For a mother to succeed in breastfeeding, no matter her circumstance, three things are necessary: commitment, right information and the right support system. Without these three, there will be more struggles than usual and each issue becomes a bigger problem than it should be.
And if you really want to prepare to succeed, these are the breastfeeding partners you should get on board!
1) The husband/significant other/immediate family
I credit my husband with half of my breastfeeding success, not just for allowing me to be a stay-at-home Mom (and not having to pump constantly), but more for attending breastfeeding seminars with me; actually learning from them (so much that he can actually coach others); cheering me up when I am struggling (through thoughtful gestures like taking care of the babies so I can sleep longer, or nice breastfeeding outfits) and crediting breastfeeding with everything good about our sons (their health, intelligence, energy).
It is so important for a father to attend breastfeeding seminars with the wife, because he'll learn of the benefits and have an idea of how taxing it must be, especially in the early days when a mother is just recovering from the delivery. Fathers can take care of the swaddling, changing, burping, sunning, etc as the mother recuperates or pumps milk for her return to work. The more rest a mother gets, the more she can deliver, not just the breast milk, but also quality parenting and loving.
Plus, it will be like a ton of bricks crushing your heart if... at the first sign of illness, your husband questions your breastfeeding decision. So, get them on board. Good thing there's a free LATCH Best Beginnings in Breastfeeding Workshop at The Medical City every other month (the next one is May 14, 9 AM-12 NN).
Later on, as you have more kids, the older ones can also be of great help to you. My firstborn would remind me to put my milk in the fridge. Heck, sometimes he even wants to hold my pump for me. But at least, he understands that breastfeeding is something I have to do for the youngest child. It is the way I love them.
2) Your family (especially your mother)
People you love most can easily defeat you when you're not secure in your decision... and no matter how much you read and attend seminars, there will really be moments when you will doubt yourself. And a mother, especially, telling you that you were formula fed but turned out okay won't be much help when you're teaching a newborn to latch. A mother who keeps telling you that no woman in your family breastfed because you're genetically unable to produce milk can also easily cast doubts in your mind, which will translate into stumbling blocks (like when you're waiting for your milk to come in).
So, get them to attend breastfeeding seminars with you. Grow them in the idea the minute you find out you're pregnant. If they love celebrities, talk about those who breastfed. If they're worrywarts or hypochondriacs, ply them with the science that backs the benfits of breastfeeding. If they're into excellence, ply them with literature on how breastfeeding adds IQ points (if only because a child gets sick less and for shorter periods, and thus, won't miss as much school time).
And well... get them cooking the dishes that will help boost your milk supply.
3) Your husband's family (especially your mother-in-law)
We will always, at the back of our minds, seek the approval of our husband's family, if only to validate that he chose well when he chose us. Plus, it just won't do if they're harping on your hubby that you are starving your poor child by insisting to breastfeed (a newborn/baby will cry for as many reasons as we have flavors of ice cream)... or that your child is malnourished (when really, he is only lean).
One other reason why it's important to have your family supportive of your breastfeeding decision is that they are less likely to sabotage it with
junk, fast or processed food later in your child's life. Why would they, after all, spoil your child with sugary sweets when he has a great set of teeth? :)
4) Your OB-Gynecologist
Having your OB aware of just how much you want to breastfeed will allow her to take that decision into consideration about how your particular pregnancy will be approached. Will she take more risks in the delivery or limit the risks to ensure you have enough energy to breastfeed after? Will she use safe drugs, a lot of it, etc. during the delivery and for pain management after? Will she allow/help observe the newborn care protocol?
And after... will she properly advice you on contraceptives that you can use, should you want any, that won't compromise your milk supply?
5) Your Pediatrician
Few do it but parents should really go interview or consult with their intended pediatrician. After all, he or she will be taking care of your precious much longer than you'd be going to your OB. And a pediatrician can support your rooming in wishes, as well as advise you which hospital they are affiliated with is more breastfeeding friendly.
And then later... a pediatrician will monitor your child's progress. But will he do it using the right standards or will he be secretly in the payroll of milk companies and pushing formula at the slightest hint of a problem (even if it's just the common rash on a baby's face as he gets acclimatized in this environment in the first few months)? What if, like others who do not know any better, he blames your milk automatically for any little thing?
And yes, just because pediatricians are doctors do not mean they are breastfeeding experts. They are childhood diseases experts. And unfortunately for us, the topic on breastfeeding does not even take up one entire subject in medical school.
6) Your nanny/helpers
Your nannies have to learn to swirl, not shake, expressed breast milk. Or that they have to let it thaw a number of ways but not to directly heat it. They also sometimes have to be tutored to not just keep giving bottled breast milk when your baby cries when it's not yet feeding time, lest they waste the precious milk you pump.
They also have to be able to support you as you pump, by taking care of the other chores or the other kids. And... they have to be sold into the benefits of breasfeeding themselves so that they don't give your kid junk food when you're away.
7) Your friends
Some friends, though well-meaning, can easily undermine your efforts by dismissing breastfeeding as too hard... or old fashioned. And, if they do not know your decision, they might give you feeding bottles and formula at the baby shower, baptism and birthday of your child. They also might not understand why you are unavailable at certain times of the day, or that you have to properly schedule your meetups with them. Some might also get scandalized when you pop out a boob to feed a child in their presence.
8) Your breastfeeding network/support group
I have LATCH and Arugaan, two groups of breastfeeding experts. I have Pinoyexchange, Gtalk and N@W, forums where I have met other breastfeeding moms. They all offer support, consolation, validation, tips and reminders. They cheer me on. But more than that, they get me to realize others have had to struggle with bigger things but have prevailed (like say, breastfeeding triplets, or a special needs child).
They also direct me to breastfeeding-related products (from milk bags to nursing tops) and news/studies on breastfeeding benefits.
I wouldn't have succeeded without them. And always, I try to give back to them. Trust me, it is just so liberating and empowering to talk about breastfeeding with other people who have also been blessed by it.
9) Other doctors
If you're a healthy person, no need for doctors. But what if you're allergic, diabetic, or just discovered you have a lump somewhere? What if you want to have warts removed, or get varicose veins fixed?
I kid you not... some doctors refuse to prescribe other than what they're used to, or even check if it's breastfeeding safe. The usual advice in this great country of ours is to stop breastfeeding while taking the meds (usually antibiotics for something) when there's more than enough breastfeeding-safe medicines and alternatives. If you do not know better, your hard work in establishing a good breastfeeding relationship can be threatened just because you ate bad fish that got your lips swollen... and went to an incompetent doctor.
So, it's really important to have a breastfeeding circle you can get referrals from.
10) Your colleagues/boss/company
If you're a working mom... it will be important that your company knows that you are entitled by law to pump at work, even if they are unable to provide a pumping station because you're the lone childbearing woman in the company. It will also be crucial that the company believes it's to their benefit as it translates to fewer leaves of absence over a sick child. It is also important for your colleagues to support you more for taking a break to pump (and if they know how hard it is to pump, they won't call it a break) than other colleagues for taking a break to smoke.
And well, in some setups, your colleagues may just have to get used to a whirring sound coming from your desk, when you'd rather just pump there and nowhere else. And by golly, I hope none of them throws away or drinks your expressed breast milk.
In a way, it takes a village to breastfeed a child. But for a long time, we have lived in a formula-supported village... we're now retracing our steps to the good old days when breastfeeding was the norm, not the exception, and embracing the new as we employ tools like breast pumps and coolers.
Anyway, I love my biggest supporters!
Read the other breastfeeding Top 10! :)
Ten Things a Handy Mommy Can Do While Breastfeeding
Ten Life Altering Moments of a New Breastfeeding Mom
Nurturing Rafael: A Breastfeeding Mother's Top 10 List
Ten Things I Now Know About Breastfeeding Because I Breastfed
Ten Ways to Cheer a Breastfeeding Wife
Aria's Habits While Breastfeeding
Top Ten Tips for Pumping and Working Moms
Our Breastfeeding Library
How to Breastfeed in Public
Ten Favorite Foods for the Breastfeeding Mom
Ten Breastfeeding Nice-to-Have's
Nursing Must-haves and Cheaper Alternatives
Ten Reasons I Still Breastfeed Even if I Have to Supplement / Ten Milk Supply Boosting Supplements
10 Things You Don't Say to a Breastfeeding Mom
Ten Things I Wish I'd Done When I was Breastfeeding
Consider this our way of celebrating what elevated our motherhood into something more.