“Breastfeeding is natural, so why do I need to take a class?”
Breastfeeding your baby is one of the most natural things in the world of parenting. It is also a learned skill. When we tell parents that breastfeeding is natural and then offer no further information, we may unintentionally be setting them up with unrealistic expectations. Part of the problem comes from how we use the word “natural” in our language these days. One definition associates the word with something that comes easily or occurs with very little effort.
“She’s a natural.”
“It just came so naturally to him.”
These are things we often say to convey how effortless and enjoyable an experience was. But, breastfeeding is something that is learned with practice. It is definitely natural in that it’s how nature intended us to biologically feed our babies. But, it takes time for both mama and baby to learn how to do it, and it takes a partner time to learn how to best support it.
“My grandmothers never needed to take a breastfeeding class. So, I should be ok without one.”
Oh, so true. And, how we all long for those days of breastfeeding yore. But, here’s the thing. Our grandmothers grew up watching the women in their families and neighborhoods breastfeed. At home, at family potlucks, in each other’s living rooms, babies breastfeeding everywhere. And, just like so many of the things we learn by observing, we pick up helpful information about breastfeeding in the very same way.
As a generation, we have lost this very valuable education. Think of the things we would have learned from watching our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and friends breastfeed their babies…things like the fact that breastfeeding in the early days is done with a ton of pillows and often an extra set of hands (or two). That it’s normal to feel ravenously hungry or suddenly have the thirst of someone who’s crawled through the blazing Sahara when you sit down to nurse your baby. Or that breastfeeding a newborn baby takes an average of 6-7 hours out of every day. That’s a shocker to many parents right there! But, do the math and you’ll see it’s true. The different ways to hold a baby, coax a baby, latch a baby onto the breast...all things we can absorb into our understanding of breastfeeding when given the opportunity to watch and learn from others. But, the main thing that we learn from growing up immersed in a breastfeeding culture is this...we CAN breastfeed. We come from a long line of women who figured it out and therefore we will, too.
Our generation has to learn a little differently, but we are just as capable as our ancestors. While some of us are lucky to have relatives and friends who have nursed their babies and can offer helpful tips and advice, most of us can greatly benefit from an excellent breastfeeding class with a skilled teacher. Having an idea of what breastfeeding may look like can give parents much more confidence when the time arrives. Parents who know what to expect will be less worried that about milk supply, less worried about whether their baby’s eating habits are “normal,” less worried about whether or not it’s taking too long...just less worried, in general. And, who wouldn’t rather be less worried? These parents will also have some tricks to try when they encounter bumps in the road and they’ll know when it’s time to reach out for help.
So embrace the idea of a breastfeeding class! You’ll walk out feeling better prepared and more excited for your journey. And, your helpful and friendly doula should be able to point you in the direction of some great options in your area.