Breastfeeding, wow, where do I start? There is soooo much to know that any person could (and many have) written books solely on the first few days of breastfeeding. It’s a can of worms! Did you know that two thirds of mothers don’t reach their breastfeeding goals? Given that there’s 1 baby born every 1.48 minutes in Australia, that is A LOT of mothers who are not meeting their goals.
There’s so much to learn and so much I could write, based on my experience ( 7 years of breastfeeding here!) and a lot of things I read when I was in the thick of it, but I don’t think that would serve you well. I believe that the most helpful thing for me to do for you all right now is to point you in the direction of good support, education and only a sprinkle of information from me.
It is much more useful for you to know where to find good quality information on countless breastfeeding questions, challenges and normalities than for me to attempt to give you allllllll the ones that I think you might come across.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful, normal, natural thing that your body is perfectly designed to do (sounds like I’m talking about birth right? Thats because lots of the challenges and ideas/fears are the same!). It isn’t always easy, that’s for certain; and you’ll have hiccups along the way, thats also pretty certain, but there are some wonderful resources and supports that can help you on your way. I want to add a little note in here, its important, really important. If you do not want to breastfeed at all, for reasons of trauma or otherwise, that is fine as well! No person should be made to feel like a bad mother just because they don’t want to breastfeed and the idea of it makes them feel anxious and brings up lots of negative feelings.
I truly recommend you preparing for your breastfeeding journey before your baby arrives. I know when you are pregnant its so easy to be focused on the immediate hurdles to jump (i.e birth) and preparing for that and to think about parenting and feeding AFTER birth when you’re actually doing it, but let me tell you……. a tiny human will be relying on you to feed them from your body only moments after they are welcomed earthside….. you need to know this BEFORE baby arrives.
Those first breastfeeds can be very overwhelming and intense experiences, even if you’re a well seasoned breastfeeding mother, and if its your first time, having 3-different-midwives-tell-you-20 -different- things- because -you -have -no -idea -what -you -are- doing is utterly confusing and frustrating and it is absolutely not the right time to be learning about breastfeeding for the first time! (read this with a little bit of a humorous but dramatic voice haha).
What YOU need to know about breastfeeding to help you achieve your breastfeeding goals:
Support is key
Studies show that the support a mother is given in the early days of breastfeeding have a huge impact on the length of her breastfeeding journey and whether or not she meets her own breastfeeding goals. Remember that mothers need oxytocin to help them produce the milk their babies need. That is, you need to feel loved and taken care of so you can take care of your baby….. Who will be taking care of you?
It is a great idea to discuss the following with your partner before baby arrives, because as with birthing, if your partner cannot encourage and support you, and undermines your ability to feed when you are tired and vulnerable, these suggestions could mean that you give up breastfeeding when you really don’t need to or want to.
Is your partner supportive of breastfeeding?
Will he/she make comments about switching to formula anytime things get a little bit tricky or your baby is upset?
Will they question whether or not you have enough milk when baby is crying?
Will they take care of the house duties so you can focus on nurturing your baby?
Will they make you feel guilty if you have a day that appears unproductive?
If you answered yes to any of these (or no to the house care question), you need to get that S#$% sorted and have a conversation with your partner about the way that you need support, and that might mean finding someone else to support you.
Conversely, if you have someone on your side who will encourage you, help you problem solve, nurture you and love you whilst you nurture your baby, there are few reasons breastfeeding won’t work for you (those will be medical or trauma based). New mothers need love and support, encouraging words and practical help whilst they learn to feed.
Support comes in many different forms; emotional, physical and practical. This might mean you have a lactation consultant help you out with your challenges, or you might call ABA helpline (i’ll get to that in the next point), you might have a trusted and experienced breastfeeding friend come and sit with you or a friend come and entertain your other children whilst you learn to feed with your new baby. It might mean you hire a postnatal doula (read more about what a postnatal doula does here) to come and nurture you and help you get set up for a healthy and sustainable breastfeeding journey. Whatever that support looks like for you, make it happen, you deserve it and so does your baby.
Historically, a doula was a person who went and sat with a new mother, allowing her to feel safe and loved whilst she breastfed her baby because it was so beneficial, and the mothers who had that support, had much more successful breastfeeding journeys (this is paraphrased from an Extract of an interview between Dana Raphael and Kishi from Japanese not for profit www.childresearch.net). I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a trusted person (professional or otherwise) be with the mother in the early days as she learns with her baby and focuses on them whilst someone else takes care of her.
Know where to find good quality information and education on breastfeeding.
You can ask 20 different people that same question about breastfeeding and they’ll all give you a different answer; some will give you sound advice and others (the majority) will not give you anything helpful to reach your goals. As with birth, evidence based information is always going to be most accurate for breastfeeding but it also needs to be delivered in such a way that is encouraging and able to be implemented. I can certainly help you with breastfeeding if you’d like, especially if you need someone to come and sit with you and nurture you and work through some smaller challenges, but I’d suggest your first stop be the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). ABA have a website with excellent info, they have a local Bendigo group for stop in breastfeeding help and support, they provide breastfeeding education classes and also have a 24/7 free breastfeeding helpline.
ABA have a wonderfully research based library full of breastfeeding information and fact sheets which are both accessible for free online and also available for purchasing hard copy. They have breastfeeding education classes for expectant couples and I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND attending one if you can! Message their facebook group for breastfeeding class info.
Australian Breastfeeding Association
ABA Bendigo Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/ababendigo/?ref=br_rs
The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) runs the National Breastfeeding Helpline : 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268).
Lactation consultants are just like doctors, you might have to meet with a couple before you find one who has sound advice and that you gel with. In Bendigo there are a few different Lactation Consultants you can call on to assist you with your breastfeeding challenges. All of them are lovely and kind and very knowledgable and depending on who you choose, you may have to wait to see them but I can help you get in touch with them. It will cost you money (unlike ABA support) but its absolutely worth the investment to meet your breastfeeding goals and work through challenges. Get in touch with me here for a list of lactation consultants in Bendigo.
Breastfeeding IS a full-time job
I’m not saying this to scare you; I’m saying this with love and hope that you will go into parenthood with realistic expectations of the amount of time you will spend feeding your baby. I am constantly overwhelmed with the sheer number of women who lack confidence in their ability to breastfeed because they feel they don’t have enough milk because their baby is feeding ‘too ‘ frequently and they feel as though something is wrong! This is almost entirely the result of misunderstanding how much time it takes to breastfeeding and establish a healthy and sustainable breastfeeding relationship with your baby.
When a baby is first born, its stomach is only the size of a marble, and your body produces the perfect amount of colostrum (the first type of milk your body produces until your milk comes in) to sustain, hydrate and comfort your baby until your milk comes in, and then it produces the perfect amount of milk to feed your baby. Your milk is perfectly designed to be the first food for your baby; its easily digestible and contains everything your baby needs to grow strong and healthy. The combo of a tiny stomach and milk that it is perfectly digestible means frequent and regular breastfeeds for your baby. Please don’t be alarmed if your baby wants to feed again when you just finished feeding 30 mins ago…. its normal and it will change as your baby grows.
Successfully breastfeeding your baby requires determination, persistence, lots of failed attempts at latching, a lot of support, encouragement, dedication and most importantly love. You need so much love and oxytocin to meet your breastfeeding goals but it is entirely achievable. Surround yourself with encouraging, knowledgable people and understand that it can be really challenging and not an overnight success; hardly any of the good things in life are!
Do you have the support you need to create a lasting and enjoyable breastfeeding experience as well as having additional physical and emotional nurturing for yourself?
Do you believe that you deserve as much love, support, nurturing and nourishment as your baby receives?
If you are nodding at the screen after reading the above questions and you have not reached out to me, I want to talk to you about the ways we can work together so you can receive the support you want and need. Click here to get in touch.
You deserve as much love, support, nurturing and nourishment your baby receives.