So you’re pregnant. Maybe it’s your first baby or 2nd, 3rd, 4th or more. You’re thinking of how you’re going to feed your little baby, you want the best for them like every other parent. It’s drilled into us that “breast is best”. So here are my 10 tips and myth busting post for successful breastfeeding:
- Timing – the most common question I’ve encountered is how often should my baby be feeding? Well, the answer is – whenever they want. It’s important not to watch the clock with a breastfed baby. After all, they can’t tell the time. They will feed as much as they need to; their stomachs are so small to start with, that they need to feed often in order to fulfil their hunger and to also establish your milk supply. Ignore those people say that your baby isn’t getting enough milk because they are feeding often or they are “hungry again”. It is NORMAL!
- Pain – This also seems to be another common question; “should it hurt?” “it’s hurting!”. The simple answer is no. Although this can be slightly misleading, in the early days it is normal to experience soreness, a sort of toe curling pins and needles type ‘shock’. This usually lasts no more than 20 seconds at the beginning of the feed. Any pain lasting a full feed needs observing. There are many reasons for why a mother may be experiencing pain. The most common is that the position of baby and attachment may need adjusting. Seeing a midwife, an infant feeding coordinator, lactation consultant or breastfeeding peer supporter; can make or break your journey. So if there is any pain, seek help!
- Spoil the baby – AKA The 4th trimester! I will be going into more detail on this subject in another post but it tends to be something that not many people have heard of before. It involves you being ‘tied down’ because your baby in those early days, doesn’t want to be put down or doesn’t want anyone but mum. Again this is normal. Your baby is new to the world and in a strange place, you’re their safe place. Cuddle and hold your baby as much as they need. You cannot spoil a baby.
- Confidence – I have seen many women doubt themselves when it comes to feeding their baby. Hearing the words “I can’t do it”, is heartbreaking. In our lives, we are told we aren’t good enough; whether that be the way we look, our career or education. But when it comes to our baby, we are good enough; we are more than good, we are perfect. You have created and nourished your baby for the past 9 months, maybe longer or shorter but you have still gone through the same journey. Your body is then made to nourish, feed and grow your baby after they enter the world. YOU CAN DO THIS! BELIEVE IN YOURSELF!
- Support – A breastfeeding mother needs support around her. Just as she had support during her pregnancy, she needs it after too. It’s very easy to believe that you should give up or stop when you have friends or family with well meaning comments suggesting that “one bottle won’t hurt” or “you’ve tried your best”. Whilst they are well meant, they can have a huge impact on confidence and don’t offer any support. Support for a breastfeeding mum is most helpful in introducing her to local groups, breastfeeding support if needed and so she can take care of herself too. The simple things help the most. So remember when your partner or daughter is feeding her child, to offer a cuppa or a snack. When she has a hot meal waiting for her, cut it up so she can eat one handed or better yet, hold the baby. These can also make her feel appreciated and boost that confidence.
- Bonding – I hear a lot that mums want dad or other people to be involved. We’ve become fixated on feeding = bonding. This isn’t the case. There are many ways for others to bond with your baby. Nappy changes, skin to skin cuddles, bathing together and babywearing are but a few. These all lead to your baby getting to know other people. Feeding is not the be all and end all of bonding.
- Expressing – whilst some mums express exclusively from birth, many express to have a break or when the go back to work. The general consensus is to not express until your supply is established around 6 weeks post birth. Expressing can increase milk supply and an over supply via feeding and expressing can cause problems down the line. Expressing can be helpful, it allows other people to feed your baby and means that they can have breastmilk if mum has to go back to work. However some women don’t respond to a pump and cannot express, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have any milk. A baby can drain the breast better than any pump.
- Low supply – many women are told by friends that they couldn’t breastfeed because they had no milk. Generally this is related to timing and baby feeding often which leads mum to think that her baby isn’t getting anything. This isn’t true. If your baby is having wet and dirty nappies and gaining weight, then they are getting plenty. Expressing is not an indication of supply nor is a baby that fusses at the breast or wants to feed more frequently than previously. The image from Emma Pickett IBCLC is a great info graphic on low supply. You can read the full article here Low milk supply 101
- Milk Quality – Some other reasons I’ve heard for stopping feeding, surround milk quality. I’ve heard a woman say that her milk was no good because she ate burgers and chocolate loads. Whilst this diet isn’t ideal, it’s unlikely to affect your milk. It would however, effect you and your own health; as your body prioritises the milk made for your baby. Of course, it is recommended to eat a healthy balanced diet but hands up for those that have just eaten burgers or chocolate 🙋🏼
- Formula – it seems so easy doesn’t it? Someone else being able to feed your baby. Being able to go out without your baby. The problem with formula when it comes to a breastfeeding relationship, is that it has led to a lot of these myths. The formula companies have undermined breastfeeding for a long time, creating doubt. Crafty adverts with subliminal messages have affected our perception of breastfeeding and formula feeding alike. Chances are that we all know someone whom formula fed their baby and turned out fine. Maybe we were that baby? In any case, a breastfeeding journey is best without the introduction of formula milk. The main issue here is nipple confusion, which can lead to painful latches and blocked ducts. It can also lead to a lower supply, mum would need to express for every formula feed given to maintain supply. Giving formula doesn’t guarantee better sleep or a better settled baby and formula comes with it’s own set of risks.
So as you can see, there are many myths surrounding breastfeeding and here we have merely touched the surface. If you are doubting any part of your journey or have any questions then seek help and information. Social media is a great resource for those 2am questions you made want answering. We’ve all been there!