Pick up any pregnancy book and you'll notice new moms get repeated advice: Breastfeeding is a natural - and easy - part of being a new parent. But as many new moms discover, learning to breastfeed is far from effortless.
To get the hang of it, some women are turning to lactation clinics - health centers outside hospitals that provide a calm environment and medical expertise to guide moms as they learn to breastfeed.
"Questions [about breastfeeding] may arise after discharge from the hospital," explains Carole Stipelman, MD, medical director of University of Utah Health's University Pediatric Clinic.
Here's how they work: Lactation specialists teach moms how to pump and store milk, maximize milk supply, and monitor their baby's weight gain. Women also learn about latching techniques, or how to nudge babies to attach onto breasts to suckle milk.
"By the end of lactation visits, many mothers find relief from painful or difficult latching, and their infants are peaceful and well-fed," says Stipelman.
Common Breastfeeding Problems
If your breastfeeding journey turns into a rocky road, you're not alone. Common problems include:
- Latching problems
- Nipple sensitivity
- Engorgement (high milk supply)
- Low milk supply
Although three in four women in the United States will start breastfeeding, just 13 percent will use breastfeeding exclusively (without formula or other supplements) throughout their child's infancy, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Benefits to Mom & Baby
If it all seems too overwhelming, don't rethink your decision just yet. Research shows breastfeeding brings a slew of benefits to both mom and baby.
For infants, breastfeeding aids growth and development and lowers the risk of contracting disease. Breastfeeding also releases hormones that strengthen bonding between infants and mothers, providing significant health benefits.
Moms who breastfeed throughout infancy have lower rates of postpartum depression. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding may even lower the risk for breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers.
Breastfeeding for the Long Haul
In the long term, lactation support increases the odds women will breastfeed throughout the duration of their child's infancy, improving health outcomes.
Even the setting itself - a quiet room with an armchair and cushions and extra seating for family members - can relax mom and infant and spur suckling, making breastfeeding an enjoyable, not stressful, experience.
As Stipelman notes, "Our data show that more women who access lactation support breastfeed beyond two months postpartum [after giving birth], compared to those who don't."