Mothers nursing for the first time frequently experience difficulties in breast-feeding, says Vergie Hughes, nursing coordinator at the National Capital Lactation Center at Georgetown University Hospital. The center provides pregnant and nursing mothers with breast-feeding education.
Some common problems are difficulty in getting a baby to "latch on," sore nipples and breast engorgement, a condition in which breasts become uncomfortably full, says Hughes.
Often, women worry that their child is not getting enough milk, because women are unable to visualize the amount a child is receiving.
While a number of hospitals have full-time lactation consultants, the demand for such services frequently exceeds the supply, Hughes says.
Another program that seeks to improve breast-feeding education is the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The federally funded program provides supplemental foods, nutrition education and health-care services to low-income women and children.
In the District, WIC has inaugurated a breast-feeding peer-counseling training program designed to train women who have previously breast-fed their babies to share their experience with new mothers. The program takes 10 to 12 weeks to complete and teaches women how milk is produced, its nutritional value and how breast-feeding obstacles may be overcome.