They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and this is definitely true when it comes to breastfeeding. There are many common myths and horror stories that circulate amongst mothers of poor unfortunate women whose rapacious newborns have ravaged their nipples to near non existence. Culturally we have a perception that breastfeeding is difficult and beset with problems and therefore not something that’s easily achieved or even desirable. I mean, why would any sane woman after the ardours of child birth want to run the gauntlet of breastfeeding? Every woman has her personal reasons, for me it was seeing for myself how calm and content babies were at the breast. Then when I discovered at my twenty week scan that my son had dilated renal pelvis (enlarged kidney) and would possibly need an operation when he was six weeks old, this made me even more determined to breastfeed.
In my opinion to be able to make a real choice about whether to breastfeed or not you need information. Yes, you can talk to your mum and your mates but often their opinions are blighted by their own biases and experiences or the stories they have been fed. No-one in my immediate circle had first hand knowledge of breastfeeding so I had to go on a foraging frenzy trying to glean as much information as possible. I must confess that I am class A geek and a complete information junkie, but I live by the adage to be forewarned is to be forearmed! I would like to share with you some of the useful information and videos that I have found invaluable, as a first-time breastfeeding mum.
When I first began contemplating breastfeeding like many people I believed that it would be something that was painful. For me, this is the number one breastfeeding myth. Yes, breastfeeding can be painful and many do experience it as so, but it should not be. Like sex, if it hurts you’re doing it wrong! Breastfeeding is all about attachment or latch and the video below made by Best Beginnings demonstrates how to achieve good attachment.
My simple advice for new breastfeeding mothers (or mother’s to be) are;
- Go to a breastfeeding workshop and talk to a lactation specialist they are great at dispelling myths and giving you real information and support.
- Find out about local baby café’s and peer support networks
- On a practical level; make sure when you are breastfeeding that you are seated in a comfortable position because you may be there for some time.
- Ensure that baby is positioned so that you are tummy to tummy.
- Have a glass of water or juice beside you as you can become quite dehydrated.
- Use this time as special wind down time where you can relax and charge your batteries.
- It is also a good idea to have a snack to hand especially mid afternoon, as you can experience sugar lows.
Another major concern that breastfeeding mothers have is how much and for how long should I breastfeed? We have it drummed into us from the bottle feeding culture that we live in that babies need this many ounces, at this many intervals, this amount of times a day. A breastfeeding mother needs to unlearn all this because it is probably the greatest cause of anxiety and one of the major reasons why breastfeeding is abandoned. A breastfeeding mother needs to forget the clock and feed on demand for as little or as long as the baby wishes. The baby knows exactly how much it needs at that particular feed and will unlatch when they are satisfied. I know that many are instructed to feed so many minutes on one breast and then the other; I never did this (my son has only ever had one breast per feed) taking your baby off the breast before they are ready (i.e. before the breast is emptied) can cause an imbalance between fore and hind milk, which can lead to engorgement. The La Leche League have this great information leaflet that provides a wealth of knowledge. I also found this really helpful video.
Feeding on demand is critical especially in the first few weeks in order to get a sufficient milk supply. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system, if your baby does not feed often enough it sends signals to breast that your baby is not very hungry and to stop producing the milk. Low milk supply is a common reason cited for abandoning breastfeeding, however, in 99% of cases it is due to not establishing a good supply-demand relationship rather than there being a biological basis. If you believe your milk supply is low there are thing you can do to increase it. On the flip of the coin there are those who like myself have the opposite problem of over-supply. This brings with it it’s own set of issues such as a forceful let-down (which can be quite uncomfortable) and a gassy baby. I dealt with my over-supply by hand expressing some milk before a feed so not to blow the back of my son’s head off and frequently taking him off the breast to catch his breath and wind him. This does settle down in time with a little work and patience.
There are many wonders and woes of breastfeeding that I am unable to go into here, but be rest assured that if you are experiencing any issues with breastfeeding there are numerous others that have and are sharing this too. I spent many hours in the dead of night scouring for information on my particular woe and finding assurance that what I was going through was ‘normal’ and there was a practical solution.
Here are a few of my favourite sites that you will hopefully find helpful.
I would love to know what your breastfeeding tips and lifesavers are.