Here are some very common mistakes made when it comes to getting breastfeeding off to a good start. It’s helpful to understand why moms have such a difficult time and learn alternative options, so that you can create the best possible environment for happy healthy breastfeeding!
Not planning ahead: While breastfeeding is a totally natural process many pregnant women make the mistake of thinking they don’t need to do any planning ahead for breastfeeding. Planning ahead means reading books on labor, birth, and breastfeeding, taking a breastfeeding class, going to breastfeeding support groups, and hiring a Lactation Consultant to help support and answer all your questions, ideally a Lactation Consultant that is there for you from the 3rd trimester all the way through the first few months.
Why do I say it would be beneficial for you to get support and information before you have your baby? Studies show most moms start out breastfeeding, but after a couple of months they wean. The AAP recommends “exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby” http://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/AAP-Reaffirms-Breastfeeding-Guidelines.aspx . The WHO says “Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.” http://www.who.int/topics/breastfeeding/en/.
The main reason these studies state most moms wean, was because of lack of support and information. Receiving ongoing support, especially during those critical first few months and accurate information is the key to successful breastfeeding!
Listening to everyone’s horror stories: As soon you tell people your pregnant, it can seem like everyone has advice or a story to tell. Some are great, most are not. When it comes to breastfeeding experiences many moms will share their horror stories about how hard breastfeeding was for them.
I want to help put all this into perspective for you. If you look at the majority of moms making mistake #1, then it’s pretty clear to see why breastfeeding didn’t go so well for them. If there was lack of support, no planning ahead on learning how to position and latch a baby onto the breast, no knowledge on what to do when you run into breastfeeding issues, chances are there will be a rough breastfeeding story to follow. BUT you don’t have to go through that. I have been helping moms for many years and I can tell you I’ve met plenty of moms who have great breastfeeding experiences. I myself have had two very successful breastfed babies of my own.
I’m not saying these moms never had difficulties or questions. There are so many stages and changes with breastfeeding from a newborn baby with absolutely no head or body control, to a 3 month old that discovered the world around her and gets distracted while nursing, to figuring out how to start solids, to starting back to work. There are many different challenges that come up in breastfeeding, but they don’t need to be horrific experiences.
There are also many challenges that come up with just being a parent! Figuring out what kind of parent you’re going to be, your discipline style, family sleeping arrangements, if you are going to send you child to pre-school, where are you going to send your child to pre-school, what you’re going to let them watch on TV., what you’re going to let them play on the computer. The choices and challenges of a parent are always going to be there. At least with breastfeeding you get to sit down, bond with your beautiful baby, and bask in the knowledge that you’re providing the best nutrition your baby can get! So my suggestion on how to handle other peoples stories: learn from those horrible breastfeeding stories on what you can do differently, but don’t take them to heart, as your own breastfeeding experience is going to be completely different!
Not learning about interventions during labor and birth in the hospital and how they can affect breastfeeding: Hospitals are for sick people. Hospitals look at each person coming into their facility as a patient. Most pregnant moms are not sick patients. Knowing this fact, it’s very important to educate yourself about possible interventions that can have an effect on getting breastfeeding off to a good start. One example of an intervention that can have an effect on breastfeeding, is too much I.V. fluids. The extra fluids (generally not necessary for a healthy pregnant mom) given to a mom during labor, likely for an epidural, does not release from the body very quickly. Think water retention. All this extra fluid has to go somewhere which means mom gets very swollen and puffy as the fluids go throughout her entire body, including her breast tissue.
When mom tries to latch her baby onto her breast she’s so swollen that her baby can’t latch on to the nipple. Because all the fluid putting pressure on the milk ducts her milk letting down also gets held back. There are ways to help a mom manage this issue, but if I.V. fluids are not necessary in the first place, why put a mom through this frustration? This is why it is so important to understand what types of interventions can be offered to you in the hospital and inform yourself to know if a hospital procedure (intervention) is right for you and your baby at the time. I go in-depth on this topic in my EBook and I encourage all pregnant moms to read this very important information!
Not listening to your gut: There are many times in our life when we get a gut feeling that something is off or just doesn’t “feel” right. When you have your small baby in your arms and a trusted doctor, friend, or family member tells you something that you “should” be doing with your baby, the pressure to listen and take the advice is strong, even if we get that gut feeling that tells us something’s off. No one knows your baby better than you and your partner! Always remember that! It doesn’t matter if you are a first time parent or not. You are the one spending 24/7 with your baby and you are her mom, which means that your mothering intuition is strong and always right! Listen to it! If you get that twinge, a weird feeling in your stomach, hearing the word “STOP”, don’t hesitate to listen to it and get a second opinion. It can’t hurt and most of the time it helps you get more information and you’ll be able to make a more informed decision that works best for you and your new family. Also, keep in mind that many doctors do not have a lot of lactation training so seeking out an IBCLC with lots of training and experience with breastfeeding will help you immensely.
Hospital interfering with the initiation of breastfeeding: Many hospitals are catching on to the importance of keeping mom and baby together as much as possible after birth to help with the initiation of breastfeeding. The hospitals that have caught onto this concept are the ones who have gone through the 10 steps to be certified as a “Baby Friendly Hospital”. These hospitals have policies in place like 24 hour rooming in with your baby, no formula given unless absolutely medically necessary, and no pacifiers to name a few. These policies help breastfeeding all around! There are, many hospitals that have not taken the steps and are practicing older hospital policies, not necessarily based on evidence. The absolute best practices to get breastfeeding off to a great start are to:
- Bring baby to your bare chest directly after birth.
- Delay the cutting of the umbilical cord until it stops pulsating (this gives baby time to adjust outside of the womb and get many beneficial nutrients including iron from the blood in the cord).
- Have your baby on your chest skin to skin (covered with a blanket) as much as possible.
- Have any procedures that need to be done to your baby delayed or have the staff perform them while baby is on your chest.
- Have your baby breastfeed as soon after birth as possible within the first hour after birth!! This is the time when your baby is most alert and the instincts to nurse are the highest!
Having these requests in your birth plan will help the hospital staff understand your needs and wants, help breastfeeding get off to a good start, and will also educate the hospital on good practices that help moms and babies breastfeed easier!
I hope this helps you avoid these common mistakes. Check out my next blog post with “5 More Mistakes That Make Breastfeeding Hard”.
If you need any help with breastfeeding and would like to create amazing breastfeeding support, to give you peace of mind and happy breastfeeding, don’t hesitate to call or email me today! I would be honored to be a part of your breastfeeding support team!