Most of you may have heard that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months of your baby’s life. That breastfeeding reduces the chance of SIDS. That it promotes long lasting health affects in mother and baby..
However, most of us Mums aren’t achieving this 6 month breastfeeding milestone. Not usually through lack of effort. Lack of information and support more likely. It’s OK of course if you choose not to..
.. Whatever the reason, here are the top 11 things I found most helpful in my breastfeeding journey.. (emphasis here on my journey. Based on my experience. Many other mothers have different experiences and advice).
1. Learn how. Study the dance steps before you try to dance. Read about breastfeeding while you’re pregnant. I found the Australian Breastfeeding Association to be a great resource. Easy to understand info. Most early breastfeeding issues stem from incorrect position. Of mother and baby. So study and practice those positions. Make sure that you’re in a comfortable position before you start feeding.
2. Understand that your baby then needs to learn the dance steps and how to do the dance with you. Be patient. Have faith that it’ll come together.
3. If it isn’t working out for either of you, reach out to a lactation consultant. They are the best qualified to help you. Some midwifes and maternal health nurses will give you good advice, but some will not. And it can be difficult to sort the conflicting advice, especially when you’re tired or fragile. Talk to the most qualified re breastfeeding. And trust your instincts.
4. Don’t believe the breastfeeding hurts mantra. Yes in the first few weeks there can be tenderness for a moment at the start of each feed. Apart from that, If position is correct, latching is correct, then breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt. I bought nipple cream as recommended but never needed to use it. Nipple biting can hurt, sure, but that usually comes later 😉 In my experience 95% of the time, breastfeeding doesn’t hurt.
5. Learn about the amazing feedback loop your baby & your breasts are in. Learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. Educate your support people so that they can better support you.
6. Have support. Take it when it’s offered. Ask for it. Especially in the first few months when your establishing your milk supply. As much as possible focus on looking after & feeding your baby. Ask your partner or friends to bring you food & water, to fetch you a cushion, to help you be comfortable feeding.
7. Co-sleep or bed share if safe & possible. Yes I know clinicians & government departments don’t recommend bed sharing in this country these days. But if you read the research, like I did, (links below) you’ll see that if done safely, bed sharing can actually benefit the health of both mother and child. Safe bed sharing is also linked with higher rates of breastfeeding. Which alone reduces the incidence of SIDS.
“One Australian study found that 80% of babies spent some time co-sleeping in the first 6 months of life.8 We simply don’t talk about it. The fact is that new “babies need to be fed during the night and many new mothers fall asleep while feeding their baby. Co-sleeping helps to minimise disruption to sleep for both a mother and her baby.
Breastfeeding and co-sleeping mutually support each other. The convenience of co-sleeping for breastfeeding at night is the reason parents most commonly give for choosing to co-sleep.9 Mothers who bed-share with their baby tend to breastfeed longer and maintain exclusive breastfeeding longer than those who do not co-sleep.10–12”
I didn’t plan to bed share BTW. I bought one of those co-sleepers that you can attach to the side of your bed. Set it all up before the birth. Our daughter however, had other ideas. Even in the hospital, she would not settle to sleep unless she was right bedside me, skin to skin. So in the bed she came. It makes night feeds a breeze. Neither of us needs to fully wake up for her to feed. And waking up to a smiling baby is a lovely experience:).
8. Learn to hand express
Super handy for expressing colostrum, or milk. Boosting milk supply. Working out a blocked milk duct. Here’s a how to video. There are quite a few other videos on Youtube also.
Express colostrum. Otherwise known as liquid gold for your baby. Nutritional and medicinal.
I started at week 36 as recommended by my midwife. Within minutes I had uterine contractions. Freaked out and stopped as I didn’t want the baby to arrive early! So I waited until I was ready, about 39 weeks. And expressed every day until she arrived, finally at 41w+6 ! Here’s some more info about Antenatal expression of colostrum.
9. If you plan on going back to work in the first 6 months or would like your baby to be able to take a bottle of expressed breastmilk, which can be a great thing, then get a double electric breast pump. And a hands-free bra like the Arden bra. Makes it heaps easier!
And teach them to take a bottle in the first 4 months, ideally soon after you’ve both mastered breastfeeding. But not before that mastery.
10. Don’t give up. There are bound to be breastfeeding hurdles to overcome. Ask for advice. Do what you can. Persevere. In the first 6 months of my baby’s life, I’ve had to move house & had a parent diagnosed with a terminal illness. Both reduced my milk supply. So I had to prioritise breastfeeding; expressing, resting & working to build it back up.
11. Keep going if possible, even if you need to supplement with formula, which I’ve had to do at times. Every drop of breast milk benefits your baby. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Breastfeed as much as you can manage.
Written by Dr Elaine Hickman
B.H.Sc.TCM (Acupuncture), Cert.Cl.Ac. (Beijing)
Elaine has trained and worked in various settings, both in Australia and China. She has over 20 years experience in treating many health problems. Elaine loves to provide a health care experience for people that is respectful, effective, empowering and enjoyable. Elaine has particular expertise in Gynaecology, Fertility, Obstetrics, Family Medicine, Wellness promotion and Mental Health. She brings extra understanding and knowledge to the table having been through infertility herself for years (then conceived naturally at 40yo with a low AMH).
Dr. Elaine Hickman consults at Freedom Chinese Medicine on Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays.
Call 03 9486 5966 or click to book online.
Ball, H.L 2003, Breastfeeding, bed sharing and infant sleep. Birth. 30(3): 181-188.
Blair, P.S., Heron, J., Fleming, P.H 2010, Relationship between bed sharing and breastfeeding: Longitudinal, population-based analysis Pediatrics 126(5): e1119-e1126.
McCoy, R.C., Hunt, C.E., Lesko, S.M., Vezina, R., Corwin, M.J., Willinger, M., Hoffman, H.J., Mitchell, A.A 2004, Frequency of bed sharing and its relationship to breastfeeding Dev Behav Pediatr. 2004, 25(3),141-114.