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Although your partner may beg to differ, your breasts' fundamental purpose is to provide sustenance to your offspring.
Alas, the irony is that while nursing may be the most natural act in the world, it isn't always easy. "I've been helping moms breastfeed for 30 years," says Sue Huml, I.B.C.L.C., director of education for Lansinoh Laboratories, a maker of breastfeeding products in Alexandria, Va.
"I'm constantly amazed that many problems we deal with today are the same ones we were dealing with three decades ago."
But that doesn't mean you can't do it. In fact, the vast majority of women are able to breastfeed their babies successfully—and happily. "Ninety-nine percent of women are capable of nursing 100 percent of the time," says Corky Harvey, R.N., C.L.C., co-owner of the Pump Station stores in Hollywood and Santa Monica, Calif. The key to success, she says, lies in preparing for challenges and having a plan for sidestepping them. Here, our experts offer advice for avoiding five of the most common breastfeeding pitfalls.
As well-meaning as your friends and relatives undoubtedly are, they may have very different opinions about how a baby (specifically, your baby) should be fed. "It's a confusing dynamic when a new mom wants to nurse and her own mother or her husband's mother fed her children formula," Huml says. "Often the message she receives is, 'Well, bottle feeding was good enough for you,' as if the choice to breastfeed is a personal insult to them."
In the days and weeks after you've given birth, your body aches, your hormones are going crazy, and you and the baby are both sleepier and weepier than you ever thought possible. An anxious family member insisting that your baby is starving may be all it takes to convince you to stop breastfeeding. "The last thing a new mom needs to hear is, 'Are you nursing again?' or 'Are you sure the baby is getting enough to eat?' " Huml adds.
To avoid these exchanges, you need to educate your postpartum posse. Invite your concerned kin to attend a breastfeeding class with you, or ask them to be present when you meet with a lactation consultant. Explain how important nursing is to you and that you need their support. "Once everyone understands what 'normal' is, they can relax," says Huml.