I think a lot of people expect the first few days or weeks of breastfeeding to go off without a hitch, however, in reality, most people experience problems. I don't say this to scare you, but to point out that it's common, and it doesn't mean you won't be able to breastfeed successfully, it just means you have to work at it.
There are things you can do to increase the likelihood of a successful breastfeeding relationship:
- arm yourself with information. In Ottawa, you can register for free breastfeeding preparation classes through the Ottawa Hospital. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I read Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding. The more you know, the better-equipped you'll be to deal with whatever problems you may encounter.
- get your friends and family onboard. You need to let them know how important breastfeeding is to you, if you encounter problems, you will need their encouragement and support.
- join a support network. La Leche League holds monthly meetings, and they offer phone support for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Alternately, Breastfeeding Buddies pairs a volunteer who has been breastfeeding for six months with a new breastfeeding mother.
- find a breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician. Not all doctors have received formal education about breastfeeding, and not all doctors are of the mindset that 'breastmilk is best'. You can contact a local lactation consultant to get a recommendation for a breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician.
- keep formula out of the house. If you're having a hard time, it may be tempting to use that formula sitting in the cupboard, despite your best intentions. Formula companies often offer free samples to pediatricians, if your pediatrician is 'kind' enough to offer you a sample, politely decline his offer.
- if you encounter a problem, get help right away! We are very fortunate in Ottawa to have access to free breastfeeding drop-ins. Alternately, you can have a lactation consultant come to your home. Yes, a lactation consultant costs money, but it's money well-spent, and a consultation may be covered by your health insurance company.
When our first baby was born, we had latch issues. I was a regular fixture at the Civic hospital's breastfeeding drop-in, they helped me with position and latch (a little advice: baby's mouth has to be wide, wide, wide open before you put her to the breast). When our second baby was born, I assumed there wouldn't be any issues since I had already breastfed one baby successfully, but I was wrong... I may have breastfed before, but Hannah had never breastfed! I visited the drop-in at the Civic again, and we were able to fix her latch pretty quickly.
If you're hoping to breastfeed your baby, these tips can help ensure a successful start -- if you do encounter problems, with effort and patience, you can likely work through them. Good luck!