As a doula and post-natal carer, I’ve seen many mums embark upon the breastfeeding journey with very little understanding of what’s required for successful breastfeeding. Many of these women’s experiences, result in frustrated mothers, munched nipples, oversupply and undersupply issues, unsettled babies, wardrobe malfunctions, sleep deprivation, and eventually (and understandably)… a mother who turns to the bottle (not wine. Formula!)
Breastfeeding is often much messier and difficult than women expect it to be. A pregnant mother is usually spending most of her time understanding the birthing process, so, it’s of little surprise, that when the baby arrives, mum really doesn’t know much at all in regards to the breastfeeding process, let alone what she may need before she gets started.
Not for all, but for many, breastfeeding can be filled with toe-curling pain and disappointment. This needn’t be your experience, take a look below for some helpful hints, that will get you off to a good breastfeeding start!
Read informed and honest articles and blogs and speak with mums who have done it before.
Attend your pre-natal sessions at the hospital in which you will give birth. There is usually at least one class that concentrates on breastfeeding. These classes are typically run by midwives and physiotherapists and often invites a mum from the maternity ward (who’s had other babies) to show you breastfeed in real-time. Fabulous!
If you know a mum who is breastfeeding, sit with her for a while and watch how both she and her baby cooperate together to make breastfeeding happen. There are lots of good pointers here to observe. Watch how she puts the baby to her breast, how she holds the baby's head and guides it, how the baby opens its mouth wide and takes a full mouth of both breast and nipple. There are instincts involved, of course, however, in reality, it’s a bit of a dance and both mum and bub have a lot to learn.
Get your resources ready!
There are resources you need and ones that you don’t. Let’s get serious here, with a list of essentials that you most certainly will need.
1. Feeding bra
Super important when your breastmilk is coming in. First and foremost! make sure you’ve been fitted with a good one if you haven’t been already. Poorly designed and fitted feeding bras can result in mastitis, over-supply and undersupply issues, breast pain, and can look pretty odd too. There are some good ones out there, so shop around. Look for seamless, breathable fabric and for a design that gives consideration to changing breast size. It needs to be supportive, have adjustable hooks, and have one-hand nursing clips for easy access.
2. Breast pads
I know this is probably not a typical ‘bucket-list article, but it should be. You’re going to need these! You don’t want to be in a shopping mall when you hear a baby (that’s right a baby, any baby.) crying or cooing. Those cheeky nipples will almost simultaneously spring a leak. And they’re non-discriminant. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether you’re in your cutest top. Remember that they need to be adhesive enough on the back, and preferably - formed to the shape of a woman’s breast!
3. Feeding pillow
This is essential for good positioning during feeding, especially in the early months. These pillows can often double-up as body pillows too. And, if you end up with a C-section, the soft cushioning whilst feeding, is a must.
4. Feeding chair
Make sure your body is well supported and your posture is good. If you’re not comfortable, you’ll carry tension in your shoulders and back, which will, in turn, compromise your position for good attachment. If your shoulders are up around your ears, your breast shape will be distorted. Look in the mirror, shrug your shoulders and watch your breast shape change. (go on! See?) Doesn’t work well for breastfeeding.
5. Feeding cloths
For spills. If you’ve got an overly enthusiastic supply, a fountain-like let down, a chunky baby, or one who spontaneously pulls off the nipple as your milk lets down, usually to gaze up at you in adoration… no matter how cute, is entirely inconvenient if you don’t have a cloth to cover up that spout. You’ll need one of these at all times.
6. A glass of water
Down at least one glass with every breastfeed. You won't have to make yourself do this… you’ll be thirsty AS!
7. Pawpaw ointment
Or the likes (something organic and natural though). You may not have given much thought or attention to your nipples in the past. But these little ladies are going to serve you well, so treat them with care. Smother those lady lumps in this stuff after every feed. It will keep them nourished and ready for the next session (which, let’s face it, is in about 10..9.. 8 seconds).
8. Cool washcloth
To wake bub when feeding. You want to make sure bub is getting a full feed and not falling off to sleep on your breast. If your baby falls asleep at the breast, and let's face it, it’s a perfect place for a snooze, they are likely to slip into comfort sucking. Comfort sucking is when the baby sucks very gently at the breast, but does not draw down any milk.
Because breastmilk composition changes throughout a single feed. You need to ensure your baby gets the full composition across it. The extra fatty milk and the best stuff is the hind-milk. If your bub is falling asleep she might miss it and decide she’s hungry again later! You might just discover that one breastfeed leads into another…. and another… and..
AND Don’t forget to continue to ADORE your baby and to be kind to yourself
When your baby arrives, spend time gazing down at her lovingly (without giving yourself a neck injury). This will increase your supply and help with your let-down. What a remarkable brain/body connection we have!
Breastfeeding can be tricky. We all have the best intentions for the well-being of our children, but not all mums take to it with ease and in fact, not all mums want to breastfeed, full stop.
If you do end up breastfeeding and breastfeed with ease, good for you, but you also might need to hush up about it. Remember your fellow mum out there who might be about to throw the towel in may require some encouragement. Perhaps you’re the perfect one to offer her the hope she needs or to affirm her in whatever her choices might be.