It can take some time to get breastfeeding working well for you and your baby.
It’s a huge learning curve for you and your baby, and not always smooth.
As a lactation consultant who professionally supports breastfeeding mothers, I’ve come to learn and understand what can help to make the breastfeeding journey easier, more enjoyable and longer-lasting.
Here are 10 things lactation consultants wish new mothers knew to help breastfeeding be a less daunting experience:
#1: It Gets Easier
Life with a newborn can be an emotional rollercoaster ride. Some days may seem like things just fall into place. Other days may seem like utter chaos.
The good news is that things gradually get easier. Most mothers find that after the early months, a cloud lifts and things seem clearer and easier to deal with.
In the meantime, focus on one day at a time and enjoy all the special moments.
#2: Unsettled Periods Are Normal
During the early months, it is normal for babies to have one or two unsettled periods every 24 hours. During unsettled periods, babies typically cry a lot, don’t settle easily to sleep and cluster feed (see below). Unsettled periods tend to peak around 6 weeks before starting to ease off around 2 months and usually cease around 3 months.
#3: Cluster Feeding Periods Are Normal
Cluster feeding periods are when a breastfed baby has many short feeds close together. For example 3 or more feeds within a couple of hours. Typically, cluster feeding periods coincide with unsettled periods.
Cluster feeding is often not just about the actual feeding, it is also about the close contact between you and your baby. Cluster feeding may be how your baby processes what she has learnt during the day. Cluster feeding can form an important part of your baby’s overall nutritional needs for a 24-hour period.
Read our article on 7 tips for coping with cluster feeding.
#4: It’s Normal To Need Help And It's Okay To Ask For It
With the right support and information, most breastfeeding issues can be resolved. One important key is seeking help and fast! When it comes to breastfeeding, calling an Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) counsellor or seeing a lactation consultant is ideal.
#5: There Will Be Conflicting Advice, So Learn To Trust Your Instincts
Many mothers get conflicting advice about breastfeeding. It is less likely you will receive conflicting advice if you contact the ABA or see a lactation consultant.
However, if you get conflicting advice, remember to trust your instincts. Try to figure out what advice feels right and go with that. Remember you know your baby better than anyone else.
#6: Know The Reliable And Unreliable Signs That Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk
Many mothers worry if their baby is getting enough milk. There are reliable and unreliable signs to figure this out. It is important to rely on the reliable signs to decide if your baby is getting enough.
#7: Many Mothers Have Pain With Initial Attachment In The Early Weeks
… but they go on to reach their own breastfeeding goals
Nipple pain is very common, particularly in the early weeks, but it usually eases off and many mothers go on to breastfeed for weeks, months, or even years. Pain usually occurs at the start of a feed when your baby attaches and draws your nipple and surrounding breast tissue into her mouth. If your baby is attached and positioned well, the pain will last only a few seconds or so. But if your baby is not positioned or attached well, the pain will continue.
#8: No Matter What, You ARE A Great Mother
Mothers can put a lot of pressure on themselves to do everything ‘right’. As a lactation consultant working with mothers, my job is to care, support and provide information to help mothers make their own fully informed decisions. My job is not to judge, pressure or belittle.
It is important to meet a mother where she is at and provide her with unconditional positive regard, empathy and support. This can allow her to open up fully about challenges she may be facing and what she wants to do. Then together, we can discuss strategies that could help and she can decide what course of action to take.
No matter what decisions you make regarding the care of your baby and no matter how her baby is fed, you are a great mother!
#9: Joining The Australian Breastfeeding Association Is A Great Way To Stay Informed And Receive Support
Breastfeeding is a learned skill for the mother. It can take a little while to get the hang of it. Joining the ABA and going along to local ABA meetings are great ways to socialise with other mothers who are going through or who have been through what you are going through. Support is very important to get breastfeeding working well.
#10: Your Baby Is An Individual, Just Like You
All babies have different personalities, feeding and sleeping habits. Some babies like to be held constantly, others are happy to lie down on their own. Some babies drink from both breasts at each feed, others drink from one, others sometimes drink from one breast at some feeds and from both at other feeds. Some babies sleep long stretches while others are cat-nappers.
Trying to work with your baby as best you, helps ensure all her needs are met.