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.
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 http://www.lisahassanscott.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter: @lisahassanscott