Breastfeeding is natural. You are busy. There are so many things to do to prepare for birth and the arrival of your baby. Adding one more thing to your crazy schedule seems laughable. What is there to learn anyway?
So why should you make time for a prenatal breastfeeding class? Here are 5 reasons.
1. Breastfeeding is a learned behavior.
It’s true that breastfeeding is the biological norm for infant feeding. Newborn babies have instincts that help them latch and breastfeed. But both parent and baby still have a learning curve before breastfeeding feels natural. It takes a while before nursing becomes easier in the "I don't have to think about it" sense.
Women used to learn about breastfeeding through observation. They grew up watching the women around them feeding babies at the breast. They also likely saw women relatives helping new mothers through the tricky times. They heard and saw a lot about breastfeeding before becoming a parent. They had that lifetime of memory and a network of breastfeeding women to rely on for support.
Now people rarely see breastfeeding or spend much time around young babies before becoming a parent themselves. The brief glimpses of feeding babies here and there cannot make up for a lifetime of learning. A class on lactation taken during pregnancy can’t equal a lifetime of learning either. It can however, give you accurate and well organized information on nursing your baby.
2. Inaccurate information on lactation is very common.
When bottle feeding became the cultural norm, we lost generations of knowledge on breastfeeding. As interest in nursing returned, many people applied bottle feeding behaviors to breastfeeding. As time passed, we realized that applying the formula norm to breastfeeding did not work.
A lot of misinformation is still out there. Its shared by friends, family, and even health care providers. Learning about lactation while pregnant will give you foundational knowledge to draw from once your baby is in your arms. Using this knowledge helps in navigating the many pieces of advice that undermine your milk supply and breastfeeding relationship. You will have the knowledge to know what is normal, and when some professional help is needed.
3. A prenatal breastfeeding class will increase your confidence.
Pregnancy, birth, a new baby…. these are all scary things for many people. If you know nothing about breastfeeding, you might worry about how it will all work. You might also worry about how to feed your baby, or how often. Learning about lactation while pregnant will help you feel more confident about nursing your baby. You will have realistic expectations about when your baby is hungry, and what normal breastfeeding infants are like. This knowledge will help you feel confident that you can make breastfeeding work. Having that confidence will actually make it more likely that you will meet your own breastfeeding goals.
4. A breastfeeding class will teach you about the importance of support.
Support is so very important to nursing parents. The postpartum time is a time of vulnerability for all parents, and especially a nursing parent. Support needs to come from your partner if you have one, your family and friends, and from your health care providers. Knowing you need support, and knowing what to ask for, are not always the same thing. This is where thinking ahead during pregnancy about the specific support you will need as a nursing parent is so important. Additionally, a good class will provide resources so you know where, and who, to turn to for help after baby comes.
5. A breastfeeding support group is not the same as a class.
Maybe you read this one and are thinking “well of course.” Many women go to a breastfeeding support group such as La Leche League or Breastfeeding USA while pregnant to learn about breastfeeding. But they don’t know what to expect or what they should be getting out of the experience. They were told go to the meeting to learn about breastfeeding.
I definitely recommend attending a breastfeeding support meeting while pregnant if possible. But it’s important to know how it is helpful compared to a class. Ideally you would do both. Attending a support group lets you hear what breastfeeding parents are talking about. You hear their concerns and their joys, and will get to see some very contented breastfeeding babies. Going while pregnant may make you more likely to come back after baby is born.
Breastfeeding meetings are usually structured around the questions brought to the meeting by parents. They are not organized in a way designed for learning. They may or may not represent the most common breastfeeding challenges. At the end of the meeting you may or may not have the foundation of knowledge you want.
A class is for learning, with all information geared towards expecting parents. It will provide you with a comprehensive foundation of knowledge. You will learn the basics of how lactation works, what’s normal, and how to know your baby is getting enough. You will hear about the most common challenges so you know what to look out for.
A breastfeeding support group and prenatal class are both valuable, but they have different rolls.
So, if you are planning to nurse your baby, I recommend you make a prenatal breastfeeding class a priority. Learning about breastfeeding while pregnant is one of the best things you can do to have a successful breastfeeding experience.
Intuitive Parenting offers both private and group prenatal breastfeeding classes, and I’d love to help you feel confident and prepared for your breastfeeding experience.