Many women want to breastfeed their baby. If you’d like to breastfeed your baby then it is important to ask yourself why breastfeeding matters to you.
Is breastfeeding about promoting your child’s physical health? Or bonding through feeding? Or giving cue-based care? Or natural parenting?
If you understand how your choice to breastfeed relates to your wider values as a parent then you can remind yourself of these values whenever breastfeeding is tough. Knowing the values behind your decision to breastfeed can also help you to be flexible in unexpected situations, while still keeping to what you hold most dear.
It is also important to seek help. Talk about your decision to breastfeed with your healthcare provider. Ensure that you know where to go for lactation advice once baby is born. Read everything you can about breastfeeding beforehand. I would advise getting information not just on breastfeeding itself but on your full range of breastfeeding options like:
- using a nipple shield,
- exclusive expressing (expressing breast milk and feeding it to baby from a bottle),
- using a supplementary nursing system (complimentary expressed breast milk or formula is fed to baby from a tube connected to mother’s breast so baby learns to feed from the breast), and
- increasing milk supply through frequent feeding or through medication or natural supplements.
If you have a good understanding of all of your options then you can make an informed choice in any unexpected situations that arise. Be prepared to give yourself (and your baby) time and space to learn how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is a skill and it is an experiential skill – it is something that we do.
Quality information and expert assistance certainly helps in learning how to do something but it also takes time, practice, and patience.
Think of other experiential skills that you have learnt…Perhaps you’ve learnt how to play the piano, or bake a pavlova, or waltz or surf? Were you a bit clumsy at first? Did you have a few big failures before ‘getting it’? You may well have a similar experience learning to breastfeed.
And how did you get there in the end?
Did you seek out information, or find a teacher? Or did you simply persist, experimenting with slightly different techniques until it ‘clicked’? You may need to show a similar gentle persistence with learning to breastfeed.
Finally, remember to enjoy it. Sometimes women expect breastfeeding to be a blissful bonding experience. That may or may not happen for you. Regardless, it is important to make breastfeeding an enjoyable part of a rewarding life as a new mother.
Breastfeeding, especially with a newborn, forces you to slow down as you spend much of your time feeding. Try to enjoy this aspect of feeding. Make feeds enjoyable for you by reading a book, listening to a podcast, watching a television show, or feeding in your garden.
Or why not take your baby to a movie or a café and feed baby there, as needed? If you make feeding enjoyable for you then it is more likely that you will persist.