Breastfeeding Tips & Support for New Parents
Ideally, your breastfeeding journey can begin before your newest little family member arrives. Educate yourself on all things breastfeeding and, if possible, take a class so that you can ask any questions you may have. Learn what to expect with breastfeeding in the first few weeks after delivery—the good things and the challenging things. This can help prepare you both physically and emotionally and help you to manage your expectations. Taking a breastfeeding class can help parents feel confident that they can make breastfeeding work; having that confidence will make it more likely that parents will meet their own long-term breastfeeding goals.
While it’s true that breastfeeding is the biological norm for infant feeding, it is still a learned behavior, and it can take a while before breastfeeding feels natural for you and your newborn. Babies have reflexes and instincts that help them latch and breastfeed, but there is still a considerable amount of effort required to make breastfeeding successful. There may be blood, sweat and tears in the first few weeks of nursing your baby and you’ll need to employ the 3 “P’s” of breastfeeding—practice, patience, and persistence.
Historically, parents learned about breastfeeding through observation. Many grew up around others nursing their babies at the breast. These days, people rarely see breastfeeding, and some do not spend much time around young babies before becoming a parent themselves. The brief glimpses of breastfeeding babies here and there cannot make up for a lifetime of learning. Similarly, a class on lactation cannot equal a lifetime of learning either. It can, however, give you accurate and well-organized information on what’s involved in breastfeeding your baby.
A lot of misinformation is still out there about breastfeeding, so always consider your sources on the information and advice you receive. This inaccurate information, while well intended, can be shared by friends, family, and even some health care providers who are not knowledgeable about breastfeeding and lactation. Learning as much as you can about breastfeeding will give you some foundational knowledge to draw from once your baby is in your arms. This knowledge can then help you navigate the information and advice along your breastfeeding journey. After participating in a breastfeeding class, you gain the knowledge to recognize what is normal and expected, and when to seek additional assistance from a professional.
Support is also vital to nursing parents. The postpartum time is a very vulnerable time for all parents, but most especially nursing parents. Support needs to come from each other, your family, and your friends, in addition to your health care providers. Knowing you need support, and understanding what help to ask for, are not always the same thing.
This is where thinking ahead during pregnancy about the specific support you might need and where you can go to get it is important. Additionally, a good class will provide you with resources, so you know where, and who, to turn to for assistance after your baby arrives. At Annapolis Pediatrics, board certified lactation consultants are available to provide you with guidance and specialized support to help you achieve your individual breastfeeding goals.
Many professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), recommend breastfeeding your baby exclusively until six months of age with breastfeeding continuing after solid foods are introduced as long as you and your baby desire.
Breastfeeding is healthy for both you and your baby and breast milk is the optimal source of nutrition for most babies. Your body is amazing and interestingly, breast milk will change as your baby grows to meet your child’s individual nutritional needs. Breastfeeding can also help protect you and your baby against some short- and long-term illnesses and diseases. Babies are less likely to develop lung or gut infections if they are breastfed; they are also less likely to become overweight and develop diabetes later in life. Often, many parents stop nursing earlier than they would like to due to breastfeeding problems encountered along their journey. Having good support during challenging times can help overcome barriers so that breastfeeding can continue for a longer period, if desired.
Remember, although you may start out with a specific breastfeeding goal, breastfeeding can look different depending on the parents and babies. Any breastmilk your baby receives is wonderful and can provide some health benefits. Take the time to be well prepared and get all the support you need and deserve to help you have a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding experience for you and your baby.
Visit our website Classes and Events page for upcoming virtual Breastfeeding classes for expecting parents and a monthly virtual Breastfeeding Support Group for new Annapolis Pediatrics parents.
Call us at 410-263-6363 to make an in-person appointment with one of our Annapolis Pediatrics' Lactation Consultants.