Free Special Handout
Top 10 Mistakes That Make Breastfeeding Hard
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This handout will inform you of the 10 most common mistakes made when it comes to getting breastfeeding off to a good start. My hope is the information and suggestions in this handout will help you create the best possible environment for a happy healthy breastfeeding experience.
Not planning ahead: While breastfeeding is a totally natural process many pregnant moms 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? Because 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. Getting 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 when breastfeeding, 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 parenting! 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: You will hear me say this more than once. Hospitals are for sick people. Hospitals look at each person coming into their facility as a patient. Pregnant moms are not sick nor are they patients. Knowing this fact, when you go into the hospital to have your baby, it’s very important to educate yourself on interventions that can have an effect on getting breastfeeding started 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 someone 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 though, 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!
Thinking that breastfeeding is supposed to hurt and nipple pain is a normal part of breastfeeding: In our society where breastfeeding has many myths and misconceptions it’s easy to think that breastfeeding is supposed to be painful. Again we go back to #1 and #2 getting yourself prepared and not listening to all those stories. Breastfeeding and nipple pain is not supposed to hurt. If you are having pain getting help to fix the issue as soon as possible will help you and your baby get back on track. Many times nipple pain means the baby is not positioned or latched on well and it takes just a little adjusting to get everything to feel better. Occasionally there maybe something more than a latching problem going on, getting experienced IBCLC Lactation Consultant will help you so much. This leads me to Mistake #7.
Not getting help early enough: Think back 60 years ago when breastfeeding was normal, when there was not really any other option than to breastfeed, when that was just what we women did. We had all kinds of support from the women around us. Now days it’s just not like that and we have to create our own community of support. If you are having breastfeeding issues getting help early on is always better than waiting. When breastfeeding issues go on longer it makes it more difficult to adjust things. Not to say issues can’t be fixed but it does take more effort on both mom and baby’s part to make things work. I like to encourage moms to get to know a good Lactation Consultant (Look for the IBCLC letters behind the LC’s name) while they’re pregnant, then if problems do arise they have the LC’s number and already feel comfortable calling on her for support. So remember the earlier you get help the better and easier it is to get back to happy breastfeeding!
Doing too much and not putting yourself on baby time: When your little bundle of joy comes into your life it will take some time to get into a new normal. I say a new normal because now you have a new human being that is running strictly on natural instincts. Your little one has not been conditioned to live in this world yet (which I think is a pretty good thing!) and is on their own time. Baby time means that in the next weeks and months while your baby gets acclimated to this new world he/she will be awake and hungry on their own body clock. I’m encouraging you to get on board with your baby’s timing right from the beginning because this allows you and your baby to really get to know each other, it allows your baby a more gentle way to into your family dynamic, and it helps establish breastfeeding and your milk supply! This happens because there is no set feeding schedule to follow; feeding your baby on your baby’s timing always makes nursing go much easier.
I would encourage you to delegate anything you feel needs to get done for the next few weeks. You just went through a huge change in your body and you need to rest and recover. Help yourself and your partner by creating extra support around you. It doesn’t have to be forever and trust me when you receive the help you will feel so grateful. Plus you’ll appreciate it so much that you will want to pay it forward to another new mom needing support!
When friends and family come to visit they want to help, but are unsure of what to do. Have a handy list of things to do posted on the counter or fridge and let them know it would be so wonderful if they can bring you meals, if you get more than you can eat be sure to freeze them for those times it’s just too hard to make dinner. List things like please help us do the dishes, fold the laundry, pick up the living room, pick up some eggs and bread at the store. This gives them specific things to do for you so that you can continue to get to know your baby and get lots of practice breastfeeding. If they offer to hold your baby make it a time that counts, meaning if you need a shower or a nap that is a perfect time for your little one to get some one on one time with other people. Do make sure to tell them what the beginning signs of your baby’s hunger cues look like and ask them to come get you to nurse the baby. It’s always best to catch those early hunger cues before your baby cries (which is the LAST hunger cue a baby will show).
Choosing a doctor that is not breastfeeding friendly: Generally speaking, doctors do not have very many hours of lactation training. I do think this is changing very slowly, there are more and more doctors recognizing the huge benefits of breastfeeding to baby and are seeking out more training. Some doctors are even sitting for the board exam to become a Lactation Consultant which is so great! I would like to encourage you to interview the doctor you’re thinking will be your pediatrician and see how breastfeeding friendly they are. If you can find a doctor with the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) credentials behind their name that would be fabulous! This credential means the doctor has studied how lactating breasts work, what issues can happen with breastfeeding and the appropriate steps to take to remedy the situation, it also means they are up-to-date with the latest breastfeeding research and have at least 1000 clinical hours with helping breastfeeding mothers. If your doctor does not have these credentials it’s ok, they can still be knowledgeable and pro-breastfeeding, you may just need to ask a few questions to find out where your doctor stands. Here are a few interview questions to get you started:
- What kind of Lactation training do you and your staff have?
- Do you have a Lactation Consultant on staff if I have breastfeeding issues?
- What kind of solutions do you recommend for breastfeeding issues like nipple pain, slow weight gain, and jaundice? (If the doctor throws out a quick answer like “well we would suggest formula for a period of time until the issue resolves itself” this is not pro-breastfeeding or helpful in helping to maintain the breastfeeding relationship. There are many suggestions that can be made to help these situations without ever needing to introduce formula or a bottle).
- When do you suggest I start solid foods with my baby? (The AAP and WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding until around 6 months when your baby shows signs of readiness to take in solid foods. It used to be recommended that babies start solids at 4 months and many doctors would also recommend rice cereal in a bottle to help with sleeping through the night. Both are not helpful and are myths and can lower your milk supply).
Finding a breastfeeding friendly doctor before you have your baby will help safeguard your breastfeeding efforts and keep your baby healthy.
Isolating yourself: Remember when I was talking about how we used to have all kinds of help from the community around us. We had moms, aunts, grandmas, cousins, and all our women friends that had breastfed their own babies and had all this experience to support a new mom. I also talked about how we don’t have this as much anymore and how we need to create this kind of help for ourselves. This rings true with helping yourself feel supported emotionally and getting yourself out and surrounding yourself with other moms. It’s all too common for moms to be isolated at home with their baby doing all this beautiful mothering and not have anyone to share their joys, frustrations, and questions with someone who can relate to what they’re going through. I would suggest seeking out mother groups in your area that are supportive of breastfeeding. Mommy and baby classes, monthly breastfeeding support groups like La Leche League, mommy and baby yoga classes. Anything to get you out and around other mom’s going through the same things you are so you can fill your emotional cup and feel supported!
I hope you got a lot out of this handout! If you need any help with breastfeeding, or 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! Don’t worry about where you live; I do consultations with moms all over the country! Consults with me can be done through Skype, over the phone, or in person if you live near Naperville, IL and surrounding suburbs. Visit https://makanabreastfeeding.com/ for more information about my services.
Melissa Preitauer, IBCLC
Melissa Preitauer, IBCLC
This report has been written for your educational use only. The information and opinions expressed in this report is not meant to substitute sound medical advice. If you or your baby is experiencing a medical problem with breastfeeding or any other medical issue please seek professional help. For breastfeeding issues an in-person evaluation from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is highly suggested.