As we fall upon the near end of World Breastfeeding Week I thought it was definitely time to write this post as it is something I have been contemplating in a while. Yes I do understand there have been many the similar post in the week that’s in it but I do feel I owe my tuppence worth. I’m certainly not a professional but after exclusively breastfeeding my first little girl for 15 months and currently feeding my second 9 month old princess I guess I feel like I have a few tips which might be useful to other Mamas setting out on their own breastfeeding journey. Personally, I had decided to breastfeed before I had my first baby. I had done a lot of reading, deeper than than the ‘what to expect when your expecting’ reading and researched the long term maternal and child health benefits and long term benefits of breastfeeding. The health studies which I read into were enough encouragement for me to decide breastfeeding was for me. I won’t lie, breastfeeding is tough. But hey guess what? Parenting is tough. Becoming a new parent is scary, frightening, overwhelming, unpredictable you name it. Nobody can call the odds on this one, there are no odds. Each day in a new parents life represents an encyclopedia’s worth of new information that is specific to their own little individual. Every parent is different and every baby more different.FACT.
Same goes for breastfeeding. Babies will feed different, will burp different, poo different (there’s surely a book on that alone). I am the mother of two and I am still learning! But I have, however, shortlisted the main points I found successful in conquering my breastfeeding journey.
CHAT TO OTHER MAMAS
Anyone who knows me knows I like straight talking, no sugar coating, fine details. I went in search of this before I had my baby. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have that many close friends or family who had breastfed. I hunted for the three most straight talking ladies I knew who had successfully breastfed and got the details. They all documented their journey. I guess, I was giving myself real expectations. I was in business in a beauty salon where everyone wanted to know about my pregnancy and also got fortunate that people who breastfed liked to share their advice. I also, after advice, rang my midwife to find out about breastfeeding classes and to my luck the hospital in which I was having my baby was running one a few weeks before my baby was due. This course covered in detail the importance of a good latch which my opinion is so important to establish from the start, problems that you may be met with such as mastitis and how to deal with it and the importance of self care. I found by attending the class I was giving myself the opportunity of having real expectations. Therefore when I was met with issues such as mastitis, blocked ducts and nipple cracking I knew what to do and who to talk to. I would highly recommend an expectant mother to look into one of these courses. They are usually free and only a few hours long and well worth the abundance of knowledge you take away with you.
Surround yourself in people who will support you.
As much as I dislike to admit, some people won’t be as supportive in your decision to breastfeed as you would expect them to be. If they are negative, block them out. You don’t have to be rude, you can nod, say nothing but block out what any negative comments in your mind. You don’t need that. You need people willing to help you out and support you at an emotional time. Breastfeeding (any feeding) can be hard. Babies are unpredictable, but not because of breastfeeding, because they are babies. Even on my second child after already feeding a first, I still got comments such as ‘don’t be killing yourself nursing’, ‘would you not just give her a bottle when she is hungry’??! Comments like that do not help. They are obstructive to the job in hand by having you doubt what you are doing. People do mean well but that is not what you want to be hearing. If people want to help, tell them out on the kettle or not to visit unless they are armed with food!! Your visitors when you have just had a new baby should be coming to help. If not they should be giving you time to rest. I wish I had taken more heed to this advice. I felt like I had to oblige people when I had my first. I felt like I needed to fuss about these visitors whereas now I realise they should have been fussing about me!
Accept help when it is offered
Again, I should have listened to this advice. When people offer to help take them up on it. Even if it’s preparing you something to eat while you feed, hoovering, laundry or heavier jobs you might not yet be able to do after child birth. Your friends will want to help you out, that is why they are your friends after all. Now don’t get me wrong….EVERYONE will offer to help out by ‘let me take the baby while you rest’. The reality is, that baby is probably going to be with you! But they can help you by mopping the floor while you AND baby have a rest. You don’t need baby awake while you are asleep and asleep while you are awake!!!
Maintain your energy levels
Breastfeeding is hungry and thirsty work. Drinking lots of water will not only help your milk supply but will also maintain energy levels. Snack regularly and don’t wait until you have already got hungry. I found oats were excellent for my supply. Before I went into hospital I made a massive batch of granola and froze it in portions. It was my saviour for night feeds as I would wake up so hungry. It also prevented me from grabbing sugary treats with little nutritional value (aka biscuits the visitors didn’t eat!!). Let me tell you, sugar and tiredness are partners in crime. It’s difficult but try be prepared to stop them in their tracks.
Look up local support groups
Have on hand contact details for your local support groups. That way if you run into difficulties you know where to seek advice. The same goes for a lactation consultant. If you have the spare cash and are struggling invest in a consultant. It will be the best money you will ever spend. I was extremely fortunate that my health visitor was extremely supportive. This lady has since retired and she was such a credit to her profession. Many a day I rang with what I thought was a silly question and she never made me feel silly and each and every time applauded me. She really made me feel special and I will always remember her kindness. There are many La Leche League groups which offer mother to mother support. These groups help individuals develop a better understanding of breastfeeding and members have first hand experience to help another Mama out.
Also a fantastic source for everything and anything you need to know about breastfeeding is KellyMom – a breastfeeding and parenting website. I discovered this site after many nights of late night googling ‘How to know if my baby is getting enough milk?’. I didn’t need to worry, she was getting enough milk but our society was making me think she wasn’t. After many weeks it just so turned out any ‘problems’ with my baby were not in fact related to breastfeeding but in fact an issue with silent reflux. This all came to light after supplementing the ‘hungry’ baby with formula which contributed to her discomfort and resulted in a hospital stay. After in dept research my baby was lactose intolerant and all it took to fix it was for me to avoid dairy. Had I not taken the advice of my incredible and care health visitor, another fellow breastfeeding Mama, as well as a support facebook page I may have well given up. Gladly, I didn’t and persisted as I knew deep down that breastfeeding was not causing the issues. To be honest I actually feel like it has been one of my biggest accomplishments.
Enjoy each and every moment
Finally, the best piece of advice is enjoy it all. Whatever the position, the time, or the place enjoy it. Those little pudgy hands stretch out so quick, hold them, cuddle them. It’s your baby to love and nothing in the world can change that.
You are their world.