- Breastfeeding is natural, but it may not come naturally
- You can find help with lactation consultants and support groups
- Prepare before childbirth with breastfeeding classes
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, a wonderful way to ensure your baby gets the nutrients needed to grow healthy and strong. But what happens when something so natural doesn't come naturally?
In the beginning, new moms may have trouble with latching, their baby may not be gaining sufficient weight on breast milk alone or they may feel discomfort or even pain during feeding sessions. If you are dealing with one of these issues, it can be frustrating — it's not the beautiful bonding experience it's supposed to be— and you may want to quit breastfeeding.
But don't throw in the towel just yet. Breastfeeding has many benefits for your baby. It can prevent illness, reduce the risk for diseases such as asthma and type 2 diabetes, help prevent SIDS and offer nurturing skin-to-skin contact, among other things.
If you are an expectant mom who wants to breastfeed but doesn't feel quite ready to tackle it, or a new mom who just doesn't enjoy it, here are some things you can do to prepare and feel more comfortable.
Take a class
Getting educated about breastfeeding before the baby arrives is one of the best ways to feel more at ease when the time comes to start. Swedish offers plenty of childbirth and new parent classes that cover common breastfeeding topics, and they're a great opportunity to get any questions answered, too.
Find the hold that works for you
There are several different breastfeeding techniques, so don't feel you have to do it a certain way. If your friend swears by the football hold, but it's not comfortable for you, try a different technique until you get one that is the best for you and baby.
Create a comfortable nursing space
When you are breastfeeding at home, it's a good idea to create a place that will support your body and be conducive to a positive nursing experience. That could mean a particular couch or chair that helps promote good nursing posture so your back doesn't hurt during feedings, blankets for warmth, soft lighting, nursing pillows for a better breastfeeding hold and a basket or bin to hold any supplies, such as breast pump equipment. A relaxing space can help soothe any breastfeeding nerves.
Take care of your body
Breastfeeding can take a lot out of you, especially in the early months when sleep is a rare commodity. Nourish yourself with a healthy diet and plenty of liquids such as water--it can help with milk supply as well as giving you the energy you need as a new mom. Get rest whenever you can, such as when the baby is napping, or have a friend or family member come over to watch your infant so you can get some sleep. And take care of your breasts with nipple cream or breast pads, if needed.
Don't be afraid to seek help
You may hesitate to seek out breastfeeding help. After all, if it's so natural, why are you having problems? It's so important to know that you are not alone, and there's no shame in getting some expert advice and encouragement, which can make all the difference in your breastfeeding journey. Swedish offers outpatient lactation consultants who will see you on an appointment basis to talk about your concerns and offer hands-on help with any issue. The Lytle Center at Swedish First Hill also offers appointments with lactation consultants, as well as a retail shop for breastfeeding supplies.
Build a support network
If you have friends who are already moms and can offer words of wisdom on breastfeeding, seek them out. If not, you can join one of the Swedish support groups aimed at breastfeeding and new moms. You can ask questions, have your baby weighed and get to know other moms just like you.
Know when you need to try something different
Breast is best, but there are times when even a new mom's hard work can't provide her baby with the needed nutrients. It's important to remember that if you're doing the best you can for your baby, that's OK. There are alternatives to breastfeeding, such as using donor milk, trying lactation aids such as supplemental nursing systems or adding in formula feeding. A lactation consultant can offer suggestions and guidance so you and baby are both healthy and taken care of.
To make an appointment for breastfeeding support, use Swedish Express Care Virtual to schedule a visit from anywhere. For breastfeeding support videos and local resources, download the free Circle by Swedish app; it also has information on many other parenting and pregnancy topics.
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.