Disclaimer: We believe that breastfeeding is the biologically optimal choice for feeding your baby, but we recognize that is not possible for all people, and it is a choice. We are trained in ALL aspects of Infant Feeding. This week is World Breastfeeding Week, therefore we are talking about that specifically.
Preparing for breastfeeding. Did anyone do that?
I think its pretty rare that more than a thought of 'Yes I am going to try that" crosses a persons mind when it comes to planning. Some may flip through a book dropped off by a sister or a friend. Maybe you'll pin a couple of things. Maybe this is one of them.
The most important thing you need to know is breastfeeding is a rollercoaster of emotions, highs and lows, successes and disappointments, confusion and triumph.
Being in solely in charge of your child's nourishment is no joke. You think pregnancy is the hard part, think again!
But having been around the block a few times we have some advice for you to prepare for success.
1: Manage your expectations. We are bombarded with the sweetest moments of peoples lives, especially those newborn days. Sleepy babies, laying on their parents chests. THIS IS NOT REALITY.
Ok, it is, sometimes. But you are not seeing the tears, the frustration, the questions being googled. The late nights wondering why the heck your baby won't settle and laying in agony thinking 'will I ever sleep again?' If it helps, limit your exposure to social media.
You will sleep again, and this will get easier as time goes on. But the first 3-6 weeks especially are a learning curve. Get your mind right for this. Know it is SO normal. Your baby is learning about you, you are learning about your baby.
Release ALL of your expectations. Write it down, and crumple it up. Also release the myths! There is no way to tell if you will or won't be able to produce breastmilk by looking at your body. Statistically only 1% of people can’t produce milk, and there are so many things we can do to increase supply. Don’t get caught up in assumptions that because you’ve had a reduction, lift etc that you won’t be able to produce. Are your breasts small? There is no genetic connection. If your mom 'couldn't' breastfeed that doesn't necessarily mean you won't be able to. Give yourself a clean slate. Give yourself grace and compassion.
2: Prepare the space. Have a basket with bottled water, snacks, a book/ereader/tablet for watching tv. I have learned a lot about prioritizing pleasure this year. Now, this is extremely difficult in this context but hear me out. If you prepare the spaces that you will be feeding in most times, when you sit down you may be able to relax more quickly. You could try having beautiful oils diffusing near your feeding spot. Snacks and drinks are super helpful. When my own babies wouldn't sleep in the night I eventually would give up rocking them in their rooms and go watch tv. At least then I am enjoying my time awake! Watch something funny, or have a great show you are binge watching so you almost, in a weird way, look forward to it.
3. Make a plan. Part of what we offer in our post partum doula services is an Infant Feeding Plan where we talk about many variations, and situations and how you would like to handle them with a clear mind. When we get overwhelmed, or exhausted we lose the ability to problem solve or make a decision. A birth plan in my opinion is silly. Its so completely unpredictable. But you CAN have a plan in place for breastfeeding.
Plan 3-5 people aside from your partner who are supportive of your choices who you can ask for help. Whether its a shoulder to cry on, advice, experience. One of these people can be a doula, or even a lactation consultant, or both.
Know what you would like to do in a situation where you feel like your supply is dropping. Know what the plan is if you haven't slept for 2 nights. Will you be pumping so you have a back up supply? Will you be introducing a bottle for your partner to give on occasion? These are all things we discuss in our Infant Feeding Plan.
4. Ask for help. Don't wait. Don't power through it. Does your latch hurt? Have someone look at it. Attend a breastfeeding drop in, book a breastfeeding visit with a doula or a lactation consultant. If you let a bad latch, or poor habits go on for a long time, there can be a lot of damage to your tissue. Pain, and infection will set in quickly. Reach out if your gut is telling you something is not right. Asking for help is a strength, not a weakness.
5. Don't schedule too much. People rush to accepting visitors and getting out of the house. The problem is if you're breastfeeding when the feeding parent isn't close you can miss hunger cues. Baby can sleep longer swaddled and in grandmas arms. There have been studies out of England during covid saying that breastfeeding has been more successful because new parents have had less visitors, interruptions and outings. They've been settling in, being cosy, and following baby's cues. There are exceptions to this. If you're struggling because of lack of sleep, or mentally need a break, please call help to come.
When in doubt... call one of your people, get into bed with your baby, watch netflix and cuddle. Skin to skin can help so much. It regulates your hormones, it calms baby, it stimulates production. It stabilizes temperature, breathing rate, and blood sugar.
Hopefully these tips will help you feel better prepared for the breastfeeding journey. Many of these tips are applicable for any variation of infant feeding. Formula is a wonderful option that we greatly respect. We have supported so many different infant feeding choices and are well versed in every option.