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Overcoming breastfeeding challenges

Early breastfeeding can be full of challenges for new moms. Many moms take childbirth classes but stop short of educating themselves on breastfeeding. If a mother intends to breastfeed, a little preparedness can go a long way.

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Mom breastfeeding on the couch

According to the Center for Disease Control’s Breastfeeding Report Card 2011, 74.6 percent of mothers in the U.S. will breastfeed their infant at some point.

Unfortunately, by the six-month mark, only 14.8 percent of mothers continue to exclusively breastfeed. The biggest drop-off in breastfeeding occurs within the first three months. There can be many challenges to early breastfeeding that contribute to this, but with the right information and support a mother can often overcome these challenges.

Common breastfeeding problems

Some of the most common breastfeeding hurdles a mom will encounter include latch issues, pain when nursing, and infection such as thrush. Some other challenges include not realizing just how frequently a newborn will nurse, and not having support from family and friends, says Jennifer Bass, a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor and mom of four who also holds a Master’s degree in Public Health.

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Prepare yourself ahead of time

One of the best things an expecting mom can do to avoid these challenges is to educate herself. Bass says that education and support are key: “I cannot emphasize these elements enough. Many moms find it useful to meet with a breastfeeding counselor before Baby is born.”  Bass says that by seeking support before the birth of a baby, moms “not only get some knowledge of the how/why/when, but then they have a face to go with a name if they end up needing to call for assistance after the baby is born.” 

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Where to turn for help

If you find yourself experiencing difficulty with breastfeeding, Bass recommends seeking the help of a certified lactation consultant, whether that be a Certified Breastfeeding Counselor (CBC), a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC), or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). Reaching out to your local La Leche League chapter can be another great place for support. Bass adds that “many parents seek assistance from their pediatricians, who more often than not are well-meaning, but not well-educated in breastfeeding. It is not something taught in medical school.”  If you are searching for breastfeeding support, Breastfeeding USA and the International Lactation Consultant Association can be great places to find a breastfeeding counselor to help you.

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New moms are often surprised when nursing problems occur. Bass adds that “new moms often believe that breastfeeding is natural, so it will just be easy. When it comes down to it, it does take a little work usually for the first couple of weeks.”  Fortunately, with the right resources and the right support, most early nursing struggles can be overcome.

More on breastfeeding

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How birth affects breastfeeding
5 Breastfeeding tips for new moms

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