This is a blog has been rolling around my head for the last few months, with the recent dispatches program, I thought it was a timely time to write it now.
I need to caveat this with:
- This is purely MY experience, as a mum to 3 breastfed babies, and a teacher who has worked with women postnatally. I am however no breastfeeding “expert”.
- I genuinely DON'T care if you breastfeed or not, I care if you have had the choice taken away, and I will continue to campaign for better support.
- This is not for the fourth trimester - See my top tips below
- I am hugely pro breastfeeding if a mum WANTS to do it. Breast is best for a baby, but NOT at the detriment to mums mental health.
Breastfeeding will not necessarily make your baby more intelligent, healthy, or give you a better bond. But breastmilk IS the ONLY food that is 100% designed for YOUR baby. YOUR body makes it especially for YOUR baby, and it is freaking awesome stuff. I am someone who opts for easy parenting! Breastmilk is less likely to cause you issues with colic & reflux, and when you get it established it is 100% easier than bottle feeding due to a lack of having to make and clean bottles, plus it is dirt cheap!
I truly believe if we supported women who want to establish routines, and who don’t want to be quite so “baby led”, we could impact our breastfeeding rates. I also think we need to help women understand baby’s cues and what baby is communicating to us, to help them to understand feeding cues over other cues.
There are so many reasons why your baby cries, understandably when you breastfeed you automatically presume its hunger, the boob sorts everything out! But it can lead to women not trusting in their bodies, baby seems to be constantly “hungry”, and mum feeling overwhelmed by a baby being permanently attached to them.
So, as I have said, this is purely MY experience, and MY journey.
There is this assumption, or presumption, that when you breastfeed a baby you have to let baby be in control, and you end up with a baby permanently attached to your boobs - “demand” feeding. I didn’t have this luxury, I had recently opened my business, had an 8yr and a 5yr, and really wasn’t able to sit down and breastfeed for hours on end. My 10 day Midwife sign off was carried out at work in a side room because I couldn’t be at home. Now whether I was right to be working so early, is a totally different debate, I was, I needed to be, and I WANTED to breastfeed.
Here are my top tips for breastfeeding and routine:
Use the 4th trimester to learn:
A baby under 3-4m doesn't have the ability to understand consequences of actions, they can’t be spoiled, they don’t understand when they cry a boob comes or they get picked up. They cry as a reflex to a physical need, it could be hunger, pain, over stimulation its your job to work out what your baby is communicating to you, and the 4th trimester is the time to learn.
Those first 3-5m are your time to learn, you need to learn who your little human is, and he needs to learn how to integrate his body in the outside world. Don’t try pushing anything strict or trying too hard in this time, it is fruitless and will make your miserable. You can’t develop bad habits (or if you do they are quickly broken).
Your milk supply is also establishing during this time. Your body will make the perfect amount of milk for your baby, so they will feed little and often. As the fourth trimester goes on you will begin to understand how baby's feeding cues differs from his tired or over stimulation cues. Your boobs are like factories not storehouses, we need to establish a happy balance where your body makes just the right amount of milk for your baby.
See a Lactation Consultant and get GOOD support:
See a properly qualified, and trained LACTATION consultant. Get baby's latch checked and if they have Tongue Tie get it cut.
You need to know you are starting off from a baseline where your baby is feeding efficiently. It DOES hurt when you first breastfeed, but knowing what is normal and what isn’t is important as pain is subjective, so get the latch checked!
The chance of developing PND increases by 50% for those mums who want to breastfeed and can’t, in most cases women who stop feeding do so through to lack of support.
Use a dummy:
I am gonna get shot down in flames by the breastfeeding militants for this! I totally get that introducing anything into baby’s mouth that isn’t a boob COULD lead to nipple confusion, however, MY opinion is, our babies are far cleverer that we give them credit for. Adding a dummy to the calming techniques below can be a huge benefit to an over tired/stimulated baby.
Introducing a bottle
Now I wouldn’t personally do this, or express, until you feel totally established with breastfeeding. You will hear differing stories about when the “right time” is to introduce a bottle. There really isn't one, it is totally dependent on YOUR baby, and they are all totally different. Sucking a bottle is a method of feeding, and for lazy feeders, a bottle is much easier than a boob, so you do risk confusion and impacting feeding by doing it too early.
Expressing too early can lead to an over or under supply, remember your boobs are factories not warehouses, they will make the milk you need, if you express you run the risk of your body making more (potentially getting blocked ducts/ mastitis) or taking away what your baby wants to drink. Wait until you feel established and in a happy routine of feeding (this may well change with growth spurts etc, but you feel generally in control of it).
Use calming techniques:
Your baby will cry for reasons other than just hunger. The best way to calm them in the 4th trimester is to recreate the womb. Wrap them up tight (swaddle, sling or hold in firm arms), move (rock) them & ssshhh them (white noise/hoover, or simply sssshhhhh close to them). You need to be PATIENT with this, you need to do this for a good 15/20mins (set a timer). This is a really useful technique to help read those early cues.
Trust your instinct:
You WILL have an instinct for all this, you just need to find it and trust it.
Do what feels right and BE HONEST:
If you DON’T WANT to breastfeed that is fine, it isn’t for everyone and that is OK. Again we have to move the focus to mum rather than baby.. If YOU DON’T WANT TO DO IT, DON’T AND DON’T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT IT. And don't make those that do feel guilty for their choice, lets stop ripping each other down, and start building each other up! Parenting is hard enough without all this added extra shit on top of it!
We are getting our knickers in such a twist over parenting. Lets put power back into mums hands, support her and let her do what she feels is right!