Breastfeeding Risk Factors to Consider Before Birth

While there are many unique breastfeeding risk factors that may hinder the breast milk feeding journey, some are more prevalent. Be sure to speak to your healthcare provider ahead of time if you have any of the risk factors below, so you can start - and continue - breastfeeding strong!

Learn What Breastfeeding Risk Factors May Cause Nursing Challenges

Initiating your breast milk supply and beginning breastfeeding strong – usually in the first 30 – 60 minutes after your little one’s birth – can have a significant impact on your overall breast milk feeding journey. Not only does early initiation help stimulate breast milk production, promote and maintain a plentiful breast milk supply, and help your little one begin nursing right away, but starting strong and confident can also make it easier to overcome common breast milk feeding challenges that you may encounter in the future. Understanding common breastfeeding risk factors and how they may affect you is essential to proactively getting past bumps in the road, knowing what to expect, and understanding when to seek solutions or resources that can help.

While there are several unique breastfeeding risk factors, some of the most prevalent include:

  • Being a first-time mom. The first time around, breastfeeding – and everything that comes with growing and sustaining a new human life – is brand new to your body! While our bodies are made for this, a first-time mom’s body may not react as seamlessly to the hormonal and physical changes required for breastfeeding as a body that has done it before.
  • Delivering via C-Section. Just under 1/3 of moms in the United States end up having a Cesarean birth, with nearly half of those being unscheduled or unexpected.
  • Being overweight or obese. Around 1/4 of women are considered obese before becoming pregnant, which can lead to challenges both during the pregnancy experience as well as when breastfeeding.
  • Being age 30 or older. Many moms today are having children later in life. The mean age of first-time moms rose from about 24.9 years old in 2000 to about 26.3 in 2014.

Demographic trends in the U.S. indicate all the above risk factors steadily increasing over the last 20 years, with many women ticking more than one of these boxes. If any of these breastfeeding risk factors apply to you, be sure to speak with your doctor or healthcare provider to begin the breastfeeding conversation before it’s time to deliver. During your hospital stay, you can request to meet with a lactation consultant on staff or your healthcare provider may be able to recommend a lactation consultant nearby to help you work through any challenges that may arise once at home and while getting the hang of breast milk feeding.

You can also consult one on one with a board-certified lactation consultant through Medela’s Ask the LC program, where you can submit questions privately via e-mail, or consider downloading Expectful, which has plenty of tools, resources, and an entire library of meditation and sleep content designed for pregnancy so you can feel emotionally well and ready for any breastfeeding challenges you may encounter. 

A Hospital-Grade Breast Pump Can Help

Even if you plan on exclusively nursing, requesting access to a hospital-grade (multi-user) breast pump like the Symphony PLUS® is an important back-up plan to help you initiate breast milk feeding while in the hospital, and may be especially beneficial if you have any common breastfeeding risk factors or your newborn is having latching or nursing difficulties. Symphony PLUS has been clinically proven to help moms initiate, build, and maintain their breast milk supply through two programs – the INITIATE program and the MAINTAIN program – that work together to stimulate and significantly increase breast milk production. You can also rent this breast pump on a month-by-month basis, giving you flexibility to have it on-hand just for your hospital or immediate postpartum experience if needed.

To learn more about breastfeeding risk factors and how they may affect your breast milk feeding experience, visit Though it can be intimidating to consider breastfeeding challenges and disheartening when you encounter them, educating yourself on common risk factors and difficulties – as well as solutions and resources available – can help you be as prepared as possible! A little research, preparation, and communication with your healthcare provider ahead of time can go a long way towards helping you feed your little one with breast milk for as long as you choose.

Finally, it goes without saying, Mama - committing yourself to ensuring your baby has the healthiest possible start in life by receiving your liquid gold should be applauded! No matter what your breast milk feeding journey looks like, how long it may be, or what breastfeeding risk factors apply to you, know that every drop counts and provides your growing little one with many amazing benefits. Remember, Medela is here to help you meet (or exceed!) your breast milk feeding goals, so be sure to find us on Facebook and Instagram to connect with other moms in your shoes and find even more tips, tricks, and resources to make your unique experience easier.

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