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This is a guest post by Danielle Downs Spradlin. Danielle is a Certified Lactation Counselor accredited through the Academy of Lactation Policy and Practice. She is a veteran nursing mother who wants mothers to meet their breastfeeding goals. Her practice focuses on infant-mother well being, evidence-based solutions, and making breastfeeding an enjoyable and healthy time for the whole family. Please check out her lactation counseling services and classes

Dear Moms and Moms-to-be: You are not alone on your breastfeeding journey. Let your partner and health care team know you plan to breastfeed and what role you need them to play to support you and your baby. Mothers spend a great deal of time preparing for the birth process, which only lasts a short time. A successful breastfeeding relationship will last a year or more. Amass your team, and tell them to get prepared.

Co-parent: The non-lactating parent has a crucial role to play in making breastfeeding work for the family. From advocate and supporter in the delivery room to butler and diaper genius months later, there is plenty of co-parenting to be done while baby is at the breast. A laboring mother may need the co-parent to advocate for early skin-to-skin at delivery, prevent any mother-baby separation, or help latch the baby after a cesarean birth. The non-lactating parent has plenty of early bonding opportunities like bathing, changing, dressing, and rocking the new baby. These care and bonding opportunities also give mom a chance to care for herself during the postpartum recovery period. In the days and weeks that follow, mom needs an extra set of hands while nursing. Bring her a sandwich or other food that can be eaten with one hand. Bring her a pillow or the TV remote if she and babe are in for a marathon feeding. And tell her she is doing a great job. Tell her she is beautiful.

Doula: Many doulas have some level of lactation education. At your birth and in the early days postpartum, a doula can be a real “breast saver”. Women using doula services are statistically less likely to receive birth process interventions that are commonly associated with breastfeeding challenges. A doula can help advocate for both mother and baby as well as give the new mother confidence to feed her baby at the breast. Doulas are often familiar with early signs of breastfeeding complications such as mastitis or clogged ducts. Early detection is key to resolving breastfeeding issues and preventing new ones. Doulas can help a mother practice different holds and positions to make breastfeeding comfortable from the start. Some postpartum doulas even help around the home to ensure mom gets plenty of time to relax and feed her new baby uninterrupted.

Midwife or obstetrician: The health care provider who attends your delivery is very specialized in attending births. He or she should know the ten steps outlined by the World Health Organization to facilitate successful breast feeding after delivery. When discussing your birth plan, let your attendant know you plan to breastfeed and discuss the WHO 10 step protocol. It’s your attendant’s job to help you meet your birth and breastfeeding goals during this special time. Also ask if the practice has a staff lactation consultant for you to see, should the need arise, during your postpartum period. Mothers using LC services in the early weeks postpartum may need to work in tandem with their birth attendant if prescriptions or medical referrals are needed.

Lactation Consultant: Many mothers find an LC helpful before the birth. Breastfeeding group classes or private consultations can make learning this new skill easier and give mothers confidence and information to succeed. Breastfeeding classes also give mothers a chance to network with other women who plan to deliver and breastfeed around the same time period. Mothers with special health concerns or who take a medication can benefit from contacting an LC before they deliver. Most common medications and health issues are not contraindicated for breastfeeding. For mothers who have weekend births, LCs may be limited or unavailable for a visit before mom and baby leave the hospital. If you have any breastfeeding questions, request to see your delivery attendant or the LC before you’re discharged. If your birth facility does not have a staff LC, many private practice LCs do house calls. At a house call, the LC will evaluate your baby’s latch, milk transfer, and everyone’s comfort. The LC’s job is to keep mother and baby comfortable and healthy. Most private practice LCs can begin answering questions over the phone to get you on track to breastfeed right away. Have a phone number handy, and call right away, even if you think it’s a silly question. Nothing is silly when it comes to making sure your baby is healthy.

Your Family & Friends: Your mother, co-workers, aunts, sisters, sorority sisters, neighbors, and cousins may or may not have breastfeeding experience. If they do, great! They will most likely know exactly what kind of help you need in the early days and in the months to follow. If not, they can still be on your support team. Be clear when you have visitors of what kind of help they can give you. Don’t be shy to ask for help with domestic work while you are resting and getting to know your baby. If you have a close family member or friend who will be helping more than others, invite her along to a breastfeeding class or new mother support group. Hearing about your needs from a third person can help clarify the support role that needs filling.