Some tips for a good start to breastfeeding

File:Postpartum baby.jpg

Photocredit: Wikimedia.

We are learning more and more information all the time to support the idea that a good start to breastfeeding makes all the difference for meeting your long term breastfeeding goals.  Your baby needs to empty and stimulate your breasts several times a day in the early weeks to enable you to produce enough milk to meet his needs not only now but over the long term.  Many mothers find breastfeeding straightforward, but others struggle and often this can be prevented.

So here are some ideas for getting breastfeeding off to a good start:

Play to your baby’s strengths Remember that your baby will be born knowing what to do– women don’t need a university degree to breastfeed!  Your baby hasn’t read all the books you have or heard your cousin’s story about this, that or the other thing.  He doesn’t need to learn how to breastfeed– he was born knowing how.  He knows how to suck, he can lift his head enough to reach your breast, and if he’s given free rein to use his mammalian instincts, he can do it!  An important role for the mother is to clear a path for the baby: to remove all those obstacles that could prevent him from following his biologically-determined pathway to breastfeed.  These obstacles include separation between mother and baby, interventions in labour, and early introduction of breastmilk substitutes or pacifiers.   Even epidural anaesthesia, something that was marketed to me as a risk-free pain relief option when I had my first baby, has been shown to interfere with a baby’s ability to suck.

Be world-class World-class athletes have got professional trainers, masseurs, agents and a whole coterie to look after them so that they can do one thing: compete athletically.  Once your baby arrives, you and he are the centre of your universe.  Don’t be afraid to act like it.  Everything and everyone else can wait.  Visitors, well-wishers, emails, letters, chores around the house: all of these can wait until you and your baby are ready to deal with them.  It’s nice to see Great Aunt Vera, but don’t make your baby compete with her for your attention or vice versa.  All your baby wants is you right now (that doesn’t last forever so make the most of it!), so prioritise him.  Stay in bed if you can, let other people look after you.  The most important thing you can do right now is bond with and feed your baby.  It is a world-class responsibility.

Be a habitat for your baby Animal behaviouralist Nils Bergman has been quoted as saying that a baby’s natural habitat is his mother’s body.  Sounds like a funny thing to say, but actually your baby has been born expecting to be with you 24/7.  He wants to bond with you; he wants you to hold him; he loves your smell and the touch of your skin.  He knows nothing of personal space, manipulation, me-time or any of those other ideas we have received from our culture.  He just wants to be with you!  How  many of us yearned for such popularity in high school, and here it is!  Accept that your baby thinks you are the star of the show, and be present to him for this oh-so-brief part of his life.  By being near him, you will catch his early feeding cues, which will not only save your ears listening to him cry but will also prevent him from wasting precious calories on such an energy-drain as crying.

Don’t worry about being polite (except to say thank you!) At this time in your life, you need all the support you can get.  Say YES to the offer of a meal brought to your house, say YES when someone offers to do your laundry, say YES when someone asks “can I help?”  If no one offers, swallow your pride and ask.  By the time I had my third baby friends were wondering what to get me.  I told everyone I’d like a covered meal that I can put in the freezer and have in the early weeks after my baby was born.  What a boon this was to me and my family!  My husband was doing double duty with my two daughters and looking after me: the last thing he could manage was rustling up a meal.  Accepting all offers of help meant that I could concentrate 100% on breastfeeding my baby.  It was timeless.

Finally, if you’re struggling, seek support.  Find your local LLL Leader or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, find some other moms who can relate to you without telling you to stop breastfeeding, or reach out online to people who will be supportive.  It’s so worth it.

Lisa Hassan Scott

About Lisa Hassan Scott

Lisa Hassan Scott is a stay at home mother of three little ones, age 2, 6 and 9. An American living in Great Britain for over 15 years, Lisa is a Yoga teacher certified by the British Wheel of Yoga, and a La Leche League Leader. She blogs about mothering, breastfeeding, Yoga and the mind at Follow her on Twitter: @lisahassanscott

6 thoughts on “Some tips for a good start to breastfeeding”

  1. I gave birth to identical twins at 37 weeks via c-section. They were big for twins weighing 7.15 lbs and 7.75 lbs. Because of the section, because they were early and big they didn’t have a sucking reflex. They didn’t want to suck or show any interest in feeding from me. They lapped formula from little cups as I desperately pumped and offered my breasts constantly to them. My milk took five days to come in, which was my first day at home, I had pumped for five days solid and nothing at all had come out. I continued to pump, they began to suck from bottles at about a week and then over the course of the next week they both began to suck from me. By 2 1/2 weeks old they were both fully breast feeding. I then continued to feed them for 13 months.

  2. After feeding my twins and how hard it had been to begin with I though feeding my baby boy would be easy. He was born by c section due to pre eclampsia and weighed 11.05 lbs. He also took his time in having an interest in feeding but I left hospital 17 hours after having him as I was determined to get home with my husband and girls and felt I could get a better start and be more relaxed at home. When he finally decided to feed everything seemed ok for a a couple of days. My milk came in day 3 as opposed to day 5. However it began to hurt, really hurt. I got mastitis at 2 wks and then again at 4 wks. My nipples became infected and blistered and bled constantly. Over the course of 6 wks u had 4 midwives and 2 health visitors come to my home to tell me my latch was wrong. I had fed my twins for 13 months so I knew how to latch. The pain continued but my nipples healed with the help of breast shields. I cracked it at 4 months, I googled Tongue pictures and concluded he had a Tongue tie. Not one of the “professionals” had looked in his mouth! I got reffered, saw the specialist at 6 months and he got his Tongue clipped at 8 months. It the mean time I had another two bouts of mastitis which I decided to not take anymore antibiotics for. Feeding him was a balancing act to try and get him to stay on my breast for a whole 8 months. He also gulped and coughed a lot and had terrible wind possible caused by the gulping. He is also extremely fussy about what goes in his mouth and will barely touch any solid foods. However he is now much better at sucking and has a much stronger latch, I hope to feed him for as long as he wants I also hope one day he will stick out his Tongue and blow a raspberry!

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed this and hope to share with participants in my breastfeeding classes. I love the emphasis on mother’s body as baby’s habitat (and love Dr. Bergman)! After carrying these precious babes for about nine months, why are we so quick to hand them over and wrap them up?! Put babies skin-to-skin as much as possible in those early weeks (and beyond), and try not to restrict access to the breast.

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