Breastfeeding tips: the need-to-know guide
Stats show that 81 in every 100 British mums breastfeed when their baby's born, but after just one week less than half are still exclusively breastfeeding. Why? We'll spare you the A to Z of horror stories about cracked nipples, mastitis and more but, underlying them all, pretty much, is a basic problem: it just isn't what many of us are expecting.
So, before you even try on your nursing bra, it's wise to make sure your expectations are adjusted. To help, we asked Hunkermunker, one of Mumsnet's most respected breastfeeding advocates, for the:
Five breastfeeding tips every pregnant woman should know
1. It takes a bit of getting used to
- It can come as quite a shock to discover that, once the birth's over, you have to learn a new skill - with a pupil who is minutes old and doesn't appear to have read the 'how to suckle' manual.
2. It's always worth giving it a try
- Even if you're not really sure you want to do it for long – or at all. It's far easier, physically, to switch from breastfeeding to formula-feeding than the other way round - and, if you don't try it, you'll never know if it was going to be straightforward for you.
- Even if you're pretty sure breastfeeding's not for you, consider giving the first feed (or first few feeds) because your milk (or colostrum, as it's called at this stage) will be jam-packed with antibodies and all sorts of goodies that help to stabilise your baby's blood sugars, line her gut and generally ease her introduction to the world.
3. It pays to do your homework
- Many hospitals have policies that actively support breastfeeding mothers but the shift changes and inclinations of individual midwives may mean your own breastfeeding support is not as effective as it could be.
- Spend a little time thinking and learning about it beforehand; you'll feel more empowered and capable (and if there's anything you need to feel just after you've had a baby it's empowered and capable).
- The NCT runs breastfeeding classes, so perhaps attend one of these before the birth. And make a note of the helpline numbers of the various breastfeeding charities. Find out, too, if there are breastfeeding drop-in clinics or baby groups near you and on which days they run.
4. It's good to talk
- Ask other women you know about their experiences of breastfeeding. It'll help you to get a picture of what it's like.
- But don't imagine you'll have a carbon copy of your mum/sister/auntie/grandma/best friend's experience. Remember, your baby's never been born before and you've never breastfed before. Your breastfeeding relationship with your baby is unique and you will work it out between you, learning as you go.
- National Breastfeeding Helpline
0300 100 0212
- National Childbirth Trust
0300 330 0771
- Breastfeeding Network
0300 100 0210
- La Leche League
- Association of Breastfeeding Mothers 08444 122949
5. It gets easier
- Breastfeeding can be hard, especially in the early weeks when you're recovering from the birth and have the pretty relentless task of building your supply by feeding regularly. But it's OK and perfectly normal for it to be hard, as long as you can access decent support to make it easier for you.
- Many women would say that if you can manage the first six weeks of breastfeeding, the following weeks/months/years are a comparative doddle.
As this Mumsnetter puts it: "My midwife said I should allow six weeks to get breastfeeding right, which sounded like a shocking amount of time. Then she said 'What's six weeks out of your life?' And I thought 'Yes, it's not long really.' That thought has stayed with me - and helped."