The American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommends breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for one year or for as long as is mutually desired by the mother and baby. According to the Center for Disease Control’s 2011 Breastfeeding Report Card, 74.6 percent of U.S. mothers begin breastfeeding at birth. However, more than half of those moms stop before six months and only 23.8 percent continue breastfeeding until baby’s first birthday. A variety of factors can contribute to moms not reaching their breastfeeding goals, including discomfort, lack of support, scheduling or work-related issues. In order to achieve your six month and one-year milestones, I advise expectant moms to help themselves with the following steps:
Learn the Facts
Understanding how beneficial breastfeeding is for both you and baby is essential to your success. Medical research shows breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect your baby from disease early in life. Breastfeeding has been shown to protect against diseases in adulthood such as inflammatory bowel disease and cardiovascular disease. Babies who are not breastfed have a higher risk of ear infections, eczema, asthma, obesity, type one and two diabetes and childhood leukemia. Beyond the physical benefits of breastfeeding, baby receives emotional stability and a stronger parent-child bond from skin-to-skin contact with mom. In moments when you feel like quitting, remember the positive physical and emotional impact you’re making on both you and your child’s life. Take one day at a time.
Breastfeeding will help you get your little one off to the best possible start and it also has numerous benefits for moms. Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type two diabetes and may have protection from future cardio-metabolic diseases. Breastfeeding also helps the uterus naturally contract and return to normal size after pregnancy.
Trust the Pros
Plan to learn as much as you can about breastfeeding before baby arrives. Breastfeeding classes are great for this. Talking to a Board Certified Lactation Consultant is a great source of information and will help you get personalized tips based on your specific situation. Make a list of questions and have them answered prior to your baby’s birth to reduce anxiety. This will help you start the process confidently and continue successfully. Don’t forget to check with your insurance provider before you make an appointment, as some cover lactation services.
Prepare at the Hospital
Take a tour at the hospital where you will deliver so you feel more comfortable when it is time for baby to arrive. Find out the hospital’s policies regarding skin-to-skin and breastfeeding. Moms who have immediate skin-to-skin contact with their babies through the first feeding increase their ease and comfort with breastfeeding. As soon as you arrive at the hospital, remind the doctors and nurses that you plan to breastfeed. Many times, hospitals are not fully equipped to help you breastfeed. Make your wishes clear and discuss concerns ahead of time to minimize any confusion. If the hospital is equipped to help you and provides a lactation consultant, ask your partner to stay and take notes, so you can learn together.
Secure a Support System
With a new baby, you need a support system. Many women run into obstacles and do not have the encouragement or information to overcome them. Lactation consultants and doctors can offer tips and support. While there is often a fee for a private practice lactation consultant, these services are well worth the expense – considering putting an LC visit on your baby shower wish-list. Invite a friend over who has breast-fed successfully to share experiences with someone who has been there. Also, support organizations such as La Leche League International, the Nursing Mothers’ Council and local hospitals often offer opportunities to meet and compare notes with other local breastfeeding mothers. Most of all trust yourself to know what is best for you and your baby. Finally, make sure your partner and close family members are educated on the benefits of breastfeeding and are prepared to offer support and encouragement.
Plan for the Future
After you spend the first few weeks postpartum bonding with your baby, returning to work or your normal busy routine may become a distraction to breastfeeding. Some breastfeeding moms find a lack of privacy, inflexible schedules or fatigue can impede their breastfeeding intentions. Think about potential barriers and solutions ahead of time to help you stay on track. Before you return to work, talk to a human resources representative about your plans and understand your company’s policies and history with supporting breastfeeding mothers. According to Section 4207 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, employers must provide reasonable break time and a private, non-bathroom place for you to express your milk during your workday until your baby is one year old.
Choose the Right Pump
If you choose to pump, having the right equipment is vital. The first decision to make when choosing a pump is whether to buy a double electric pump or a manual pump. If you plan to exclusively breastfeed and need a pump occasionally, a manual pump may be your best choice. If you plan to work outside the home or be away from baby for several hours at a time, a double-electric pump may be better fit, You may decide to purchase both (put these on your baby shower registration). Be sure to understand the specific features of the pump, and make sure it is right for you. A pump that is comfortable and easy to use will help you continue pumping. As you research pumps, check to see if the company has a warrantee or a guarantee for their product and if they have a track record for good customer service. Be sure to open the pump you get, read the instructions, and know how to use it prior to your baby’s arrival. Understanding your pump ahead of needing to use it will help you avoid frustration once your baby arrives.
With the proper planning and support you can meet your breastfeeding goals. Years down the road you’ll be glad you persevered, and you will reflect fondly on those quiet moments you and your baby enjoyed as you provided the physical and emotional benefits of breast milk. Remember, you are the final expert on you. Knowledge of the benefits of breastfeeding, understanding how breastfeeding works and knowing that it can work for you is your greatest advantage in this adventure.
GIVEAWAY: ONE (1) very lucky readers will win a Simplisse Gia Angled Breastfeeding Pillow and Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover! To ENTER, from now until September 15th 2011 you MUST subscribe to Mom Confessionals. For additional entries – 1st Option – If you follow me on twitter @momconfessional and re-tweet this giveaway (I just entered @momconfessional’s Simplisse & Bebe Au Lait #Giveaway! http://wp.me/pLvfH-15w) – 2nd Option – If you “like” us on Facebook and share the giveaway with your friends. DON’T FORGET to visit this FORM and leave a separate entry for each action. Giveaway only open to those with U.S. addresses and must be 18 years or older. Giveaway ends on September 15th 2011 at 11:59 EST. A winner will be selected randomly by Random.org and notified by e-mail.