As new moms, you likely are trying to learn as much as you can before the baby arrives. For me, with my first, breastfeeding didn’t come as easy I had hoped and I had to learn a lot in a very short amount of time to make our breastfeeding dyad work. Luckily, I met an amazing International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who helped me along the way. Today, she sharing here 10 Things Lactation Consultants wish moms knew before the baby arrives.
1. Have as healthy a pregnancy and birth as you can
Have a pre-conception visit with you midwife or obstetric care provider Many moms are surprised by a pregnancy and have no time to plan. But if you are planning on getting pregnant, please stop smoking, eat as healthy as you can, add or increase exercise, and if you know you really need to lose weight then lose some before you are pregnant with your baby. If you have any bad habits or unhealthy lifestyle choices, limit or stop for your baby’s health and well being. Learn about gut health. Increase the good bacteria in your gut and increase fiber in your diet. Some moms have a chronic health situation, but then be as well as you can be with your chronic situation. Learn how your chronic situation affects pregnancy and breastfeeding. Healthy moms have less breastfeeding challenges.
2. Be an informed consumer
Please do as much research into pregnancy care, birth plan and breastfeeding as you would do to buy a new car or your new cell phone. Your pregnancy, birth, and lactation experience can greatly be altered by those who care and support you. Take an excellent birthing class, breastfeeding class, and read good books about these topics. One excellent choice would be The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. Attend La Leche League meetings or other support group meetings while you are pregnant to learn and see breastfeeding. Do your homework and research. Being a parent is a Big Task. Be prepared.
3. Make friends with your breasts
Yes, I really meant to say that. Our culture is kind of weird about breasts, but they are more than sex objects. Their primary purpose is baby feeding, nurturing, and comfort. Look at them in the mirror. Touch them. Massage them. Learn how to do hand expression. It is a great technique to have when you need it and to learn how to touch your breasts. Have you had a biopsy, breast reduction or augmentation or other breast surgery? All of those helping you with lactation need to know if there have been alterations to your breasts. Do your breasts look “normal”? Does Lefty look like Righty? Get to know what kind of nipples you have. Are you nipples “normal? Normal nipples are stretchy which helps with breastfeeding and latching. Inverted and non stretchy nipples may present some challenges but moms breastfeed with all kinds of nipples. If you have concerns ask your IBCLC or care provider to assess you nipples and breasts for breastfeeding concerns. There should be breast changes during you pregnancy.
Honestly, just like there are some thyroids and pancreases that do not work so well, there are some breasts that do not work optimally. Some moms just struggle and just barely make enough milk. But sadly there are some breasts that even with excellent lactation management they can only make drops. Some moms have insufficient glandular tissue (IGT) which may be identifiable as a low supply risk factor prenatally. The earlier mothers who have low supply risk factors are identified the quicker interventions can be used. Serious low supply which may affect 5-10% of moms is a real issue and needs much more research.
4. Breastfeeding is a learned art.
Breastfeeding is a dance between moms and baby. Mom’s job is to make the milk. Baby’s job is to take the milk from the breast. How do two new dance partners get good at the breastfeeding dance? …..Practice. Lots of it. Just as some new dance partners intuitively dance well with each other, there are other moms and babies that need much more guidance and instruction. Many moms need and want encouragement and support for their doubts in the early days. Having at opportunity to see other breastfeeding moms nurse their babies is helpful. So make opportunities to be around breastfeeding moms. If you can, go to a La Leche league meeting and learn or see if your local hospital has a breastfeeding support group. With good information and support most moms can have a positive and great lactation experience. Breastfeeding challenges can be overcome. Many moms are doing well by 4 to 6 weeks, especially if they have great information and support.
5. Establish your support systems.
My one wish for every mom is that she has excellent information and support. Ideally, your partner and the other women in your life are informed and supportive of your mothering choices and your infant feeding choice. It is very helpful for a new mom to identify who will really support her in her journey as a new mom. Making a meal, running an errand, doing her laundry, or helping you with whatever you need is essential for all new moms. Unfortunately, there seems to always be uniformed critics who have much to say but they are detrimental to your success. Learn to turn a deaf ear to those who do not support your breastfeeding. Support yourself with positive and encouraging friends. Find your village of help and support including an IBCLC and LLL leader to accompany you in your journey.
6. More than you could ever imagine you are going to fall madly love with your baby.
Even if you have dreamed of having a baby since you are a little girl, until that baby is in your arms you will not fully see how much you can love someone in a way only moms understand. For many moms their perspective as a human changes once they are MOM. You will not understand until it happens to you. From then on just about every thought and decision is filtered through your mom brain for the rest of your life. These loving hormones that your body is creating to make you fall in love with your baby is also helping you create milk.
7. If you are returning to work take the most creative and longest maternity leave you can manage.
If I were president one of my highest priorities would be extending paid maternity leave for moms. Maternity leave in the USA is a joke. Alas, I am not going to be a 2016 presidential candidate so I urge you to gather your resources and be creative on how you can maximize you time home with your baby. Going back to work full time at 6 weeks as a pumping breastfeeding mom is very challenging. Some moms have done that and still have made to a year of breastfeeding. I applaud you for all your hard work. Returning to work at 3 or 4 months is less challenging than 6 weeks. Returning at 6 months is even more manageable. Starting part time helps many moms to ease into returning to work. Each mom has challenges to continue lactation while being a working, pumping mom. Many moms have done this but it takes effort and commitment. Kudos to all moms who celebrate a baby’s 1st birthday as a working pumping mom.
8. Set a breastfeeding goal
Goal setting is a useful tool. When someone sets a goal to lose weight and is specific, then that person is more likely to approach that goal. Think about what you want for your breastfeeding goal. Some may decide they are going to try breastfeeding as they are very unsure about it. Others may decide a few weeks, a few months, a year or beyond. Now your breastfeeding goal may change but having a goal may help you though the bumps and challenges. Your goal should be your goal not your partner’s, friend’s or anyone else’s goal for your lactation.
9. Becoming a mom will change you.
I have been a mom for 40 years. I have been a grandmom for 14 years. I am a very different person for the better than I was before I was a mom. Honestly I can say being a mom has made me more patient, gentler, and more giving than I could have ever imagined 40 years ago. Becoming a mom makes you grow as a person. By definition a mom is less selfish and more concerned about her children than herself. You will grow and change as a human by becoming a MOM.
10. Breastfeeding is free but breast pumps, lactation consultant services, and accessories are not.
Yes, it is true that normal breasts with good lactation management can make plenty of free milk for your baby (babies). However, an excellent breastfeeding class, a lactation consultant home visit and support, breastfeeding aids and an excellent breast pump are not free. So moms may need to invest money in support of their lactation. That is certainly not as much money as if you did not breastfeed. The Affordable Care Act has mandated certain lactation support so some of your breastfeeding needs may be covered by your health insurance. Just be aware not all lactation consultants who do home visits may opt to deal with the insurance paperwork. So be prepared to invest in your lactation success. It will be worth it!
This was a guest post written by Judy Schneider. Judy lives in Pittsgrove, NJ, with John, her husband of 46 years. They enjoy their large family which includes 4 daughters and 10 grandchildren. Judy has been a La Leche League Leader for 39 years and an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) for 30 years. In addition to her commitment to supporting breastfeeding moms, Judy enjoys scuba diving, kayaking , snorkeling and sail boating.