We have all heard that breastfeeding is a learning curve, some of us have experienced more difficulty than others. There are so many variables when it comes to breastfeeding struggles, some of which are really out of our control and require a lot of persistence to improve. If you are one of those mamma’s- there ought to be a trophy for you!!!
Even as a Midwife myself, who had a good foundation of knowledge, my breastfeeding journey has not been without its obstacles. It is a learning curve for everyone. It is true though that being informed about breastfeeding before baby arrives can lay some foundations for improved success. So I share this in the hopes it may help and encourage someone.
As a midwife who often works with women in those early postnatal days, let me paint you a picture…
A woman, still recovering from Birth, both physically, emotionally, spiritually. Tired from a baby who has had very little sleep and has perhaps not left its mothers chest. Sore from all the postures of labour and birth, sore from all the stitching and repair. Bleeding into a massive pad, maybe leaking a little urine. Perhaps feeling a bit groggy from pain relief. A mind full of thoughts about one of the most intense experiences of her life (whether good or bad it is intense). Maybe traumatised, maybe confused, maybe riding a hormonal high and feeling powerful, overwhelmed with so many thoughts and feelings. Maybe trying to get their head around how to change a baby’s nappy, how to swaddle their baby, how to hold their baby. Perhaps trying to facilitate an influx of people who have come to meet this precious new life bearing gifts and desiring cuddles. All while trying to navigate feeding this baby amongst what probably feels like a lot of conflicting advice and information.
Does this sound like a great time for education?
Does this woman sound primed for information and knowledge?
It is very hard to educate a postnatal woman, a bit easier to help her recall information that she has already deposited in her brain. For this reason, antenatal breastfeeding education is so very valuable it really does give you a better foundation to build on.
My top 5 things I wish Mothers knew before they had a baby are:
It can be discouraging for women, and you can see them start to doubt their bodies when they see only a few drops of fluid come out onto the nipple or when they don’t feel full, like their breasts should contain lots of milk.
‘I don’t have enough milk; my baby must be hungry’.
Sometimes this thought comes because women have not been told about the Glory of colostrum.
Colostrum is thick and sticky, jam packed with soooo much goodness its phenomenal, the perfect substance to line the stomach of your newborn. Your babies’ stomach is only the size of a marble so it doesn’t need more than this, the volume of your milk will increase as your babies’ stomach capacity does also.
The more your baby feeds, the more messages will go to your brain to cater for their growing requirements and you will transition from colostrum to milk in a few days. It can be hard to trust this process when you are feeling so vulnerable and doubting yourself. Having healthy expectations before birth, a strong respect for Colostrum and a good support team around you will hopefully soften that doubt.
Many women don’t realise that they can express some of their glorious colostrum in the final weeks of pregnancy. Check with your care provider to make sure there aren’t any red flags about doing so, and if not ask for an expressing kit.Why?
It gets us midwives so excited if we have colostrum to give your baby in the event that you are not there to offer the breast. For example- If you have had to go to theatre and are separated for a time, dad can be skin to skin, and we can give your baby your milk. Or, if baby does need to go to the nursery and we can bring a supply colostrum in with him/her the nurses will be thrilled. There is nothing better and it will hold off the conversation around supplementing with formula if you have milk already ready to go. So good!
Normal Day 2 Baby behaviour.
When newborn babies come out of their post birth slumber, they can exhibit a classic behaviour that you may hear us midwives’ term as ‘normal day 2 behaviour’. They want to suck all the time. They also may be opposed to be put down and this can make for a long night. But it is normal and desirable to get your milk transitioning from colostrum- lots of skin to skin and stimulation of the breast will send the right messages to your brain that your baby is ready for more. Again, trusting this process can be hard, but if you know it is coming you may be less inclined to doubt it is normal.
Intervention in birth may affect breastfeeding, but it is O.K.
When you are in labour and wanting pain relief it isn’t always the right time to mention that this may affect your breastfeeding, I dare say you are not in the frame of mind to be educated about that then. If you have had a caesarean, induction of labour or instrumental birth, there are also implications there that can affect your milk supply and your baby’s readiness to feed.
This is not to make you feel guilty, sometimes these things are necessary and it’s not a cause for mum guilt…please don’t hear me saying that.
I mention this merely to point out, that it is helpful to know that there may be a bit of a ‘detour’ to get back on track. Your baby may not be as alert, your baby might be disrupted by extra monitoring and observation or discomfort of bruising, perhaps separation for some time. Your supply might be impeded on by medication, extra IV fluids, extra blood loss, or a more traumatised Mother perhaps. There may need to be a bit more management and support while you both round that corner, and round that corner you can. So, don’t doubt yourself too quickly. The right support and plan can help you get there.
Keep the space sacred.
We all know how much Joy a baby brings; we all love to show off our babies. But remember this… your baby has come from an environment where YOU are home. Skin to skin with you is everything familiar.
Visitors bring with them new smells, new sounds, new textures, new lighting in photographs being taken etc. Of course, it isn’t wrong to invite people to meet your baby. It is wonderful!
But when a I walk into a crowded room and see your baby making feeding cues, all I want to do is have both of you strip down skin to skin and help you respond to what your baby is trying to learn with you. That can be hard when you father in law is in the room and if your baby is impatient you might miss that perfect window waiting for them to leave and then settling your baby back down.
So, I included this point as limiting the people you have in your space and helping baby feel calm and at home with you as much as possible while you both learn can make such a difference. Setting those boundaries before babies arrive can mean it’s less awkward. Most midwives are happy to clear the room for you too if you are too polite to ask people to leave.
There is So much more I could say…
But I won’t.
You could know all of the above and struggle,
You could know none of the above and not struggle.
The journey is so personal.
Support is so important.
Click below to see all the local support and resources available to you.
These people are passionate about breastfeeding, so believe me when I say they would LOVE to hear from you!