Deciding to Breastfeed

Hannah, then age three: "Mummy, what are you doing?"
Me: "I'm feeding the baby."
Hannah: "Yuck!"

That conversation took place the day after I delivered our third child, Emma. The girls were visiting the hospital along with my husband and mother. The baby was hungry, so I began to nurse her. As I did, the older girls gaped in surprise. That's when Hannah weighed in on breastfeeding. We adults had a good laugh about Hannah's remark, and the memory of her reaction still makes me smile nearly two years later.

As Hannah and Hayley became accustomed to my nursing Emma, I would often point out that a mother's body is perfectly designed to feed a baby. In trying to figure out breastfeeding, the girls would pose all sorts of different questions, including: Does it hurt? How do you make milk? and Where does the milk come out?

No doubt, you have your own questions about breastfeeding, particularly if you're contemplating nursing a baby for the first time. Don't feel embarrassed by your lack of nursing knowledge. Knowing how to breastfeed is not the same thing as knowing how to make your mother's pot roast recipe. Generally speaking, our mothers and grandmothers did not breastfeed, because it was largely discouraged at the time. Unfortunately, that limits our information sources about the benefits of nursing, never mind the practical aspects of how to actually breastfeed a baby.

In My Experience: Call in a Consultant
Moms new to nursing a baby (and even experienced breastfeeding women) need all the encouragement they can get. If you're having any sort of difficulty with breastfeeding, you need a caring, knowledgeable expert to provide advice and to cheer you on. Certified lactation consultants are just the ticket. After having some trouble with pain and improper positioning during the initial weeks of nursing my first child, I paid for a home visit by a lactation consultant whom I had met in the hospital. Getting together with Michelle for an hour was one of the smartest moves I have made to date as a parent. She assured me that I was doing a good job, and that my problems would soon be resolved. That cheered me up and gave me the necessary confidence to go on breastfeeding Hayley and two more children after her.

Hospital-based breastfeeding classes are a boon, but you may run into problems when you get home. When you need help, rely on International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). As health care professionals who meet the eligibility requirements set by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, members possess the knowledge and positive attitude needed to provide quality breastfeeding advice for nursing moms and their babies. IBCLCs work in hospitals, community settings, and in private practice.

Next: Benefits >>

Copyright © 2002 by Elizabeth M. Ward. Excerpted from Healthy Foods, Healthy Kids with permission of its publisher, Adams Media Corporation.

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