Early Childhood News

Milk Matters: Breastfeeding 101 for New Families

By Marius Nielsen, MSM

When looking forward to the birth of a new baby, most parents in Colorado plan to breastfeed. The World Health Organization states, 

“Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development. Virtually all mothers can breastfeed, provided they have accurate information, and the support of their family, the health care system and society at large.”

But if you’re like most new parents, you probably have a few questions about how to get started and what to expect. Here is a little advice for some of the most common breastfeeding questions.

How can I prepare for success?

Before the birth of your baby, consider the following preparations: 

  • Take a lactation class, like those offered by many birth centers, Women, Infants and Children (WIC) locations, hospitals, doulas or maternity providers.  
  • Talk to your partner, your family and/or friends about your lactation goals and why breast/chest feeding is important to you.
  • Look for lactation support and/or parent groups in your area that you can connect with even before your baby is born.
  • Find out from your care provider or local public health department what professional lactation supports are available in your area.
  • Find a pediatrician who is knowledgeable and supportive of breastfeeding.

If you plan to return to work after the birth of your baby, also plan for these additional items: 

  • Prepare for returning to work by reading and sharing these helpful tips with whoever will be caring for your child.
  • Ask your employer for their lactation policy (Federal and Colorado laws support breastfeeding parents. Your employer is required by law to provide both break time and a private space for pumping. Read more here.) When talking with your employer, this guide has a checklist (page 8) on how to support employees in lactation. 
  • Find out if your insurance covers the cost of a breast pump. If not, WIC also provides breast pumps to those who are eligible.

How can my family and friends best support my lactation goals?

Having a new baby (whether it’s your first or fifth!) is hard work and every parent needs support and help after baby arrives. Most people want to help new parents but may not know how. The following tips and resources can help you ask for the help you need: 

  • Partners, friends and family members can support lactation in the moment by bringing pillows, water, snacks and blankets to the nursing parent. Nursing is work and you’ll need plenty of this type of basic support.
  • Ask for people to listen to and encourage you in your journey, especially when it’s hard.
  • Make a list of the most helpful tasks for your family (meals, laundry, dishes, babysitting older kiddos, school pickups, etc.) so you have more time to concentrate on nursing and your baby, especially in the early weeks.
  • Ask for this concrete help before the birth of the baby so friends know what is helpful when they come to visit. For example, “I’d love to have you come by and hold the baby. Can you also pick up some groceries and take the older kiddos out to the park so we can have some quiet time to nurse and take a nap?”
  • Reach out to friends, family or your provider if you feel sad, worried or overwhelmed.

What if nursing doesn’t come easily or I run into problems?

Most parents can successfully nurse their baby as long as they have adequate preparation and support.  However, for many parents, finding the right information, support and balance to be successful can be difficult. Locating a lactation professional or support group before the birth of your baby is important so that you don’t have to do the research when challenges have already come up. Lactation consultants can help with comfortably latching your baby, milk supply, pumping, how to plan for enough sleep and other lactation challenges. Having friends, family members or a support group to talk through the challenges is essential to help you through early lactation.

How long should I plan to nurse my child?

It is recommended that an infant receive only human milk for the first 6 months of life (no water or other foods, including cereals) and that they continue to receive human milk for at least 1-2 years. After one year, it is normal and healthy for children to continue to nurse for as long as it is desired by both the child and parent. See official guidelines from the World Health Organization here.

Additional Resources 

**If you need help working with your childcare provider or employer in Jeffco to be Breastfeeding Friendly, please contact Allison Wilson awilson@co.jefferson.co.us.

Marius Nielsen works as the Maternal and Child Health Program Coordinator at Jefferson County Public Health, coordinating efforts in early childhood obesity prevention, Health Eating Active Living (HEAL), and lactation-friendly places. They have worked with childbearing parents as well as young families for many years and are passionate about supporting families to reach their personal goals and potential.