While most obstetricians can detail the benefits of breastfeeding, you likely will need to get additional information and support. “Gather information from books and magazines, attend La Leche League meetings [they’re free; look in your telephone directory for the local branch], and take classes at your hospital or birthing center,” says Mary Lofton, a spokesperson for La Leche League International, the breastfeeding education and support group based in Schaumburg, Ill.
Ask your doctor or nurse-midwife to arrange to have a lactation consultant assist you in the hospital when your baby is born, because you’ll want to begin breastfeeding as soon as possible following delivery (the AAP recommends within an hour of delivery). Or call the International Lactation Consultant Association (see Resources below). The lactation consultant will show you several nursing positions, help you perfect your baby’s latch, and explain how to establish a good milk supply and prevent sore nipples and painful engorged breasts. If nothing else, she’ll calm you during what can be a frustrating experience.
Once you bring the baby home from the hospital, you should continue to meet with your lactation consultant, and you may want to attend lactation support groups in your neighborhood. La Leche League can put you in touch with a local volunteer, who may spend as much time with you on the phone as you need.
In addition to getting you started breastfeeding, a lactation consultant can show you how to use a breast pump. While pumping isn’t the most enjoyable experience (“Now I really feel like a cow” is a common refrain), it does allow you the freedom to go back to work when the time comes. It also gives dad and other family members the opportunity to share in feeding time. “Learning to use a breast pump requires patience and practice,” Lofton says. “It can be as awkward as the first time you took your baby to your breast.”
The day will come when both pumping and breastfeeding become second nature. That’s what Kathi Sweet found out. “It was six to eight stressful weeks before I settled into breastfeeding with my first son, but I’m glad I hung in there,” she says.