They say breastfeeding is "natural," that it will happen naturally. But the truth is, breastfeeding is extremely difficult and can often leave the mother in isolation, physical pain, guilt and shame. Building your nursing plan is a great way to educate yourself and understand your breastfeeding goals so as to overcome or outsmart some of the challenges ahead.
As a Lactation Counselor, I've lived for the moment that I sit cross-legged on the bed next to a freshly birthed new mama, watching her cradle her babe as he suckles for one of the first times. Baby’s tiny fists begin to relax, both mama and I release a deep sigh, and a blanket of silence begins to rest over the home. But all too often, breastfeeding mothers don't get to experience this instance of calm and one-on-one support from a lactation professional; and if they do, it's often after weeks of struggles.
There is an easier way though. In my book Milk Boss 101: The Modern Breastfeeding Journal & Guide, I help mamas create a breastfeeding plan to allow for a more graceful and confident experience. From prenatal planning to building your breastfeeding tribe, here are 10 steps to create your own breastfeeding plan now.
1. List your breastfeeding goals. What milestones are you hoping to reach and how long would you like to breastfeed?
2. Meet with a lactation professional prenatally. Ask if she provides a private class where you can bring your partner or a friend, and if she does home visits.
3. Build your Breastfeeding Tribe. Get accessory help that will allow you to focus on breastfeeding once you are back home with your new baby. Consider hiring a postpartum doula, having a meal-train organized, or a friend to come by and help with light housework.
4. Talk with your provider about your breastfeeding goals. You’ll want to find out about the hospital’s policies on the Golden Hour, breastfeeding after a cesarean section, and feeding a baby in the NICU.
5. Evaluate whether or not your child’s Pediatrician is breastfeeding friendly. Ask them how they handle concerns about baby’s weight gain, whether or not they support the use of donor's milk, and if they hand out formula samples to mothers who express a desire to breastfeed before offering professional lactation support.
6. Attend a prenatal breastfeeding class with a friend or your partner. Try to find a class taught by a private lactation professional who will meet with you in person, address your specific breastfeeding concerns, and visit with you in the hospital and once home.
7. Schedule a few visits from a lactation professional. Plan on having your lactation professional visit multiple times. Breastfeeding is a learned skill that takes lots of practice. It will set your mind at ease knowing that someone is already planning to visit you multiple times, especially during the first two weeks. Try scheduling visits on your first day back home, day 3 to 5 when your milk gets more mature, and day 7 to 10, which is around the time that baby should be back to his or her birth weight. This schedule should also give you time to fix any issues in between visits.
8. Join a breastfeeding group. Find a group that resonates with you and your work-life situation.
9. Plan for returning to work or your first trip away. A lactation professional can really help you plan, from recommending the perfect pump to offering tips that will help you avoid common hurdles that typically arise around six weeks postpartum, like introduction of hormonal birth control.
10. Give yourself permission to do what feels right to you and listen to your Mama Wisdom. If something doesn’t seem right, voice it, ask for help, and make changes.
I hope that these breastfeeding planning tips allow you to make a smooth transition from maiden to mother and that you feel supported and powerful along your journey.
Anjelica Malone is a former Third Culture kid turned Global Mama. She is the author of Milk Boss 101: The Modern Breastfeeding Journal and Guide. She is a Lactation Educator Counselor, a birth and postpartum doula, and a Childbirth Educator serving women in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband, two Little Women, and their mini-dachshund, Aoki. Visit www.AnjelicaMalone.com to book her services or read her writings, which focus on encouraging women to embrace their passions and equipping them to navigate motherhood in the way that’s most natural to them.