During the flurry of planning for a new baby, many thoughts are probably running through your head. Names, nursery themes, where to give birth, HOW to give birth, supplies, etc, etc. There are SO many things, yet there may be one more that you need to think about:
Should you take a Breastfeeding Class?
We have all heard that Breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed our infants, yet as you might have already discovered – that ‘natural process’ doesn’t always come naturally. More often than not, this new generation of mothers is missing the breastfeeding ‘village’ of those that have gone before us.
Many of us were formula fed as an infant (which is a viable choice – please do not let anyone tell you otherwise), and so were many of our own mothers. While this is a suitable feeding option, it does result in a lack of knowledge and firsthand experience when we are faced with choosing to nurse our own babies. If your mother didn’t nurse you, and her mother didn’t nurse her, who are you going to ask at 3 o’clock in the morning when your breasts hurt, your baby is crying and the latch just won’t happen?
If you are lucky, you may have a knowledgable sister, aunt or friend you can ask. If not, the internet offers a wealth of information that can be mined day or night. Here’s my list of online resources. There are also many books that can help answer most of your questions and give comfort – These are a few of the ones I like best, Recommended Breastfeeding Books.
A Face-to-face Breastfeeding Class
Yet, even with all these amazing resources, there is just something about having someone who KNOWS the ups and downs, walk you through the process. Depending on where you live, Breastfeeding Classes can range anywhere from free to $100, but what they offer in return is incalculable.
Aside from reassurance, most Breastfeeding classes teach common positioning, latch, time, routine and even common issues or problems. Questions are answered, concerns addressed, materials provided and friendships (hopefully) made. You’ll walk away with a better grip on what breastfeeding is, what it isn’t and when to get help.
Knowledge is power
I did not take a Breastfeeding Class when I was pregnant with my first, and I wish I had. We had issues, partly due to a decade old breast reduction surgery, but also due to lack of knowledge. I remember sitting in my living room at 2 o’clock in the morning, 4 days post-partum, riding high on hormones and fear. My daughter was frantic with hunger and I was frantic with worry and disappointment. No matter how hard we tried, she WOULD NOT LATCH! My breasts were painfully full and leaking with every pitched cry – yet nothing worked. I had the pillow, the stool, the position, yet it was all for naught that night. The harder she cried, the harder I tried, and soon we were both blubbering messes.
My husband rushed in to save us, as husbands are wont to do, and as she gratefully sipped at a formula filled bottle, I cried. These were not tears of relief at the quiet, but deep, wracking sobs of anguish. I had failed. I had failed her and I had failed myself.
Yet that wasn’t true. I had NOT failed. What happened to me that night is a familiar story and one that could have been helped (maybe not avoided, but helped) with fore-knowledge. It was hunger, plain and simple. By the time I woke to nurse her, she was already deep in the throes of hunger pains a 4 day old can’t control – and shouldn’t be expected to. It was my job to calm her and try to reorganize her FIRST, then nurse…. but I didn’t know that. I only knew what her cries and my body was telling me… hunger.. feed… now.
It’s a powerful drive, for both mother and baby.
Yet a disorganized (very, very hungry) baby will NOT latch – at least not until they are older. In the newborn stage, it is important to calm and center them with swaddling (keep those arms still!) and even a small bit of breastmilk in a cup that has been hand expressed. Here’s a great video that shows the popular Marmet Technique of Hand Expression from Chocolate Milk QueenB. (Please note – this shows a breast and nipple….. I know, I know.. but I still need to throw the warning out there.) If you prefer to print something out to have handy, this PDF can be found on the LLLI website.
You do the best you can with the information and knowledge you have
These are things I didn’t know that night, but I would have known if I had taken a Breastfeeding Class while pregnant. It may not have solved all my problems, but I do firmly believe that it would have given me a leg up and offered me tools I desperately needed. We got through that night, painfully, and with tears – but we got through it. We went on to enjoy a robust two and a half year nursing relationship, one that included clogged ducts, mastitis, milk reduction and eventually tandem nursing when my youngest came along. All in all, it was eventful and very educational.
I finally took a Breastfeeding Class when I was pregnant a second time, even though I had already become certified as a Lactation Educator and Counselor myself. Each class is a bit different, and taking someone else’s taught me a couple tricks I didn’t know, ones I’ve since incorporated in my own classes.
There is value in knowledge, and when it comes to breastfeeding, Knowledge is everything. If you are pregnant, looking to become pregnant or have a nursing infant at home (classes offer information for older babies too!) then I strongly encourage you to seek out and attend a Breastfeeding Class near you. Your Midwife, OB/GYN, local hospital or Birthing Center can direct you on where to go. You can also find information via your local La Leche League, as well as through Breastfeeding USA.
Did you take a Breastfeeding Class? Did you find it helpful? What would you add? What would you change?