Learning to breastfeed
Breastfeeding is normal. It’s the optimal way we have evolved to feed our young and as relationships go, can be truly wonderful. Alongside the well documented nutritive and health benefits, it also offers enormous comfort and reassurance for baby and health benefits to mum too, all of which are present for as long as the relationship continues.
However it isn’t always easy; in fact it can be downright difficult. When we learn something new it takes time, patience and sometimes skilled support in order to grow in confidence. You and your baby (known as a dyad) are learning a beautiful dance, and you will get there as you learn to trust your instincts and your baby.
Before you know it, it will have become second nature. In preparation, it might be helpful to consider a few things in advance. These are my 5 top tips.
Antenatal expressing is becoming more popular. From around 36 weeks (do check with your Midwife) you can start to collect small quantities. This can be frozen and then used, if for any reason, baby is unable to feed in the first day or two post-birth. Exploring how your breasts feel and learning to massage/hand express can be pretty handy before you start breastfeeding too. Visit La Leche League for more details.
Get set for a gentle 4th trimester
Who is going to look after you, feed and nurture you while you get to know your new arrival? Your only responsibility in the early weeks is to rest, recover and bond. Hopefully you’ll be in bed, skin to skin for at least the first week so make sure you are well set up. Looking ahead to the early weeks, you’ll spend lots of time working to establish your supply, so have a think about comfy, appealing spaces to base yourself around the house.
What about sleep?
As The Lullaby Trust explain, babies do best sharing the same bedroom as their parents for the first six months. If you are planning to breastfeed then consider your safe options and get acquainted with normal infant sleep/feeding patterns.
Many of my clients have a bag that travels around the house with them. It contains all the essentials they need; drinks, snacks, phone, charger, book, kindle, pens and notepad, baby’s red book, maternity pads, breast pads, medication etc. This is a definite time saver and you can prepare by getting this set up.
Your Support System
If you can get to a local breastfeeding group during pregnancy it is worth it. Becoming familiar with the lovely people that run it over a cuppa and when and where it happens can be useful before you are a frazzled new mama running on empty. Surrounding yourself with women and babies breastfeeding and simply witnessing it is worth its weight in gold. We learn by seeing and we simply do not see enough of breastfeeding in our society.
Create a list of support groups/services online and in your local area. Skilled support is so valuable. It can be a non-judgemental listening ear or help from a breastfeeding counsellor or lactation consultant if you need it. And reach out early as we are here to help. And if you have a partner, get them onboard. It really helps to have moral support from those closest to us, people that will be our cheerleaders if we struggle and rejoice in our victories too .
Take it one day at a time. Breaking it down into manageable chunks is less overwhelming and every single feed is a triumph. You’ve got this Mama!
AUTHOR: ZARA DE CANDOLE
BREASTFEEDING COUNSELLOR, SURREY
Zara de Candole is a birth and postnatal doula and an ABM breastfeeding counsellor in Surrey. She trains Doula via Developing Doula, alongside her post as co-chair for the Royal Surrey County Hospital Maternity Voices Partnership.