Many people assume that breastfeeding is very natural and that the baby goes to breast and that's all that there is to it. However, that usually is far from the truth. Breastfeeding is a learned art for both the mother and the infant. When the infant goes to breast just after the delivery and for the first few days, the mother and baby both learn from each other what they have to do to be successful. Mothers learn how to latch the baby on the breast and babies learn to suck and swallow at the breast. Remember that when you are learning a new skill that there will be times when things don't go as expected or as well as you desired. With time, however, the feedings become easier and more fulfilling.
While you are in the hospital during those early days you will be focusing on learning this new skill. The learning continues when you come home. It is very important before you have the baby to create a list of people that you can turn to for help, so that when you have concerns, you will know whom to call. If this is your first baby you will need people with experience to guide you through the early months. Remember, you are learning to take on the role of a brand-new mother and also a brand-new breastfeeding mother. It is natural to have lots of questions and concerns.
One of the major breastfeeding support groups is La Leche League. They offer monthly meetings with other mothers to discuss breastfeeding and parenting. They also have a Web site that provides listings of mothers who can be called to answer questions. Another support group is the Nursing Mothers Council. This group offers a course in breastfeeding counseling and provides free telephone advice. They have a Web site and are listed in the white or yellow pages of the telephone book. When you are interviewing your pediatrician, ask if he or she offers breastfeeding support with either a lactation consultant or a counselor. Your pediatrician also may know of mother-to-mother groups that are in your area.
Mother-to-mother support groups offer emotional support and contact through regular meetings. Many mothers find that sharing stories and seeing other mothers breastfeed greatly boosts their breastfeeding and parenting experience. Some health centers have peer or outreach counselors who offer advice before problems arise. Your health facility also may offer a telephone "warmline" that can be used as a resource. When you are taking your childbirth classes ask about the support groups in your area. Your local library, church or grocery store may have listings of mother's groups.
There also may be mother's groups that are facilitated by lactation consultants or counselors. Your health-care provider may be able to give you a listing of the consultants in your area.