Friday, 6 December 2013

Preparing to breastfeed.

Breastfeeding is natural. All you need is a mum and a baby. 

Tosh in my opinion. 
Breastfeeding is a learnt art. Learnt. A natural biological process yes, but it does not always come naturally. And there are some things I believe mums can do to help prepare themselves for those early and sometimes tricky days when establishing breastfeeding. 

Shopping list

1. Have proper nipple cream
Lanolish. It is more expensive than other creams but that is because it is brilliant. It is super concentrated. It sooths and protects delicate tender nipples. I put this on after every breast feed along with a fresh pair of ...

2. Breast pads 
Have one full pack ready at home. Don't worry about them in the hospital unless you are in for an extended time. Your milk won't come in for a few days. But once it is coming you will want them on all the time for the first weeks at least. I put on a fresh pair after every feed along with more lanolish. I think this stopped infections. 

3. Nipple shields
Buy a pair in medium and read the instructions. Have them in your hospital bag. If you need them the chances are you will need them in the early days when  baby is constantly feeding while building your milk supply. 

4. Manual breast pump and at least two bottles
I found this invaluable in the early days. It helps ease engorgement. It helps take the the pressure off you by allowing someone else to feed baby. We introduced the bottle at about a week old. J would do a bottle a day usually around 10pm after I had gone to bed early. I would pump early in the morning and store it in the fridge ready for J to warm up in hot water later.

Emotional readiness.
This is what I found. This is my advice based on my experience. Every mum and baby will have a different experience. I was disappointed that no one had talked about the emotional impact of breastfeeding before L arrived.

* It will hurt. There is lots written about how it won't hurt if baby is latched on correctly. This is also tosh. Your nipples need to toughen up and get used to the sucking action of a hungry baby. 

* Babies demands are highest in the first three/four weeks. It can be relentless. It will feel like baby is constantly feeding. Accept those days as sofa days. Have snacks and drinks readily accessible and settle. Don't stress about it. Don't put pressure on yourself or baby. Ask people to help you during those days. All too soon your baby won't need all those cuddles and snuggly feeds and if you are anything like me you will miss them. Eventually.

*Do not expect a feeding routine to be established for at least three weeks. Some babies will find a routine earlier, some won't. I read a book which said a baby couldn't possibly be hungry after two hours. Turns out a baby can need to be on the breast after less than two hours. Especially during early growth spurts. Relax. Feeding routines will come, but trying to force a newborn into a routine could make yourself stressed. It did for me. We started to feed three hourly at around a month.

*Being your babies soul source of food can be overwhelming. This pressure can feel unbearable. Talk to your partner, your mum if you can, your breastfeeding friends. Find out where your local breastfeeding cafés are. I really relaxed and turned a breast feeding corner following my attendance at one of these sessions. 

You can read about my early breast feeding experience here.
But most importantly remember this.

Your baby needs a happy and healthy mum and start to their precious lives. If breast feeding leaves you in constant pain, if you're so sore that feeding is just not an option and you have tried all the advice you can find. If your baby is sick and at risk of serious health complications, or finds it tiring to feed because of tongue tie then there is another option. I hate the guilt formula feeding mothers often feel when breast feeding has not worked out. I think a fed baby is the ultimate priority.

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