The secret to a successful breastfeeding journey is …
SUPPORT! And I don’t mean a new bra.
There are many Facebook communities, e.g. UK Breastfeeding and Parenting Support (which has trained administrators), where you can read about other peoples experiences and ask questions. You may prefer to attend local breastfeeding groups for some face to face support or just to meet like-minded mums. There is even a breastfeeding chatbot (Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend) on the NHS website!
What to expect
For the first few days your baby can seem unsatisfied and want to feed around the clock (this is normal – baby is bringing in your milk supply). In the first few weeks babies feed A LOT! The most important thing you can do is listen to your baby and as long as they are gaining weight and producing wet and dirty nappies, it’s all good. Watch out for the growth spurt at approximately 6 weeks though, my little girl seemed angry and upset at the breast and I naively thought I had run out of milk but we don’t ‘run out’ – we make on demand. The first few weeks are all about regulating supply.
Breastfeeding should also be pain free, though in the first few days you may feel some discomfort/pain until your body familiarises. Nipple cream can really help at this time. If you continue to experience pain, you should concentrate on getting the latch right and seek advice – there are so many different holds and techniques to try.
When it feels like it’s all too much – remember, breastfeeding is much more than just food, your milk is tailored for your baby’s needs: influencing the immune system to provide protection against infectious diseases, antibodies when they are ill and even oxytocin for you and your baby which aids relaxation and sleep.
Also ‘boobie’ milk can cure just about any upset.
Further down the line
Breastfeeding still has lots of benefits for you and your baby after 6 months, it continues to protect them from infections, provides the balance of nutrients they need and there’s even evidence that it helps them to digest solid foods. It’s also noteworthy that the World Health Organization recommends all babies are breastfed for up to 2 years or longer and that the natural weaning age is between 2 and 7 years of age.
Just remember that every parent is on their own journey and needs support no matter what choices they make.
What I wish I had known
- that on the first day your baby only gets approximately a teaspoonful of milk in each feed and on the second and third days it’s still only approximately 2-3 teaspoonfuls.
- about the 6 week growth spurt. I thought I wasn’t making enough milk for my baby.
- that you don’t run out of milk and that you make milk on demand.
- that the first few weeks are the hardest because this is when the baby regulates your supply.
- that babies need to be fed WHENEVER they need to be fed rather than following the ‘guidelines’ in some parenting books.
- that I wouldn’t be spoiling my baby by ‘giving her what she wants ” (i.e. milk).
- about all the amazing resources for breastfeeding support on facebook.