Many women express a desire to breastfeed, but aren’t quite certain what that entails. Maybe we need to be discussing exactly what breastfeeding looks like on a daily basis more as mothers with each other? Perhaps our health care providers should talk with us about it at our pre-natal visits? Let’s look at some of the things you can do and ways to help you meet your personal breastfeeding goals, hopefully answering some questions or give you an idea of what to ask your in-person support network.
Breastfeeding Birth Plan:
Many women have heard of birth plans, but they are not sure what a breastfeeding birth plan is (http://mamapeardesigns.com/2011/02/the-necessity-of-a-breastfeeding-birth-plan/). Simply stated, this plan expresses your infant feeding choice to those who will be helping you care for your baby when you give birth. If you give birth in a hospital that doesn’t have a breastfeeding supportive policy in place, having something in writing can help keep all staff members on the same page and supportive of your early breastfeeding goals. Outline with your partner what you want, and what you don’t want, record it on paper and have the staff place it in your chart. Discuss your choices with the staff beforehand and with your provider as well. Depending on the course of events you may or may not be in a position to advocate for yourself and your baby, so make sure your partner and support team are familiar with your wishes and are comfortable talking to the staff on your behalf.
Breastfeeding at birth: What to expect once the baby is born
Babies are born with a strong need to suck, but they aren’t born especially hungry as we might assume. Nature has designed a system that allows a mother’s body to produce the necessary amount for her baby – a little bit of colostrum for a tiny tummy. Many women worry that they aren’t making enough milk, but if the baby has a comfortable, effective latch, and the mother uses proper positioning and offers unrestricted access to the breast then this is usually not a problem. Skin to skin is a great way to help mothers/babies get in sync and to facilitate the hormonal/chemical process that works to create milk. Often times we have the notion that babies should be a few days old and consuming large amounts – two or more ounces a feeding – and that’s not how their bodies are designed. Did you know that a newborn baby’s stomach can only hold a quarter sized amount of colostrum? And a one-month old baby’s stomach is about the size of a chicken egg.
Many women aren’t aware that the immediate postpartum period, those first few weeks, are a really crucial time for establishing breastfeeding (http://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/milkproduction/). Taking care of an infant is time-consuming, and time spent feeding is a very large part of the work of mothering in the early days. This time is a prime window of opportunity to help create the foundation for a strong, long-term milk supply. At this time, support is critical – whether that is someone to help around the house, someone to help with the technical aspects of breastfeeding that mothers may find difficult, or someone to hold the baby so you can take a hot shower and relax! Before you have your baby, discuss these needs with your partner, your close friends, and ask your provider for helpful breastfeeding resources.
The most important thing to remember is to receive professional lactation help, familiarize yourself with the various levels of support offered within the lactation field and learn where in your area they can be found. Breastfeeding is a biologically normal process, but it’s a learned art for the mother and baby. Let someone guide you and support you in the first few days and weeks so that you can get off to the best possible start. Plan to do some research before you give birth for local lactation support and have a short list of names ready to call in case you need help. Just that one simple step can save a new family a bit of stress when they come home with baby and are making many new adjustments at once.
This is the second in a four-part series all about breastfeeding. Part three will will address some of the challenges (and joys!) of nursing. You can find part 1 here: http://www.mamaviews.com/blog/breastfeeding-part-1-during-pregnancy/
Lara Audelo, CLEC is a former high school history teacher turned mom and breastfeeding author, speaker and advocate. Her passion is helping mothers make informed choices that build their confidence, and is always working to support women in their mothering journeys. Her first book, The Virtual Breastfeeding Culture, was published in May 2013, by Praeclarus Press.