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 baout 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:

  • 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:
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, the La Leche League bible

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 NetworkLactivist, 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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  1. I found that I wasn't prepared clothes-wise. Tops need to be loose for ease of access and not at all tight round your breast when feeding - I got blocked ducts which could have been avoided if I had known!

    1. That's a really good point, thank you. It doesn't have to be (usually expensive) nursing clothes, just loose. Thanks for commenting, and good luck in the prize draw!

  2. Make sure you do your research before baby arrives. It is so important that you get a good latch from your baby

  3. Great post and great advice, I particularly liked the bit about not listening to people's horrific birth stories and feeding experiences - I don't know why people think its helpful to tell you those things when you are heavily pregnant! You are so right its a beautiful experience but breastfeeding does take perseverance!
    My top tip would be in the very early days of feeding, I found it really helpful to pull my nipple out before latching the baby as it made for a better latch whilst they and you are still learning. It really helped me first time around when my nipples were tender and this time around it helped to establish a strong latch very quickly.

  4. For me I would just say relax and enjoy it, and don't worry if you find it hard to get the hang of it at first just persevere. Its like learning anything new, it just takes time but there are always other that may be more experinced that you can turn to for guidance or advice.

  5. I would say the opposite of not listening to horror stories - prepare yourself for it to be hard work. My Eldest (who we have since discovered had Aspergers which may have contributed this), just would not latch for the first 10 days despite enormous amounts of help from midwives etc. I expressed and bottle fed until I managed to get to (the oh so wonderful and amazing) Sally Inch who runs the breast feeding clinic at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford who threw away the book and all the advice I had been given and showed me how to latch a difficult feeder with flat nipples. It hurt a lot to feed until my daughter was 13 weeks old and if I had thought it was going to be a walk in the park, I may have given up. As it was, my sister told me that I wouldn't be able to bf because she couldn't which gave me the initial ompf to get past the pain and then my MIL told me that I'd have to top up from 3 months because she couldn't keep her boys full past that point, which gave me the second ompf I needed to get to 6 months. I appreciate that I am somewhat awkward minded...

  6. My top tip to to go for a pee before you sit down!

  7. My top tip would be to set yourself up somewere comfy with everything you are likely to need to hand whilst feeding such as muslin, drink and a snack as you dont know how long you will be there especialy in the earlier days. That way you can just sit down and relax and enjoy your time together :)

  8. I don't have a top tip yet, I'm 37 weeks pregnant, can't wait to start breast feeding. I don't have any questions either, I've been blog hopping all night reading fabulous blog posts from amazing supportive and encouraging woman, will definately be returning to reread these again before baby boy arrives.


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