Top Tips for Breastfeeding Success.
Congratulations, you are pregnant! If you are one of the 81% of women who wants to breastfeed, I have tried to condense some key elements and practical ideas of things you can do to help you succeed.
Skin to skin
As soon as you can after birth. You can usually do this no matter what kind of birth you have had- often doctors will let baby stay on your chest after a c-section while they are stitching you up. You can ask that the newborn checks be done a little later so you can enjoy your first golden hour uninterrupted. There are huge benefits of skin to skin, including boosting your baby’s immunity, regulating temperature and respiration, creating a secure attachment- as well as allowing the baby to initiate feeding. Watch a video of laid back breastfeeding to give you some inspiration (you can find some links at the end of this article).
Do your research BEFORE your baby is born
Read books, watch videos, get along to your local breastfeeding support group. If you learn how a baby latches, how tiny their little tummies are (size of a marble on Day 1 and an apricot on Day 7) you will get a better understanding of how your body works and a visual idea of what is going on. In moments of exhaustion and vulnerability it is easier to be reminded of things you already know than it is to learn new concepts for the first time.
Join support pages on social media
Where would we be without social media in the wee small hours when you think you’re the only one awake cradling a small baby in the dark? There are so many resources and supportive communities out there to help remind you you’re not alone. In Bristol we have Bristol Breastfeeding Mummies, so at 2am when you are up for yet another night feed and wondering if this is normal you can instantly connect with one of the other 3,500 mummies who may be doing the same thing. Ask questions, read other people’s stories and learn from them. There are also peer supporters, breastfeeding counsellors and lactation consultants on there who give sound information and the admins quickly monitor any less well informed opinions.
Identify those who would undermine you
Very few people intentionally try to stop someone from breastfeeding. However, as we know with birth, well-meaning people can be coloured by their own experiences and project very subjective ideas as “fact”. If you are aware that your mother-in-law has very negative opinions on breastfeeding, maybe she shouldn’t be the one constantly at your bedside for the first few weeks? Perhaps surround yourself with people who have succeeded at reaching their breastfeeding goals. Even midwives, health visitors and doctors are rarely experts in this field, so ask for a second opinion from a breastfeeding specialist if you need it.
Support at your fingertips
Have the National Breastfeeding Helpline on your phone, write down the times and addresses of your local support groups. We know the sooner you get help when difficulties occur the more likely you are to succeed. There are private and NHS funded lactation consultants (to qualify they need 90 lactation education hours and 1000 hours of clinical practice in the 5 years prior to exam entry), find out how you contact them if they are needed.
Find out what is 'normal' newborn behaviour
Don’t just rely on what your Mum remembers you did in the early days, or what Jane down the road says. Research from breastfeeding friendly services what newborn sleep and feeding patterns are like, at what points they are likely to change, how they can vary, how many wet and dirty nappies are normal. Do you know about cluster feeding? Why babies want to feed more in the middle of the night? Have you heard of the Wonder Weeks? Time to get reading!
Know about Common Problems
Some women breastfeed without any issues whatsoever, but it is far more common for you to meet a challenge along the way. Luckily, with the right support and information, most common problems can be overcome. If you know the signs of tongue tie, mastitis and thrush then you can seek out the right treatment earlier. For instance, did you know savoy cabbage leaves can help with engorgement? Whatever challenge you meet, do not soldier on alone; get along to a support group or phone the National Breastfeeding Helpline. By seeking help early you are more likely to succeed.
It is very common for women to doubt their own bodies and abilities. We would not be here today as a species if breastfeeding didn’t work, and yet in our society for numerous reasons lots of women doubt their ability to be able to make it work. It is estimated that only 5% of women can’t breastfeed for physical reasons, and yet only 17% are breastfeeding exclusively by the time their baby is 3 months. There is a lot of misinformation out there and sadly even some midwives, doctors and health visitors can contribute to this.
Laid back breastfeeding
Normal Development of Newborns
‘The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’ by La Leche League International, Diane Wiessinger, Diana West, Teresa Pitman
‘Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding’ by Ina May Gaskin
‘The Food of Love: Your Formula for Successful Breastfeeding’ by Kate Evans
‘Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding’ by Jack Newman, Teresa Pitman
‘Breastfeeding Uncovered’ by Dr Amy Brown
Clair McGill, LushTums Bristol
Clair teaches Pregnancy Yoga, Postnatal Yoga and Antenatal Education classes in Bristol. A mum of two, she is also a trained Breastfeeding Peer Supporter who volunteers at her local Breastfeeding Support Group. Clair teaches regular Prepare for Birth Antenatal Education Courses for couples; giving pregnant women and their birth partners all the information they need to prepare for labour, birth and the early days of life with a newborn. Find more information on the course here, or email Clair for more details.