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Breastfeeding: Getting the Best Possible Start

By Donna Mielke, RN, IBCLC, RLC

Many moms are anxious about getting started with breastfeeding because they have heard horror stories about sore nipples, engorgement, babies not eating well and other breastfeeding problems. While nursing usually does require some learning and getting-acquainted time for mom and baby, it does not have to be a stressful process. Here are some tips to help you get the best possible start:

First, learn about breastfeeding. You can do this by reading books or looking online for breastfeeding information. Two good breastfeeding books are “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” published by La Leche League International and “Breastfeeding Made Simple” by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett. Some good websites include asklenore.com and askdrsears.com. North Alabama offers several breastfeeding classes for moms and dads. (Yes, dads, we encourage you to attend class too so you can learn how best to support and help mom and baby with breastfeeding!) For Huntsville Hospital classes, call 265-7296.

Find a physician and hospital that support breastfeeding. Ask friends, family and coworkers who have had babies about their experiences and recommendations. Then interview physicians and hospital representatives to determine their feelings about breastfeeding. In a breastfeeding-friendly hospital, the labor and delivery nurse will offer you a chance to nurse your baby as soon as possible after birth. During the first hour or two after birth, your baby will probably be alert enough to nurse, so that is the best time to get started. If the nurse does not offer you this chance, do not hesitate to voice your request to nurse your baby. Newborns tend to be sleepy later, so take advantage of the time that your baby is alert. A breastfeeding-friendly hospital staff will include nurses who are trained to help moms with breastfeeding as well as Board-Certified Lactation Consultants who can help if breastfeeding is exceptionally challenging or if a mom and baby have special needs. For example, mom may have questions about medications and breastfeeding, or she may need to obtain and use a breast pump if her baby is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Lactation Consultants have extensive breastfeeding knowledge and expertise and will be your best resource for any issues you have even after you and your baby are home. They want your breastfeeding experience to be successful and enjoyable, too.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed the first year of life or longer if mom and baby desire. Your baby continues to benefit however long you breastfeed, because your milk changes composition to meet your growing baby’s needs. Breastfeeding truly is one of the best things you can do for your baby.

More about Donna Mielke

Donna Mielke, RN,IBCLC, has been a lactation consultant at the Huntsville Hospital Women’s Center for more than 13 years and has assisted many families with breastfeeding. She and her husband have two married children and three grandchildren. Donna has been blessed to be a lactation consultant for all three grandchildren.