Breastfeeding is a personal commitment that comes with many challenges and rewards. The benefits of breastfeeding are well-documented for both mother and baby: protection from infectious diseases, cardiovascular health benefits, and mental health improvement and confidence for parents. In 2003, the World Health Organization recommended infants be exclusively breastfed until six months of age, with breastfeeding continuing as an important part of the infant’s diet until at least two years of age. To help families have every opportunity to meet this recommendation and their individual breastfeeding goals, families need support.
For all of the benefits of breastfeeding, it is also imperative that families are well-educated and aware of breastfeeding issues. There are a variety of obstacles to overcome as families combine breastfeeding with a busy lifestyle of work, home-life, adjustment to parenthood, and recovery from pregnancy. When breastfeeding becomes compromised, a new mother can end up with severe pain, infections, or a milk supply that’s insufficient to meet her baby’s needs.
Finding Breastfeeding Support and Education for New Parents
Support can come in many forms: spouse, co-parent, family members, employers, friends, and medical professionals like pediatricians or lactation consultants. In a culture that is rich with contradiction about what is appropriate, it’s not surprising that many new mothers are unsure of how to handle breastfeeding and their busy lifestyle. A new mother’s best breastfeeding support network includes resources who are open-minded, flexible, and available to listen to concerns about breastfeeding. Like any skill, learning to breastfeed a new baby can take time.
Tips for Mothers Who are Interested in Breastfeeding
1) To have the best outcome, a mother is encouraged to breastfeed her new baby a minimum of eight to twelve times daily. Mothers who continue to nurse their babies at frequent, unrestricted intervals are more likely to establish a good milk supply than mothers who nurse on a restricted feeding schedule.
2) Be sure your baby is nursing effectively. Do you feel your breasts are softer and lighter after your baby nurses? Can you hear your baby swallow? Do you feel a gentle tugging or tingle at your breast? It is important for mothers to look for signs of productive milk removal at every feeding. If you have sore or cracked nipples, this may be an indicator of an incorrect latch from your baby. Don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician or medical professional if you are having pain or difficulty with feedings.
3) Look for dirty diapers as a sign your baby is getting enough milk. By day three, your baby should be having a minimum of three dirty diapers per day, and five to six wet diapers per day. If you think your baby is not waking up sufficiently for feedings, try skin-to-skin contact and breast compressions (gentle squeezing of your breast to improve flow) to keep your baby interested in breastfeeding. If your baby continues to snooze at the breast, get help from your pediatrician, lactation consultant, or other medical professional.
4) If you are separated from your baby due to premature birth, illness, or early return to work, milk has to be removed from your breasts by means other than your baby’s feeding to engage hormones and keep your supply at adequate levels. In these situations, remember to pump your milk at least eight times a day with an electric or hospital-grade pump. Expressing milk is often easier if the mother is looking at a picture of her baby.
When serious issues arise, such as pain, infection, low milk supply, or a variety of other concerns, the 2011 Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding (surgeongeneral.gov) recommends that all families have access to services provided by international board-certified lactation consultants (IBCLCs). These health service providers work in the hospital where you deliver your baby, as well as in the community.
Matching the right consultant to each family is important, and Richmond families have many options.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), your insurance company is required to cover breastfeeding education services when services are provided by an IBCLC. However, private insurance companies are all handling this coverage differently. Talk to your provider to determine how many lactation consultation visits you are allowed per birth. If they don’t have any in-network providers you can visit, they should provide coverage for an out-of-network provider.
All women should be offered support to breastfeed their babies with an individualized support system to include family, friends, employers, and medical professionals. By affording this standard of care to all breastfeeding women, we can boost a mother’s confidence and increase the duration of breastfeeding.
Where to Find Breastfeeding Support
1. Visit the United States Lactation Consultation Association (USLCA) at uslca.org and use the Find a Consultant directory search form.
2. Use the Internal Lactation Consultation Online Consultant Directory at ilca.org.
3. Ask your OB-GYN or pediatrician to recommend a lactation consultant who works with his or her practice.
4. Ask the hospital where you gave birth to help you find a breastfeeding support services provider.
5. Talk to a friend or family member who has had success with breastfeeding.