Beth Jones, RN, Certified Lactation Consultant, Monument Health Rapid City Hospital
Welcoming a new baby to the family is exciting, and most new parents know that they’re in store for some challenging times. While they may be expecting plenty of late night diaper changes, many first time mothers aren’t aware of how challenging breastfeeding can be.
Breastfeeding Can be Challenging
The perception is often that because breastfeeding is a natural way to feed your baby, it will come easily. That’s not always the case however, and it can feel very discouraging for new moms who haven’t had prior experience.
It’s a little strange when you think of it, but eating is a skill that newborns haven’t practiced. Some babies will take to it right away, while others may take a few weeks to get the hang of it. The most important thing for a new mother to do is to give yourself a little grace. It’s easy to get frustrated, and when that happens many women begin to blame themselves or worry that they’re failing as a mom. That simply isn’t true — struggling to breastfeed is not a failure of any kind. In fact, it’s a pretty normal occurrence.
Breastfeeding Resources Available
If you’ve never breastfed before, there are different positions and techniques that you can try to successfully breastfeed. No two babies are the same, so what works for one might not be perfect for another. Your pediatrician may be able to provide some guidance, or you could consider a visit with a lactation consultant
Another option is to seek out breastfeeding support groups, both in person and online. Having access to other new mothers who are having a similar experience can be incredibly encouraging, and your fellow moms may know of a technique or trick that could work great for you.
Monument Health has board-certified lactation consultants in Rapid City and Spearfish that can help guide new parents through the process of breastfeeding. This includes fathers or partners as well, as they can play a helpful role during the feeding process even if it’s just through coaching. Lactation consultants can help determine what will help you and your baby get better at breastfeeding, assess whether you may need aides such as nipple shields — which can be counterproductive or detrimental if not needed or used improperly — how to best use a breast pump and bottle feeding techniques that can be used in conjunction with breastfeeding.
You’re Not Alone
Most women will find that with patience and a little help their little one will eventually get the hang of breastfeeding. But understand that some babies and moms may have to supplement with bottle feeding, and others may need to use formula instead of breast milk. This doesn’t reflect on the quality of parenting — there simply isn’t one right way to feed and nurture an infant. While I encourage mothers to explore breastfeeding, if it doesn’t work out, that’s okay too. At the end of the day, the most important thing we can give to our babies is love.