What I Want You To KNOW About Breastfeeding
By: Ali Kulenkamp, Breastfeeding USA Counselor
You already know the drill—breastfeeding is good, and it’s healthy for both you and your baby. One more person saying “breast is best!” is NOT what new parents need to hear. Because what comes next? Yes, breastfeeding is the biological norm, but that doesn't mean it comes easily or automatically to all mothers. For the best chance of meeting your own breastfeeding goals, reach out for support early on and learn how to avoid the Booby Traps.
Perhaps the most important thing to know about breastfeeding is that it’s completely normal to reach out for help and support while you’re getting the hang of nursing your baby. You are a strong mother for asking for help! Call, text, email, send a smoke signal—get help early, before those little questions become bigger ones, weighing heavily on your mind and causing you stress and anxiety. Mother-to-mother support groups are proven to help new moms achieve their goals—mothers even attend breastfeeding support groups while they’re pregnant so they can see other mothers nursing their babies and ask questions. If you don’t make it to a meeting before your baby is born, it’s okay to bring your tiny newborn with you, even if you just want to get out of the house for a little while. (And you have my blessing to show up 20 minutes late in yoga pants and unshowered in your new-mom bliss—we've all been there!) If you’re worried about germs, consider wearing your baby in a sling or wrap since most people are less likely to touch a baby in a carrier.
You may have been told, “Breastfeeding is natural! You’ll just fall into it with your baby as your instincts kick in!” This is one of those white lies, where yes, breastfeeding is natural- but it doesn't come naturally to every mother. In fact, breastfeeding problems are really common! There are a wealth of people in your local community who are there to support breastfeeding mothers—Breastfeeding USA Counselors, IBCLCs, WIC peer counselors, LLL Leaders, doctors, midwives, doulas, nurses... There wouldn't be much of a need for support if everyone was successful with breastfeeding right off the bat! You might even be surprised that even in the most complicated breastfeeding problem that may arise, there is almost always a breastfeeding-friendly solution available. Turning to a support person who is well-educated about breastfeeding and uses an evidence-based approach is something so important that I can’t stress it enough! If the person helping you is outwardly supporting your breastfeeding goals and actively seeking up-to-date resources for complex problems, you’re probably in the right place. If you’re being told that you may not breastfeed while taking a particular medication or after an X-ray, get a second opinion from your local mother-to-mother support group or breastfeeding friendly doctor. Don’t know how to find a breastfeeding-friendly care provider in your area? Seek out moms groups online and in person while you are pregnant!.
Research shows that most mothers start out breastfeeding or at least intend to.
What I want you to know is this: most mothers are weaning their babies, or stop breastfeeding, much earlier then intended. These Booby Traps™ are where mothers are being sabotaged unfairly by the cultural biases and lack of evidence-based care in our healthcare system. When your trusted OB GYN knows you want to breastfeed, but hands you a “gift” bag full of coupons and bottles, especially for the infant formula their pharmaceutical rep recommends, you’re being Booby Trapped! When you have a sinus infection and your doctor says you absolutely cannot breastfeed while taking the medication you’ve been prescribed, you’re being Booby Trapped*! When your mother-in-law absolutely insists that you may not feed your baby during the family dinner she’s hosting, you’re being Booby Trapped (and that’s just rude!) These hurdles are contributing to early weaning and lack of confidence in breastfeeding moms.Get help when you need it, and if something is getting in the way of your goals, ask for the supporting evidence!
Get help when you need it, and if something is getting in the way of your goals, ask for the supporting evidence!
Read up on the most common Booby Traps so you can either avoid them entirely or know how to handle yourself when faced with something that feels wrong.
I want you to know that there are people rooting for your success who will do whatever it takes to help you meet your personal breastfeeding goals— whether that’s breastfeeding for three days, three weeks, three months or three years.
*most medications are compatible with breastfeeding, and there is free help on medications and research at infantrisk.org.
“What are the Booby Traps?” Best for Babes Foundation. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from http://www.bestforbabes.org/what-are-the-booby-traps
Rebecca N. Ruhlen, IBCLC, Breastfeeding USA Counselor: personal communication