As a breastfeeding mom, I read Jessica Stockton Clancy’s crib sheet interview of Pat Shelly (RN, MA, IBCLC) with great interest. So much of breastfeeding success is tied to having education at the outset as well as finding support once you begin to feed your baby. Taking the pressure off of the thought of “failure,” and learning it is no failure at all as long as your child is getting fed, was part of the reason I feel our own breastfeeding journey worked out more smoothly than it would have if I had felt stressed about only one option for my baby.
Preparing for Breastfeeding Before Birth
So far, we’re off to a great start. Finding professional support groups and lactation consultants prior to the baby’s birth is a great idea. I also suggest the book The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Getting family members educated and “on-board” with breastfeeding during this time is also crucial for feeling the support all mothers need and deserve. I would also suggest educating yourself prior to birth on all forms of feeding your baby and relax. I think as mothers we try to prepare the best we can for our new baby, and when things don’t work out the way we planned, it can be devastating. For instance, my first born arrived two months early via emergency c-section and was born without a sucking reflex. I had no grand ideas of our breastfeeding relationship, and I think that helped me go with the flow. Definitely educate yourself, get support behind you, but keep low expectations on how the first few weeks will go. Be ready to “go with the flow.”
What to Expect Right after Birth
This is where I veer a little from the advice given that you need to wait until after the baby is cleaned up and examined to hold your baby. Remember, in a healthy pregnancy and delivery, you are just in the hospital to monitor in case something goes wrong. Hospital staff is there to aid you. Separation is not necessary for a routine examination — it can be done in mom’s view or on dad’s lap. Many moms (my sister included) wait on immediate baths/cleanup for their children, and then breastfeed after that. I think the advice I would like people to take away from this is that parents are the ones in control. If you want to bathe your child right away and wait for an exam in another room for your own comfort level, that is up to you, but you also can keep the baby in room and start breastfeeding immediately: The choice is yours and no one else’s (in a healthy delivery, of course.)
What to Expect with a Premature Baby
Yes, I completely agree with starting to pump immediately. When my son was born two months premature without a sucking reflex, and I was in the ICU for severe preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome for three days, I was never able to visit him because I was so sick. What worked for us was having family support. My husband started pumping for me even when I was sedated from the medication they were giving me. Trying our best at breastfeeding was important to both of us. When I woke up, they would bring me pictures of my baby to help stimulate my milk. I’m not sure if it worked, but the encouragement was uplifting. When I finally was able to visit my son in the NICU, he still had no sucking reflex. It takes time to develop and will come naturally; you can’t “train” your child to suck. However, while waiting for him to develop the reflex, I would keep him on my breast for as many hours of the day as possible. It was comforting to both of us (skin-to-skin contact), and when his sucking reflex did develop, we were both accustomed to the positions and the closeness. I feel it really was helpful in breastfeeding successfully.
How to Know Your Baby Is Getting “Enough?”
I agree with getting guidance early. This is great advice. It is important to look at the baby and not the scale and accept variations in weight gain in healthy urinating babies. My son was born at five pounds exactly. Two weeks later, he was released from the NICU weighing five pounds exactly. It is really disconcerting to see the scale when your new baby is dropping ounces, but rest assured it is normal to a certain extent.
Is it Normal to Have Pain?
Again, I agree. Latch is generally where the pain lies. Sore nipples are not a sign of nursing too often, and should not be considered normal. Infection can also cause pain, but generally it’s much more severe. Any sort of soreness should be brought up immediately with a lactation consultant.
Pushing Through the Exhaustion
I think most of us get to this point. I would say unless you are planning on pumping in the first few weeks for a specific reason, avoid it and the “daddy feedings,” and allow your body to establish a natural supply by going with the rhythm of your baby’s needs.
Preparing for Work
Watching breastfeeding working mothers has been a humbling experience for me. The dedication put into something they feel is important for their family and baby is inspiring. I agree with Sally’s advice, and I also want to mention there may be flexibility in your job that you don’t know of unless you ask or push a little bit. You are worth it; don’t be afraid to ask. What other breastfeeding advice would you give?