Breastfeeding is best for you and your baby. We know that. There is no denying the amazing benefits. There are also circumstances when it’s not possible or women choose to formula feed for their own reasons. If you have chosen to breastfeed, there are a number of things to remember when you first have your baby that will help you on the road to success.
The most important advice l can give you is that it gets easier and you need sheer willpower and determination especially if you have some difficulties. If you have a premature baby and have to express or you are struggling with attaching your baby, you can do it I promise you. If you decide to stop, remember you have done the best you can.
I do advise that if you have any medical conditions that may affect breastfeeding such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, that you seek medical advice. This will better prepare you for the circumstances that may evolve such as the possibility of low milk supply.
It is hard work breastfeeding. At the beginning you and your baby are learning. The baby automatically has the sucking reflex, but they usually need some guidance to attach properly to the breast! Breastfeeding is natural but you do not ‘naturally’ know how to breastfeed. You need to learn how to do it. Let’s look at this further.
When you are learning to drive a car, you first have to read the manual. When you get in the car, you know what you need to do but you have to physically practice to get it right. Practice increases your confidence and competence to drive and decreases your stress and anxiety.
You can apply this directly to breastfeeding. Some people may relate better to this analogy.
Do not have high expectations that you cannot reach. Don’t set yourself up to fail. No one expects you to drive a car like an expert if you haven’t driven one before. You need to have lessons and experience first to be able to gain confidence and competence.
This is the same as breastfeeding, you can gain knowledge during pregnancy, but it’s not until you are ready to start when your baby is born that you can put that knowledge into practice. The more you do it, the more confident and comfortable you will become. Perseverance is the key and the more support you have, the more successful you will be.
I have had many years of experience, educating and helping women breastfeed and also preparing women to breastfeed during pregnancy as a Midwife and Child and Family Health Nurse. I have gained a lot of insight and knowledge into what you need to be able to successfully breastfeed. That said, there are women who cannot and choose not to breastfeed and l respect everyone’s decision. I want what is best for the woman and her family and that decision is their own.
I’m not going to talk about the ‘how to breastfeed’ here although this is very important. There is already plenty of information on this and l will list some great links at the end.
Breastfeeding tips for success
Here are some more tips from my professional practice and personal experience (four years combined) to help you on your successful breastfeeding journey.
- Be positive. If you decide to breastfeed, when people ask you, tell them you are going to breastfeed instead of ‘going to try’. You have just grown a baby and given birth! Have confidence in your own abilities. You can do it!
- Find out what supports are in the community to help you. In Australia we have the Australian Breastfeeding Association. In the USA there is the La Leche League. Check to see if there are any Lactation Consultants in connection with Child and Family Health services or at your medical service. There are also some Lactation Consultants in private practice.
- Read reputable sources of information on breastfeeding and positive empowering breastfeeding stories. These will make you feel more empowered towards your future breastfeeding journey.
- Talk to family and friends that have successfully breastfed and find out what worked well for them. If you know someone who is breastfeeding, go talk to them and if they are comfortable, watch how it all works.
- Surround yourself with positive people that will encourage and support your decision to breastfeed. It is well known that if you feel supported, you are more likely to be successful with breastfeeding and do it for longer.
- If you are in hospital and just had your baby, ring the call bell for assistance to help breastfeed. Midwives are there to help you! Your stay is usually short so make the most of the time you have with 24 hour care around the clock.
- Relax, relax, relax as much as you can. You don’t want your shoulders at the same level as your ears! Once you attach baby take 3 deep breaths to relax. This can help with the let down reflex.
- Look after your posture and if you are sitting make sure you have good back support. You may be in that position for a while so much sure you are comfortable. Use a comfortable pillow to rest baby on while breastfeeding. It doesn’t have to be an expensive breastfeeding pillow, anything that is supportive will do.
- Do some gentle stretching exercises particularly for your upper body. Your neck can get sore because you are looking down at your breasts and baby a lot. Book a massage or seek some professional help from a physiotherapist. Being uncomfortable and in pain does not help you enjoy your breastfeed experience.
- There is no shame in not wanting to breastfeed in public. There are many places that you can breastfeed in private such as parent rooms in shopping centres. There are also covers you can buy for more privacy if you feel you want to breastfeed in public but want to be more discreet. If you don’t care about breastfeeding in public, fantastic! Go for it. It is a normal part of civilisation! It is against the law for someone to tell you not to breastfeed anywhere in public!
- Revel in what an awesome job you are doing! Tell yourself this regularly. Tell others about your journey. Remember all those great benefits of breastfeeding for you, the baby and the wider community.