Classes, Positions, And Pumping, Oh My!
There's so much information available about breastfeeding, but not all of it may be relevant to you. Some moms take breastfeeding classes during pregnancy — which seems great, but until you're holding your baby in your arms you won't really know what nursing is like. The same goes for pumping — some moms need to pump soon after giving birth, while others never pump, preferring to exclusively breastfeed or express breast milk by hand. Is the football hold or cradle hold "best?"
Is your head spinning yet? Mine is, and I haven't breastfed a baby in 11 years!
Breastfeeding is a learned art for you and baby
Just like giving birth is the most natural thing in the world, breastfeeding is too, but that doesn't mean it's always easy.
Lactation consultant Sara Chana, IBCLC, creator of the Breastfeeding for Boobs app, says, "I would love to say that babies should be allowed to latch onto the breast naturally, but in my experience most babies need to be taught."
From personal experience, I experienced none of those things during the births of both of my babies — I even had a home birth with one of them — yet had difficulty nursing them both. I found expert support from my postpartum doula and lactation consultants to be incredibly helpful. I wanted to give up breastfeeding about two weeks after giving birth each time, and ended up nursing each for at least one year.
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When too many "cooks" spoil the meal
I'll never forget trying to nurse my first baby in the hospital. Well-meaning nurses came in my room what seemed like every five minutes. Each gave me different advice and it got to the point where I had to say, "Everyone please just leave me alone." I needed time with my baby for us to learn how to breastfeed together — just the two of us.
Stop the clock
Think you need to nurse for a certain amount of time on each breast? Think again. This approach isn't right for every mom and baby. Lactation consultant Ann Grauer, IBCLC, RLC says, "Timing feedings has little meaning, too. What is Baby doing while at the breast? That is the key question. A baby who sucks three to four times and then sleeps at the breast for 10 minutes did not just have a feeding. Watch the baby and trust that the two of you can do this!"
Mom and baby know best
Well-meaning medical staff may give good breastfeeding advice, but it may not be right for you and your baby.
Mary Fetzer, a mom of two says, "With our first, the hospital nurses kept insisting that I wake our daughter at specific times to feed her. They also slipped her a pacifier even after I specifically told them she was not to have one. Susan was a very ambitious nurser, and I let her eat whenever she wanted. For a while, that was every two hours (day and night). I never, ever woke her (I was so grateful when she actually slept) and she thrived on her own 'schedule.'"
Grauer adds, "So often we are determined to 'feed' the baby. Let's start with a snuggle, a moment to reconnect and then let the baby tell us if it's time to eat! I find this works 99.9 percent of the time."
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Experts are great — if they're right for you
Sara Chana says, "I think it is important to find one person that you like and follow their advice — listening to too many people can be confusing. Also, you do not want the advice of a friend that may have very different breasts and nipples than you do! I do believe that it is important to have an outside person who is knowledgeable look at the shape of the baby’s mouth and guide the mom."
The baby-led approach
You likely learned a variety of breastfeeding positions, like the cradle, football or laying-down holds. There isn't necessarily a "right" way to nurse your baby. Grauer suggests moms get in a comfortable position where they can lean back as if resting on a couch. She explains, "If we get mom comfy this way, baby can rest on mom's chest in what my lactation consultant partner, Diane and I call the 'welcome home' position. Baby is laid on his/her belly in between mom's breasts. Baby's hands are up, as if ready to give a 'welcome home' hug. In this position, it's all about mom and baby saying hello to one another, enjoying one another. What happens next is up to the baby — either he/she will want to rest and sleep on mama or there will be lip smacking, head bobbing and then the magic happens — baby begins to move towards a breast! It is magical to watch your new baby do this and reminds us that it's a partnership — mom isn't responsible for all."
Bottom line? Listen to your body and your baby. If you — and your breasts — are comfortable, baby is latching and sucking well, peeing, pooping and gaining weight, you're doing things right.