Part 3: How to Educate Yourself About Breastfeeding, Multidimensionally
1. Watch breastfeeding videos. Since we’re here on the internet already, I’ll recommend this first. In particular, search for “biological nurturing,” “deep latch,” and “laid back” breastfeeding videos on YouTube. (Remember, freestyle boogie is easier than Argentine tango.) Here are some of my favorites:
While you’re at it, watch this video on hand expression, recommended to me by my awesome lactation consultant Erica Charpentier. Thanks to this technique, I can do a 4 oz. bottle in a 20 minute session or two (depending on time of day), no pump needed. It’s very handy — pun intended!
2: Even better, watch breastfeeding in person. In my humble opinion, spending time with friends and family members while they breastfeed is the gold standard for your breastfeeding education. You’re already comfortable with each other, unlike strangers at a support group, so there is less concern about modesty, and it’s a much more relaxed and natural experience for everyone — the prime environment for your brain to subconsciously pick up on how this whole thing works. Traditionally, of course, this is how everyone learned — they saw breastfeeding all the time. I had seen it basically never when I was pregnant with my first. Maybe a couple of times, but always with covers, so basically as good as having seen nothing at all. (So if you’re one of the mom friends I’ve offered to nurse in front of when you were having breastfeeding problems, now you know why!)
I believe lack of regular, natural exposure to friends & family members nursing their babies is one of the main reasons so many moms have trouble breastfeeding. It is that powerful.
If you don’t have a nursing friend or relative to hang around, the next best thing (or an additional supplement, if you like) is to find a La Leche League meeting or breastfeeding support group near you (many hospitals host them) and go. Don’t let a few bad apples turn you off. (I had a bad experience with a LLL lady who yelled at me about giving my baby a bottle when my nipples were basically ground meat — talk about kicking a sister when she’s down!) One of the main benefits is that it gives you an outing and helps you meet other moms!
3. Remember that moms are the ultimate experts on breastfeeding. Talking to your midwife, OB, pediatrician, and even lactation consultant about breastfeeding can’t hurt, right? Actually, sometimes it *can*! Many medical personnel will just tell you what they have been taught, right or wrong. Think critically about what people tell you. Consider the source, their experience & education, and their biases/agenda. (Be aware if someone is following CYA policy — “cover your ass.”) Don’t forget, the real experts here are the moms — breastfeeding is not a medical phenomenon. And the ultimate experts for you are you and your baby.
4. Still, line up a good Lactation Consultant if you can. Find a well recommended one and meet in advance to see if you feel comfortable with her, and have a number to call when things get tough and you need help. (Under the Affordable Care Act, your insurance must cover lactation consultant services. I have argued with my insurance over this and won out-of-network coverage. It is always worth a try.) If you can get someone to make a house call to you, that’s the best. In Westchester County, NY, I highly recommend Erica Charpentier, IBCLC. Be prepared to get a second or third opinion if you want — it’s more an art than a science, in my opinion, and personal compatibility is key. Be wary of people whose approach deals in absolutes (NEVER do this, ALWAYS do that).
5. Do read up on pumping if necessary. Obviously, pumping and breastfeeding are two different animals. It is definitely helpful to research pumping, bottle feeding, formula feeding, and other alternatives if you’ll need to be away from your baby, especially if it will be before breastfeeding is well established (sometime in the first 12 weeks). Baby Center’s Exclusive Pumpers support board is an amazing source of pumping info and expertise. I exclusively pumped for my first baby for 9 months when he wouldn’t latch, and I wouldn’t have made it through without these ladies. Sometimes their advice contradicted what the so-called professionals said, too, but they had a wealth of wisdom . . . again, these are the real experts.
6. Know your rights. Research the breastfeeding law in your area. Empower yourself to breastfeed wherever & whenever you need to. If someone bothers you, throw the book at ’em!
*Steps off soapbox.*
Next up, Part 4 — my recommended nursing gear! This is the fun part. In addition to Silverettes, there are a few items that I highly recommend to moms to help make their breastfeeding journey smoother & more pleasant.
Also, please note, the preceding sections of this series are not meant to be exhaustive when it comes to my thoughts, opinions & beliefs on breastfeeding. Not at all. I had to cut myself off or it would be the next War & Peace. That’s why I called it the basics. Just so ya know.
So, if you’re still with me, thanks for listening.
And stay tuned!