I can’t believe that I have been breastfeeding Q for 30 weeks! Thirty whole weeks of breastmilk, and six months of exclusive breastfeeding. I am proud to be included in the statistic, “1% of women in the UK are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months”. We’ve passed the 6 month mark, with no signs of giving up yet. But 1% is a far cry from the 81% of women that begin breastfeeding at birth and so I’ve been pondering the reasons why so many mother’s give up.
You don’t have to look far online to see a pattern in responses to articles about breastfeeding. The main issue for mothers seems to be the lack of support. There could well be a fantastic service in your area, but if you’re not told about it, your midwife doesn’t know about it, they’re understaffed – how are you to find the available support? Or maybe there really isn’t any in your area. How can a mother reach six months of exclusive breastfeeding if their close family and friends have no/little experience with breastfeeding and don’t know how to support them?
I have been incredibly lucky on my feeding journey with Q that we haven’t experienced that many problems. Where we have come up into a bit of a glitch, we have been incredibly well-supported and I am ecstatic that it’s worked out this time around. I thought I’d share a few tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way, advice I’ve been given by other breastfeeding mums and how I’ve managed to get this far…
The Early Days…
The first day, just after birth, both mum and baby are tired and baby will more than likely sleep a lot. The following couple of nights and days will be full of cluster feeds, where baby is learning to latch, getting that all-important colostrum and bringing in your milk.
Be patient. Both you and baby are learning a new skill and it takes time, effort and determination. Some mums can experience pain in the first few days, however, it’s not a blanket rule for everyone. I’m pleased to say that I have never found breastfeeding painful at any point unless I’ve become lazy checking a latch and ended up with a sore nipple.
Spend time with a trained breastfeeding midwife/supporter and perfect that latch. Don’t feel like you’re being a pest for asking for help either – the staff are there to help! If you aren’t sure if you’ve got your latch quite right, pop baby off using your little finger and try again.
So many women complain of the pressure they feel to breastfeed their child. I completely understand, and felt that pressure to feed with my first child. With my second, I approached the whole thing with a ‘what will be, will be’, attitude. I thought I’d set off with breastfeeding and attempt to make it to a couple of weeks. A couple of weeks passed and I was feeling okay, so I kept at it.
I think in a lot of cases, it is self-pressure that is experienced. We know that exclusive breastfeeding is the natural way, the best option for our health but our expectations aren’t always met in reality.
Bad Habits Die Hard…
If baby is taught to latch poorly in the first weeks, it’s harder to improve in time. Poor latch leads to sore and cracked nipples, blocked ducts, mastitis, all of which can become complicated and test your willpower to stick with it. If latch is a struggle, ask for a trained health professional to check for a tongue tie.
Find Your Support Network!
One of the most important things as a parent; you need a good support network around you. Family and friends who will support you. Remind you why you chose to breastfeed in the first place (for me, it was partly so I didn’t have to sterilise lots of bottles everyday!) and help to pick you up on a bad day. I only know a couple of people that are experienced in breastfeeding, so I find a lot of support being part of a breastfeeding support group on Facebook. It’s great to ask questions, share when you’re having a bad day and celebrate your achievements with other mums.
Preparation is Key
Exclusive breastfeeding, and especially cluster feeds, can be draining, but I’ve found that preparing for a session of feeding is the easiest way to deal with them. Set up a little feeding station around your most comfortable chair. Make sure you have the television remotes, a selection of box sets downloaded to watch, your phone, a couple of drinks and some snacks (chocolate) on a little table next to you. Have spare breast pads and a muslin cloth for burping handy and you’re on to a winner.
How have you found breastfeeding works for you? How long have you been feeding for?