Author: Kerry Toal, MSN, RNC-NIC, IBCLC
August marks the beginning of National Breastfeeding Month. This month offers a great opportunity to raise awareness of breastfeeding and all of the options and resources available for new parents.
Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics extended the length of time recommended for breastfeeding from one year to two years, with complementary foods introduced around six months. The AAP cited “preliminary data that found that human milk in the second year of life continues to be a significant source of macronutrients and immunologic factors for growing toddlers.”
While it is a wonderful goal for any parent to breastfeed for two years, a parent may be better served by focusing on their short-term feeding goals right after birth. Here are a few things to consider before having a child and making a feeding plan.
1. Know what your goals are before giving birth.
Before coming to the hospital, I’d recommend doing some research and deciding what your goals are related to feeding your baby. Do you want to formula feed, breastfeed, or do a mix of both? If you’re interested in breastfeeding, consider signing up for a prenatal breastfeeding class. Discuss options with your partner and decide what will work best for you and your family. Whatever you decide, we at Stamford Health are here to help you meet your goals.
2. Start at step one.
Whatever your individual goals are regarding breastfeeding, it’s important to start at step one. For a parent who wants to breastfeed, whether exclusively or combined with formula, that means initiating your breast milk supply by initiating bonding, skin-to-skin contact, and an early start to feeding and/or pumping.
3. Make a plan.
A parent’s time at the hospital with a newborn is an opportunity for education and support – gain as much knowledge as you can and make a plan before you go home. If you plan to breastfeed and formula feed, what formula will you use? Plan to discuss with your pediatrician what formula you should use if you cannot find the one you prefer.
If you plan to breastfeed, ask your pediatrician if they have a lactation consultant on site or one they work with frequently to ensure they will work well together and give consistent information and recommendations. If not, is there someone else you can reach out to? Does your insurance cover lactation support? Are you able to get a breast pump through your insurance company? Know what resources are available to you to help you reach your goals.
Finally, know that planning ahead and having goals are great – but if your plan isn’t working out, don’t feel ashamed or discouraged. Always know you can reach out for help, in the hospital to your nurse, or at home to your pediatrician or a lactation consultant. Take it week by week, one step at a time. When you have a baby, you’re not the boss – the baby is now the boss and you just have to go with the flow a little bit.
About the Author:
Kerry Toal is a nurse manager, nurse education, and lactation consultant at Stamford Health.
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