Breastfeeding is a skill that's learned through practice. Although it's a natural process, it's very common to need help. According to data collected in various studies and surveys, the following things can help you be successful at breastfeeding:
- Get information on breastfeeding from the prenatal care provider.
- Have enough information about the benefits of breastfeeding.
- Learn what you should expect once you start to breastfeed.
- National public health policies that offer support to people who are breastfeeding once they return to work or school.
- Get support from a lactation expert, if problems arise.
What you can do
- Learn. During pregnancy, learn as much as you can about breastfeeding. You can read a book, watch videos online, or read articles on breastfeeding. It’s important to seek information from sources you can trust, like marchofdimes.org/breastfeeding. You can also see our visual guide about how to position the baby and expressing and storing milk.
- Take a class. If you can, attend a prenatal class or a breastfeeding class. Many hospitals offer these classes. This is another way you can get information about breastfeeding and connect with lactation advisory or consulting professionals.
- Your birth plan. Include your desire to breastfeed your baby in your birth plan. A birth plan is a set of instructions that you write about your baby’s birth. Fill out the plan with your partner. Share the plan with your health provider, your family, and other people who will give you support. It’s best if everyone knows in advance your plan to breastfeed your baby.
Who can help you with breastfeeding?
Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you have problems with breastfeeding. It’s possible that you might need just a little help to start or to overcome any problem.
- Lactation consultant or certified lactation professional. This person has received training and has a certification in lactation. Their knowledge is special and can help you in situations, like breastfeeding a preterm baby or one with special needs. You can seek lactation consulting services through your health provider or your hospital. Or visit ilca.org.
- Lactation support and advisory professional. They have training in breastfeeding, but not all of them have certification. This professional can help you and your baby learn to breastfeed. They can also help you establish a good supply of milk for your baby and help you with positioning, and expressing and storing milk. You can find advisory services through your area’s WIC (Women Infant and Children) nutrition program at fns.usda.gov/wic.
- Breastfeeding support group. This is a group of people who help and support each other about breastfeeding issues. Ask your provider to help you find a group in your area. Or visit La Leche League at llli.org.
- Online support. Visit womenshealth.gov or call the National Breastfeeding Helpline at 800-994-9662.
When problems arise
Breastfeeding requires practice and patience. It’s to be expected that there might be problems sometimes. The following problems are common and can be corrected:
- Congestion of the breasts. This happens when your breasts are swollen and full of milk. They may feel sore and sensitive. Most of the time the discomfort goes away when you start breastfeeding regularly.
- Nipple pain. Many people feel pain in the nipples when they are just starting to breastfeed. If you have cracked and sore nipples, maybe you should change the position you’re using to breastfeed.
- Plugged breast ducts. Milk can get trapped in your breast ducts. It’s possible that your breasts feel sore or look red. You may feel a hard spot in the breast. Some things that can help you are: massaging your breasts and expressing the milk with a pump.
- Nipple confusion. This happens when a baby who is breastfeeding has problems latching on and sucking. One of the main reasons for nipple confusion is when a baby has been given a bottle or pacifier. The best thing is to avoid giving your baby a bottle or pacifier until breastfeeding has been established for about 3 to 4 weeks.
Seek out help from a breastfeeding professional if you can’t handle this problems on your own. Check out our web article that provides more details about what to do to overcome breastfeeding problems or discomforts.
Breastfeeding does not have to be painful. If you are finding it painful, speak with your health provider or a breastfeeding professional.