Firstly I should add context to this article- I am from a country that has the worst breastfeeding rates in the world .I knew I wanted to breastfeed my baby but I had only seen one woman breastfeed (under a cover) in my presence in my adult life. This also means that my expectations of breastfeeding were skewed. This article lists resources I have personally found helpful and a few things I plan to do next time to ease the first few weeks of breastfeeding initiation- Janet x
1.Know What Is Normal
Knowledge is power ! I promise you will never look back and say…”Gosh, I knew TOO MUCH about breastfeeding”.
You need to know what is normal, you need to know your “witching hours” from your “cluster feeding”, your “cluster feeding” from “low supply” issues. You may be offered a breastfeeding class by the hospital you are having your baby at. Often these are approximately 2 hr classes where you are educated on the basics of breastfeeding. It is worthwhile having a look at the Breastfeeding Education Class run by the Australian Breastfeeding Association. This BECs class is normally a full day event run by volunteers that covers how breastfeeding works, what is normal behaviour in a newborn, how you can be supported to breastfeed, identifying problems and where you find accurate information. They also often invite a new mum to feed their baby and you are encouraged to get up close and get a good look at what a great latch looks like. I have attended a few BECs classes in the local area and strongly recommend them. Find your local class here- Breastfeeding Education Class
2.Build a Breastfeeding Village
You may be the first (or last) of your friends to have a baby. You may be just like me and live without family support nearby. You need a village !
I found ABA meetups when my girl was 7 weeks old and in my opinion that was about 12 weeks too late! I often regret not attending meetups while pregnant so I would have had friendly faces to return with my newborn to. Making new friends is hard at any time but I found it especially difficult while settling into my new life as a mum. But even if you and your bestie and pregnant together its still good to find a supportive breastfeeding environment.
Did you know that you can attend Australian Breastfeeding Association meetups while pregnant? And you can bring a support person with you. Find your local group here –Local ABA Group and follow their FB page to get updates on upcoming events. ABA meetups are a lovely mix of information sessions, guest speakers, and social events. Most meetups are facilitated by a trained breastfeeding counsellor which is really handy to touch base with your local counsellor before your baby arrives.
3.Get Professional Help
The easiest place to access breastfeeding information 24:7 in the comfort of your own home is by calling the Australian Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268.
When you call you will speak to a trained volunteer that has breastfed a baby for at least 6 months herself. Be warned though, ABA does not offer advice or opinions but research-based information. No judgment and no pressure. They will help you identify any problems or concerns and give you a few options to try or reassurance that what is occurring is normal. If the counselor identifies that your issue needs more support they will refer you to a medical professional for more support. I have called the ABA helpline on a number of occasions and the combination of warmth, empathy and amazing breastfeeding information supported me through a few difficult breastfeeding challenges.
IBCLC– If you find that you need more specialised support like from an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) it is worth gathering a few recommendations while pregnant. You may find you have a friend that had a fabulous experience with an IBCLC. This is something that’s easier done before bub arrives, at least that’s what I would do differently next time. Decision making on who the best IBCLC in the area is is particularly difficult if you’re struggling with feeding issues and pretty much doubting your competence as a mother. Find a list of IBCLC’s in your area here IBCLC
Online Resources– Tread the internet carefully when looking for breastfeeding information. I personally use three online sources for breastfeeding information. The Australian Breastfeeding Association Website, Kelly Mom, and The Milk Meg. Online FB groups (particularly general mothering groups) are fraught with misinformation and “well I did this and my baby is just fine”.
As you can imagine, poor information is unhelpful and could be the premature end of your breastfeeding relationship.
Did you know that most doctors only have 2 hrs breastfeeding specific education during their study? So your local GP (unless they have a wonderful interest in breastfeeding support) is probably not the best place to start for breastfeeding support. Also while public health nurses and midwives have continuous breastfeeding education, they may not have the most current research and information to assist you. If you do not find the answer to your issue, ask someone else
4.Plan to succeed- Getting a great start from birth
Skin to Skin – A fabulous way to encourage milk supply and bond with your baby. Strip down your top half and your baby and snuggle up. Add this to your birth plan but don’t despair as this can be done for months after for bub arrives. Here are just some of the benefits of skin to skin apart from breastfeeding initiation- it helps to regulate body temperature, improves heart and lung function after birth, regulates baby’s blood sugar, transfer of good bacteria from mum to bub and it helps to reduce crying.
The Fantastic and Amazing Breast Crawl – Add this to your birth plan. You do not need anyone to lift and attach your baby to your breast (unless you want to of course) Check out this amazing video on the amazing instinctual journey your baby can make to find our breast and attach themselves. This requires patience, time and trust that your baby knows what to do. I have seen this in real life where brand new bub wiggles and shuffles up towards Moms’ chest, chooses a breast to aim for and wiggles and head bobs all the way there. It actually incredible to see. And your baby is more likely to attach well when given the opportunity to do it themselves. Check out this World Health Organisation Video (Breast Crawl)
Here’s another incredible example of the skills and instincts babies are born with.
“Babies are born with an instinctive “stepping reflex” where if their feet touch a flat surface, they’ll start “walking.” They can’t support their own weight, but in the right situations, can give themselves the leverage to push themselves along a mother’s abdomen after delivery. This video shows the breastcrawl of Jen’s son. He was placed on Jen’s abdomen, rather than chest after an unmedicated birth. The entire breastcrawl took approximately 45 minutes. This video highlights the innate capability of newborns to seek the breast without intervention.” Jennifer Pitkin
Consider Expressing Colostrum Before Bub Arrives– Having some frozen colostrum stashed in the freezer is a fantastic way to ensure your baby only receives breast milk in the early days in the hospital. There may be reasons where your new baby might require extra fluids (other than what it receiving from mum) and it may be possible to give colostrum instead of formula in this case. Ask your maternity hospital how you can bring frozen colostrum to the hospital if necessary following birth.
Believe in Your Boobs– Did you ever doubt if your body would grow and nourish your baby during pregnancy? So why would you ever doubt your body would not be able to breastfeed our baby. With support and the correct information, more than 95% of women can produce enough milk to feed their babies. We’ve covered support and where to get your information above so now its time to believe in the boobs!
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