11 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mums

At The elbowroom we are passionate about promoting breastfeeding while supporting and empowering mums-to-be and new mums. Whether it’s through our prenatal yoga classes, our postnatal mum and baby classes, our breastfeeding workshops or our new mum’s group, we are always working to normalise breastfeeding while encouraging and supporting mums. Here are my top tips for newly breastfeeding mums:

1.Believe you can breastfeed your baby
The mind is very powerful. Just like in birth, you need to believe that you can breastfeed your baby. If you are still pregnant, make a conscious effort to stop saying “I am going to try and breastfeed”. You have boobs, you are going to breastfeed. You will hear women saying “I wanted to but I couldn’t breastfeed”. They are not referring to their breasts not ‘working’. They are referring to the fact that they were failed by the system and were not adequately supported somewhere along the way, usually in the first few weeks. There is a small percentage of women (1 in 1,000) who physically cannot breastfeed, and this is due, mostly, to a condition known as Hypoplasia. Not only believe it. Know you are going to love it.

2. Take a class
It’s really important to arm yourself with as much information as possible and its important that this is good evidence-based information. The best way to do this is to attend a breastfeeding class, workshop (like ours at the elbowroom) or group before your baby is born. Seeing other women nursing, hearing their experiences of what is ‘normal’ and getting to understand how the lactation process works will really set you up for the task ahead. It would be wonderful if your partner could join you too as the more he/she understands about breastfeeding and how it works, the more supportive they can be.

3. Familiarise yourself with the common issues and possible solutions in advance
This will tie in with tip 2. A lot of the common problems will be mentioned in a good workshop or class. They could be tongue-tie, low supply, fast let-down, oversupply, nipple confusion or nipple damage. There is always a breastfeeding solution to a breastfeeding problem.

4. Accept that you are learning a new skill
If you were preparing for a new and highly responsible role in work, that involved learning a new skill, you would give yourself 6 weeks to learn it. With breastfeeding the first 6 weeks can be a bumpy ride but give yourself that time to master it. Plenty of mums will be up and running long before 6 weeks but it’s a good benchmark to keep in mind.

5. Accept that baby is learning a new skill
This is all new to your little one too. Some of them need coaxing and cajoling, some need gentle training, some just know what to do from the get-go. It is all driven by reflexes and some babies just need a little more time to get them tuned in. Again, give it 6 weeks and never give up on a bad day.

6. Stay skin to skin with your baby for as long as you can
All the evidence points to babies doing best with breast with the more skin to skin time. This means baby in nappy only and against the skin on your chest. For the hours and first few days after your baby is born this is the best way to spend time with your baby other than going to the loo or taking a shower. Everything else can be done with your baby at your chest. If you are experiencing any problems with latching, nipple fussiness or supply – go back to a babymoon and spend 3 days skin to skin with your baby.

7. Feed your baby whenever it looks for the breast
You cannot overfeed a breastfed baby. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. The supply is based on demand. The only way a new baby can communicate demand is to suck. So no, your baby may not be actually drinking all the time, but the sucking is creating the increased supply your growing baby will need tomorrow. Always feed on demand and you are less likely to have supply problems.

8. Look for early feeding cues and feed your baby when they are at their sleepiest
Early cues are very simple to spot. Feed you, baby, when:

  • They just start to wake – you will find it easier to put them on your breast
  • Their tongue starts to poke out
  • They turn their head from side to side looking for a nipple
  • Later feeding cues such as head bobbing, hands to their mouth, circling arms and feet and crying make it more difficult to latch your baby. Do it while they are sleepy and dopey!

9. Know that there IS help if you need it
Ireland has the lowest breastfeeding rate in the world. I passionately believe that is primarily down to the lack of help and support women receive in the postpartum period. But there is help there. The problem is, it’s not going to come to you, you need to actively seek it out. Midwives can be amazing support in hospital but can be often overworked or not fully trained to support breastfeeding. Find out who the lactation consultants are in your hospital and call them to your bed if you have any issues. If they are not available, call a private one to come in and see you. Check out the supports in your locality while you are pregnant – La Leche League meetups, Cuidiú groups, qualified lactation consultants that cover your area, friends of breastfeeding peer support, breastfeeding friendly mum and baby/toddler groups, mum and baby classes like yoga or infant massage. In my experience and from the feedback I hear, the likes of GPs and public health nurses can be lacking in breastfeeding knowledge and less support.

10. Be careful where you take advice, including relatives and well-meaning friends
People will offer you an opinion or advice whether you want it or not! Be careful what you do with it. Though you may have been advised with best intentions, the thinking and knowledge on breastfeeding have come a long way even in the last 10 years. So thought someone might be trying to help, they still might be giving dodgy advice. Best to check and cross-reference with either a professional (lactation consultant or breastfeeding advisor be it a postpartum doula or volunteer) or one of the evidence-based websites. I like www.kellymom.com

11. Observe the 3 Cs of successful breastfeeding – Co-sleeping, cuddles, cake
Yes, I know people worry about co-sleeping, especially on a first baby, but once the guidelines are followed it has proven to be safe. In fact, it’s probably the only way to get sleep in the beginning. Cuddles should be given in abundance, to mum and baby! Oxytocin fuels breastfeeding, oxytocin is the hormone of hugs. Skin to skin as much as possible in the early days and weeks. You cannot spoil a new baby. And cake? well that speaks for itself (ladies there’s a 500 calories free pass with breastfeeding…did you say chocolate or jam and cream?)

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