Where to find advice about breastfeeding
Whether you're a first-time mum or you've done it all before with your other children, no one can predict what breastfeeding is going to be like – and it certainly isn't always easy. Thankfully, there is now a wealth of advice and support available if you encounter problems.
Can I learn about breastfeeding before I have my baby?
Learning on the job is the only true way to master breastfeeding but there are steps you can take before your baby arrives to prepare yourself. You will be offered free antenatal classes by your midwife, though these tend to focus more on labour and birth. But you can also pay for more comprehensive antenatal classes from other providers, such as NCT and La Leche League. These are courses that prepare you for breastfeeding, as well as covering other areas such as labour, birth and preparing for life with a newborn.
If you don’t want to to pay for classes, then you can still read up on breastfeeding before your baby comes along – and while you still have the time! Mumsnet is filled with plenty of information on subjects like getting breastfeeding established and how to deal with the problems that you might encounter in the early days. It can be helpful to check out the Mumsnet Talk forums for advice or start your own thread. There's also a wealth of books about breastfeeding on the market, some of which have been reviewed by Mumsnetters.
Will I get breastfeeding support when my baby is born?
Yes. And do avail yourself of all of the help with breastfeeding that’s on offer, post-birth.
If you're having a hospital birth, your midwife
will be on hand immediately after and will be able to help you get started and give you some tips. You may also be in a hospital that has peer-support volunteers that can help. You can ask their advice on things like positioning and latching on. If you've chosen to have a home birth, you'll still have a midwife, doula or other birthing practitioner who can provide the same support.
In the weeks and months following the birth of your baby, you'll see your midwife and then your health visitor regularly. They'll check on your baby's development but will also be able to offer advice and support on breastfeeding. If breastfeeding hurts or your baby is not gaining weight, ask your health visitor to observe you feeding and check whether your baby is latched on correctly. If you have a concern and you need to speak to someone between appointments, you can also call your health visitor or midwife on the contact numbers you’ll be given.
“I give the same advice to everyone about breastfeeding. When you're in hospital, get your midwife to check your latch every time you feed, not just once. And every time you see your health visitor, do the same thing. It's all about the latch.”
Where can I find breastfeeding advice and support in my local area?
Your health visitor or midwife will have a good idea of where to find breastfeeding support groups in your local area so it's worth asking them if they have any recommendations.
I love my breastfeeding support group – the women that run it are amazing! Breastfeeding support groups are full of mums that were (and possibly still are) in your shoes and are a great place to get invaluable advice and make friends. At the very least, it will show you that you are not alone.
Some support groups are more formalised while others are operated on a 'drop-in' basis, where you can just turn up and have a cuppa while getting the support you need. Some groups (usually those operated by local health trusts) are run by healthcare assistants or breastfeeding coaches, while others are peer-support groups run voluntarily by other mums who have had training. You can search here for your nearest breastfeeding support group.
Your local Children’s Centre will also be able to provide a list of breastfeeding support groups in your area. It's worth keeping an eye on local newspapers and community noticeboards in local shops, cafes, doctors' surgeries and childcare centres, too. Mumsnet Local lists groups and events in your area and is a good way to meet other mums nearby who might be able to offer support.
If you can't locate a breastfeeding support group in your area, you could always start one yourself and even get funding to set it up.
Is there someone I can phone for advice on breastfeeding?
There are several organisations that provide good, non-judgmental advice and support over the phone. These helplines are manned by highly trained volunteers and, in some cases, healthcare professionals:
- The National Breastfeeding Helpline – 0300 100 0212. This is open every day of the year from 9.30am to 9.30pm and run by volunteers who are trained by the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers and The Breastfeeding Network. They also provide support in Welsh and Polish. Mums who are hearing impaired and based in Scotland can access the helpline through the Contact Scotland visual relay service.
- La Leche League – 0345 120 2918. The LLL Helpline is answered by volunteer breastfeeding counsellors who are mothers themselves and have breastfed their own children.
- Association of Breastfeeding Mothers – 0300 330 5453. The helpline is answered by trained breastfeeding counsellors every day between 9.30am and 10.30pm.
- NCT – 0300 330 0700 offers support for the first 1,000 days of childhood and its staff are able to answer questions about everything from breastfeeding to sleep patterns. They have 300 local branches around the country so there may be one near you.
- Twinline – 0800 138 0509 is a dedicated helpline for parents of twins and multiples and will be able to offer advice on breastfeeding twins or more. It's open 10am – 1pm and 7pm to 10pm, seven days a week.
- The Breastfeeding Network provides support through the National Breastfeeding Helpline (0300 100 0212). There is also a dedicated breastfeeding helpline for Bengali and Sylheti speakers – 0300 456 2421.
- Drugs in Breastmilk Helpline is also operated by The Breastfeeding Network but is now only available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting its Facebook page. Read more about which medicines to avoid when breastfeeding or access the Drugs in Breastmilk factsheets which provide comprehensive advice on medicines and breastfeeding.
Where is the best place on the internet to get breastfeeding advice?
While the internet can be full of marvellous things (like Mumsnet), it can also be the wild, wild west for advice. If you do turn to Dr Google for breastfeeding help, make sure that you are getting your information from a reliable source. Visit our breastfeeding advice pages for answers to specific questions, or use one of the websites listed above. And if you need further guidance, speak to a healthcare professional.
One of the great things about getting help online is it's instantly available any time of the day or night. Another option is WellVine – an app which can connect you to breastfeeding consultants via video call, whenever you need some advice. WellVine is a subscription-based service, giving you access to a breastfeeding specialist via the app at the touch of a button. You will be able to talk to someone face to face, get answers to any questions you have, and the consultant can even show you breastfeeding positions over video. See what some Mumsnet users who tried the service thought of the breastfeeding advice available.