Reducing Risk Factors for Breastfeeding

Reading a twelve page feeding guideline, it lists twenty-six risk factors for breastfeeding mothers. I imagined how scary this would be for parents. Twenty-six seems like a lot…are mothers doomed to fail? I think not.

A risk is a concern, a possibility, not a final diagnosis. My colleagues and I have helped many mothers who fall into ‘risk categories’. In fact, I became an IBCLC Lactation Consultant because I know there can be difficulties.

Number one on the list of risks is ‘First Time mother’. That is much too general a term. A healthy mother who has given birth to a healthy baby and who holds her newborn skin-to-skin is off to a great start. In my experience, all mothers benefits from education and practical support. So let’s look at the education and support a family can get and how we can improve that.

I always suggest a prenatal breastfeeding class. That can answer your questions and help you prepare. In addition , support at the hospital (during labor, birth and postpartum) influences a mother’s early breastfeeding. Consider a hospital that is certified Baby Friendly.  That requires a focus on promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding families. Just as importantly, training about breastfeeding fundamentals for the whole staff helps reduce confusion. This really works!

Positive postpartum support includes plenty of time just being skin to skin with the baby. That’s how a baby learns.  Furthermore, breastfeeding families will need support once they leave the hospital.

Mothers frequently tell me they get conflicting information, they just can’t remember what they were told and that once they got home, new problems arose. All the more reason for resources beyond the hospital. Here are resources for support to help you find out what is available to you.

Outpatient office visits with an IBCLC at the hospital. These are usually covered by insurance.
A pediatrician’s office with an IBCLC Lactation Consultant available. A pediatrician is not a lactation specialist (unless he/she is an IBCLC.)
A home visit with an IBCLC. Some private insurance companies reimburse. Aetna will cover the cost of IBCLC home visits.
WIC offers support from peer counselors and also has free mother-baby groups as well as food coupons.
The Baby Café USA, free support groups. These are available in some cities.

In addition, here are some reliable online resources.
Global Health Media Project: excellent videos for breastfeeding, in many languages.
Kellymom: Well written answers to common questions with references for more information.
Find an IBCLC Lactation Consultant: home visits, hospital, and community settings.
Women, Infants and Children food program has many resources.

Access to good support is the risk we have to address. The problem is that support is spotty. Transportation, payment or insurance coverage and finding someone in your area can be difficult. Families have to make do with what there is and they end up feeling the blame.

Being a first time mother is not automatically a risk. It’s a learning experience. Your first, or your third, it can be overwhelming. As always, good timely support aids the transition, reduces problems. That’s how we help families deal with risk factors.