World Breastfeeding Week 2011 is over but since I breastfeed everyday, it might as well continue for me! Daily, I celebrate the breastfeeding relationship that I have with my children – the safest, healthiest, most natural milk for them, perfect with hugs and snuggles.
In my last post, I shared 10 factors I’m so thankful for this WBW. Here, I elaborate a little more in 20 steps (divided into Parts 1, 2 and 3, and posted in between several ramblings, permit me!). I have a little crazy hope that this may somehow help other women in their breastfeeding journey. Not every woman wants to breastfeed her baby, but if you’re one of those who do, this series of posts is for you. xoxo
So have fun reading, take what you deem helpful and ask your lactation consultant when in doubt. (Disclaimer: I am not a health professional, just a happy and experienced breastfeeding mom!)
1) Be prepared. Before you give birth, be well-informed about the benefits of breastfeeding, how to breastfeed, and anticipate the challenges. It won’t guarantee you a smooth-sailing start, but it helps a lot to have information beforehand. It can be tough going for most new mothers, and having the necessary knowledge will motivate you to persevere on difficult days. Use the most trusted and reliable resources. Go here, here, here, and here.
2) Get support. Get the full support of your spouse, family members and extended community. Discuss your intention to breastfeed. Bring your husband, mother and mother-in-law to breastfeeding seminars. Give them printed information, if necessary. Befriend mothers who have succeeded at breastfeeding, be inspired by them. Support is invaluable because you need encouragement to pull through (see No. 3).
3) Breastfeed early. If you can, breastfeed skin-on-skin with your baby within the first hour of birth, in the labour ward. Early nursers tend to catch on sooner. Don’t fret, however, if for some reason your baby doesn’t want to feed early, or if he can’t be brought to you to breastfeed within the first hour, or if you are too exhausted to try – you and your baby can still try later. Cuddle your baby at the breast and enjoy the moment! Breastfeeding early helps a lot, but it doesn’t guarantee instant success. Conversely, not having an early start doesn’t mean failure.
My 3rd baby breastfed for 45 minutes in the labour ward, just 30 minutes after he was born. He latched on beautifully with minimal help from me, and I could ignore the painful work of stitching my tear – almost! My 2nd baby did somewhat the same. Both babies took off remarkably well with breastfeeding.
My 1st baby, however, breastfed only some 5 hours after birth. It was a traumatic delivery, the doctors had trouble stopping my bleeding and my baby developed jaundice, requiring in-hospital treatment. Breastfeeding a sleepy, jaundiced baby was difficult, especially for the first-timer, beat-up new mother that I was. Looking back, it would have been easier if I had expressed milk during the intervals she didn’t want to feed on the 1st day. But guess what? This same baby breastfed until shortly after her 5th birthday.
So, although a woman can’t breastfeed her baby early, it is possible to do so later. I persevered for 5 days in hospital through lots of pain, a bleeding nipple, and countless tears. But I also had Sweet Man’s incredible support as well as tremendous encouragement from the hospital nurses.
4) Get together. Rooming-in with your baby can help you establish breastfeeding sooner. You will be able to watch your baby, learn his hunger signs, and feed him whenever he’s hungry. If rooming-in isn’t possible, ask to have him brought to you whenever he’s awake. Or room-in partially. Your baby can be with you all day for demand feeding, and you can rest at nights while a nurse brings him to you for night feedings when he wakes.
5) Ban supplements. Don’t give your baby water, glucose or formula milk. If you aren’t rooming-in with your baby, make your wishes clearly known to the hospital staff. If you allow your baby to drink anything other than breast milk, you are setting yourself up for breastfeeding problems. His appetite will be satisfied, he will be sleepy and not suckle at your breast. The lack of breast stimulation will result in a diminished milk supply. Furthermore, your baby may soon prefer supplemental feedings other than breast milk and reject your breast, because suckling at your breast is harder work than drinking from a bottle.
It helped me that I did not consider formula as an option. Besides, I was appalled at the cost of formula. I didn’t accept formula samples (they are NOT gifts!), and I didn’t keep any at home. Once you feel you have the option of formula, it is very easy to resort to it. If you choose to breastfeed exclusively, you may want to do the same – unless advised by a lactation consultant. Pediatricians are not necessarily the best advisors. Some are ill-informed and extremely unsupportive of breastfeeding.
6) Ban bottles, pacifiers, and other artificial nipples. (See No. 5.) When I had a bleeding nipple and could no longer tolerate the pain of my baby suckling on it, I expressed milk by hand for a few days and fed it to her from a baby cup. No bottles! I let her suckle at the other breast as usual. As soon as I could, I stopped expressing and breastfed directly again.
(I have no vested interests in Medela, other than as a satisfied customer)
Like many women I had a rocky start to breastfeeding, but with lots of perseverance, support and love, I’m so grateful that I am still breastfeeding my children today (so are they!). I have 5 years worth of cherished breastfeeding stories that I hope to post about someday, but for now, look out for Part 2 of this series.
Do you have any comments or stories to share? I’d love to hear them.