Ask the Lactation Expert: Getting Off to a Good Start in the Hospital

A fulfilling breastfeeding experience starts before your baby arrives! Here are some of the things you can do to get on the right track.

Before your baby is born:

  • Attend childbirth classes. Mothers who take childbirth classes are more likely to reduce the need for medication and interventions during childbirth. Medications used during childbirth may have an impact on Mom's and baby's ability to breastfeed successfully in the beginning.
  • Check on the breastfeeding support services available at your local hospital and in your community. Call your hospital and see if there is an international board-certified lactation consultant (IBCLC) on staff. If there is, connect with her prior to your delivery to see what services are offered. If there is no hospital lactation consultant, see if you can locate one in your community.
  • Attend a breastfeeding class. Having a solid base of knowledge about breastfeeding will help you get off to a good start. (Learn more right now by reading the breastfeeding information here at iVillage.)
  • Attend a breastfeeding support group. A local group, such as La Leche League, can be a great help in pointing out high-quality breastfeeding resources in your area, like the best place to get a pump and the best lactation consultant in town.
  • Ask your OB doctor or midwife to help you examine your nipples. This is done by compressing the areola and observing the nipple. If the nipples are flat or inverted, you and your health-care provider may opt for you to wear plastic breast shells inside your bra toward the end of your pregnancy to help draw the nipples out. Do not wear breast shells without consulting your doctor or midwife.
  • Check on the usual policies related to breastfeeding at your hospital. If there is no lactation consultant at your hospital, talk to the nurse manager of the maternity unit. Ask these questions to help you assess the breastfeeding support available:

—Do the nurses have any special training to help breastfeeding mothers?
—What's the best way to convey my desire to have no formula or pacifiers used unless medically necessary?
—What sort of circumstances would be considered a medical necessity for formula supplementation?
—Will nurses or a lactation consultant be available to help me get the baby onto the breast within the first hour or so after birth '- and for other feedings if I need help?
—Do you have hospital-grade breast pumps available in the hospital?

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