Breastfeeding preparations help with expectations, goals

By Geralyn Turner and Helen Scoville  |  5/31/2019

We've all seen this. In books, pictures and breastfeeding videos, nursing mothers appear completely confident, serene and "natural" – and their babies are nursing beautifully without any indication that this took time.

That's not always how breastfeeding goes and unfortunately, in our society, we don't have the frequent exposure to women nursing their babies to know any differently. There can be latching difficulties, painful nipples, babies who don't gain weight and low milk production. That is why prenatal education and support to prepare for the breastfeeding journey is the key piece to having a wonderful nursing experience.

We can learn from family, books, professionals and other important resources like La Leche League and board-certified lactation consultants. At our birthing suites, we offer additional support through maternity tours, a weekly breastfeeding/new mom support group, prenatal education and one-on-one lactation appointments. This support lays the groundwork for a better understanding of the normal birth process and the early days of breastfeeding.

Lactation consultants like us are a great resource for showing moms how to hold a baby at the breast, the frequency and duration of feedings and best practices to support the baby's needs. One of the many important skills we teach parents is the best ways to position and help the baby to nurse such as the popular and comfortable side-lying position. We teach moms how to cope with mastitis and thrush – infections that can occur. We cover nutrition and proper calorie intake. We even teach you how to use your breast pump and store milk properly.

We can also offer you things to think about while making your birth plan. For example, after birth, most babies are placed on their mother's skin by experienced nursing staff who make the mother and baby comfortable. This time is so precious. Initiatives like skin-to-skin time after delivery with minimal interruptions – including delaying the newborn's first bath – enhance the mother and baby recovery period.  Just by waiting to bathe a healthy newborn by a few hours can increase the in-hospital breastfeeding rate. That's important because it can increase your chances of exclusively breastfeeding.

We suggest taking a tour of the maternity center where you are going to deliver and make an appointment with one of the lactation consultants before or after delivery to have individualized attention given to your expectations and goals. Preparation before birth can help a woman feel more confident and give her skills she can immediately use after delivery. Mom can feel more at ease with the benefit of learning what she can do to make this breastfeeding transition more "naturally" wonderful!

Geralyn Turner and Helen Scoville are registered nurses and certified lactation consultants at the Birthing Suites at Sharon Hospital in Sharon, Conn. They offer prenatal breastfeeding classes and a breastfeeding support group. For more information or to sign up for a class, call the Birthing Suites at 860-364-4124.