lemon!” The vast majority of women and babies can successfully breastfeed.
A good education
There is a lot of really bad breastfeeding advice out there. If possible, take the time to seek out sources of good breastfeeding information before you are holding your newborn, tired out from childbirth, and have to figure out how to make this thing work. LLL is good for this too! You can also find great books, such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. If you can attend a breastfeeding class taught by a certified lactation consultant, even better! Don’t assume that the labor and delivery nurses actually know anything about breastfeeding. That certainly wasn’t true in my case, and I’ve heard the same from many others.
Build a support system
Breastfeeding is normal, but that doesn’t meant it is always easy or free of challenges. Motherhood is full of huge transitions, and it can be easy to become discouraged in the early weeks. That’s when your “cheerleaders” will serve you so well!
If you can, try to get your husband excited about breastfeeding while you are pregnant. If he can understand the many benefits of breastfeeding to you and your baby, some of the common challenges, and how much it means to you, it will be much easier for him to help you through the rough patches, rather than urging a course that seems like it will be easier for you. He loves you, and it’s going to be hard for him to see you tired and sobbing from your out-of-control hormones because you aren’t sure the baby is getting enough. He can be one of your most valuable cheerleaders or one of your biggest obstacles, so (without nagging!) make this a priority during pregnancy.
Maybe you have a friend from church or work who has successfully breastfed. Build your relationship with them during your pregnancy. Ask them breastfeeding questions. Get their phone number and see if they would be willing to take text messages at weird hours after baby is born – coming from the other side, most of us would LOVE to be able to help our friends in this way! They are the ones who can say, “Oh my goodness, I remember how hard it was. It does get better! This is what I tried…” Again, LLL is a good source for these contacts!
Another great source of breastfeeding support can be the on-line community. Every Thursday night, there’s a weekly Twitter chat at #bfcafe, and I love it for encouragement and advice!
Have the number of a lactation consultant ready. If you hit any kind of bump, don’t try to be a tough woman. Get some help as quick as you can, and most issues can be easily resolved.
What steps do you think moms should take to get a good start at breastfeeding? Let us know in the comments, or link up your own post!
Be sure to check out what other moms have to say in the linky below! We would love if you would link up your old or current posts on this topic. Please be sure to mention the BF Blog Hop and link to this post or our page. We would love it if you shared the BF Blog Hop with your readers by including the linky code in your post, too. If you’ll leave us your twitter handle in the comments, we’ll be sure to tag you when we tweet your post! If you are new to the Hop, be sure to check out the Breastfeeding Blog Hop page for more information about how it all works.