Breastfeeding Classes: Are They Necessary?

What now?

So you are pregnant. You are planning to breastfeed. You know that it’s normal, natural and that all other mammals breastfeed. You’ve heard about breastfeeding classes, but why should you take one? Isn’t this something that mothers and babies just do?

Mothers and babies are equipped with very helpful instincts* and, in the case of babies, strong reflexes to ensure successful feedings. A baby’s survival depends on his ability to find the breast, latch on* and suckle with just a little help from his mother. But here in the United States, and many other industrialized societies, birth practices and our very culture can mask and even undermine what come naturally.

New parents often assume that they will get breastfeeding help in the hospital. There may be excellent lactation consultants on staff, but many are only available during the week day—not at night or weekends. Even if you are one of the mothers who will see a lactation consultant, it is likely your “visit” will be 15 minutes or less. In addition, it is highly unlikely that the consultant will be able to time her visit for the moment you are actually attempting to feed your baby.

Mothers usually leave the hospital less than 2 days after giving birth. Will a lactation consultant be visiting you on day 3 or 4 when your breasts are swollen*? Will anyone be automatically checking on you and the baby to make sure that baby is hydrated*, gaining weight* and your nipples are healthy*?

“I always tell people that taking a class before the baby came was the best thing I did. I’m so glad that my husband was there, too! He remembered tips and tricks we learned and was also super supportive after learning how beneficial it is!” Cathy Y.

If you are lucky enough to be surrounded by family and friends who have nursed multiple babies, it probably doesn’t matter that you are not provided with a lactation consultant to ensure all is well. You will likely have all the help you need. But, honestly, this is a very rare occurrence in the U.S.

It’s likely that you have never seen a baby breastfeed up close and personal. If you’re like most of my clients, you have seen babies breastfeed from across the room, maybe under some kind of shawl. You probably averted your eyes. That is normal in our culture. We know it’s happening, but it is not ok to look! How can you possibly learn any new skill without seeing it happen and asking questions about it?

A prenatal breastfeeding class will provide you with information, a safe, encouraging place to ask questions and see pictures and videos of babies breastfeeding.

“It’s important to know at least the basics: latch*, hunger signs*, what’s normal in your infant and from our body. All good to know this before you are overwhelmed.” Audrey L.

Here are some topics that are typically covered in a breastfeeding class:

Basic physiology of lactation
Basic information about the content of human milk
What to expect in the first hours and days after birth
How to know if your baby is getting enough milk
Normal newborn behavior and reflexes that assist with feeding
How to help your baby with feeding
Signs that everything is going well
Common challenges and how to avoid them and/or overcome them
How to identify when things are NOT going well
Who to call for help

“What I loved about the class was seeing videos of real babies breastfeeding. They really helped me to understand breastfeeding.”

A breastfeeding class can’t prepare you for every eventuality, but it can give you confidence and information that can make all the difference after your baby is born.

*You will learn about these things and much more in your prenatal breastfeeding class!

For a private, prenatal breastfeeding class in the Seattle area, contact Renee to arrange it!

Bodywork for Baby (Guest Post by Michael Hahn)

Newborn loving his time with Michael!

I often recommend bodywork for the babies of my clients. As a lactation consultant, it is my job to look at the entire baby–not just the mouth–to get to the underlying cause of any breastfeeding challenges. When I see structural issues that may cause a problem for breastfeeding or overall function, I refer to someone I trust. Michael Hahn is one of those very special bodyworkers who I rely on to help me help my clients. Here is what he says about working with infants. Continue reading

Breastfeeding and Biting: Tips to Avoid Those Teeth!

Eventually, your sweet little baby is going to get teeth. And when he does, you may wonder…”How is breastfeeding going to work with the addition of teeth?” Don’t worry! It’s possible to mix breastfeeding and baby teeth with no injury to mama. But it’s a good idea to be prepared for the next phase of your breastfeeding relationship. Continue reading

Breastfeeding and Teeth

Sooner or later every nursing mother wonders, “what happens when my baby gets teeth?” If mothers never ask that question aloud, they may never know that comfortable breastfeeding and baby teeth can go hand in hand. Many mothers assume that, with the eruption of teeth, breastfeeding must come to a halt. Fortunately breastfeeding and teeth can comfortably co-exist. Continue reading

“Lactation Consultant”: What Does That Mean?

Lately there seems to be a lot of confusion about just who is qualified to dispense breastfeeding advice. Historically, the term “lactation consultant”refers to a health care professional who has met the qualifications for, and passed the exam given by, the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. Passing the exam permits her to use the letters IBCLC after her name. Unfortunately the term “lactation consultant” is not trademarked so there are no regulations about who uses that term. If you’re seeking help for breastfeeding be sure that your consultant has received extensive training, including at least 500 supervised clinical hours specific to lactation.

In the last 10 years or so some organizations have begun offering certifications for programs that involve a mere week or so of didactic instruction.  The coursework is valuable, but does not provide the depth and breadth of training required to become IBCLC. On the other hand, other healthcare professionals, such as MD’s, have 1000’s of hours of clinical training and experience, but usually very little in the area of lactation.

Here is a partial list of professionals and others who sometimes get confused with lactation consultants. This list pertains to the US only. Other countries have different certifications. Continue reading