When it comes to decisions about baby, to breastfeed or not to breastfeed ranks pretty highly up there, so it’s worth understanding the facts before your baby makes an appearance. For many, breastfeeding comes fairly easily for mum and baby, but for some it takes more time, patience and a helping hand. Here’s the small print: what challenges might breastfeeding present, how to cope with these and what do you need to prepare you for your feeding journey…forewarned is forearmed!
If you are expecting and are unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding, where have you been?! We all know it’s cheap, portable, beneficial for baby and mum, in terms of nutrients and protection against infection and it’s also an amazing bonding experience for mum and baby. Some (not all – Serena Williams being a case in point!) also report being able to lose their baby weight faster.
So, what’s the problem?
Here are a few potential challenges and how you can best deal with them:
· Your baby may struggle to latch on properly. You will probably work this out within the first week or two with one or more of these signs – baby fussing at the nipple; cracked and sore nipples; baby gulping when feeding. Ask to speak to a lactation specialist or ask about a breastfeeding clinic near you for advice on this. If you can persevere and have lots of help and support, it usually gets better, but if it’s stressing you out to the point of upset, you should consider your alternatives. Pumping your milk might be something you want to think about (more about pumping later!).
· Breastfed babies may want fed more often – as the breastmilk is more easily digested, your baby may want feeding more frequently than if bottle feeding. A two hourly cycle can be normal (even through the night) for some time. It can feel tying!Some people top up with a bottle feed to help spread the load by allowing someone else to help with one of the feeds.
· Your baby may start associating breastfeeding with naps/sleeping. You could aim to ensure this habit is not established from the outset (such as ensuring your baby does not fall asleep during a feed), or there are techniques you can use to break the cycle if it happens.
· Leaking. Fact: you will leak. A lot. Your milk let-down reflex can be triggered by your baby crying, other babies crying, or just the thought of feeding your baby, hence the need for protection in the form of breast pads! You may also have a hyper (i.e. fast) flow of milk when you feed, potentially leading to a breast milk ‘spray gun effect’. Don’t worry, you will learn to laugh about it!
You should always ask for support and advice if you are struggling with any of the above matters.
Essentials before you start (aka more baby stuff you can’t live without!)
· A breastfeeding pillow (for baby to lie on) – this will save your back from straining to hold baby up to the correct position
· A nursing bra – with clips on the front of the straps to give little one easy access and room to insert your all-important breast pads...did we mention you will leak. A lot ;-)
· Nipple cream – this helps prevent and treat cracked nipples (can also be used as a lip balm!)
· Breastfeeding covers – some people feel more confident, especially at the start, knowing they can use a breastfeeding cover to give them a little bit of privacy when feeding in public.A lightweight cover such as our Multi-Muslin can give you the extra confidence to feed your baby anywhere, anytime!It can also help prevent them from getting distracted during a feed if you are out and about.
· A breast pump – okay – not essential but something that might be useful depending on your circumstances. Like breastfeeding itself, pumps – whether manual or electric – may take some getting used to! It’s a good idea to try before you buy (get a loan of one or buy second hand). There are a number of breast pump loan or rental services, if you search online. Using expressed milk for a bottle feed can allow you to ask someone else to share the load and give you a little ‘me time’ to catch up on some well earned rest.
Read the small print and still wrangling with the decision? Whatever method you choose, feeding your baby is such a special time, allowing you to stare adoringly at your gorgeous little one and have a well deserved sit down, if even for a short time. We recommend speaking to other mums who breastfeed already, or chose not to. Or why not let baby ‘suck it and see’ :-)