Breastfeeding Top Tips

Breastfeeding is so lacking in our society that many new mothers are unprepared for it and, with even midwives offering advice about getting in some formula and a couple of bottles when you're about to give birth, the odds are definitely stacked against successful breastfeeding.

So I began to think about what I would like to have known before I started out on my breastfeeding journey?

What do new mums need to know or do in the early days?  Or indeed even before baby arrives.

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:

1. Read, Read and Read

Read as much as you can about breastfeeding while you're pregnant.  Not just in the birth books, which may devote a page or two to the subject, but in useful, fantastic books like:

2. Don't Sign Up to Negativity

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.

3. Look for Support

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.

4. Sign Up to La Leche League

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.

5. Ask for Help

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 breastfeeding experiences, make sure they'll be on the end of the phone/e-mail when you need them, even if it is 4am.

Get your partner 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 or her on side you'll have great support.

6. Do Your Research

Find out where your local breastfeeding support groups and cafes are and go along to have a chat with some of other mums.

When baby has arrived, in no particular order:

1. 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.

2. Be your own expert

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!

3. Don't clock watch

You don't need to check the clock 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.

4. Lock the door

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.

5. Persevere

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!)

6. Get support from the supportive

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.

7. Set small goals

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!

8. Nest

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.

You can read more abotut how husbands can support breastfeeding moms here.

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