Breastfeeding. It’s NATURAL they say. But that doesn’t make it easy, and there’s so much bad advice out there these days, that breastfeeding can actually be really complicated! Many women enter motherhood bright eyed and bushy tailed, with strong opinions about how they will breastfeed. Unfortunately as the weeks tick by, fewer and fewer women find themselves able to continue. There are quite a few reasons women encounter difficulties, so here’s a few tips on getting through it!
DO understand the link between birth and breastfeeding: For example, women who have caesareans have lower breastfeeding rates. Breastfeeding can be more difficult to establish with a caesarean wound and because the surgery can interrupt the hormones that assist with breastfeeding, milk can come in later. This is the same for a labour which is induced or augmented with synthetic hormones. Does this mean it’s impossible to breastfeed after an induction or a caesarean? No! It just means you need to be prepared to find solid support in the early days whilst you’re getting it all fully established.
DON’T freak out about low supply: Low supply can undoubtedly be a problem, but most of the things we’ve come to see as symptoms or low supply, are actually perfectly normal breastfeeding nuances. How much you can pump, a baby who fusses at the breast, not feeling full or noticing a letdown, taking a bottle after they finish breastfeeding, breastfeeding for hours on end, and others are NOT NOT NOT signs of low supply.
DO know the signs of low supply: Watch your baby closely. Are there plenty of wet and dirty nappies? Are they gaining weight or losing it? Remember it’s normal for newborns to lose a percentage of body weight in their first days, especially if you had IV fluids in labour.
DON’T assume: Just because someone is a doctor, nurse, or midwife, that they know about breastfeeding. Some of the worst breastfeeding advice on the planet has come from these people. Honestly ….. it’s shocking. Ask them what their qualifications for breastfeeding are, and be sure to seek multiple opinions from multiple sources. Sometimes the very best advice you will ever get will come from other mothers who have faced similar issues and persevered!
DO feed your baby on cue: Sometimes people call that feeding on demand, but demand has such a negative connotation, whereas feeding on cue simply means feeding when your baby shows signs of hunger.
DON’T panic if you don’t feel let down, or if your breasts don’t feel full: This is normal! it’s especially normal after a few months of successful feeding when your supply has totally regulated. The feeling of fullness can be quite uncomfortable but breastfeeding is designed to be comfortable so your body will regulate to produce exactly the right amount without you experiencing discomfort. If you can feed a baby for 3 months (give or take) the odds are exceptionally good that you produce plenty of milk, and your body is simply regulating to meet your baby’s needs.
DO know that your breasts are never empty: Imagine you are drinking a glass of water through a straw at the same time as the tap is running into it. No matter how much you drink, the glass will never be empty, will it? Your breasts are like that. They’re designed for you to keep on feeding and feeding. Sometimes your baby will need to feed more, and your supply will very rapidly increase to meet the need for more milk.
DON’T assume that a fussy baby is a hungry baby: When your baby fusses, offer the breast, just keep offering. If they keep fussing try other things to help settle them. Sometimes hopping in the bath with them is a great way to help settle a fussy baby. Sometimes taking them for a walk, or singing a song is the trick. Remember that it’s common for babies to have a couple of hours at a certain time of day where they fuss and feed and fuss and feed. Lots of families call this Witching Hour.
DO have a bottle and formula free zone: Studies have shown that women are less likely to breastfeed if they can easily access formula. The early days of feeding a baby can be quite intense. Often the hormone influx causes very sensitive or downright painful nipples. Some women opt to use a nipple shield through this stage, others are opposed to them because they can cause nipple confusion. The key to getting through this stage is good support. Find a solid support network of breastfeeding mothers. Be aware that the number one reason women wean early, is the introduction of formula. Formula is the single most damaging thing to a breastfeeding relationship.
DON’T use bottles of formula or breastmilk so daddy be involved with feeding: That’s right, not even breastmilk. Expressing does not stimulate production like a baby feeding directly, and any time your baby is on a bottle instead of your breast you miss crucial supply stimulation. There are a million and one ways for a new dad to spend time with your baby. Dads can bathe, sing songs, take baby for a walk around the block, or just cuddle. Dads don’t need a plastic device to bond with their baby, and maybe Dad can be the one who first offers solid food when the time is right.
DO save money by not buying gimicky things designed to help you with breastfeeding: You don’t need any fancy pillows, a normal pillow will suffice. You don’t need a breast pump, unless you genuinely have to leave your baby – to work for example. You don’t need fancy breastfeeding covers, clothes, or even bras – a basic crop top will do the trick, and won’t lose it’s “spring” as fast as a maternity bra that costs three or four times as much. Use cut up facewashers (or some other soft fabric) instead of disposable breast pads because it’s cheaper, you can re-use them, and the disposable ones have been linked to mastitis by a few sources. You won’t need lactation cookies, tim tams will do! No breastfeeding tea, or fenugreek or milkthistle. If you just feed on cue, and don’t waste opportunities to stimulate supply (by using formula or by pumping unnecessarily) you are really unlikely to need any of that.
DON’T worry about feeding in public: The laws in most places state that it’s not only legal for you to feed your baby anywhere, it’s ILLEGAL for anyone to ask you to stop. In the early days when you’re still establishing feeding it can feel awkward, but it becomes so easy as time goes on. Babies get very good at finding
So give breastfeeding a go! It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s best for your baby by a long shot. There are a million hurdles for modern women in westernised countries, and the biggest ones are the social ones, and the false beliefs about how breasts work. Be informed, be committed, and most importantly BE KIND TO YOURSELF! Breastfeeding might be natural, but so are killer bees.
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