A woman’s body may be made to grow, birth, and feed babies, but that does not mean that it is common sense – or that it comes natural to every woman.
Pregnancy brings with it a giant learning curve. Once baby arrives, though, that is when a woman is truly put to the test. There are sleepless nights, tears, diapers, and anxiety – not to mention adapting to a transitioning mother’s body, a never ending pit of hunger that no one seems to mention will appear after birth, and realizing that she loves this little human more than she loves anything else in life. Top it all off with breastfeeding – an act that so many women feel will just happen with ease – and a new mother can easily become overwhelmed.
It happens too often; a mother ending her breastfeeding journey before she has a chance to really embark on it. Although breastfeeding and nursing in public is on an upswing, there is still constant shaming, unneeded supplementing of formula, and enough false information to send a mother tumbling into breastfeeding failure.
Both the World Health Organization and UNICEF recommend immediate breastfeeding at birth, exclusive nursing until 6 months of age (without supplementation of formula or food), and continued breastfeeding until at least 2 years of age.
Source: UNICEF global databases, 2016, based on MICS, DHS and other nationally representative sources. Data included in these global averages are the most recent for each country between 2010-2016 (*exception: China, 2008).
Enough is enough. Breastfeeding is undeniably the healthiest thing a mother can do for her child. Breastfeeding is actually beyond science. It has yet to be completely understood, with new phenomenal information and links being discovered all the time. By educating herself prior to birth, a mother’s confidence and dedication to breastfeeding should dramatically increase. The following are all tools that should be utilized throughout pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding success.
Invest in Books:
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League: This book is a classic meant to be a reference guide, and it contains information on every aspect of breastfeeding. It is often referred to as the ‘Bible of Breastfeeding.’
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Dr. Jack Newman: Building confidence by covering the history of breastfeeding, this book is a must read. Breastfeeding is broken into “How-To’s” which is easy to understand and quite helpful.
The Nursing Mother’s Companion: This book contains the ‘HOW’ aspect of breastfeeding. When a mother already knows that she will breastfeed, she then wants to know how to ensure success. It is straightforward and easy-to-read.
Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding: Ina May Gaskin is the most famous midwife in the history of birth. Just as her book on birth is worth investing in, her writing about breastfeeding should be read. She covers the psychological benefits of breastfeeding, returning to work, pumping, and all of the challenges that lie with nursing.
Take a Breastfeeding Class: Most hospitals and birth centers offer classes that cover newborn care and breastfeeding. These may need to be taken with a grain of salt, as most large corporations (such as hospitals) will hand out formula samples and promote supplementation. This sets a new mom up to fail at breastfeeding. Education prior to the class is extremely important.
Attend a La Leche League (LLL) Meeting: Finding a local group can provide a sense of family for a new mom. As a free in-person resource, LLL is led by certified and well-trained mothers who have experienced years f breastfeeding and have overcome hurtles through their journeys.
Schedule an Appointment with a Lactation Consultant: This is extremely important. Hospitals offer lactation support, but it can be quite minimal. An expecting mother can contact a board certified lactation consultant for a home visit immediately following birth. An IBLC will be the best source of physical help, as she will manipulate both mom and baby into the best positions, correct latch, and help with any struggles or non-struggles.
Join Online Support Groups:
Follow Breastfeeding Professionals and Supportive Blogs:
Research the Statistics: Understanding the numbers can be eye opening for a new mother. It can also be quite empowering to know women all over the globe are breastfeeding as a part of their cultural norm.
In the US, just over 50% of mothers breastfeed at birth with just 20% making it to 6 months.
But yet, in Sweden 98% of women breastfeed at birth, with over half exclusively nursing past 6 months of age.
A new mother should feel empowered by breastfeeding, and in a society that places more critique than support on the topic, it can be hard. The journey is not one that involves everyone else, though. This breastfeeding voyage belongs to no one but the mother and child, and it is their right to be set up to succeed.
Elizabeth is a passionate writer at My baby’s Heartbeat Bear, focused on educating those open to learning. She is also a pre and postnatal exercise specialist, natural childbirth educator, former teacher and current homeschooler to her 4 young children. Check out Elizabeth's week by week pregnancy tips and parenting insights at her Pregnancy Blog