By Nicola Conville, Body and Soul
Our top tips to help mum and bub.
While breastfeeding gives baby a great start in life, it can also be a minefield of pain, emotion, frustration and even guilt when it doesn’t happen easily. Here’s a five-point plan to help you through it.
1. Be prepared
"What sets people up for a positive experience is taking a breastfeeding education class before the birth with their healthcare provider or hospital," says Karen Ingram, a spokesperson for the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). "It’s important not to leave breastfeeding information to the last minute." The ABA also run classes nationwide, visit www.breastfeeding.asn.au
2. Learn the art of attachment
Typically, as soon as a baby is born, they will be given to mum for skin-on-skin contact and should start to “root” or nuzzle in, for a feed. The most important thing to get right at this stage is attachment. Milk comes through many small holes in the nipple, like a sprinkler system, so your baby needs to get a full mouthful of both nipple and areole to attach properly. Incorrect attachment, where the baby latches onto a small part of the nipple instead, may cause nipple damage, cracks, bleeding and mastitis.
3. Overcoming obstacles
If your nipples become damaged you can use nipple shields and work on attachment with a midwife or lactation consultant. Creams such as Lanolips 101 Ointment ($17.95, (02) 9315 9315) or MooGoo Udder cream ($11.90, 1300 213 828), can help soothe and heal sore nipples.
If you do contract mastitis, see your GP as soon as possible for a prescription of antibiotics.
4. Build a support team
Spend the first few weeks resting and feeding yourself and bub. "Limit visitors or if they are coming they should be offering tangible help, such as washing dishes, making tea or bringing a casserole,” says Ingram.
"Your partner can also help by changing, bathing and dressing the baby."
There are also several helplines available including the ABA, 1800 686 268; Tresillian (02) 9787 0855 or 1800 637 357; and Karitane 1300 227 464.
5. Don’t get the guilts
If you have given breastfeeding your best shot and it isn’t working out, don’t blame yourself. "Any mothers who have feelings of remorse, guilt or regret need to talk to someone about it," says Ingram. "(At the ABA) we promote breastfeeding but we realise there are huge emotional issues when it doesn’t work out, and no woman needs to feel guilty about it."
A new mum’s experience
Jo Hegerty is a first-time mum to Alfie, 17 months. Here is her story.
"I'd never considered that breastfeeding would not come naturally until I started reading stories about women struggling through it. Breastfeeding was something I wanted to master, and to do this, I needed to be prepared.
I borrowed every book the library had about the topic and most of them just confused me even more. Nonetheless, it did prepare me for what was ahead. I also watched some of my friends’ breastfeed their babies.
Shortly before Alfie's birth, we did a breastfeeding class at the hospital, and that was fantastic. The best piece of advice I got from a friend was to have a midwife present at every feed in those first 48 hours. Alfie had a tiny mouth and was not keen on opening it wide, so against all advice, I would push his chin down (rather than wait for him to open his mouth). This taught me that you have to do whatever it takes to get the attachment right in those early days.
My top tips are: call a midwife for every feed; watch other mums if you can; and finally, be prepared for the fact that breastfeeding is uncomfortable for at least six weeks, but after that it becomes easy – hang in there!”
For more help and support on breastfeeding visit www.breastfeeding.asn.au