Let’s be honest: Breastfeeding can be a challenge. It doesn’t always come naturally and can involve a bit of trial and error. The good news is that with the right support, most women are able to successfully breastfeed their babies.
Unfortunately, only about one-third of new mothers initiate breastfeeding. Even fewer of those women are able to continue for the first six months after giving birth as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This has led to an increase in demand for lactation support services (also called Lactation Counseling, Lactation Consulting, or Lactation Therapy). If you’re an expectant mom, this guide will teach you everything you need to know about breastfeeding before your baby arrives.
What is Lactation Support?
Lactation support is a range of services that help new mothers to establish breastfeeding. You can expect a lactation consultant to ask you about your breastfeeding experience, do a physical assessment of your breasts, and help you troubleshoot any problems you’re having with breastfeeding. Lactation support is not to be confused with breastfeeding therapy, which is a treatment for breastfeeding difficulties. Lactation support can include one-on-one counseling, group education, telephone support, and one-time or periodic hospital visits. The primary goal of all these services is to help you breastfeed your baby successfully.
Who Can Benefit from Lactation Support?
Most women who are trying to establish breastfeeding can benefit from the assistance of a lactation consultant. The more you know about breastfeeding before your baby is born, the more likely you will be to succeed! Women who can benefit from lactation support include:
Newborns whose mothers have experienced a preterm birth or have had their labor induced
Mothers with low milk supply
Mothers whose babies were born prematurely or with low birth weights
Mothers who have had breast or nipple surgery
Mothers who have had breastfeeding difficulties in a previous pregnancy
New mothers who are grieving or suffering from postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis
Types of Lactation Support
Expectant mothers can receive lactation support in a variety of ways, including:
One-on-one counseling – In individual breastfeeding counseling, you will discuss your breastfeeding experience, your expectations for breastfeeding, and any difficulties you or your baby may be having with breastfeeding.
Group education – You can also attend a breastfeeding class that’s usually offered in your hospital or at a local breastfeeding support group.
Telephone support – Individual breastfeeding counselors may be available to provide you with breastfeeding advice 24/7 by telephone.
In-hospital visits – Your lactation consultant may visit you in the hospital to help you get started with breastfeeding, assess your baby’s breastfeeding ability, and suggest ways to prevent common breastfeeding problems such as sore nipples. Your hospital may provide lactation support as part of its standard prenatal services.
Where to Find Lactation Support
If you’re pregnant and have not yet begun breastfeeding, make an appointment with a lactation consultant. If you’re not sure where to go, you can ask your healthcare provider for a referral. If you’re breastfeeding, you can visit your local breastfeeding support group.
Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has many benefits for both babies and mothers. It’s important to understand these benefits so you can feel confident about your decision to breastfeed. Breastfeeding can help lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Breastfeeding can also lower your risk of postpartum depression, ovarian and breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Breastfeeding can also help you lose weight faster, help you heal faster after giving birth, and save you money.
Breastfeeding is free and is much less expensive than formula feeding. Keeping these benefits in mind can help you stay motivated during the challenges of breastfeeding. Here are a few tips for successful breastfeeding:
Find a quiet place to breastfeed – Try to find a quiet, distraction-free place to nurse your baby. This can help you avoid unwanted interruptions and help you relax.
Practice positioning – Latching on can be tricky for both you and your baby. Try different positions (laid-back, football, cross-cradle, etc.) until you find one that works for you and your baby.
Seek help if you’re struggling – If you’re having trouble breastfeeding, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your healthcare provider and a lactation consultant can all give you advice on how to improve your breastfeeding technique.
Keep a breastfeeding journal – You can track your baby’s feedings and growth in a breastfeeding journal. This can help you identify any breastfeeding challenges you may be having and can serve as a resource for breastfeeding advice in the future.
Pump during times of separation – If you are going to be separated from your baby, it’s a good idea to pump your breast milk so you can feed your baby breast milk while you are apart.
Don’t give up! – Breastfeeding can be challenging at first, but it gets easier with time. If you feel like you’re struggling, don’t give up. Keep trying. You will get there.
Breastfeeding is the gold standard for infant nutrition, and it can provide many benefits to mothers as well. If you’re pregnant, it’s important to get educated on breastfeeding as soon as possible. You may benefit from one-on-one counseling, group education, telephone support, or one-time or periodic hospital visits. Remember that breastfeeding is a skill that takes practice, so keep at it!
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