By: Shelley Scotka
As a postpartum doula, I always ask parents prenatally what their plans are for feeding their baby. I hear this over and over. “I’m going to try to breastfeed”.
Why are so many families hesitant to commit? Why don’t I hear “I’m planning to breastfeed” with confidence?
It’s likely they’ve talked to their friends/family (or read) about bodyfeeding “failures”.
I recognize there are medical situations where a birthing parent may not make adequate milk. Or the stress of chestfeeding has a negative impact on the birthing parent’s mental health. I get that. I have no issues with thoses who need to supplement or CHOOSE to supplement with formula or other people’s milk. This is not about judging those who make conscious choices or have medical situations.
Sadly I work a LOT with new parents who fully intend to breastfeed, yet they face challenges they sometimes cannot overcome. What’s happening?
So many things can sabotage the ability to breast/chestfeed. I do know adequate education on the parent’s end can make a huge difference! It’s so important for them to learn a LOT about how to body feed their infants, the “warning signs” to look out for, and when to seek professional help. (I’d guess 80% or more new parents need professional lactation help AFTER discharge from the hospital or birth center)
Some families get bad advice or inadequate support where they birth. Or they get pressured to supplement/bottle feed early on without guidance how to continue breastfeeding/eliminate supplementation.
Pediatricians may be quick to intervene with bottles/supplementation before making sure the parents have adequate lactation support.
Well meaning family/friends say all kinds of things (or even provide misinformation) that may have a negative impact on the parent’s confidence to body feed (regardless if there is an actual issue or not)
Lack of lactation support through the first week (or two or three) when establishing a milk supply/baby’s weight gain is so important.
What’s an expectant family to do?
#1 Take a breastfeeding course AND do a ton of reading. Get educated! Every person on your team, not just the bodyfeeding parent! (partner, family, etc)
#2 Find support for after your discharge from a local lactation consultant, community educator/counselor, postpartum doula (or all 3!)
#3 Be clear about your goals/intentions with your friends/family so they learn how to support you.
#4 Make sure you have adequate support at home the first few weeks (food/water/rest/help with chores and emotional support) so you can focus on learning how to feed your baby and nothing else!
I believe we would see a huge increase in breast/chestfeeding success if everyone had better information going into parenting and had better support during the whole process. Chestfeeding is natural, but not necessarily “easy”. Give yourself time/space and grace to learn this new skill! Both you and your baby will benefit!
La Leche League International https://www.llli.org/
WIC/Breastfeeding support https://wicbreastfeeding.fns.usda.gov/
Women’s Health Hotline https://www.womenshealth.gov/about-us/what-we-do/programs-and-activities/helpline
Find a Lactation Consultant https://uslca.org/resources/find-a-lactation-consultant-map/#!directory/map
Local Austin resources:
Find a postpartum doula https://centxdoulas.org/
Shelley Scotka is a local postpartum doula who serves the Williamson and North/Central Travis County areas. She has over 25 years supporting families with breast/chestfeeding. She has continuing education through ICEA, DONA, and the Texas Department of Health. She currently teaches Breastfeeding classes through www.realdealbirth.com and at Any Baby Can. www.anybabycan.org