I’ve just loved breastfeeding my three children, it’s such a special feeling knowing that you can grow a baby with your milk! You spend so much time feeding in the early days, but with all those feel good hormones surging through you, you just gaze down at your baby as you’re feeding him and you really feel this connection and bond, which is the best feeling ever!
One of the most common questions I am asked is “do I really need to prepare for breastfeeding?”. The short answer is yes!
Contrary to popular belief, despite breastfeeding being natural, it doesn’t always come naturally so there is plenty you can do to prepare for success, particularly before baby arrives.
Here's how to prepare for breastfeeding success:
One of the keys to successful breastfeeding is education. As I mentioned, a lot of women think breastfeeding should come naturally, but it is a learned skill, so finding out as much as you can about what to expect is really important. Allow yourself time. A lot of people say it takes six weeks to come together and I think that’s really true.
Work out your support networks, someone you would turn to for help, be it a friend or family member who has breastfed or is supportive of your decision to breastfeed.
Don’t’ be afraid to ask for help from a professional if it’s really not working for you. And don’t let things spiral out of control before you do ask, no problem is too minor. A good place to start is the hospital where you had your baby or the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s helpline 1800 mum 2 mum (1800 686 268). The other option is a private lactation consultant who can visit you and your baby in your home.
Give Yourself a Break
Most women can physically breastfeed but it’s the emotional hurdles that are often the most difficult to overcome. That’s where the support comes in.
Don’t be hard on yourself if things don’t magically fall into place by themselves – the vast majority of new mums need help.
Prep Your Wardrobe
Get fitted for a good maternity bra – something with stretchy cups, as your breast size may fluctuate during feeding. You can buy special breastfeeding tops, but mostly layering works really well, tops with buttons, cardigans or singlets that can be pulled down.
The beauty of breastfeeding is that you really don’t need much in the way of equipment. You may like to use a breastfeeding pillow, or buy a fancy feeding chair or glider – it’s an entirely personal choice. These items are not a requirement to breastfeed – some mums simply find these items help make them feel more comfortable while breastfeeding. You will however, need a good supply of breast pads to catch any leaks – you can get disposable or washable ones, and a packet of cloth nappies is always good to mop up breast milk spills or baby vomits.
Get to Know Your Breasts
There are a lot of old wives tales around saying you have to rub your boobs with steel wool or toothbrushes to prepare them. I’ve even heard of mum’s sunbaking topless to toughen their nipples up! The good news is none of these “preparations” are necessary. The best preparation is just get used to handling your breasts, as you’ll doing this a lot in the early days of breastfeeding your baby.
Most women are fertile two weeks before their period starts. However, breastfeeding can delay the return of periods, making it hard for women to know with any confidence when their ‘fertile window’ may be. This is why some women conceive again before their periods have come back.
An epidural is an anaesthetic procedure, where a local anaesthetic is injected into the epidural space near the spinal cord. An epidural anaesthetic numbs the nerves so pain cannot be felt in certain areas of the body.
An epidural during labour helps to block pain signals from contractions. If birth intervention is needed, e.g., caesarean or forceps, an epidural is a common form of anaesthetic.