If you're pregnant, chances are everyone has a story for you ” and most of the time it's a horror story about birth or breastfeeding. With a little preparation, though, you can enjoy success with both. When it comes to breastfeeding, we may be getting plenty of advice from friends and family that may be more based on a bottle-feeding mindset than on how breastfeeding really works. Planning for prevention with these 5 tips can keep you from suffering needlessly with breastfeeding problems.
Tip #1 Plan During Pregnancy
You may be writing a birth plan for your labour ” and this is a great time to think about how your birth may affect feeding your infant. Certain interventions ” such as pain medications and caesarean surgery – can make early feedings more difficult, whether due to an extra sleepy baby or separation of mother and baby after birth. While some interventions may be unavoidable, the key is to have a plan in place for what you can do if you experience them. For example, if you have a caesarean birth, make sure to ask for help getting your baby to the breast as soon after birth as possible. If you've had pain medication, you may need to offer the breast more often by waking baby rather than waiting for baby's cues. No matter what, skin to skin in the first hour after birth and beyond can be a great facilitator to breastfeeding success. So be sure to include these in your birth plan.
Tip #2 Learn To Latch
If your baby doesn't have a good latch, he's not going to be able to transfer milk. A deep, asymmetric latch can help your baby feed well. To get this, hold your nipple opposite baby's nose and wait for a wide open mouth. Then, pull baby in against you chin first. But don't feel you need to be so structured about latching ” often if babies are allowed to self-latch, they do a great job of it (especially if they're skin to skin with mum). When you look down at your baby, his ear-shoulder-hip should be in a line, and he should be tummy-to-mummy with no space in between, no matter how you're holding him. The corner of his mouth should be open more than 90 degrees, and his lips should be flanged out on the breast. It's also important for his head to be tipped back a bit ” if his chin is to his chest, he won't be able to swallow.
Tip #3 Let Go Of “The Rules”
Many women are still told to only nurse a certain number of minutes on each side, increasing slowly over the first week, in order to prevent sore nipples. If you hear “only nurse for X minutes on each side” or “switch sides after X minutes,” you may want to let it go in one ear and out the other. The same goes for advice to only nurse your baby every 4 hours. The best way to manage breastfeeding is to follow your baby's lead ” get to know your baby's individual hunger cues, and breastfeed as soon as you notice them. Let your baby feed as long as he wants on the first side (until he falls asleep or comes off on his own), then offer the second breast. If he eats more, great. If not, start on that side at the next feeding. This will keep you baby happy and your milk supply strong.
Along the same lines are rules about how to sit when you're feeding your baby. Positioning is important, but it doesn't mean you always need to be sitting upright in a chair. Reclining and sidelying positions can be more relaxing. You may or may not need pillows ” sometimes they just get in the way, but sometimes they help support the baby in a good position. Do what works for you and your baby, not what someone says you ‘must do' in order to breastfeed.
Tip #4 Think Ahead
Growth spurts, teething, distractible baby, and more – know what developmental stages your baby will go through so you're prepared if they seem to impact breastfeeding. If you think your milk supply has disappeared overnight, could it just be a normal fluctuation around 4-6 weeks that signals your supply is evenly matched to your baby's needs? If your baby is all of a sudden nursing all the time – could it be a growth spurt not an indication that your supply has tanked? Is your baby refusing the breast, but it's really teething pain that is causing the behaviour not the desire to wean? Be alert for signals like these ” check to see if something is happening developmentally rather than thinking breastfeeding is the cause.
Tip #5 Line Up Support
Most people mean well when giving you advice ” they want to see you succeed and your baby thrive. The problem is that they might not know enough about breastfeeding to be able to really help. So, plan in advance to bypass some of breastfeeding's “booby traps” by learning where to turn for help in your community. It might be the lactation consultant at the local hospital, or a mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group. You'll want to find a couple of phone numbers so that you know help is just a call away ” having these handy in the immediate postnatal period can be useful. The Australian Breastfeeding Association has a great helpline which is 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268). You can find more details here), but whatever you do, steer clear of advice and helplines offered by formula companies. They try to get a foot in during pregnancy by advertising on places like google, bidding for pregnancy based keywords, which is clever marketing tactics.
Sometimes you just need emotional support rather than technical knowledge ” let your partner, family and friends know ahead of time that you plan to breastfeed and how they can best support you. Having a cheerleader ” someone who supports your decision and encourages you to persevere ” is sometimes worth more than all the technical help you can get.
Also, be sure you choose a breastfeeding-friendly healthcare provider for your baby. If you can, interview them before the baby is born to be sure their philosophy and personality matches with yours. You don't want to feel conflicted or defensive each time you attend an appointment for your child. Questions to ask include how many exclusively breastfed patients they see, under what circumstances they would recommend supplementation or weaning, if they have access to a lactation consultant for referral, and how long they suggest breastfeeding. If you don't feel comfortable with their answers, keep searching for a provider you can trust.