When it comes time to nurse your newborn for the first time, you will likely experience a myriad of emotions ranging from joy and pride to confusion and frustration. You may or may not have already done hours worth of Google searches to prepare for complications like low milk supply, postpartum anxiety, or clogged ducts, just in case these issues rear their ugly little heads. But when the day officially arrives for your breastfeeding journey to begin, understanding these six common breastfeeding fears that lactation consultants say you don't really have to worry about, may help put your mind at ease and allow you to more fully engage with your babe.
The role of a lactation consultant is to provide nursing moms and their families with support and resources to navigate breastfeeding. According to the International Lactation Consultant Association, these healthcare professionals specialize in "the clinical management of breastfeeding," which can help families achieve goals when it comes to nursing. They also work to take some of the pressure off of parents to be all-knowing about breastfeeding issues that can crop up, which can help moms nurse from a secure and settled mindset knowing that they have support. Keeping these six things lactation consultants say you don't really have to worry about in mind can also do just that.
1. That Pumping Will Be A Struggle
Many moms worry that pumping will be difficult, but in reality, a bit of learning can help ease fears and allow mom to focus on other aspects of breastfeeding. "Pumping is a skill and as with many skills, it comes naturally to some and takes practice for others," nurse and lactation consultant Tera Hamann tells Romper. "Most people have few issues and are easy to figure out. When in doubt, it’s always best to get hands-on help to make sure the fit is good and they are using the pump to the best of its abilities."
Certified Lactation Counselor Chelsea Sablotsky wants moms to know that knowledge is power when it comes to pumping, but moms shouldn't stress about how hard it may be before the time comes. "When it comes to learning how to pump, education is key here as well," Sablotsky tells Romper. "Learning about the different types of pumps out there (varying suction strength) and understanding flange shapes and sizes are crucial for a successful pumping experience. Additionally, learning tips and tricks such as hands-on pumping, power pumping, and use of guided imagery are great to have in mind throughout your journey."
2. Sticking To A Feeding Schedule
"Feeding a baby can be very basic. The best thing you can do is listen to your baby and trust your instincts. In most cases that is all that it takes," Hamann tells Romper. "If baby stops nursing on their own, settles between feedings, and has appropriate diapers, they are getting enough."
Hamann wants nursing moms to understand the reality of why babies may skip feedings and how they tend to make up for that later on. "I think the most important thing in the early days is to realize you are starting a new relationship with this tiny human who can only communicate on the most basic level. When they are overstimulated, they shut down and sleep," she says. "After a warm, dark existence, the world can be a lot to handle. What that means is that lots of visitors can be overwhelming and can result in skipped or poor feedings. Then they like to make up for it at night when you are ready to sleep. It’s so important to find some support and nap when you can."
3. Low Milk Supply
You may have a drawer full of recipes for lactation pastries lined up and ready to go in case you suffer from low milk supply, but nurse and lactation consultant Hamann tells Romper that moms may be overly anxious about experiencing low milk supply. "Most low supply is more of a perception problem than an actual milk supply problem," she says. "We live in a culture that promotes the golden freezer stash, and it’s just not necessary. I personally get anxious when I have more than 100 ounces and find a family that needs my extra."
While you may not have extra to share, chances are that you will have plenty of breast milk to support your baby. A truly low milk supply will be addressed by your pediatrician if your baby is struggling to thrive. Sablotsky tells Romper that breastfed infants should be seen by their pediatrician between 3 and 5 days of age in order to assess their feeding habits. "Overall it is important to remember that virtually all women are capable of producing enough milk for her baby; education and pediatrician follow-up will help ease their worries and assess whether any action needs to be taken in reaction to milk supply," Sablotsky says.
4. Expressing Your Concerns To Your Lactation Consultant
It is easy for moms to attempt to play it cool in front of any medical professional after giving birth, but Sablotsky wants moms to know that "the more open you are with your lactation consultant, the better."
Instead of worrying about what your lactation consultant will think about your question or concern, Sablotsky and Hamann both agree that being upfront can alleviate concerns early on. "You never know when the slightest thing can play a role in getting answers to problems. We are educators, therapists, cheerleaders, friends. We want you to succeed and most of us will do our best to make sure you meet your goals," Hamann says. "Breastfeeding crosses over in many areas of life so there is no stupid or inappropriate question. Chances are you aren’t going to shock us."
5. How Much Milk Baby Is Receiving
"Concern surrounding milk transfer is extremely common, but mothers should not worry about how much their baby is eating during each session," Sablotsky tells Romper. "Educating mothers on recognizing feeding cues, encouraging feeding on demand, and setting their expectation for the frequency of feedings (at least 10 to 12 feedings in 24 hours with no particular pattern or frequency) is a great tool in reducing their worry. Scheduling a feeding observation with a CLC is also encouraged to assess latch, position, and milk transfer."
If you are concerned about your child's intake, Sablotsky says that "following up with your pediatrician to assess the pattern of weight gain in a newborn is the most important tool in determining whether your breastfed baby is receiving adequate nutrition."
6. Going Back To Work
This was one of my biggest fears as a nursing mom and unfortunately, the anxiety around returning to work as a nursing mom crippled me. Fortunately, you don't have to follow in my footsteps. "It is very common for new moms to stress about going back to work early in their leave," Sablotsky tells Romper. "It’s encouraged to take your breastfeeding journey one day at a time, however, some suggestions on easing your worry about returning to work include: building a freezer stash of breast milk supply, communicating with your employer on your plan to pump, planning where you will pump at work, and learning how and where you can store your milk at work. Preparing your baby for taking a bottle of breast milk before returning to work may also be helpful."