“I can’t tell you how often I hear women say they go through a six-week Lamaze class for a 14-hour labor, but wish they’d taken one three-hour breastfeeding class,” says Corky Harvey, R.N., an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and co-owner of The Pump Station in Santa Monica, Calif. A class (or an individual consultation with an IBCLC) can prepare you for potential pitfalls, such as a baby’s difficulty “latching on” to the breast.
Plus, you’ll have a few answers upfront to all the “Huh?” moments that happen when you’re a new breastfeeding mom—from what the yellowish stuff is that comes before the milk kicks in (it’s colostrum, which is full of antibodies) to what that tingly sensation in your breasts is all about (that’s the “letdown reflex,” which releases your milk). You’ll also learn how to pump and store your milk, so you can have an evening out with your spouse or return to work while continuing to provide breast milk for your baby.
Perhaps most important, a class can give you confidence. “At the class I took, the instructor advised us to give it three to four weeks,” says Catherine Holecko, a mother of two in Neenah, Wis. “She promised it would become much easier after that, and she was right. The first weeks were definitely tough, with engorgement, exhaustion and everything else, but once I got past that, I found it so easy and convenient.”
When you sign up for a class, be sure to make a reservation for two—take your spouse or your mom with you. “In the first few days home from the hospital, a new mother is incredibly spacey and sleep-deprived, so it helps to have another set of ears there,” says Harvey.
Ask around among new-mom friends for a teacher recommendation, or check with the La Leche League (llli.org) to find classes in your area. Make note of which consultants’ names keep rising to the top. “A good breastfeeding teacher is worth her weight in gold,” says Harvey.