Breastfeeding: it seems like it should come naturally. After all, breastfeeding is a purely biological process. Somehow, your body produces the amount of milk your child needs when they need it. Breastfeeding has been around for as long as there have been women having babies. In fact, it wasn’t until the early 20th century when women gained rights (like voting) that they began to seek options (like formula) that would allow them more freedom and flexibility in feeding their child.
Although women have been doing it for hundreds of years and your body may respond by producing milk within days of your baby being born, you may feel overwhelmed by the idea of breastfeeding. Maybe you are just not quite sure where and how to start.
First, remember there are many resources for new mothers. Even before your child is born, consider taking a breastfeeding class. Such classes are often offered through hospitals or local social service agencies.
Secondly, there are experts called lactation specialists who are specially trained in the breastfeeding process. Lactation specialists can often be found within pediatrician offices, or you may find a referral by speaking with your obstetrician and/or gynecologist.
Finally, be sure to ask if a lactation specialist will be available at the hospital or birthing center where you plan to deliver. Many times a specialist can plan a visit before you are released and head home, working with you and your newborn to help ensure success.
Now that you are aware of the resources available, here are a few additional things to keep in mind as you begin breastfeeding your newborn:
As soon after delivery as you are able, put your baby to your breast. Most babies will instinctively latch on. If not, relax, try again, and don’t forget to use your resources to help you trouble shoot.
You may be worried that you will not be able to support the nutritional needs of your child. Although most women can have success with breastfeeding, there are situations that may prevent a woman from being successful. If this is true for you, remember, it is okay, and your baby will be okay.
Before giving up on breastfeeding, remember that it may take a few days for your milk to come in. In the first few days after delivery, your baby will be nourished through colostrum, a substance created by your body. The small amount produced will be just what your baby needs.
Finally, as you get “up and running” in your new role, it’s a great time to consider using a breast pump and storing your breast milk for future use. Breast milk stores easily in the freezer and will allow you to provide optimal nourishment even while you are away.