I think that there are several different aspects of breastfeeding support that are really important in a woman’s breastfeeding journey. The first is good quality information before baby arrives. I was recently told by a member of our local infant feeding team that NHS ante natal classes have removed a lot of practical information about breastfeeding from their programme because the feedback from pregnant mums was that they wanted to focus on labour and not what comes after baby arrives. However, when we were discussing it, every member of my breastfeeding peer support class felt that it was better to prepare new mums for the challenges of breastfeeding and to inform them where to get support with the issues they might face. We discussed that it was better to be prepared and give mums the confidence in themselves, to know where to access help… and that help doesn’t have to be sitting on the shelf in a supermarket!
So many mums breastfeed for 3 days/ 4 weeks/4 months and then switch to artificial milk because they feel like their baby suddenly wants to feed all the time, and that *must* mean they aren’t producing enough milk. These are classic growth spurt times and responses. I can’t help but feel that if mums knew about these they could prepare themselves for a couple of days of nonstop feeds with confidence in the knowledge that baby is just trying to increase their milk supply and once they’ve done that (after 2-3 days) the feeds will settle down again. When growth spurts hit, take a second/third/fourth babymoon* and enjoy bonding time with your baby!
The second important aspect of breastfeeding support is where you can go for help if you are having problems once baby has arrived. This might be straight away with midwives when baby is first born, learning how to latch correctly and which position works best for you. Or at a breastfeeding drop-in group like Milk! or La Leche League when your baby is a few weeks/months old, or when they’re older and you need support with night weaning, breastfeeding while returning to work, or what to do when your toddler only wants breast milk and refuses the food that they previously loved!
It is worth noting though that not all healthcare professionals are fully trained on all aspects of breastfeeding and if you’re unsure of any of the advice being given you are entitled to ask for a second opinion. For example; not all midwives are the font of knowledge that you would expect them to be regarding infant feeding and mums often report being encouraged to use artificial milk on the post natal ward. Be informed and advocate for yourself and your baby.
Last but not least is the support from those around you, this might be your partner, your parents (and in-laws) and your friends. Some people are more supportive than others and some mums will find that breastfeeding is a contentious topic which loved ones love to comment on. A big part of a successful breastfeeding journey is a positive attitude towards it and that might mean surrounding yourself with supportive people and telling the less supportive people that you don’t want to discuss it with them if they can’t be positive.
Let your partner (and your mum if she lives close by) know the practical ways that they can support you on your breastfeeding journey. In the beginning when you have a new baby they can help you to rest by bringing you food and drink, help care for older children and keep on top of the housework. As your journey progresses they can support you in other ways, for example if you choose to night wean your toddler you might ask your partner to take over night-time wake ups for a few days while you sleep in a different room. Communicate with them and help them understand the best way to help you.
You might like to make some new likeminded friends and be each other’s support system, you can meet other mums at local breastfeeding groups, La Leche League groups tend to share the gentle parenting ethos if you want to meet other co-sleeping, babywearing, cloth nappy using, baby led weaning, breastfeeding mums. You could also look out for your local sling meet or local AP group (try searching on Facebook for either of these).
Good quality information is the key for good breastfeeding support and you can use that information to help yourself find whatever type of support you need at whatever stage of your breastfeeding journey. Inform yourself and be your own breastfeeding advocate.
*A babymoon is bonding time for you (and your partner) and your baby. Stay at home, rest in bed, have skin to skin time. Ask visitors not to call and enjoy time as a family. It’s most common to have a babymoon straight after giving birth but it can also work wonders if you’re having a breastfeeding problem later on too.
Emma lives on the sunny Sussex coast with her wife Debbie and their 20 month old daughter Theodorah “Teddy”. She works from home running Chichester Slings. As well as being a trained babywearing consultant running a sling library and two sling meets, she is also an NHS breastfeeding peer supporter, and admin of the West Sussex gentle parenting facebook group AP by the Sea.
This post is part of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, which you can read more about here.
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