“My mom breastfed 3 children without issue, so surely I will be able to breastfeed too.”
This what what I thought about breastfeeding when my first child was born. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I knew a little bit about why — mainly the cost of formula and wanting to avoid it, at that point. But what I didn’t know was actually how to breastfeed. Though I had many friends and family around me who had breastfed before, or were in the midst of it, none of them told me to take an education course on it before my baby was born. And since I figured the hospital lactation consultants would teach me, I figured I didn’t need to take a course.
In the hospital, though it seemed like things were going okay, by the time we got home on day three, it was clear my son wasn’t able to grasp the breast and nurse. We ended up using a nipple shield for six weeks and had an upper lip tie released, both of which helped save our nursing relationship, but not without first experiencing cracked, bleeding nipples and toe-curling pain.
What do I wish I’d done differently? I wish I would have taken a prenatal education course, and I wish that I would have connected with lactation professionals and a community before he was born. Now, it is my goal to educate others on why it’s important to be educated on breastfeeding before a baby arrives.
Born out of my own experience, I give you 3 reasons why you need prenatal breastfeeding education:
1. Lactation consultants in the hospital are there to get you off to a good start, not to teach you everything you need to know about breastfeeding.
Any time you receive with a lactation consultant in the hospital is short. You aren’t their only patient and, depending on how many patients are there that day, you may not get more than 10 minutes with them. Furthermore, sometimes LCs get sick or otherwise can’t come to work, and there is no one available to cover them. They are there to help you get baby latched, teach basics of getting baby latched and educating you on the first 1-3 days of breastfeeding (i.e., colostrum and hand expression, how often to feed your baby, mature milk “coming in”, and diaper output).
2. Knowing how your body makes milk and how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk will save you stress (and lots of Googling at 2am).
When you’re new to breastfeeding and everything seems to be going well, it can feel too good to be true. But if you learn how to make sure that your baby is getting enough milk from the breast, and you’re not having any pain with latch, it’s likely that you have no need to worry. Understanding these before your baby is born will save you stress, especially when your baby is crying and you can’t figure out why. Sometimes, baby just wants the boob, and that doesn’t mean anything is wrong, but sometimes it’s a more complex issue. Knowing how to distinguish when you need professional help is important to reaching your breastfeeding goals.
3. Connecting with and establishing a relationship with an IBCLC (lactation consultant) and/or a peer-to-peer breastfeeding community before your baby is born will allow you to more easily find support postpartum when you need it most.
Repeat after me: Support is CRUCIAL! We are social beings, and our journey into parenthood and breastfeeding is no different. I cannot tell you how reassuring it is to go to a support group and meet other parents in your stage of life, to realize you’re not the only one with a kid who needs you intensely, and to feel seen in your new role. Additionally, finding and connecting with an IBCLC (lactation consultant) prenately who you are comfortable with will save you time, energy and stress (and sometimes money!) if you do find yourself in need of a consultation after baby is born.
So, where do you find prenatal education and support?
- Hospitals: many offer prenatal breastfeeding courses, as do private practice IBCLCs (lactation consultants). Some can even be found online, from the comfort of your own home! Hospitals will often have support groups as well, so check those out!
- IBCLC Connections: search “lactation consultant” and your city’s name. For example, I could search “lactation consultant Kansas City” for where I live and find a listing. Some cities also have a local lactation consultant association.
- La Leche League: a peer-to-peer support group with trained Leaders who have personal breastfeeding experience. Meetings are free and many are in-person as well as virtual. Go to www.llli.org to find a group close to you.
- Online/Facebook support groups: search “breastfeeding support” and your city’s name. **One word of caution here: with the interwebs these days, everyone is an “expert”. While many people are well-meaning, not all advice is correct or helpful, and some can even be harmful. Keep this in mind, especially with large online groups.**
Looking for education and/or lactation support right now? Check out my virtual and in-person consultation services HERE and my virtual prenatal education courses HERE. Have a question about my offerings? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org! Can’t wait to hear from you!