Three Pieces of Advice from a Breastfeeding Counselor

*All of the doulas at NYC Birth Village have breastfeeding training. We also offer a two-hour private breastfeeding and newborn care class to help you prepare for the kind of feeding relationship you want to have! Learn more about our classes here.

1. Build your village before baby is here and use these resources! The mother should not be the only person responsible for figuring out how to make breastfeeding work for the family. The most sustainable and successful breastfeeding relationships are able to flourish because there is a network of support around the mother and baby. Partners should educate themselves about breastfeeding so they can be an informational resource in addition to providing emotional and logistical support. Find out who among your close friends and family breastfed and who is open to sharing their stories, challenges, tips and tricks. You’re not alone in your journey, and talking with people who can empathize will help get you through the challenging days. Choose a pediatrician who is not just breastfeeding tolerant, but promotes breastfeeding and is knowledgeable about how it impacts your baby’s growth. Find lactation counselors or consultants in your area so you know who to call when you’re having issues. Research breastfeeding circles and La Leche League meet-ups nearby, which will help you troubleshoot, meet breastfeeding families in your area, and provide emotional support and encouragement.

2. Learn how to hand express. Many people who plan to breastfeed will get an electric pump, which is typically covered by insurance. However, an electric pump is not the only way to get milk out and, on its own, it is actually the least efficient way to transfer milk. Hand expression is the next best way to get milk out second to your baby, which means your precious time will be spent more efficiently! You can get milk out using hand expression, an electric pump, or a manual pump. Think of all these methods as different tools, and each tool gives you more options and flexibility. Hand expression is great when you’re engorged and just need a bit of relief, when you are not near an outlet or don’t have an electric pump with you, or when you just don’t feel like cleaning pump parts!

3. Create informed and flexible goals. Your number one goal is to feed your baby and ensure they are at a healthy weight. You can supplement with breastmilk, but it’s also great to have a backup plan. Exclusive breastfeeding is like eating farm to table for every meal. We would all probably benefit from eating farm to table for every meal, but that doesn’t always happen and that’s okay! Have a backup plan that you feel good about if breastfeeding isn’t going the way you expect in the first few weeks. You can start expressing and collecting colostrum in plastic syringes around 36-37 weeks so your baby has food stored for the first few days of life. You can research and buy a formula that you feel good about in case you can’t get your baby to latch properly so you have a backup plan handy. Another option would be to find a local milk bank with donor milk that’s available if you want to ensure your baby has a breastmilk alternative to yours. You can create informed and flexible goals by taking a breastfeeding class before your baby is born and/or talking with a lactation counselor or consultant beforehand to lay out your goals and understand what you’ll need to do in the early days and weeks to establish a good milk supply.

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