The Philips Mother & Child Care Index recently released a report that 72% of mothers want to breastfeed “for as long as possible.” However, just over half of mothers surveyed breastfed for 7 to 12 months. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends human milk as the major source of nutrition for the first 12 months. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding a minimum of 2 years.
Why aren’t women meeting their goals?
The Philips survey reports that pain and low milk supply are the top reasons mothers don’t reach their breastfeeding goals. The return to work was also cited as a complicating factor in the breastfeeding relationship.
Breastfeeding myths are as pervasive as any infant care myth. Distinguishing between misconceptions, outdated information, and proven science can be a challenge for new and seasoned mothers alike. Continued lactation support from a mother’s peer group and health care team is crucial to providing the most evidence based information. Ideally this support is a key factor in mother’s meeting their breastfeeding goals.
Breastfeeding Shouldn’t Hurt
Most mothers and full-term, healthy babies breastfeed comfortably when the baby and mother are allowed to breastfeed freely. For some mothers and babies, breastfeeding can hurt. The pain can be due to latch problems, tongue tie, awkward positioning, or other physical anomalies. The good news is, these situations are almost always correctable. The better news is more hospitals, birth centers, OBs, midwives, and pediatricians are working with lactation counselors to handle these stumbles before they can impact the breastfeeding relationship.
Most Mothers Can Make Enough Milk
The low supply myth that is pervasive in our culture is often due to misinformation about the norms of the breastfed baby. The elimination patterns, sleeping patterns, feeding rhythms, and growth patterns of exclusively breastfed infants can vary greatly from the formula fed baby. Different does not mean one is wrong and the other is right. Different means we’re not comparing apples to apples.
Some common breastfed baby behaviors that are mistaken for low milk supply are frequent eating and waking at night to feed. Human milk is readily digested in about 90 minutes. Human babies double their weight some time between 4-6 months. Some even sooner! All that brain growth takes a lot of food.
Some Tips for Meeting Your Breastfeeding Goals
1. Set a short term goal. When you reach it, set a second, third, and forth breastfeeding goal.
2. Share your breastfeeding plan with your health care provider.
3. Identify a lactation counselor who can work with you and your health care provider before your baby is born. You’ll have the information ready should the need arise.
4. Know where peer support is in your community. La Leche League is a great resource.
5. Get to know other breastfeeding moms. Meet-Up groups are another great resource.
6. Educate your family. Co-parents, grandparents, and care givers may not have experience with a breastfeeding family. Invite them to a breastfeeding class with you.