Setting Yourself Up for Breastfeeding Success


With the baby formula shortage this Spring, parents-to-be have understandable worries about being able to feed their babies. For many parents, this is fueling extra motivation to make breastfeeding successful. But how do set yourself up for breastfeeding success? While toted as the most natural option, it doesn’t always come naturally. Perhaps you had difficulty with your older child and had to add in formula earlier than you wanted. Perhaps you are a first-time parent and don’t even know where to start. Or perhaps your newborn in premature or you had a difficult birthing experience. Remember that every pregnancy and breastfeeding journey is different. 

While these tips are geared toward parents during pregnancy, they can be helpful for anyone in those early months or anytime breastfeeding presents a challenge. 

Determine what Breastfeeding “Success” Looks Like for You

For some, being able to feed their baby any amount of colostrum is the goal, while others want to exclusively breastfeed their baby for 6 months and beyond. These goals are highly personal and best established with education and reflection. When I started out, I thought success meant exclusively feeding my twins with my own breastmilk for 12 months (plus complementary foods after 6 months). In the end, this was not our journey. We supplemented breastfeeding with human donor milk and eventually formula. After some time and reflection, I realized that my vision of breastfeeding “success” was actually making it past 12 months and breastfeeding little humans who could ask for Mama’s milk. And when I viewed it through that lens, I my journey was highly successful. 

Take some time to think about your motivation for breastfeeding and what success would feel like for you. And don’t forget, you can always reevaluate and adjust your goals!

Find Your Local Lactation Resources

This is probably my #1 recommendation: Before you Google, call a trusted lactation professional like the ones listed in our Lactation Consultants Guide.. They have resources and access to the latest evidence-based practices and are using them daily. This is not to say that there isn’t helpful information on the internet, but that a professional can help you weed through the unhelpful stuff, or skip it altogether. 

Mother holds baby and speaks with a lactation professional

Lactation professionals are typically either Certified Lactation Counselors (CLC) or Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC). You can find them in your hospital, through WIC, or working as doulas or independent lactation providers in the community. Ask if you can leave a message during off-hours. Sometimes leaving a 2am message can help quell your exhaustion-fueled Google search or Instagram scroll urges. 

Take a Breastfeeding Class 

This is most beneficial during pregnancy, before the haze of early postpartum. You can learn the mechanics of breastfeeding, positions that are helpful, gear you may need, and helpful tricks to prevent issues. Even if you don’t remember all of the information, you should leave with a basic understanding of when to call your trusted Lactation Professional! 

Most delivering hospitals offer a class for pregnant parents and their partners. There are also professionals online who offer virtual courses. For the most up-to-date education, look for courses taught by a CLC or IBCLC. Bonus points if their promotional material includes the phrase “evidence-based.”

Talk to Other Breastfeeding Parents

One predictor of parents choosing to breastfeed is exposure to breastfeeding. In a society that doesn’t always welcome breastfeeding in public, our exposure to it can be limited.  But watching someone breastfeed gives us a better understanding of what we are getting into. Sharing breastfeeding stories can help everyone involved find solutions to challenges.

Seek out friends and family with children and asking about their breastfeeding journeys. If you already have little ones, join a playgroup or story time with other parents of infants. Check out the local La Leche League or other support groups for new parents

Get Your Cheer Squad On Board

Our partners and families can be our biggest cheerleaders or barriers when it comes to breastfeeding. They may worry that they won’t be able to bond as well with baby since you are doing all the feeding. Or they may have had a different experience or advice when it comes to feeding babies. Finding ways for them to support your journey can benefit all of you. 

Father holding baby in lap while mother smiles at baby

Talk about your goals and motivations for breastfeeding and ask them to support you in achieving that goal. Have your partner join you for the prenatal breastfeeding class. Reassure your support people that they can bond with baby through meeting their other needs — changing diapers, baths, doing skin-to-skin.  Ask your people to make sure you are hydrated and fed. A glass of water at every breastfeeding session can go a long way!

Get started with these tips and you’ll be on your way to breastfeeding success. And when challenges arrive, remember that your trusted Lactation Professional is just a phone call away!