Our resident midwife, Caroline, shares some breastfeeding tips to help simplify breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is natural so it should be easy right? For some women it does come very naturally but for the majority it is a skill that needs to be learned. Not so much by the baby as it is instinctive to them, but by the mother.
Try to get as much information about breastfeeding as possible while you are pregnant. Join the Australian Breastfeeding Association or at the very least browse the website. Some hospitals run breastfeeding classes for pregnant women and I would highly recommend attending. Make sure your partner is well informed too, there is good evidence to suggest a woman is much more likely to breastfeed successfully if her partner is supportive of breastfeeding.
Positioning and attachment
Positioning and attachment are crucial. Incorrect attachment leads to sore nipples and low supply and sore nipples are probably the biggest reason for women giving up breastfeeding in the first few weeks. You may want to consider allowing the baby to find the breast themselves after birth or at any time after that. This is known as baby led attachment, or the breast crawl and may help to aid correct attachment. There are lots of videos available on the internet that demonstrate this and the ABA has some great information on their website with photographs.
A common reason for discontinuing breastfeeding is perceived low supply. Remember that in the early weeks and even months it is normal for a breastfed baby to feed at least 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. Your baby will also go through periods of insatiable feeding, commonly during growth spurts. The more your baby suckles the more milk you will produce and this phase will pass. Over time your breasts will also regulate the amount of milk your baby needs so they won’t really feel full. This is not a sign of poor supply. If you truly do have an issue with supply there are lots of things that can help. Skin to skin, rest, adequate hydration, more frequent feeds, expressing. Anecdotally women report good results from fenugreek, blessed thistle and some herbal teas and lactation cookies. There are also medications such as domperidone that are available on prescription. Try to resist the temptation to give formula as for many women this is the beginning of the end of breastfeeding.
Where to get help
Importantly if you are having trouble breastfeeding seek help. Find out if there is a lactation consultant available where you birthed. Some child health nurses are also lactation consultants and there are lots in private practice. The ABA also have a helpline and email support which anyone can utilise. There is lots of help out there but sometimes you just need to know where to look!
Not everybody wants to breastfeed, but virtually all women can if they want to. The first few weeks or even months can be tough, but it gets easier and like everything about parenting the rewards are amazing!
Some useful links:
Baby-led attachment – ABA
The key to successful breastfeeding
Breastfeeding and your baby- UNICEF
ABA helpline: 1800 686 268
Caroline May qualified as a Midwife in 1999 and has worked in both community and hospital settings around Australia and in the UK. Currently residing in Perth with her partner and two young children, Caroline is particularly interested in home and waterbirth and is passionate about enabling women to make an informed decision and play an active role in their care. You can find all her articles here.