So are you planning to breastfeed?
Breastfeeding might be natural but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. Traditionally, women learned to breastfeed by watching their mothers, aunts, sisters and friends. In a traditional society, breastfeeding was commonplace and very visible. In modern society, however, this is no longer the case.
Nowadays, not only is breastfeeding less common, those who breastfeed tend to do so discreetly. We feed behind closed doors or under nursing covers, keeping the act of breastfeeding hidden away. Now, expectant parents might never have seen a baby being breastfed before. Modern mothers begin breastfeeding with less knowledge and hands-on baby experience than ever before.
To combat this, expectant parents attend breastfeeding classes and antenatal classes in an attempt to prepare for breastfeeding and caring for a newborn. Although these classes are invaluable and the information they provide is necessary, many new mums still feel at a loss when they embark on their breastfeeding journeys.
It can be difficult to know what to do at the beginning and reduced breastfeeding rates means new mums don’t always have a friend or family member they can turn to for advice.
Baby care is mainly done behind closed doors these days. New parents are often surprised by how hard caring for a newborn is, simply because they haven’t seen much baby care firsthand.
You might have nodded sympathetically at tired friends but until you have a baby of your own, it’s hard for you to understand what that tiredness really feels like.
Don’t worry, though. There are things you can do to make the start of your breastfeeding journey easier.
Here are some tips to help you succeed when you’re planning to breastfeed:
1. Surround yourself with supportive people
Don’t underestimate the importance of a good support team. Having an informal support team will help you achieve breastfeeding success. You want people who will be empathetic, offer support (when you want it) and encourage you when necessary.
These people will support breastfeeding; they understand how much you want to breastfeed your baby and will help you tackle any obstacles lying in your way. They might be people you already have in your life or friends you meet at breastfeeding support groups.
Be selective with who you discuss your breastfeeding challenges. If you know a friend isn’t going to support your decision to breastfeed, don’t turn to her for support when you’re struggling. Instead, pick a friend you know will say something supportive.
2. Do your homework
Take a breastfeeding class during pregnancy and take your partner along so he can learn how to support you best. There are lots of potential barriers to breastfeeding, but knowing about them can make them easier to overcome.
Breastfeeding classes will cover topics such as: how breast milk is produced; the optimal breastfeeding position; and how to achieve a good latch. You will learn how to tell whether your baby is getting enough breast milk and how to increase your supply. You will save yourself lots of stress if you learn these things in advance.
If you expect the first few weeks of breastfeeding to be a struggle, you’ll be better prepared. In the postpartum period, there’s a lot to deal with, even without breastfeeding struggles.
Do your reading in advance, to help you prepare for this tricky period. Also, plan ahead. Decide where you’re going to get support and who you’ll go to for professional advice, if needed.
Read books and blogs and speak to your friends and family members who have breastfed. Find out what they struggled with and whether they have any tips for you. The more information you have at your disposal, the better. Don’t overwhelm yourself, though; just remind yourself there is plenty of information out there when you need it.
3. Educate yourself about breastfeeding myths
This is connected with doing your homework but it deserves its own headline. Don’t fall for the persistent breastfeeding myths most new mothers are told. Too many mums worry about milk supply and quality and whether they can feed their babies.
Don’t listen to old wives’ tales or worry about anything that doesn’t have scientific backing. Every time you catch yourself worrying about something – for example ‘I’m not making enough milk’ – look for the facts. Chances are, you’re worrying over nothing and it’s just a breastfeeding myth invading your brain.
4. Trust your mothering skills
It’s scary being a mum for the first time. You worry so much about your baby and whether you might be getting everything wrong. It can take time to build your confidence and, until that happens, you might feel a bit lost. But, remember, you are your baby’s favourite person in the world and the expert on your baby. You know what you’re doing, even if you need a little help sometimes. You’re doing a great job and your baby is lucky to have you.
5. Find your local breastfeeding support group
A breastfeeding support group is the perfect place to find extra support. Not only will there be trained support people on hand to help you master your latch but you’ll also meet other new mums who are finding their feet with breastfeeding.
These are the mums who will text you back during night feeds, empathize with your struggles and help you feel normal in this strange new world of motherhood.
If you’re based in Australia, check out the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s Group Meetings. Ask your healthcare provider for details of a local group for breastfeeding support.
6. Start with the basics
Holding your baby skin-to-skin can encourage regular breastfeeding and help you master breastfeeding. During the early weeks especially, mother and baby skin-to-skin contact can encourage breast milk production and bonding.
Skin-to-skin time is excellent for bonding and will help soothe your baby. Your baby will also be reassured by your scent and the sound of your heartbeat, so she’ll love being snuggled up against your chest.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on a breast pump; you probably won’t need them early on anyway. Instead, purchase only the nursing supplies you need. You’ll need a few nursing bras, plenty of nipple pads and some nipple cream, to help soothe your sore nipples between feeds.
7. Seek professional support when needed
If you’re staying in the hospital after the birth, ask the hospital staff to hook you up with professional support with breastfeeding. If you’re struggling with your latch, a breastfeeding peer supporter, such as a lactation consultant, will be able to advise you on how to achieve a proper latch. Your midwife might also have breastfeeding qualifications and be able to support you in mastering this new skill.
A lactation consultant will be able to identify any problems and help you tackle them. You can get help with tongue ties and other feeding difficulties as well, so definitely book an appointment if you’re struggling to establish breastfeeding. Don’t be afraid to seek support; these people want you to succeed and are only too happy to help.
8. Take it one day at a time
In the early days of breastfeeding, it might help if you tackle each day as it comes. Rather than imagining the months stretching out ahead of you, focus on the day at hand. Breastfeeding will get easier as the weeks progress, so try not to worry about the future; simply focus on today.
9. Take care of yourself
Now that you’re busy caring for your perfect newborn, it’s all too easy to forget to take care of yourself. Make sure your partner is taking care of you, too; if not, be sure to say precisely what you need your partner to do. You might not be getting enough sleep but try at least to get as much rest as possible. Eat well, stay hydrated and focus on your own needs.
You don’t need to be out and about days after the birth. It’s perfectly acceptable to live in pyjamas for the first few weeks. You don’t need to host lots of visitors or get back to life as normal. Immerse yourself in your newborn bubble, slow down and appreciate these moments of getting to know the newest member of your family.
Further breastfeeding resources and recommended reading
- Check out BellyBelly’s 7 Best Breastfeeding Books | Our Top Picks
- BellyBelly highly recommends every breastfeeding mother or mother-to-be become a member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association, for great support, information, resources and friendships
- Also, check out BellyBelly’s Breast Milk Guide | Important Fact On Volume, Supply And Frequency.