One thing’s for sure: Breastfeeding is not easy. But, we are told, breast milk is the healthiest option for little tummies, because it contains all the necessary nutrients plus precious antibodies from mummy, to help babies stay healthy and develop well. So mums-to-be like myself, voraciously devour any article on breastfeeding that we can lay our hands on, to prepare as much as we can for “D Day”.
I won’t be labour the techniques and potential woes of breastfeeding. If you’re looking for such information, you can find it from any number of books in the library or online. Instead, I’d like to share a few tips that few books will tell you – based on what I’ve experienced so far in my own breastfeeding journey.
#1: Start with confidence
The first few days and weeks of your breastfeeding experience will generally determine what the months ahead look like. At least a month before your due date, start to read up on breastfeeding. Arm yourself with knowledge and know what to look out for. Feel confident, while not sufficient for success, is a big first step.
Right from Day 1, try to get the lactation consultant attached to your hospital to help baby latch correctly. Pay specific attention to your breastfeeding posture, how to help baby to latch properly, and ways to check if baby is latched on properly. In fact, it might be good to get the contact of the lactation consultant prior to delivery, so that you can call her if she’s not in the hospital, and get help/advice over the phone.
Before you go home, do make sure you are confident of latching baby on by yourself. Don’t leave thinking you can figure out your problem better at home on your own – you probably can’t.
#2: Hubby’s gotta be on board
Having a husband who fully supports your decision to breastfeed will go a long way in helping you stick to your plan when the going gets rough.
He’s the brave soul who’ll stick up for you when well-meaning relatives and nurses tell you ‘you don’t have enough milk’, and who can help wake up your sleepy newborn in-between suckles. If you encounter any breastfeeding issues like sore nipples or engorgement, he can help get cool tea bags (for soreness) or warm compresses to help ease your discomfort.
And on particularly down days, when you really just want to give up, he’ll remind you why you decided to start this in the first place and be your pillar of support that gets you through another day.
#3: Mind over matter
There’s no question about it – motherhood builds character. There’s an inner strength and resolve that you’ll need to tap into and cling onto as you become a mum – and not just where breastfeeding is concerned.
Realize that your first few days after labour will pass by in a daze of sorts. You’ll likely be sleep deprived, alternating between joy and despair, full of self-doubt and barraged by a stream of visitors. Not to mention having your first taste of latching baby on, bathing baby, bringing baby for various tests and recovering from the labour process.
Many times, you will find yourself plagued by doubts, criticism from others, and fears, so decide right now that you can do it! Going into ‘battle’ with that kind of confidence and mental preparation is key to success.
If you’re like me, you can’t wait to get out of the house after your confinement period is over. The best way to feel confident about bringing baby out is to have a feel of what that might be like! If you are planning to use a sling or other carrier, put baby in it and walk around the house or the neighbourhood. This gets both you and baby used to the new device! And give yourself at least a week to practice breastfeeding with a nursing shawl if you are hoping to be able to breastfeed outside.
That’s my two cents worth of tips for you, dear mummies-to-be. I hope it gives you a realistic picture of what you might face, and how to prepare for it. Breastfeeding is definitely not a bed of roses, but from my own experience, it is all worth it. After the initial pain wears off, there is really nothing quite as calming and peaceful like cradling your baby close and watching him drink.
As for me, my son is now coming to 10 months old and has started on solids, but he still has ‘mummy’s milk’ about 3-4 times a day. I hope to be able to breastfeed him until he is about 18 months old. After that, we’ll see.
By Dorothea Chow
This article was first published in The New Age Parents e-magazine
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