The breastfeeding context:
Setting up for success
One of the most common concerns among new mothers is successful breastfeeding. We all want to give our babies the very best start in life, and breast milk is by far the top choice for baby. Feeding your baby helps form a bond of trust and warmth and nurturance.
Of course, there are moms who do everything right and still struggle with milk production. Be kind to yourself if you’re in this situation!
This is the first in an ongoing series dedicated to your success in breastfeeding. My purpose in writing this post series is to provide sound lifestyle and nutrition tips. Do what you can and don’t worry about the rest!
So this post provides an overview of setting up a context that supports the needs of the breastfeeding mother and baby. Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in the series, which will go into detail on nutrition as well as deepen some of the issues related to context.
Surround yourself with supportive people
Friends and family can get a little out of hand when you have a new baby. Everyone wants to come and visit! Set boundaries so you’re not dealing with more people than you’re comfortable with. Aside from those who want to visit “to see the baby,” you’ll likely receive offers and promises of help. Use your judgment. Not everyone who offers help, no matter how well-meaning, is able to give it.
The post-partum period is not a time to be nice to friends and family who invade your space. It’s a time to ensure that the needs of mom and baby are front and center! So carefully screen all requests for visits, and don’t be afraid to say no!
It goes without saying that anyone who is hostile towards or uncomfortable with breastfeeding should not be visiting with you and the baby at this time.
As helpful as your spouse or partner is, remember that he or she is a new parent too. Especially in the case of first-time parenthood, this is a time when your spouse needs to enjoy the baby, process new emotions and rest. No new parent should have to take care of everyone in the family singlehandedly!
Hired help for breastfeeding moms
Do not be shy about hiring help. There are many different kinds of help that are relevant to setting up a context supportive of breastfeeding.
The first is an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), typically covered by insurance.
A long time ago, I used to think that lactation consultants were for families that were having trouble breastfeeding. Now I’m convinced that having a lactation consultant on board is important for every family with a new baby, except those who have ruled out breastfeeding. Even if you’ve already had and nursed a baby before, hire a lactation consultant for your new baby. It’s different every time! I recommend meeting with a prospective lactation consultant about halfway through your third trimester.
I highly recommend working with a lactation consultant who does home visits. A board certified lactation consultant can help you assess the big picture of what is interfering with optimal milk production. Your lactation consultant can help improve the success of breastfeeding by helping you pinpoint problem areas. These may include struggles with let-down, latch, position and pumping milk.
Additionally, a postpartum doula or a night-nurse can help tremendously. These professionals specialize in helping during the post-partum period. However, even a cleaning service and a healthy meal service can be very helpful. Even an errand service can do wonders on days when shopping and other tasks seem overwhelming.
Rest and sleep
The post-partum period is notoriously one where sleep disruptions are common. Yes, it’s normal for your baby to wake up every couple of hours throughout the day and night for feedings. However, that should not stop you from resting when you can, and as much as you need.
Rather than stay awake to entertain people who come and visit, why not ask responsible friends and family to sign up to take care of baby while you take a nap or a shower without interruption?
Anything that usually stresses you out is likely to be an even greater problem during the post-partum period. This is why it’s important to surround yourself with people who will bring help, not stress. What else stresses you? Do what you can to address it. This may mean saying no or quitting where you may have previously given in or persevered against your better judgment.
Putting it all together
Yes, successful breastfeeding does indeed “take a village” – but you will need to decide who belongs in your village.
Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in the series, and don’t hesitate to contact me for personalized nutritional guidance.