As your due date draws closer you are probably busying yourself with labour and birth preparation, which is great because there is much to be informed about!
Childbirth, despite feeling like a marathon, is over in a matter of hours and breastfeeding, although “natural”, doesn’t always come “naturally”.
In a recent Australian Breastfeeding Association poll of 3,800 breastfeeding mothers, 90% sought help within the first 6 months, indicating the vast majority of mums do encounter breastfeeding problems along the way.
So how can you avoid running into potential problems? Knowledge is your friend!
Understanding the intricacies of breastfeeding, before baby arrives, will help give you the confidence you need to get off to the right start and ultimately achieve your breastfeeding goals.
Below are several breastfeeding tips to help get you started.
Learning how to latch your baby to your breast – correctly, is critical. A poor latch can result in all sorts of problems including breast and nipple pain, a cranky baby – because he’s not getting enough milk, followed by poor weight gain and subsequent milk supply issues.
Sure, you will be shown how to latch your baby after he is born however, understanding what “a correct latch” looks like (and how to achieve it) in advance of baby’s arrival, will increase your chances of achieving immediate success.
There are loads of wonderful benefits to being skin-to-skin with your newborn immediately after birth and in the weeks following, not the least of which is establishing breastfeeding. Given the opportunity, most babies if placed on mum’s chest – skin-to-skin, will shuffle up to the breast, latch on and start breastfeeding all by themselves!
3. Feeding Cues
Your baby will tell you when she is hungry – not the clock – so it’s important to recognise what those feeding cues look like.
Early cues range from stirring from a sleep, an open mouth or hands in mouth, to the “I’m really hungry” crying cue.
Ideally you want to try and avoid this very late cue and the associated anxiety for both parties involved. A baby who has been kept waiting for too long may even refuse the breast altogether, no matter how hungry she is.
4. Avoid Artificial Nipples
Drinking from the breast and drinking from a bottle involve very different tongue, mouth and swallowing movements. As such, introducing an artificial nipple before breastfeeding has been successfully established can create nipple confusion, including baby refusing to take the breast.
5. Don’t Restrict Your Baby’s Access to the Breast
On average newborns feed at least 8-12 times in 24 hours, and sometimes up to 20 times during that period.
As exhausting as this may sound this is all normal newborn behaviour and an important step in establishing your milk supply. Not only is baby’s tummy very small (about the size of a small marble on day 1), breast milk is also very easily digested – thus the need for frequent refilling. The good news is, as baby’s tummy grows, so does the capacity and the number of feeds over 24 hours will eventually settle down.
6. Avoid Medicated Pain Relief during Labour
Babies birthed in a drug-free environment have been found to establish breastfeeding more quickly and successfully, so if you can avoid medicated pain relief high fives to you! Pain relief drugs such as pethidine are passed through the placenta and have been found to negatively impact baby’s ability to latch on.
7. Choose a Baby Friendly Hospital (BFH)
Mums are 28% more likely to breastfeed in a Baby Friendly Hospital. That doesn’t mean you need to panic if your hospital is not an accredited BFH as they may still follow the guidelines and best practices for supporting exclusive breastfeeding.
It is however important to do your research prior so you do understand your hospital’s stance, including their policy around skin-to-skin time, if you undergo a caesarean section delivery. Just like your birth choices, you have the right to make your own choices as it relates to breastfeeding your baby – you may just have to fight a little harder in some hospitals than in others.
9. Get your Support Network in Place
Taking care of a newborn is hard work. Take all offers of help and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it – be it from your partner, a family member or friend.
Whether it’s helping out with the household chores or helping settle baby in between feeds, a strong support network is an important piece in maintaining your emotional wellbeing.
10. Get Help – Early
While you need to allow yourself (and baby) time to get the hang of breastfeeding, it’s best to ask for help early if you encounter any ongoing problems.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association is a great place to start. Their National Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268) is available 7 days a week. You can also call the hospital where you had your baby, speak to your Maternal Child Health Nurse or engage a private lactation consultant who can visit you and your baby in your home.