That said, study after study has shown us that having support for breastfeeding is crucial to success. It's not simply the desire to breastfeed. So what can you do, before your baby is born as well as after, to stack the cards in your favor? The answer is that there are a lot of things that can help you prepare. Here are some suggestions:
- Find Other Mothers
Talking to other mothers is so important. It is a way to hear lots of stories, both positive and negative. To hear what people did to figure out how to meet their own personal breastfeeding goals. To see what road blocks they faced and how they faced them. It's a way to identify people you can call with little questions, everything from where did you get your nursing bra to figuring out where and when to get extra help.
- Take a Class
A good breastfeeding class is one way to meet people who are due near you and who intend to breastfeed. This is one place to meet those other mothers. In addition, you can get a feel for how the institution sponsoring the class feels about breastfeeding. This is particularly helpful if this is your pediatrician or your hospital, as they will hopefully be long term supporters of your breastfeeding goals. You will also get some basic information about what breastfeeding does, how it does it and what you need to do to enjoy it.
- Read a Book
A good breastfeeding book is also a must. This is some place to see photos and read stories of breastfeeding, which is particularly important if you've never seen breastfeeding up close and personal. But it's also a great way to get quick answers to simple questions, particularly at 3 a.m. This is a notoriously bad time of day for new mothers on nearly all fronts and yet this is also when they are the most hesitant to reach out.
- Choose a Supportive Pediatrician
The choice of a pediatrician is so important. You need someone who doesn't merely give lip service to breastfeeding but will actually help you address any difficulties you have, rather than mask them or make them worse. Hopefully you will find a pediatrician who has a good working relationship with a lactation consultant. Working together, these professionals can help you and your baby have the best outcomes.
- Find a Group
A group is a great way to find support for so many things. It's another way to meet mothers, it's typically got a leader who has some training in breastfeeding to help you with minor issues and to help you know if you need additional help from a professional. It's also just fun to hang out around other moms. Many groups also have educational meetings to help you learn about lots of aspects of parenting.
- Prepare the Place of Birth
A study showed that of mothers who intended to breastfeed at least three months, only a third of them did. The most significant thing that they found in preventing this early weaning (based on mom's original goals) was to prevent unnecessary formula supplementation in the hospital. This is very important. Supplementing for healthy, breastfed babies happens about 78% of the time. Choosing a hospital that is baby friendly can go a long way in helping you meet your breastfeeding goals.
- Prepare the Family
Having a family that is supportive of breastfeeding is also important. Talking to your partner about what breastfeeding means for you and the baby, answering questions and helping them find their own support system, that is all important. Not sure where to look? Ask the other moms in your groups!
- Maternity Leave and Working
Take the most maternity leave that you can afford to take. This allows breastfeeding to get off to a great start. It allows you to heal from your pregnancy and birth and get to know your baby. You can also find your breastfeeding rhythm. Once you return to work you will want to be able to walk in to a situation where you can fully meet your breastfeeding goals fully supported. Talking to your employer during pregnancy, figuring out what is available and what you will need when you come back can take awhile. You should talk to the HR department, but also other mothers who may have already walked this path or mothers who will be breastfeeding at about the same time.
Perrine, Cria G., Scanlon, Kelley S., Li, Ruowei, Odom, Erika, & Grummer-Strawn, Laurence M. (2012). Baby-Friendly Hospital Practices and Meeting Exclusive Breastfeeding Intention. Pediatrics. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-3633