So here are my top tips, my what I wish I'd knowns, and some things I did and didn't do. I hope they'll be useful to prospective mamas out there.
While you're pregnant:
The Drinks are on Me: Every Thing Your Mother Never Told You About Breast Feeding by Veronika Robinson, editor of The Mother magazine.
Ina May's Guide to Breastfeeding
The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts are Bad for Business (the one to make you feel militant about your amazing womanly powers!)
The Breastfeeding Book: Everything You Need to Know about Nursing Your Child from Birth through Weaning by the parenting gurus William & Martha Sears
Baby-led Breastfeeding: How to make breastfeeding work - with your baby's help this is a new one from Gill Rapley of baby-leed weaning fame, which I haven't read myself yet, but it sounds great.
- Don't be tempted to sign up to the formula companies' 'clubs' and e-mails and free gifts. You don't need a cuddly cow or polar bear if it comes with a dose of 'If you can't breastfeed...' negativity on the side. Equally don't listen to all the talk about how difficult breastfeeding is and all the naysayers who are more than willing to tell you their difficulty tales alongside their awful birth stories. Childbirth is beautiful, amazing and incredible, you'll be fine. Ditto breastfeeding, yes it takes perseverance and dedication, but you'll be fine. That's the mindset you need.
- Browse, and bookmark, useful breastfeeding advice websites now, so that you are both prepared, and can get to the information you need quickly in the middle of the night or in a crisis moment if you need to later on. Good ones include KellyMom; Jack Newman's which has fantastic how to videos and information sheets, and has a newsletter you can sign up to; and The Breastfeeding Network. Lactivist, run by the lovely Lisa, is also fantastic for information, blog, baby clothes, breastfeeding products and much, much more!
- Join La Leche League and go along to meetings at your local LLL group, for support and so you can see how others do it ahead of time. You don't have to be a member to go to groups, but members also get their bimonthly magazine which is so inspiring and supportive, it's like attending a meeting in itself! Membership costs from just £15 per year. (Most of the books listed above should also be available to borrow from your leader if you are a member.) Their website is also a mine of information, all accessible to non-members too.
- Think about, and talk about, what support you'll have available. Have frank conversations with your other half, what do they think about breastfeeding, how do they plan to support you, etc. The same with close friends and family. If possible, rope in friends and family who have had positive b/f experiences, make sure they'll be on the end of the phone/e-mail when you need them, even if it is 4am. Get OH to read some of the books as well, or at least browse some of the websites. Even if you don't have a local 'tribe' to tap into, at least with him on side you'll have great support.
- Research where your local breastfeeding support groups and cafes are and go along to have a chat with some of other mums. My own experience of this (Chichester) wasn't great, but I have heard wonderful things about many others.
When baby has arrived, in no particular order:
- Throw yourself into it! Don't think about anything else if you can posibly help it, just get on with bonding with and feeding your bub.
- In hospital, ask to express and feed baby yourself if they are taken to SCBU. Don't listen to anyone who whitters about 'topping up', 'getting them to sleep a bit longer', 'not enough milk' etc etc. Unfortunately, some maternity nurses, doctors, health visitors and midwives are misinformed, poorly-trained, have cosy relationships with formula companies, and may even be anti-breastfeeding themselves, all despite their establishment's published pro-breastfeeding policies. Listen to your body and your baby first, then your pro-breastfeeding support group, and only then the so-called experts!
- Don't clock watch, either to check the length of time between feeds, the duration of each feed, or to count how many feeds in 24 hours. Just follow your baby's lead, feed on demand, allow so-called comfort sucking (essential for baby's development), and give yourself over completely to that tiny being for a few weeks. It won't be for long and, believe me, you'll miss that time when it's over.
- Lock the door and disconnect the door bell, turn the phone and the computer off, and enjoy your babymoon. While you're establishing feeding don't feel obliged to have visitors, even close family. You need to focus on yourself and your new family, not all and sundry who want to see the new addition. Explain this to family in advance. If they love you, they'll understand and respect your wishes.
- Persevere, persevere, persevere. I won't lie, breastfeeding may not be easy, but if you concentrate solely on establishing breastfeeding for the first six weeks or so, it will work (in 99% + of cases anyway!)
- Get advice from the breastfeeding support network you established while you were pregnant - books, websites, friends, family, husband, La Leche League, phone advisors, support groups, breastfeeding cafes and counsellors, use them all, again and again and again if necessary. What's important is you feeding your baby, do whatever it takes, and call on anyone and anything to help you.
- Plan ahead by all means, but don't set yourself any specific breastfeeding goals, just take one day at a time, one week at a time, one hour if needs be!
- Set yourself up a nursing nest (especially important when OH has gone back to work) - make sure water, snacks, remote, phone, magazines, books, laptop, etc etc are all within reach.
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