Get the Support You Need To Make Breastfeeding Work

Breastfeeding: A winning goal for lifeMotherhood is full of choices, and one of the first decisions to make is how you're going to feed your baby. The choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding is a personal one.

My decision? To breastfeed.

While it was the right choice for me at the time, I quickly learned why they call breastfeeding a journey. I'd be lying if I said there weren't days I struggled. In the beginning my son had trouble latching on and I had two bouts of mastitis. But I had great support that helped me overcome these challenges. I ended up breastfeeding my son for two years, even though I went back to work when he was three months old.

Breastfeeding was a natural way to give my kids a healthy start in life. Not only did it give me time to enjoy that great skin-to-skin contact with my babies, but I knew it was the best way to provide them with the nutrients they needed. Breastfed babies are less likely to get sick and have a reduced risk of asthma, diabetes, childhood obesity, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). And truly, after we got through the first couple of weeks, it was much easier. I didn't have to mix up or warm the formula, and best of all, I didn't have to prepare or carry bottles when we went out.

There were also health benefits for me — like reduced risks of breast and ovarian cancers. Plus, the hormones released during breastfeeding help women recover more quickly from pregnancy and childbirth. Moms who breastfeed exclusively may burn up to 600 calories a day, helping them get back to their pre-pregnancy weight.

Despite these benefits (and many more), the reality is that breastfeeding can be hard. Sometimes it's hard to fit into your busy day or means that you don't get to enjoy all of the activities you used to. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least one year, but only 27 percent of families make it that long. Breastfeeding takes practice, patience, and above all, support.

At the Office on Women's Health, we know encouragement from family, friends, health care providers, and employers can go a long way toward helping a mother achieve her breastfeeding goals. That's why we're here to support you! In honor of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1–7), here are some suggestions to set you up for breastfeeding success.

  • Get help from friends and family who have breastfed. I had lots of support from my best friend who had already breastfed two babies.
  • Get the facts. Whether you are already nursing or just thinking about it, our Breastfeeding section has tips and suggestions for you. It offers the latest information on finding support, the best breastfeeding holds, and common challenges so you know what to expect.
  • Talk with a trained lactation specialist for free! Call the OWH Helpline at 800-994-9662, 9 a.m.—6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, to get answers to your breastfeeding questions. Our specialists can help you with issues such as latching, pumping, and how to store your milk.
  • Hear from moms like you. It's Only Natural, a breastfeeding campaign featuring African-American women, gives you advice from experts and personal stories from other moms. It's designed to help women understand the benefits of breastfeeding and how to fit it into their daily lives.
  • Know that you can work AND breastfeed. You don't have to stop breastfeeding because you're returning to work. The Affordable Care Act requires most employers of hourly workers to provide time and private space for nursing moms. Because this may be challenging for some businesses, we launched Supporting Nursing Moms at Work: Employer Solutions to help employers find creative, low-cost ways to support their staff. Talk with your employer about how you can continue to breastfeed when you go back to work.
  • Get inspired! Visit our breastfeeding Pinterest board and watch videos about breastfeeding on our YouTube channel.

More and more women are making breastfeeding work for them — and you can, too! Get the facts, ask questions, and don't be afraid to ask for help. And if you've overcome a breastfeeding challenge or are making plans to breastfeed, please share your story with us! Together we can support nursing moms and help them hit that year mark!