Saturday, October 17, 2009

Breastfeeding tips for success

When parents-to-be come into the store looking for cloth diapers, we often ask them if they plan on breastfeeding when we talk about caring for diapers (breastfed poop is water-soluble, no scraping or soaking!). It's common to hear parents reply "We hope to, if it works out" At this point, I try to offer some advice and encouragement without getting preachy about it (it's a fine line, lol).

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!


  1. Good stuff! Thanks for the plug on Breastfeeding Buddies with OPH. I encourage all Mom's, even if you've had babies before, to sigh up for a Buddy with Ottawa Public Health. Great program!

  2. very nicely written and non-judgmental post, bravo! Thank you!

  3. Great tips! I live in small-town Ontario and REALLY had to work to get help. There were very few resources in my community - but I did get lots of help from a visiting Public Health Nurse and support (via phone) from friends who had breastfed.

    Now, I tell people to just keep asking different people until they get help that actually helps. Everyone has different ideas about what works, and you need to find someone whose ideas work for you (and whose personality works for you, too....nothing worse than someone who makes you feel small or inadequate when you're already sleep-deprived and having a bit of a rough go with breastfeeding.)

  4. Great advice...mine would be to get recommendations for lactation consultants and find your closest breastfeeding drop-in before you hit 9 don't want to give birth and be scrambling for information! Get a list of places near you that rent pumps, and if you don't have a midwife, get a post-partum doula that will come to your house after the birth so you can get breastfeeding advice quick. In the hospital, the nurses tend to stick the baby on the boob for you and not explain the process very's hard to get it straight once you get home!

    And it's easier to prevent breastfeeding issues, rather than try to fix them.

  5. One comment I have about breast feeding is that when all goes well, it can be a wonderful experience. It's the only thing that is special between mom and baby that no one else shares. I find it's really nice quiet time with my baby ... even at 3 AM! :)

  6. I agree that this IS a great post. And I definitely appreciate the non-judgemenntal approach.
    I was that < 1% (or whatever the statistic is) that truly could not produce milk. I tried everything giving it my all for 16 weeks + and my body no matter what I tried would not produce milk. I worked with a lactation consultant for 10 of these weeks and still nothing (although they tried so hard)!! I had to formula feed my child and got alot of comments etc from people who had no business commenting - it was unfair.
    As natural as BF SHOUKD be - it is always or for everyone...
    It's since been suggest that the lack of milk production was due to retained placenta (which took my former doctor 16 weeks to figure out and a DNC)...
    I'm 4 weeks from delivering my 2nd. I "hope to breastfeed" but seriously...I won't put myself through what I went through last time.
    WISH ME LUCK. I have refreshed myself with all the info and even as you have suggested armed myself ahead of time with a post partum Doula....:)


  7. The best advice I was ever given was from a friend who said that I should go to a La Leche League meeting or 2 before the birth, since the day you give birth is NOT your best day for learning a new skill. And it IS a new skill, for both of you!

  8. I struggled breastfeeding our son and now we're expecting again I'm putting far more effort into the breastfeeding plan than the birth plan, for this baby. I've joined a LLL group, plan to meet with a few LCs and have read Breastfeeding Made Simple (which is a fantastic book and has helped me diagnose exactly where we went wrong with child #1!!) This is a great post and will definitely recommend it to others as a good starting point. Thanks!