If you have chosen to breastfeed your new baby those first few weeks can feel really overwhelming. I know when my first boy was a newborn I often worried whether I was feeding him enough/too much or if my milk supply was good enough or if he was feeding long enough on both sides (and I stressed about a million other things too). My second baby is now 9 months old and as a second time breastfeeding mum I can say I feel a lot more confident this time around. This week is World Breastfeeding Week and I thought I would write a post for all new breastfeeding mums and share my top tips on how to feel confident during your breastfeeding journey. I also want to show mums to be and new mums that those precious baby days don't need to be spoilt by worries over breastfeeding, it is totally possible to feed with confidence. You can do this Mamas!
How to breastfeed with confidence
1. Prepare for feeding while you're pregnant - I am a firm believer in things will go better if you plan ahead and know what to expect in advance. So if you make the decision that you want to breastfeed once your baby is born then do some research while you are still pregnant. I am not saying you need to read every book there is going about breastfeeding but it helps to do a little research. Things you could do to help you prepare include:
* Speak to other mums who have fed their babies
* Go to a bumps and babies group and chat to other parents about feeding
* Read breastfeeding stories online. Loads of bloggers write about their breastfeeding experiences, you can find out about my breastfeeding journey the second time around in my breastfeeding diary
* Talk to your midwife. There are plenty of opportunities for you to discuss feeding with your midwife during your pregnancy, make the most of your antenatal appointments and ask as many questions as you need.
Something to remember is every mum is different and so is every baby so while it is great to gather tips and information through other people's experiences, just remember what worked or didn't work for them won't necessarily be the same for you.
To help you get started on your preparation, here are 3 things I wished I'd known about breastfeeding as a first time mum
- It hurts at the beginning. Sorry, your midwives will try and sugarcoat it but unless your nipples are used to having someone stuck to them about 10 times a day then those first few days of breastfeeding are going to hurt. While I did have early latch issues with Alex, with Leo our latch was textbook perfect but I still found the first week or so of feeding pretty painful. Don't worry though, the pain doesn't last and usually it's only for the first 10 seconds or so of each feed. Invest in some nipple cream (Lansinoh lanolin is the best) and just take a few deeps breaths when you latch baby on.
- A newborns stomach is the size of a marble. Leo used to feed little and often and I really worried his regular hunger was because he wasn't getting enough milk. Once I learnt it was because his tummy was tiny and only had space for small amounts of milk at a time I soon relaxed and felt more confident in my body's ability to give him what he needed.
- Babies like to cluster feed. If you haven't had a baby then you probably haven't heard of cluster feeding. Lots of babies tend to have lots of feeds in a short space of time, especially when they are going through a growth spurt. Both my boys cluster fed in the evenings, from around 5pm until 9, they would just cry and feed for what felt like forever. This is normal though, I don't know why they do it but they do so don't freak out if your baby wants to spend 3 hours straight stuck to your boob - it's normal!
2. Try different positions - Breastfeeding leaflets and how to guides online make feeding look easy, you simply lay your baby in your arms and put them to your breast, right? Well, this isn't always the case and sometimes it takes a lot of trial and error to find a position that both you and your baby are comfortable feeding in. Both my boys preferred to be held in a 'rugby ball' hold when they were newborns, here is a list full of different feeding position for you to try if you are struggling to get baby to latch.
3. Ask for help - If you are finding breastfeeding difficult and want to try and make it work then there are so many people you can speak to who can offer you support. There is absolutley no shame in asking for help and those early days are difficult enough, don't let feeding problems make them even more difficult. Your midwife, health visitor and a local breastfeeding counsellor can give you support over the phone or come visit you at home to show you some useful techniques. Many towns also have local breastfeeding cafes and support groups where you can go along with your baby, chat to other mums and get advice from a breastfeeding expert. A quick google will bring up all the support groups near you. You can also phone the La Leche League helpline and speak to your breastfeeding counsellor if you don't want to go to a group.
If you are still struggling and want to continue then ask for more help or try an alternative route. If you originally sought help from your midwife maybe try a qualified feeding counsellor next time. I spoke to 3 different midwives before I finally got Alex to latch on properly.
4. Dress for the occasion - Establishing breastfeeding with a newborn can be very difficult, learning to breastfeed in unsuitable clothing can feel pretty much impossible. I find nursing tops to be a godsend in those first few weeks, not only are they great for feeding discretely but they also make it easy for your baby to get to their milk without loads of clothes getting in the way. The Bshirt is a great example of a nursing top you can feed comfortably and confidently in, you can wear it under normal clothes and you just pull down the bottom layer to latch baby on.
5. Trust your body and your instincts - Us ladies have boobs for the sole purpose of providing our babies with milk. Our bodies are built to nourish our babies but it is something both us mums and our children need to learn how to do. Mothers who are efficient at feeding right from day 1 are a rarity, breastfeeding is a skill and it takes time to perfect. What has really helped me in times I have doubted my body's ability to feed my baby (do I have enough milk? Is he starving? Ah, I wish I could see how much he's taking!) is just reminding myself that my body and baby are working together and if something wasn't right then I would just know. Gut instinct is a powerful thing, trust in your body and if you feel something is wrong then ask for help.
6. Don't worry about feeding in public - It feels likes a big deal at the start, getting your breast out in a public place but once you've done it a couple times it doesn't feel scary at all. I have written a whole separate post about breastfeeding in public with confidence but just know you are not doing anything wrong, you're simply feeding your baby and its within your legal rights to do so.
If you are pregnant and considering breastfeeding or a new mum trying to get breastfeeding established, I hope this post has been useful. You are doing an amazing thing breastfeeding your baby and I am sure you will be feeding happily and confidently in no time. If it doesn't work out then don't worry about that either, you're still just as amazing. You got this mama.
If you want more support and advice here are some useful resources -
La Leche League
NCT breastfeeding advice
The breastfeeding network
This Blog was a guest post by mum and blogger Wendy who writes the Naptime Natter blog. You can find more great stuff from @naptimenatter on twitter and @wendy_naptimenatterblog on Instagram