Everyone talks about all the things you'll need to successfully breastfeed: pillows, covers, tops, pads, bras, pumps... but the one thing that seems to be consistently missing from the list of "Must Haves" is support. Without support, many women fail to make their breastfeeding goals.
An excited, eager new mum can quickly be discouraged if she faces hurdle after hurdle alone, and sees disapproving looks every place she turns. But a mum who wasn't sure if breastfeeding was really for her could go on to nurse for months or even a year or more successfully if she is just given the proper support and encouragement.
That support should start at home before the baby is even born. She should have the loving support and encouragement from her family and her partner/spouse to know and trust that she is making the best decision for her and her baby. It is essential that that support continues after the baby arrives, and the true hard work of breastfeeding begins. So many mums give up because they don't expect the baby to need to feed so often, and think that they aren't doing it right, or aren't giving their baby enough. That's the magic of breastfeeding though. Your body will make the right amount, and the right "formula" for your baby at that exact point in their development.
It is this exact perfect formula that makes it possible for the baby's system to process it so easily and quickly, and combined with the extremely small size of a new baby's stomach mean that your baby will be feeding frequently, and waking for feedings during the night for several months. Having a supportive partner during those early, sleep-deprived months can be a real life saver.
There are other sources for support available out there. One of the biggest and possibly most well known is the La Leche League. From their website: "Our Mission is to help mothers worldwide to breastfeed through mother-to-mother support, encouragement, information, and education, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding as an important element in the healthy development of the baby and mother."
There are also resources in the hospital. I know not all women have their babies at a hospital, and I fully support home birth (that was my dream before an emergency C-section risked me out of ever birthing at home.) But even if you didn't give birth at the hospital, you can still take advantage of the lactation consultants. This service is provided free of charge (where I am anyway), and they have a scale to weigh the baby before and after a feeding to see just how much your little one is getting at a feeding. Not all LCs are created equal though. Listen to your mother's wisdom. If you are uncomfortable with the suggestions she is providing, or just with her in general, get a second opinion. I've had my fair share of LCs who were just awful. Discouraging, and suggesting I just give up and switch to a bottle. I chose to get a second opinion, and found a supportive and informed LC who was able to suggest supplements and foods to help boost production, and I'm happy to say we are still successfully nursing 19 months later.
I'm very fortunate that the midwife that I use for my primary whole woman health and prenatal care has created a learning centre complete with natural parenting, breastfeeding, baby wearing, and cloth diapering classes. These are not just classes, but support groups. There is mom to mom support and sharing, as well as guidance from a trained professional to help with situations where other mums may not have experience.
There is a wealth of information online just a few clicks away. Almost every baby related site has a breastfeeding support group, but I would caution you about online support groups. Anyone can say they are an expert, and there is no real way to check their credentials. Also, you could be lead astray by bad advice from someone who doesn't fully understand your situation.
There is support out there. You are not in this alone. If you are struggling, don't give up. Reach out. Start with your midwife or doctor. If they can't help you, contact the maternity center at your local hospital, contact a local mums group, call a friend, call your mum or grandma. Just don't give up. This is a battle worth fighting. Your baby and body will thank you.
If you would like more information on other support sources, check out these blogs:
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