Breastfeeding, Don't Fall into a Trap

By Meida van Baal, doula and maternity nurse

The site of bestforbabes.org coins the term “booby trap,” which refers to pitfalls (both institutional and cultural) that breastfeeding mothers face and that drive them to fail at breastfeeding. Unfortunately, the website will be closing on September 30, 2018, so anybody reading my blog will not have a chance to look at this informative website.

As a doula and a maternity nurse here in the Netherlands, I come across many mothers struggling with breastfeeding their newborn when they come home from a long hospital stay. Anything past a day is considered long here. Almost all of these mothers have encountered institutional booby traps and some form of cultural booby traps. So what are these booby traps, and how can you be more aware of them if you plan to breastfeed your future baby?

It all starts before the baby is even born. Many first-time parents take some type of childbirth preparation course here in the Netherlands. Breastfeeding is a topic that rarely gets covered or is briefly covered at the end of the course. Mothers plan to spend 3-6 months breastfeeding, yet this lack of preparation for a very important part of having a baby leads to the first institutional booby trap.

Support in your network is also very important in succeeding in breastfeeding. If you have friends or family members that have not breastfed their babies, they will not know how to support you in your choice to breastfeed. You might find yourself doubting your choice, especially if you hear your network speak of benefits of bottle-feeding your baby. This cultural booby trap is set in place before you have your baby.

When the baby arrives, the length of time you stay in the hospital can affect the next institutional booby trap. Hospital staff here, like many all over the world, do not have a lot of time to explain to each mother on the ward how breastfeeding works. Mothers are left to practice on their own, which increases the chance of poor latching, cracked nipples and insufficient feeding times. Families that get discharged out of the hospital after the second day, are often confused about breastfeeding (baby included) and have breastfeeding issues. There is no plan in place and many ladies come home with problems that we, maternity nurses, have to fix. There is a push to feed your baby within the hour after birth, yet whatever happens afterward is not emphasized enough in the hospital setting. Breastfeeding does not always come naturally. If both mother and baby do not get one-on-one care from day one, confusion and self-doubt set in fast.

Every hospital has one lactation specialist. Again, this person must split her time up to help the women on the ward. She does not work every day and is only on the ward during the day. So if your hospital stay is on the weekend, you will not be able to see her. Also, most of the time, the lactation specialist is called in towards the end of the hospital stay when the problem exists. A better approach would be to send in one early to prevent problems, especially in high risks cases. Not having that extra help sets many families up for failure. Again another institutional booby trap.

So, how can you prevent yourself from falling into all these traps?

-Read as much as you can on breastfeeding. Watch online videos.

-Know the dos and don'ts of breastfeeding.

-Surround yourself with people who have breastfed their children.

-Know a lactation specialist that you can contact. Almost every maternity care organization works with one. So, if you cannot see the in-house specialist in the hospital, contact the one that your organization works with.

-Talk to your doula (prenatal) or maternity nurse (postpartum) about breastfeeding. They can help put you on the right track.