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The importance of prenatal breastfeeding education

Mary Allers-Korostynski | Nov 17, 2022

Congratulations on your pregnancy!


How you feed your baby is an important decision.  I cannot stress enough to all pregnant moms to seek prenatal breastfeeding education so that you can make an informed choice.  If you were planning to formula feed, I urge you to educate yourself about breastfeeding.  Over the summer the nation dealt with a formula shortage and that is terrifying.  I can't imagine the feeling of not knowing if I can get formula to feed my baby. 


BTW you may think that, as a lactation consultant, I would be quite biased against formula and this is not true.  I believe in having all the up to date information so you can make the right decision for you.  Most people know much more about formula feeding than breastfeeding.  Then, if you decide to formula feed, it is my job, as a feeding expert, to educate you on HOW to safely and correctly formula feed your baby.  Important details about how much, how often, safe preparation, type of nipple, paced bottle feeding are some of the things we would discuss so that you would be able to confidently formula feed your baby.  


But what if you've decided to formula because you believe you can't breastfeed?  Many times I hear, “my mom said she didn't make enough milk so I won't be able to either”.   Or, “I'm taking XYZ medication so I can't breastfeed”.  And another, “I had breast reduction/augmentation or nipple piercings so I won't be able to breastfeed”.  These are commonly held beliefs, but did you know that they are not true?  


First, milk production is not genetic, but has to do with removing milk from the breasts which makes the breasts make more.  Second, you can take 80% of medications while breastfeeding.  Unfortunately not all providers are not well-versed in how much medication crosses over into the milk and will instead advise to not breastfeed or quit breastfeeding.  A trained and experienced International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is your resource for this information.  


Lastly, the ability to make milk after breast surgery depends on a number of factors.  For reduction, the amount of time since surgery, what method did the surgeon use, did the breasts change during pregnancy and if there is sensation in the nipples are my questions.  If the surgery was recent and breasts didn't change, I would have the wait and see approach within the first 24 hours to see how the baby responds to feeding, hand expression, diaper output and possibly pumping.  Most women I've worked with after this surgery did not have a problem. Same with augmentation:  how long ago, breast changes during pregnancy.  In my experience I have not seen a mom have a problem after augmentation.  With nipple piercings I've only seen milk shoot out of the sides of nipple which is more of a laundry issue than anything else.  My disclaimer is that everyone is different and each case should be evaluated thoroughly by an IBCLC because assumptions should not be made!  


Back to breastfeeding.  So the baby is delivered, placed on your chest and latches perfectly immediately.  Angels sing and unicorns dance, right?  Unfortunately, no.  Although breastfeeding is natural, it is a learned skill for both mom and baby so give yourself some grace while you're learning.  At some point in the near future, you will teach this little one how to use a spoon and you will have peas flung more than once or twice!  That's because they're learning and it takes patience.  BTW, the individual baby's developmental stage/readiness plays a part but that's a story for another day.


This is where prenatal breastfeeding education is helpful.  You will be given the information necessary to be successful and set expectations.  During the session a thorough health history will be taken so that any concerns can be addressed.  Also, if you had decided to formula feed, you may have some myths dispelled and decide breastfeeding is right for you or pumping and bottle feeding.  We want a well-informed and prepared mama!


Your takeaway from this post is educate yourself then decide.  Whether you see me or another IBCLC, I will have done my job well.

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