Expert advice from a lactation consultant.
What are the three most common breastfeeding mistakes?
Expert: Freda Rosenfeld, CCE, International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant
1. Not being prepared to learn
People think, I’m just gonna have this baby and it’s natural. It is natural, but you want to be prepared – you want to know what to expect, so that you can get yourself as ready as possible. Two hundred years ago, when you had a baby, you probably saw ten women nurse in your lifetime before that point – your mother, your aunt, your sister, your cousin – because it was a very a different world. So you had a better idea of what to expect. So the first thing is to be prepared. I think everyone should take a prenatal breastfeeding class. I think I’d see a lot less people if that happened, because then they would have some idea of what to expect. And to expect a learning curve. Like that it might hurt the first day, but it shouldn’t hurt past day three.
If they are struggling, the first thing is to speak to their pediatrician, because he or she may be able to help them or have a name. I get half my referrals from doctors. If that doesn’t help, they should log onto ILCA and find a lactation consultant in their neighborhood. And if they want to take a prenatal breastfeeding class, the first route is to check their hospital (if they are offering them) or again go on ILCA. Not all of us, but most of us, do prenatal classes.
I emphasize position. Position means no pain because the baby’s being held properly, and position means that the baby should drain the breast and gains weight. You want to hold the baby totally parallel, facing you, tummy to tummy or chest to chest, whichever term you like better, so that the baby’s head is right over the breast, so the nipple goes all the way to the back of the mouth, which is where you want the breast tissue to go, you want the baby to fill his or her mouth with breast tissue, so the nipple’s in the back of the mouth. If you have a pretty normal breast, and a pretty normal baby, just really watching that latch – making sure the face is right over the breast – should do the trick. And in prenatal breastfeeding classes they have dolls, they have model breasts. We walk you through all that, that’s what’s so good. So it’s like cramming what you would have learned two hundred years ago.
2. Failing to devote the first two weeks after birth to nursing
A big mistake would be not to devote the first two weeks to nursing, to really making sure the baby nurses a lot and that you and the baby get to know each other. I’d say a good quarter of my women who don’t have milk, it’s because they don’t have good nursing management at the beginning. They miss feedings because they’re tired, and so they give a bottle, so they’re not getting into a rhythm with their baby, so then the milk doesn’t come in to meet that rhythm. If you have a nurse, you should still make sure the baby’s nursing. A lot of times mothers get nurses and then they don’t nurse their baby, and then that first two weeks – which are the most crucial for getting things off to a good start – can be wrong. So really to devote the first two weeks to getting this right, cause once it’s right it’s a lot easier to go from there.
3. Forgetting to enjoy your baby
Not enough women, I think, enjoy the baby. I have a woman – a really lovely woman – and the baby is growing, the baby is thriving, she came in for a very minor issue, and so I said, “What’s the first thing we’re gonna do? We’re gonna throw out the book.” She was recording right breast, left breast, pee, poop, this, that, the next thing, and the baby was only three weeks old. And the baby had gained back its birth weight beautifully, and this is really just a very minor problem that we were resolving – and the issue was that I didn’t feel she was enjoying the baby. Enjoy the baby. It doesn’t have to be exact. If your baby is growing and you feel good, enjoy your baby.
I had a call two days ago from a woman who said to me, “I’d like to make an appointment.” I said, “Is the baby gaining weight?” She said, “He’s three weeks old and ten ounces above birth weight.” I said, “Bell-curve perfect. Is he sleeping?” She said, “I get two to three hour chunks at night.” I said, “At three weeks that’s beautiful. Are your nipples hurting?” She says, “No.” I said, “So then why do you need to see me?” She said, “I guess because my friend saw you and said it was a good idea?” I said, “You don’t need to see me.” She was one of those women whose baby was a good learner. She was probably in a hospital with a lactation consultant, got some really good early advice, and I was like, then why do you need to see me? I said to her, “You’re not enjoying your baby. I don’t think you need to see me. You’re doing wonderfully, and if I could give you one gift: just have fun.”
We’re in such a society where everything has to be perfect that she thinks she has a problem when she doesn’t. If your baby is gaining, if your nipples don’t hurt, don’t get caught up in the details.
Interview by Meghan Pleticha