Part of getting yourself ready for the day when you welcome your new baby into the world involves thinking about how you plan to feed your baby. As is the case with many of the decisions that you will make regarding your baby, the best way to prepare yourself is with information. The more you know about infant feeding and nutrition in advance, the better prepared you will be to navigate the ins and outs of feeding your baby once he or she is born.
One helpful type of information to have at the ready if you plan to breastfeed is a list of common misconceptions that people have about breastfeeding. Simply knowing about these misconceptions can help you to stay committed to breastfeeding, even if you have a hard time getting started with it.
Wait. What’s that, you say? If breastfeeding is so natural, doesn’t it just come, well, naturally? That is one of the biggest misconceptions out there, and it’s a dangerous one, too. If a mom tries breastfeeding her newborn and has a hard time getting things started, she may give up if she believes that it should just happen naturally. Many things can happen in the early hours and days after a baby is born that can cause breastfeeding to get off to a slow start. Medical interventions like cesarean births and some of the medications given during labor and delivery can cause babies to be somewhat sleepy and not very interested in eating. Those same things can also delay the start of milk production. I know, because I have experienced both of them. Fortunately, there are usually solutions for the kinds of breastfeeding difficulties that come up, so don’t be shy. Ask for help from the nurses, a lactation consultant, or whomever else you can find who is knowledgeable on the topic.
Another misconception is that babies should be fed on a strict schedule. Breastfeeding works according to the principles of supply and demand. If a mother nurses her baby on cue (whenever baby cries because he is hungry), her body will produce milk to meet the baby’s demand. There is no need to wait a certain amount of time between feedings for the breasts to “fill up again”. If there is a baby nursing, the milk will flow. Feeding on cue rather than on a schedule also teaches the baby that he can trust that his parent will respond to his needs when he makes them known.
A third misconception is that if the baby is not gaining weight, it is because the mother is not producing enough milk. Although undersupply is a concern for a small percentage of women, more often than not, if a baby is not gaining weight it is because he is having trouble getting the milk out of the breast. Improper latch or positioning can make it hard for a baby to get milk out of the breast. If you suspect that your baby is having difficulties with latch or positioning, get some help from a nurse or lactation consultant or do some research online to find helpful tips and suggestions. I found two web sites, KellyMom.com and La Leche League (www.llli.org) , to be particularly helpful as a navigated the early weeks of nursing my oldest son, who was having trouble with latching on.