Confidence is more important than you might think when it comes to breastfeeding success.
It's just as important as being supported as a new breastfeeding mum, because maternal instincts don’t just ‘kick in’.
As much as you need to surround yourself with people who want you to succeed, finding your way to believing, ‘We can do this!’ while you grapple with questions, worries, concerns, fears, doubts and anxiety is just as vital to your success.
Confidence rarely comes easily to new mothers.
Raw from the birth, exhausted from lack of sleep, and toe-curlingly terrified that you’re doing everything wrong, the early days of motherhood are racked with self-doubt. It can take a while before you finally feel that you’re doing a good job (which you are, by the way!).
You have enough to worry about as a new mother, without also fretting that you might not be able to nourish your baby. Somewhat ironically, stress can actually impact upon your milk supply. Excessive worrying that you don’t have enough milk can actually lead to low supply, leaving you with even more to worry about.
So, how can you ease your stress levels and feel confident about yourself as a breastfeeding mother?
Here are a few tips to help you build up all the confidence you need to breastfeeding with less stress, worry and fear:
#1: Feed As Often As Your Baby Needs
Breastmilk is all about supply and demand. If your body knows your baby wants more, it will make more. Even when your breasts feel empty, your baby’s suckling will kickstart your breasts into producing more milk. It’s usually on the nights of cluster feeds, or the long days or growth spurts, when new mothers worry that they simply don’t have enough milk to feed their babies. Growth spurts are normal, and cluster feeding is simply a part of your breastfeeding journey. Neither of these things indicate a lack of supply.
#2: Be Informed
There are lots (and lots and lots) of breastfeeding myths out there, and it’s very easy to end up with a head filled with misinformation and old wives’ tales. Make sure you get your breastfeeding information from trusted sources, and that it’s based on science rather than your mother-in-law’s humble opinion.
Here are some snippets of information that are useful to remember:
- Newborn babies have stomachs the size of marbles, and by day 10, his stomach is only the size of his fist. This means they need to feed quite a lot. It’s not unusual to find yourself feeding for most of the day during those first few weeks. This is normal, and doesn’t indicate any issues with supply. In fact, it is simply proof that babies have little tummies, which you already knew anyway.
- Breastfed babies can quench their thirst at the breast, so there’s no need to offer bottles of water. The consistency of breast milk changes throughout the feed. The milk that comes out at the start of each feed is known as the fore milk, and this is a thinner, lighter milk that can quench your baby’s thirst. Hind milk has a higher fat content, is more filling and is released later in the feed.
- Supplementing with formula can affect supply and may result in unintended weaning. There are times when supplementation may be medically advised, but always question whether it is really necessary. Supplementing with formula will reduce the amount of time your baby spends at the breast, and this can affect how much milk you produce. Many mothers find that after offering bottles of formula, baby becomes disinterested in the breast. Always seek advice from a qualified breastfeeding professional or organisation (like the Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Leche League) before introducing formula. It's likely that your local doctor will not have breastfeeding qualifications, and may not offer the best advice.
#3: Your Baby Will Let You Know When It’s Time For A Feed
Rooting, sucking on fingers, lip smacking and squirming are all cues that your baby might be ready for a feed. If you notice any of these behaviours, try offering your baby the breast. Your baby knows when it’s time for a feed, so you don’t need to follow any of the ‘feeding schedules’ proposed by any self-proclaimed parenting experts. Recognising your baby’s cues, and offering the breast before your baby has the chance to cry out in hunger (crying is a late hunger signal), will help to reassure you that you’re doing a good job. It’s hard not to feel confident when you understand what your days old baby is trying to tell you.
Read more about what your baby is trying to say in our baby cues article.
#4: Banish The Nay-Sayers
As a brand new mother you might be feeling a little more sensitive than usual, perhaps even a bit vulnerable and emotional. One sure-fire way to damage your confidence is to invite a load of insensitive brutes round to critique your breastfeeding. You don’t need to listen to people doubting your milk supply, making comments about how often your baby feeds, or telling you to ‘give that baby a bottle’. You don’t need it now, or ever. And until you have bucket loads of breastfeeding confidence, it can be hard to listen to those comments. So don’t. Limit the amount of time you spend with nay-sayers, and tell them in no uncertain terms that you don’t want to hear their opinions on breastfeeding.
#5: Surround Yourself With Support
One of the best ways to increase your confidence is to surround yourself with people who are happy for your achievements. People who are totally on board with breastfeeding, and who want you to succeed. People who can be there to offer a shoulder to cry on without ever doubting your ability to breastfeed. People who know what you’re going through.
What you want is a supportive partner who trusts your body’s ability to nourish his child.
Friends and family who are totally on board with your decision to breastfeed.
New mum friends who are on that same breastfeeding journey with you.
And if you can’t have all three of those, you can still succeed – just focus on the support you do have.
Fact: Partner support is the greatest indicator of breastfeeding success. Therefore, it’s essential that you have confidence in your partner’s willingness and capacity to support you as a new breastfeeding mum. Here's a great article which all partners of breastfeeding mothers should read.
#6: Trust Your Body
Your body is pretty amazing. You made that beautiful baby from scratch, built a new organ — the placenta — to nourish the baby, and nurtured him until he was ready to be born. Your body is amazing, truly amazing. It's so amazing that it can produce food and nutrients to nourish your baby for the first year of his life — and longer.
Trust your body, trust yourself, and trust mother-nature to help your baby grow big and strong. You can do this! After all, you created those ten perfect toes, that adorable dimple and those big beautiful eyes. Milk pales into comparison after all that!
#7: Give Yourself Credit
Every time you give your baby breast milk, you are doing something wonderful. Give yourself credit for each and every feed. It’s easy to get bogged down in worries, and obsess over the feeds that weren’t quite right, but what you should be doing is celebrating your breast milk. Your milk contains nutrients, antibodies and living cells that nourish your baby whilst providing an invaluable boost for his immune system.
No matter how long you breastfeed for, or how many feeds you manage, you should celebrate that goodness that you were able to give to your baby. Celebrating your success can help to build your confidence, so take the time to do it.
Your milk, and your efforts providing it, is definitely worth celebrating.