Pregnancy

Breastfeeding Success Starts Long Before The Baby Is Born

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a new report out saying that hospitals can and should do much more to help women succeed at breastfeeding. It’s kind of funny to read that if you’ve given birth in recent years. Heaven help the poor woman who can’t and won’t breastfeed her child. Nurse after nurse after lactation consultant after doctor comes in and “encourages” breastfeeding at all hours of the day.

The report encouraged hospitals to help women nurse within an hour after the birth of the baby, keep the baby in the same room as the mum 24 hours a day and not giving formula. A better breastfeeding policy, we’re told, will ensure more women meet the recommendation of 6 months of exclusive nursing and 6 months supplemented with other food.

But my own view is that breastfeeding success begins long before you step foot in that hospital. I wasn’t blessed with children until I was a bit older. So I had tons of friends who had kids before me. And while every birth story was different — from easy natural birth to near-depth experience in labor — the one thing I picked up from almost everyone was that breastfeeding was much more difficult to do than you might expect.

So when I first got pregnant and was busy with two jobs and a new marriage, I didn’t have time to take a hospital tour or do breathing or delivery classes. But I made sure I invested in the time necessary to train how to breastfeed.

There’s a wonderful Breastfeeding Center in Washington, D.C. that offers a wide array of classes for pregnant moms to moms of multiples and toddlers. I marched down to that class and took copious notes and learned all about the various problems that might arise in the first hours and days and weeks after birth. They taught me how to get my mind around the best ways to get my baby to latch. And when I was weak and exhausted after a day of labor followed by a C-section, those were the things that kept in my mind. For instance, they taught me how to press my breast flat to match up with the baby’s mouth, as if she were eating a sandwich. They taught me how to position the baby to feed. And they prepared me for a hospital that might try to take the baby away from me or otherwise get in the way of my breastfeeding plans.

Yes, hospitals having better policies would be great. But if I could give any advice to a woman who hopes to breastfeed her child, it’s to focus on that issue much more than she anticipates she’ll need to. It totally pays off. And whether you get a Nurse Ratched or a saintly advocate of breastfeeding, a hospital that pressures you to nurse or one that takes your baby and feeds him formula, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding with the wonderful gift of breastfeeding.

And no matter what, Happy Breastfeeding Week to all the lactaters out there!