The benefits of breastfeeding can not be disputed during this day of mass-information. Many women read up on the benefits of breast feeding during pregnancy and decide, “Okay, I guess I’m going to breastfeed then.” and then they hear about their neighbor, and their best friend, and their cousin, and their sister who all tried it but say that breastfeeding hurt, or that it was too hard. They say they had to give up, and it just didn't work out. So instead expectant moms say, “I guess I'll give it a try, but if it doesn't work out it's no big deal I'll just switch to bottles and formula.” We then have this trend of great numbers of women who begin breastfeeding exclusively but by three months less than half are still breastfeeding exclusively and I have to wonder why is that?
If I refelct on experience I think a number of factors play into this. Whether it be lack of emotional support, lack of physical help, lack of understanding of a breastfed babies needs as opposed to a formula fed babies needs, early return to work, the list is endless! One thought that is constantly in my mind as I am helping new mom’s with breastfeeding support is, “How could this issue have been avoided?” I think there is one way to set new mom’s up with breastfeeding success from the get go. Just as women prepare for childbirth they also need to prepare for breastfeeding, and that starts during pregnancy.
It would be helpful for women during pregnancy to seek out breastfeeding resources in their communities such as La Leche League meetings, support groups, mommy circles. Expecting moms should start looking into what common problems might arise and how to solve them quickly. They should have the phone number of a lactation consultant handy and maybe even speak with that consultant during pregnancy to address any issues or concerns. They should familiarize themselves with the language surrounding breastfeeding and familiarize themselves with other mothers who are breastfeeding.
I once heard a story of a gorilla in a zoo who had a baby but wouldn't nurse the baby because it had never seen another animal baby and it just couldn't figure out how. At first I thought, “Wait isn't this supposed to be natural!? That's a real animal with real animal instincts, not just a fake ones like humans!” The zoo keepers didn’t let this poor baby starve, they instead thought of an ingenious solution. The solution for this gorilla was to bring in a real live human breastfeeding mom and let that gorilla watch that mom breastfeed for a few sessions and then in turn the gorilla decided to breastfeed its own baby. Isn’t that completely wild!?!? (Pun intended, I'm a cornball). If a gorilla needed to watch and learn wouldn't it make sense that a human would need to watch and learn as well? The generation before us is a generation of formula feeders and there's nothing wrong with that! They thought they were doing what was best at the time, and formula is a wonderful and amazing tool for those who truly need it! But because the generation before us thought of it as a better nutrition supplement for children in turn the successful rates of breastfeeding were very very low in that generation. As a result my generation has not seen a lot of breastfeeding out in the open. I know that when I had my first child I had only ever seen one person breastfeed before and it was during the first week of their baby's life, they had cracked and bleeding nipples because of a bad latch that no one helped her with, she evidently switched to formula in the second week, and that was my first and only impression of what breast feeding was like before I breastfed my own baby. As I am sure many new mommas have similar experiences. And just like that gorilla in the story, doesn’t if make sense that seeing success would help to foster success, or at least make success seem more attainable?
So I urge you new Mama's, expecting mamas, mamas who are wanting to nurse their babies, and families were wanting to support mamas who would like to nurse their babies. Surround yourself in a community of people who will support you. If your local community does not have La Leche League groups, or Mommy meetups, or certified lactation consultants then look for that support in an online community or better yet create that support in your local community! Bring your partner and another support person whether it be your best friend, or your mother, or your sister, or your second cousin twice removed to a breastfeeding education class or let them borrow books that detail the inner workings of a breastfeeding relationship and have them commit to reading those books so that they may be able to support you in your journey. Ask a veteran Mom, “Hey would you mind being a support person for me on my breastfeeding Journey?” Go visit a local breastfeeding support group during your pregnancy and familiarize yourself with the local Lactation Consultants. When you have your baby have a lactation consultant watch you for a full feed on both sides. Arm yourself with knowledge, determination, and support and you will find success.
The true success though is the enjoyment that you have from breastfeeding your baby. If you have a game plan you're not going to have to worry about supply issues or big problems that come up because they won't be scary or worrisome since you've already heard of them they're not some foreign concept and you have an idea about how to handle them if they arise. You can just enjoy your baby and bask in their newborn sweetness. You can just enjoy breastfeeding and welcome all of the ups as well as the downs because you're prepared and ready for whatever comes your way. The best thing of all about being successful with breastfeeding is that you can pass that success on to other new moms and this progression will create a community of support and that is a beautiful thing, that is the ultimate goal.
I hope you enjoy my breastfeeding success preparation pamphlet and that you find it helps you in the beginning of your breastfeeding journey, best wishes to you and your sprouting family!
❤ Desiree Roddy
I am a student midwife and doula serving families in the North Country, and living life with five littles.