Many expecting moms hope to breastfeed. It’s covered briefly in many childbirth education classes and there’s often a sense of, “Well, it’s natural, so it should be fairly easy.” In the hospital, in the whirl of childbirth and immediate postpartum care, breastfeeding may or may not come instantly easily – but nearly all new parents come home wondering if they are doing this whole breastfeeding thing “right”.
“Is my baby getting enough?” “Is this a good latch?” “How can I tell when he’s full?” “Is this bobbing thing normal?” “What does her coughing and sputtering mean?” “Are my breasts supposed to feel like this?”
Moms are shocked that something so “natural” can feel so confusing! If you are currently pregnant and hoping to breastfeed, the good news is that yes, you can do some homework now before the birth to set you up for success.
The real “breastfeeding class” is the one with real and live babies
Unless you grew up in a big family or work with babies, it’s likely you don’t have a ton of experience with newborns. I joke that we expect a 6 month old when they come out, kinda like the movies. And honestly in American culture, we just don’t see breastfeeding all that often and definitely not a 6 day old breastfeeding (which is radically different from a 6mo breastfeeding).
Many lactation consultants (myself included) offer prenatal breastfeeding classes. They are helpful, elucidating, fun, and informational. But I find there’s one piece you simply can’t gain from a powerpoint no matter how thorough and well thought out. That is, watching real live babies in the flesh with their moms. In addition to attending a class, I highly recommend attending a support group. Some are free like La Leche League (which has chapters all over the globe!) or your hospital or local lactation consultants may offer some. Doulas are amazing resources and are incredibly dialed into the local birth community and should be able to point you in the right direction.
Have realistic expectations
I’m sure you’ve heard ad nauseum about the upcoming sleep deprivation you are about to experience. People may have gone on and on about how little time you’ll have and how a shower will feel like a vacation. They’re not wrong. After you spend some time with new moms and babies, you’ll learn why they say these things. They say them because they’re true.
Newborn babies are up at all hours, needing to feed around the clock. Those cluster feeding marathons come, and while it seems like they never will – they go. Getting the “perfect latch” can feel like a game of whack a mole. There will be dripping milk and tears (of joy and sorrow!) and extreme thirst (and hunger) and night sweats. You know the image of the mom sweetly nursing her baby in the nursery, rocking rhythmically under the gentle moonlight? Yea, it doesn’t always look like that.
I frequently hear “Why didn’t anyone tell me how hard breastfeeding would be?” The media, popular baby websites, and the slew of never ending products can set new moms up for breastfeeding disasters. There’s a discord between the products that promise to fix the problems that aren’t problems at all – but rather biologically normal infant behavior. In my experience, our expectations and biologically normal infant behavior don’t often line up.
Personally, the first newborn I ever held was my own. I was in utter shock of how to care for her in those early days. I felt that so much time went into planning for the birth, I completely neglected to plan for the postpartum. Which leads to my next point.
Get support, ahead of time
My wish is that every family would be blessed with a postpartum doula who could help manage all of the household duties for a new family. Maybe it’s an aunt or a good friend. Having people around to take care of everything non baby – but still essential – should be standard practice. At first glance, you may think what do dishes and dusting have to do with breastfeeding success? But remember the cautions people have offered about how little time you will have. When a new mom is able to prioritize feeding and bonding, her chances of meeting her feeding goals multiply.
Speaking of support, find a lactation consultant – now. Don’t wait to have a screaming 1 week old at 2 am to google “local breastfeeding support” – like I did. Because of the nature of lactation care, LC’s get booked up quickly. So having a couple numbers on your fridge will be helpful.
Read up! But find the right resources.
There has been a proliferation of information on the internet about postpartum, baby sleep, and breastfeeding. Blogs, instagram, websites can be found galore. Some of them are truly helpful. Others can send moms down a rabbit hole of uncertainty and doubt. Check your sources, always. Do they have adequate training in breastfeeding and human lactation? Are they an IBCLC (the gold standard for lactation certification). Don’t believe everything you find on Pinterest.
Some of my favorite resources:
Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
Safe Infant Sleep
In the thick of panic stricken postpartum, moms often get robbed of the chance to enjoy their babies. Even with the most challenging of postpartum experiences, the baby will grow up. The days and nights that bleed together and the tears and time spent trapped under a nursing baby will end. If you can find a moment in the day to look and caress and love on the tiny human you’ve been blessed with – you remember that no matter how you feed or how stressful the situation is, that it’s really all about doing the divine work of the vocation of parenthood.
Author: Cassondra Moriarty, Certified Family Planning Instructor and Lactation Consultant at MyCatholicDoctor
Editor: Samantha Wright, Director of Education and Online Resources with MyCatholicDoctor
Make an appointment or send Cassondra a message:
Leave a reply