I had the pleasure of giving some breastfeeding education to a beautiful young woman yesterday. No, she is not one of my daughters but precious all the same. Tragically, her Mum passed away recently and I know that starting your parenting journey without your Mum leaves a gaping hole no one can fill. I wanted her to know that she had my support and that she could call, email or skype at any time with any question. We chatted for almost two hours and I could see how keen she was for any information I could give her. She said she couldn’t wait for her baby (gender unknown) to arrive and Dad-to-be is just as excited. They have had the heartbreak of losing a parent in their young lives, now they are ready for their hearts to be warmed again by becoming parents themselves. This little person she is nurturing inside her is going to bring so much joy and happiness to them and some healing to their families. I couldn’t be happier for them.
My education went like this:
- Believe in yourself – YOU are this baby’s MOTHER (Tell Dad-to-be the same thing).
- Arm yourself with information but BEWARE – there is a lot out there and some of it is conflicting. Sort through it – if it sits right with you – great, keep it in mind but be prepared to keep learning and sorting.
- THINK about what you’d like to happen once your baby is born: TALK about it with Dad-to-be and WRITE it down. Be FLEXIBLE as things can change.
- MOTHER and BABY are a unit and should stay together unless the health of one or the other is in question. Medical people are very aware of this and will do everything possible to to keep you together OR get you back together as soon as it is safe to do so.
- SKIN TO SKIN immediately after birth is the perfect beginning. Ask if your baby can be placed on your chest if all is well. This calms and regulates his heart rate and temperature and lets him hear your heart beating and feel your warmth.
- Allow the baby to ‘crawl’ to her first BREASTFEED which will usually be in the first half to one hour if the birth has gone ok.
- Stay as a FAMILY UNIT as long as you can and in as CALM an environment as you can after delivery. Discussing this with your Doctor or Midwife is best before the birth so they know what your wishes are if it’s possible.
- BREASTFEED ON DEMAND which can be as often as every one and a half hours to begin with but will stretch out over time to around two and a half to three hours. Between 8-12 feeds per day in the first few weeks is normal.
- A good LATCH is essential to a good feed. There are many websites that offer little videos of what a baby looks like when he is well latched and the suck, suck, swallow, pause is visible. Nipple sensitivity is quite common but excruciating pain needs to be investigated. Sometimes there’s a latch or structural issue that can be easy to correct if caught early but MUCH harder to deal with once nipples are traumatised.
- There is help available through the Maternal and Child Health Centres or call a Lactation Consultant privately or through your maternity hospital.
- DON’T SCHEDULE by the clock but a bit of a ROUTINE will develop over time. Try the block routine of FEED/AWAKE/SLEEP over 2-3 hours. This means the ‘routine’ starts at the beginning of a FEED – which might take half – one hour. Then baby might be AWAKE for half an hour looking around or grizzling or just being cuddled. Then the baby might SLEEP for one to two hours then wake to FEED again etc. etc. As the baby grows, the feed time might reduce, the awake time might increase and the sleep time may go either way! MIGHT, MIGHT, MIGHT – yes NOTHING is definite or predictable!
- If baby falls ASLEEP – change his nappy and try again. Small frequent feeds might be the way it goes for a while – especially if there are medications in the baby’s body and yours from the birth.
- You will know your baby is getting enough breastmilk if she has 5 -6 good wet nappies in 24 hours and her poos are soft and the right colour. All babies have different patterns with pooping. Some will dirty every nappy and some will go every 5 days. The thing to remember is that the poos will be dark like molasses for the first few days then they’ll transition to a greenish, seedy consistency and then to a soft and mustard-coloured paste. If the poo is pebbles and hard you will know your baby is constipated and may not be drinking enough. He could be at the breast for long periods but may not be sucking efficiently. HELP is available.
- REST, REST, REST when the baby sleeps. You’ll feel much more able to cope and REST is great for your milk supply.
- If friends and family want to help – LET THEM!! Give them jobs to do. They can hang out washing or cook a meal or just make you a cuppa and something to eat. When you are a new PARENT and quite tired it can make your day if someone comes over with dinner and offers SUPPORT and HELP. It’s ok to let them have a CUDDLE too.
- Finally – if there is a MEDICAL reason for your baby to have milk other than your Breastmilk then it’s really important to give it. If anyone suggests to give your baby a bottle of formula so she will sleep longer or because it’s better for him or because they think you don’t have enough milk because your baby is feeding too frequently – thank them for their suggestion but politely decline. You could use this statement “MY milk is made especially for MY baby and I’m giving her the greatest gift I can. It has the perfect nutritional properties and is also full of antibodies to protect her from disease now and in the future!” OR you could just say that to yourself and smile.
“The first 12 weeks went so slowly,” she said, “I just wanted to tell everyone, but also wanted to wait.”
“The next 12 weeks went a bit faster,” she admitted.
“Now, it’s just going so slowly, I can’t wait! Maybe it’ll speed up once I finish work!” she said wishfully but smiling too. I think she was thinking about all that was to come after she finished work.
I was thinking: “Get some rest, eat well and look after yourself – things are about to change big time! You are about to begin the MOST intense time of your life. There will be highs and lows, tears of happiness and frustration but when you look into the face of your little boy or girl it will all be worth it!”