Monday, April 20, 2009

What You Need to Know Before You Breastfeed: Natural Things Do Not Always Come Natrually

When I was pregnant with my first child, I knew I was going to breastfeed. All the research supported the benefits of mama's milk, I was too cheap to buy formula (after all, I could spend the money on books or fabric) and it looked so easy. In B.C., where I was living at the time, public nursing is a normal occurrence. I had seen women feed their babies. All you did was lift up your shirt and pop the baby on. Simple. I could do that.

But what I quickly realized when my son arrived, is that just because something is natural, does not mean it always comes easily and naturally to you. Have you ever decided to start running? It is a purely natural activity, but if you have previously been sedentary, it hurts for a few weeks. Do you remember your first sexual encounter? Did it take you a few tries to figure everything out properly? Was it maybe a little uncomfortable at first? Breastfeeding is much the same.

If you have never breastfed before, you are a novice. And since your baby is fresh from the womb, he or she is not going to be much help. Babies have some natural sucking instincts, but they need some help to get it right. You have the proper equipment, but it is not quite broken in yet. You will both need some time to get used to this new experience. It will be awkward and uncomfortable and frustrating at first. You might need some further instruction to get things working properly. And all those women you see nonchalantly popping their babies on the breast? They were exactly the same when they started.

What can you do to make things go smoother? First, put down that book that gives you every detail about your developing fetus. I have news: the fetus will, in all likelihood, develop earlobes whether you are aware of it or not. You new baby not necessarily latch properly without your help. Get a good book about nursing and read it through. Bookmark some websites with information about breastfeeding. Find a few women who have nursed at least one child and ask them for advice -- have their phone numbers handy. Look up the name and number of the local lactation consultant and add them to your list.

Second, change your mindset. Expect some frustration and pitfalls to come your way. Enlist some help for the first few days or weeks after the baby comes, so you can concentrate on having a positive start. Relax, and remember that this is all a learning process. Have confidence in your instincts and in this natural process, and don't be afraid to ask for help. We've all been there. Really, we have.

A Few Helpful Reads:
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding -- La Leche League classic -- a little rose coloured in my opinion, but helpful none the less
The Breastfeeding Book Martha Sears is a lactation consultant, and the mother of 8 children. The books she co-writes with her husband usually have a nice blend of practical wisdom and medical knowledge. Haven't read this one, but I have found the breastfeeding section in the Baby Book invaluable -- this is probably a lot of the same info.
The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book . Dr Jack Newman is a Canadian doctor who is an expert on breastfeeding. He is considered a radical because he believes that almost every woman can and should nurse their baby, and he is outspoken about a number of topics relating to formula and advertising and samples in hospitals. He also has lots of clear, helpful information.

Websites: all of the above mentioned authors have great websites. Also check out Kellymom . Her website is definitely one to bookmark for later trouble shooting - I wouldn't have made it past 4 months with my first son if not for her website.

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