6 Top Tips To Prepare For Successful Breastfeeding
Successful breastfeeding is expected by most new mamas, because it’s … well, natural.
The truth is, since the beginning of time, new mamas naturally fed their babies after watching and learning from other women around them. It’s only been in our recent history that breastfeeding has come less naturally to new mothers.
Changes in social attitudes meant birth and breastfeeding became less visible. Our grandmothers, mothers and our own generation missed out on that vital firsthand experience of watching others go through these life-changing events.
It’s actually not surprising that today while most new mamas do breastfeed their newborns after birth, very few continue to exclusively breastfeed until 6 months.
We know how important breastfeeding is for babies and mothers, and getting it right from the start is key to a successful breastfeeding relationship.
If you are a mama-to-be who wants to prepare for breastfeeding, here are some valuable tips to ensure your journey is successful:
#1: Learn about successful breastfeeding before birth
Research indicates quality education about postnatal parenting and breastfeeding is the best step to ensure a successful breastfeeding experience.
Learning about breastfeeding before you give birth means you have the time and energy to actually take on the information. Trying to learn about breastfeeding when you and baby are recovering from birth can be overwhelming.
You’re also more likely to implement some of the other tips covered in this blog post. How you decide to learn about breastfeeding can be through attending a class, such as those the Australian Breastfeeding Association runs, antenatal classes at your hospital, or with a private lactation consultant (see tip #6 for more information).
#2: Understand normal newborn behaviour
I don’t think there’s a parent alive who hasn’t been in the presence of their newborn for the first 24 hours and thought ‘wow, we hit the jackpot with a quiet sleeping baby’. The first 24 hours or so after birth, a newborn tends to sleep a lot, feed a little, and maybe cry some too.
Then 1-3 days after birth, your baby is more awake and aware. They also realise food isn’t on tap anymore, are quite hungry and cry a lot more. They tend to want to feed very frequently.
This is actually very normal newborn behaviour. They have small tummies and need to feed often, especially as they’re helping to increase their food source – your milk supply.
Most new mamas aren’t prepared for this change in their baby. They feel they’re doing something wrong, their baby isn’t getting enough milk and that’s the reason for the crying and fussiness.
This stage doesn’t last, but it can be very frustrating and exhausting when it does. Being aware that this is very likely to happen, and being patient with yourself and your baby is a step toward getting through this stage.
#3: Who’s got your back?
In the months and weeks before giving birth, have a look around your immediate support network. Who do you know breastfed for at least 6 months, even beyond? Ask that mama questions about what she felt helped her the most.
It’s a good idea to discuss your intentions to successfully breastfeed with your partner, family and close friends. Research shows partner support is one of the biggest factors in new mamas continuing to breastfeed. If you feel your partner might be less supportive or concerned, get along to a breastfeeding class together. Talk to your partner about how important it is to have their support.
Think carefully about the people in your life who are less likely to be supportive. Many women find the older generation has a very negative attitude towards breastfeeding. It can be wise to be aware of this and have a frank discussion beforehand about your intention to breastfeed and expectation they will refrain from being negative about it.
#4: Create a successful breastfeeding plan
It’s likely you’re already preparing your birth bliss plan, the document that lists your intentions and preferences when you go into labour. Include your breastfeeding bliss plan on your birth plan too. This should state your preferences for the first hour after birth (see tip #5).
In the first hour after birth, your baby will likely be quiet and alert, which is the perfect state for the first breastfeed. Stay skin-to-skin with your baby and allow your baby to seek your nipple.
This can take a little time but all babies have an innate instinct to find their mother’s nipple very soon after birth. Ask care providers to refrain from touching or forcing your baby to take the nipple until they’re ready.
It should be said, most maternity hospitals support early breastfeeding when labour and birth has been uncomplicated. It’s usually when you or baby have needed medical intervention that breastfeeding can be interrupted.
Where appropriate, have skin-to-skin with your baby (or with your partner). Where possible, seek support to feed your baby directly from your breast. It can be useful to have on your birth preferences that your baby is not to be given any artificial nipples or formula unless medically indicated and with your consent.
Babies in special care nurseries can be given breast milk by oral syringe or feeding tube, so ensure all care providers are aware of your preferences. Speak to the hospital lactation consultant (or your own) about pumps and how to best keep up your supply if you’re separated from your baby for some time.
#5: Plan for a normal birth
Women have been giving birth since the beginning of humanity with minimal intervention. It’s only been in the last few centuries we’re started to interfere with the process. Mostly this has been with good intention, to prevent anything risky from happening.
Unfortunately, intervention during labour has consequences and often the time after birth is affected but least considered. During your baby’s first hour, if they are given skin-to-skin contact with you, this helps them to regulate their temperature and respiration, boosts their immunity, helps with the third stage, and improves successful breastfeeding rates.
Babies born to mamas who haven’t had pain medication are also more likely to breastfeed than those mamas who have. That being said, if you do need medical intervention or choose to have pain medication, you don’t have to miss your baby’s first hour.
See tip #4 above for suggestions on how to make that work for you and your unique situation.
#6: Call the breastfeeding expert
It might seem pre-emptive to hire a lactation consultant when you’re pregnant and not yet breastfeeding. But when it’s day three after birth and you’re in tatters because your baby is crying and won’t latch and it seems impossible to go on, you will be glad to have your LC on speed dial.
A lactation consultant is a breastfeeding specialist. They have special training and can help identify what’s not working and how to resolve it. Most early breastfeeding challenges can be fixed, with the right, qualified support.
If hiring a private LC isn’t possible, ask your midwife what support is offered by your hospital or through your local council. Keep the Australian Breastfeeding Association helpline number handy for help too.
At Nurtured Birth we are here to support you in your journey to breastfeed after birth and beyond. Find out more about us and our services here.
Author: Sam McCulloch, Wordsmith at Nurtured Birth