Lara Stewart-Panko

Creating a Breastfeeding Plan

In the past decade or so, birth plans have become commonplace. Yay! Guess what next deserves to be a well-recognized tool? A breastfeeding plan. I recently interviewed Nicole McHardy, Lactation Consultant (LC), to gain her thoughts about the purpose of a breastfeeding plan. You can check out the complete interview here.

So what can a breastfeeding plan do for you? Well, it can help you get clear about your feeding goals, and then assist you in communicating these goals and the types of support you'd like to your team of professionals as well as friends and family members. Whether your goal is exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding, or exclusive donor milk or formula feeding, creating a plan before baby arrives will greatly reduce your stress and assist others in knowing how they can best serve you.

What might be included in a plan? Once you've stated your chief goal, itemize what strategies you'd like to use to facilitate it. For example, if you want to breastfeed fully or partially, requesting plenty of visitor-free time during the early postpartum period would be wise. The establishment of successful breastfeeding is typically greatly influenced by what happens in the first days of baby's life, so focusing on feeding moreso than visitors is the way to play it. You may also wish to include your wishes in the event that extenuating circumstances occur. For example, if formula supplementation is chosen for a medical reason, do you prefer your baby receives it via cup, lactation aid or bottle? The mode of delivery can impact your feeding goal, so planning for this ahead of time -- as opposed to having to potentially make a decision when sleep-deprived -- can give you peace of mind. It is also very important to remember that in the vast majority of cases a recommendation of formula supplementation can be evaluated by a parent and a lactation consultant; the urgency sometimes conveyed by hospital staff is not always accurate and you can make a fully-informed decision by asking lots of questions until you're clear about what is best in your baby's individual situation.

One of my suggestions is that if your family has the financial means, hire a lactation consultant in private practice while you're pregnant. Meet with her to discuss your goals and build rapport. Put her number in your phone. In the event you need her guidance and support after baby arrives, she'll be at the ready and you won't be at the mercy of publicly-funded limitations around scheduling, consistency, institutional influences and accessibility.

If your family is coping with certain medical conditions, creating a feeding plan can be especially beneficial. A LC can help you know your options and create a plan that's customized to you and your baby. Nicole identified several conditions can have an impact on feeding, including twins or higher-order multiples, gestational diabetes, PCOS, IUGR, certain types of high-risk pregnancies and prior breast surgery.

A few other great recommendations Nicole shared in the interview:

Read "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" by La Leche League. You can buy it in person or online at Barefoot Babies.

Make use of the free resources provided by La Leche League to help your friends and family members understand how to best support you. Here's a link to: 10 Things Grandparents Can Do To Support Breastfeeding.

Nicole provides in-person lactation support services in Hamilton, Burlington, Brant and Halton regions, and she's available via Skype if you're out of those areas but would like her assistance in creating a plan prenatally, or making decisions or receiving support after your baby arrives. You can find her on Facebook or email her at NicoleMcHardyLC@gmail.com.

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