By Katie Zampini
Natural, nurturing, nutritious…and not always easy. Breastfeeding is one of the most discussed topics in the field of nutrition. The research is abundantly clear: breastfeeding offers the most natural and complete nutrition for babies while providing bonding and other innumerable benefits to both mothers and babies. Of course, every mother wants to give the very best start to her children, and many mothers desire a successful breastfeeding relationship. However, to assume that something as natural as breastfeeding is, therefore, intuitive and easy is a mistake. Successful breastfeeding depends on upon many factors, and great breastfeeding education and support are essential.
Preparing for Breastfeeding Success
There are some steps that can be taken by moms-to-be to facilitate breastfeeding success:
–Take a class and do some reading. Breastfeeding is natural, but it is also learned. Before your baby arrives, take the time to learn about breastfeeding from a qualified teacher and do some reading. See the list of recommended reading featured in this article.
–Build a relationship with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) before baby’s arrival. The importance of this cannot be overstated! Establishing a relationship with an IBCLC is as important as choosing your child’s pediatrician in advance. An IBCLC will partner with you in establishing a thriving breastfeeding relationship and will be the most knowledgeable source of information for you in those critical first weeks of breastfeeding.
–Join a community of breastfeeding moms, in person or online. Historically, breastfeeding has always been taught from one mom to another, and from one generation to the next. Joining a community of women who share breastfeeding knowledge is an important key to success. La Leche League has a chapter in Starkville/Columbus through which breastfeeding moms can field questions and receive support and encouragement along their breastfeeding journey.
–Be aware of possible breastfeeding pitfalls. There are certain things an inexperienced breastfeeding mother may not know to look for which can truly threaten breastfeeding success in the beginning. For example, lip ties and tongue ties are relatively common (although only recently garnering adequate attention), and if not caught early enough they can negatively affect a mother’s milk supply. This is another great reason to build a relationship with an IBCLC before the birth of your child; she can help you identify problems such as this promptly before your milk supply can be negatively affected.
–Be your own advocate. Breastfeeding will likely present some questions and problems in the early days. At the end of the day, it’s important for a mom to feel like she took ownership of the breastfeeding journey and pursued it in the way she felt was right. Get the answers and support that you need.
If Breastfeeding Doesn’t Go as Planned
If commitment and desire, (not to mention selflessness and support), were all that is required for breastfeeding success, there wouldn’t be countless mothers who experience the grief and disappointment of breastfeeding failure. Yes, breastfeeding success depends largely on a mother receiving good breastfeeding education and ongoing support, but it is also dependent upon her having a capable body as well as her ability to avoid, identify, and solve any pitfalls in a very timely manner.
For moms who have struggled with true low milk supply (called primary lactation failure), studies are frustratingly only beginning to show that low milk supply is indeed a physiological reality for some moms and can be unrelated to breastfeeding management. Furthermore, the often intertwined causes of low milk supply, often involving complex hormonal imbalances, can be extremely difficult to dissect with the information that is currently available to doctors. This leaves some mothers feeling the pain of disappointment without concrete answers or solutions.
Should a mother who desired to exclusively breastfeed find herself in the position of being unable to do so, she may fight feelings of inadequacy, guilt, and failure (not exactly what a new mother needs!). These feelings can be exacerbated by the overwhelmingly blanketed principle that breastfeeding success depends entirely upon good management (i.e. “If you feed on demand, your body will produce enough milk.”) While this is largely true for most mothers, it is not true for all mothers. For mothers struggling with this disappointment, www.mobimotherhood.org is a wonderful resource.
It is of utmost importance to remember that the number one rule of breastfeeding is to “Feed the baby!” The medical community, while rightly supportive of mothers’ efforts to exclusively breastfeed, is beginning to draw more attention to the extremely serious results of insufficient nutrition in the earliest days of a child’s life. The amazing benefits of breastfeeding should not supersede the critical importance of making sure a baby is fed sufficiently if the supply of breast milk is not adequately meeting a baby’s needs. See www.fedisbest.org for more information and to be encouraged if breastfeeding is not going as planned. Always consult your child’s pediatrician if you are concerned that your newborn is receiving insufficient milk.
From Mother to Mother
To the mother who is disappointed in the way her breastfeeding journey has gone or is currently going, take heart. As wonderful as breastfeeding can be, it is only one small chapter in the life of your child. As a mother, you will have many opportunities everyday to nurture your child, both nutritionally and in other significant ways. Of course, you want this chapter to be successful too; just remember that you can only do the best you can do. Be willing to redefine success when it comes to breastfeeding.
To all mothers who have breastfed, it’s important to remember that the only breastfeeding journey you’ve been on is your own. For every mother who has had a beautiful experience, there is a mother who has truly tried, struggled, and perhaps been disappointed. Likewise, there are countless mothers who enjoy feelings of accomplishment and joy in having successful breastfeeding journeys.
Nourishing the Breastfeeding Mother
Enjoy a nourishing smoothie that encourages milk supply.
Blend the following until smooth:
-1/3 cup rolled oats
-2 tbs ground flax seed
-1 cup loosely packed spinach
-1/2 cup frozen berries of choice
-1 cup almond milk
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, by La Leche League International
Making More Milk, by Diana West and Lisa Marasco
La Leche League (locally): www.lllalmsla.org, and on Facebook