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Breastfeeding Myths

Nursing's Not a Nuisance

Myth #5: If you had trouble breastfeeding your first baby, you can expect to have problems with the second.

Fact: Contrary to what many people assume, a mother's breastfeeding experience is not necessarily similar with each of her babies. For example, a woman's personal health and well-being, knowledge and experience, access to expert help at the hospital, and practical assistance at home can vary with the birth of each child. Even more important, each baby differs in size and maturity, medical status, and innate skill in latching on to the breast correctly and nursing effectively. If you had an unsatisfying breastfeeding experience with a previous baby, chances are excellent that you can enjoy a positive outcome this time around.

Begin by becoming as knowledgeable as possible about breastfeeding, reading printed materials, and attending a prenatal breastfeeding class with your partner. Review your past experience with your physician or a lactation consultant who can identify risk factors in you or your baby and help you avoid a recurrence of the problem. For example, latch-on difficulties are a common cause of severe sore nipples and inadequate breastfeeding. Often these problems can be averted by obtaining skilled bedside assistance in the hospital and, if possible, delaying the introduction of a pacifier or bottle until your baby is at least 1 month of age.

Opt for continuous rooming-in to allow you to promptly respond to your baby's feeding cues and give him lots of practice in latching on. Arrange for an early follow-up visit within two days of hospital discharge; your pediatrician can provide a referral to a lactation consultant if necessary. This early follow-up can be invaluable in identifying problems before the milk supply has been compromised or a baby has lost excessive weight. You can also obtain an electric breast pump to remove residual milk after some feedings which will build up your supply and give you surplus milk for use later. Mother-to-mother support, available from La Leche League or peer counselors, can help as well.