5. Breastfeeding is natural, do I really have to take a class?
“If breastfeeding is so natural, then why doesn’t it come naturally??”
The body was designed to breastfeed—changes in the body/breasts throughout the lifetime (beginning in utero, how cool is that?!) begin to prepare the body for breastfeeding.
But breastfeeding is also a skill. This means that it can take practice for both you and baby to get in sync and a little bit of time for things to really gel.
Sometimes, some interventions during childbirth or medical conditions can inhibit the body’s and/or baby’s natural breastfeeding reflexes—knowing what to look for ahead of time and where to get help can be a real lifesaver!
One of my favorite breastfeeding books to recommend to families is The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, published by La Leche League International (LLLI). It’s easy to read and contains a wide range of information. I even suggest that parents reread it in preparation for each new baby.
But one of the best ways to prepare is taking a prenatal breastfeeding class.
If you can’t leave the house, there are some high-quality online options. Lactation Link has a gorgeous video collection with short, easy-to-digest clips that answer many of your most-asked breastfeeding questions!
I would definitely recommend going to a local class, when possible, though. Not only will you get to meet other parents in the same season of life as you (peer support is SO beneficial for breastfeeding families!), but you will also get to see some nursing positions demonstrated and practice them yourself! You’ll get a chance to ask questions and get real-time answers.
Most importantly, you can meet the IBCLC prior to your postpartum appointment. Many IBCLCs even offer private prenatal classes (I do!). It’s certainly comforting to see a friendly face at your door or meeting you at the hospital or place where your baby is born when you’ve just had a baby and need help!
Pro Tip: The more knowledge you have about breastfeeding before baby is born, the more confident you’ll feel in your ability to meet your baby’s needs after she is born!
4. Where can I get help if I need it? And IBCLC, LLL, CLC, Peer Supporter—What is the difference (is there one?)?
Knowing where to get help before you need it can really make all the difference!
Breastfeeding is an intimate experience, and the postpartum period can be exhausting, sometimes leaving new parents feeling very self-conscious. You should absolutely feel 100% comfortable with your breastfeeding supporter (don’t worry, most of us have been there, and a great IBCLC won’t judge you on the state of your home or body!).
If you have a local Breastfeeding Task Force, Breastfeeding Resource Guide, or Breastfeeding Coalition, those can be great places to start looking for recommendations for a great IBCLC.
In addition to making sure that you are comfortable with your breastfeeding helper, you should also make sure that he or she is qualified and experienced to help you. Check credentials!
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are considered the GOLD STANDARD in clinical lactation care. Just to be able to sit for the rigorous 4-hour IBLCE exam, a candidate must complete 14 college-level Health Science courses from an accredited institution, 90 hours of lactation specific education, and 300-1,000 hours of clinical, supervised practice.
Thus, the scope of practice for an IBCLC includes clinical care, in addition to education and guidance. Please make sure that the professional that you choose for clinical assistance is qualified to provide you with clinical care! You can verify certifications through the IBLCE registry.
The United States Lactation Consultant Association (USLCA) has a great graphic that shows some of the main differences between the different types of breastfeeding supporters. The main differences include scope of practice (being certified to provide clinical care), education, training, clinical practice, and prerequisites.
Lactation Link has several IBCLCs throughout the United States (and even one in Canada!). Check here to see if there is one near you! If there isn’t, many of us are also available for convenient e-consultations.
Pro Tip: Don’t be afraid to interview or meet with more than one IBCLC before your baby is born! While we have all met the same requirements, everyone’s personality is a little different.
3. Does breastfeeding hurt?
In one word: NO!
Breastfeeding should NOT hurt.
If it does, that is generally an indication that something needs attention—whether it’s related to latch, anatomy, technique, or a medical condition.
Engorgement when your milk “comes in” (when the colostrum transitions to mature milk and increases in quantity) can be uncomfortable for some parents. Others find that the feeling of baby nursing is a little uncomfortable or unfamiliar at first.
But intense pain, outside of some mild discomfort, is not normal, and should not be ignored!
Seek help from a qualified professional instead of suffering in silence. Your breasts and your baby will thank you!
Pro Tip: If left untreated, pain during breastfeeding can become quite serious and result in irreversible damage, depending on the cause. Seek help right away if you feel excruciating pain!
2. Can I take _______ while breastfeeding?
It’s so heartbreaking when parents tell me that they had to completely give up on breastfeeding before they were ready because they were inaccurately told that their medication was not safe while breastfeeding.
In fact, there are very few medications that are actually incompatible with breastfeeding, and most have compatible alternatives.
For my first few years as a breastfeeding supporter, Thomas Hale, Ph.D.’s Medications and Mothers’ Milk was my best friend! I still refer to it quite often.
An IBCLC cannot (and should not!) recommend or prescribe medications or supplements; however, we can share some of the risks associated with medications, based on the most recent evidence-based research, and suggest that you speak with your healthcare provider about taking certain ones.
Likewise, parents should refrain from asking groups on social media or the Internet in general for medical advice regarding their children; a stranger will not know your child’s full medical history, and what was appropriate for their child may actually be dangerous for yours!
The bottom line is that while most medications are compatible with breastfeeding, it is best to speak with a lactation professional and your healthcare provider if you are considering taking any medications or supplements.
Pro Tip: Infant Risk has a hotline with experts available Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CT to answer questions about OTC or prescription medications while pregnant and breastfeeding. Just call 806-352-2519!
And now for the most frequently asked breastfeeding question…
1. How do I know if baby is getting enough?
Hands down, this is one of the top concerns that new parents have!
Sometimes even seasoned parents can question their body’s ability to meet their baby’s needs.
As always, if you have any concerns about anything related to your baby, I would suggest sharing these concerns with baby’s healthcare provider. A great lactation professional (remember, an IBCLC is the gold standard!) can also help assess latch, milk transfer, weight gain, etc.
Some basic signs to look for that point to baby transferring enough milk include:
● Baby is gaining weight well.
● Baby seems satisfied after eating and is overall content between feedings.
● Baby is having plenty of wet and dirty diapers.
● Baby has periods of being active and alert.
● Baby is meeting developmental milestones.
Pro Tip: The amount of breastmilk that you are able to express (by hand or by pump) is not a good indication of how much milk you are producing or how much milk baby is getting for an exclusively breastfed baby.
So, there you have it, Friends! The answers to my Top 9 Most Asked Breastfeeding Questions!
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Have more questions or need individualized plans for you and your little one(s)? E-consultations provide the expertise of a lactation specialist without having to take one step away from the couch, and in-person visits provide the convenience of 1:1 support in the comfort of your home.
Let’s be Breast Friends!