How to get a successful start to breastfeeding (Part 1)

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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.

The baby cup I used to cup-feed expressed breast milk
(I have no vested interests in Medela, other than as a satisfied customer)

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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.

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17 thoughts on “How to get a successful start to breastfeeding (Part 1)

  1. mom2kiddos

    Breastfeeding has been pretty much smooth sailing for me except for one episode of a sore nipple with my 1st child. I guess the 1st time is always a little more difficult. If you ever had a confinement lady, they are really discouraging when it comes to breastfeeding. I got upset a few times when she kept telling me my baby is constantly crying because I don’t have enough milk to give him but I persevered. Support from family members is much needed. Thanks for sharing your breastfeeding story. Wow, you nursed your girl till 5?!

  2. Runnermom-jen

    I had lots of good luck breastfeeding also. I’m so glad I did it. The middle-of-the-night feedings were my favorite part, because it was just me and the baby.
    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  3. Mama J

    It’s so nice to have a smooth sailing start. You are blessed! Looking back at my first time, I still feel a little traumatised …

    My girl nursed till 5, yes! Who would’ve thought? As a baby, she was particularly sensitive and would cry if people even looked at her! It was challenging for me. I read a lot about the advantages of self-weaning and decided to try. Never knew she’d last that long! Sometimes, I was tempted to force her to stop but I’m glad I didn’t. It gave her the security she needed. It was really nice that she decided to stop so independently and confidently. It was a big milestone for us and I look back with many fond memories.

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  5. XLMIC

    You like my pit vag and I LOVE it that you breastfed your daughter until she was 5 🙂 Finally, someone who understands why (maybe) I breastfed my 3rd child until he was 4. All 4 of mine nursed for a minimum of 2 years 5 months. Not planned that way… just worked out that way 🙂
    So glad you found my blog so I could come and find yours 🙂

  6. lifeloveandlivingwithboys

    I totally agree with qall your advice especially not giving formula or bottles etc before breastfeeding is fully established. I have heard so many stories where Mums have been advised to top-up with formula in the first days and then baby shuns the breast in favour of the heavier formula. I am still breastfeeding my 2nd son (almost 6 months) but had to give up feeding my 1st at 7 months due to bad advice during an illness 🙁 Hoping to go much longer with baby 2 🙂

  7. Mama J

    Oh, I’m so glad we have extended breastfeeding in common. I didn’t plan it either, it just happened 😉 Absolutely no regrets!

  8. mamawearpapashirt

    Hi mama J, just stumbled upon your blog and love this post. I love breastfeeding; am going on really well with baby no.2 who is nearly 5 mths old. Am blessed that both of my kids are good feeders, though I did struggle a bit with no.1 who fell asleep each time she latched onto the breast. (Those were the days of constant feeding…) But I must say, it gets better the second time around, so perhaps it’s a case of perseverance and practice! =) We went on for about 11 months the first time, and I hope to breastfeed longer this time!

  9. Mama J

    It definitely gets better the second time, yes 😉 Glad to hear that breastfeeding baby No. 2 is going well. All the best for going on longer! For me, breastfeeding well into the toddler years for babies No. 1 and 2 has helped us so much with the toddler challenges that I definitely want to do the same with Piglet.

    I have to say, however, that although I am all for extended breastfeeding, I can also understand why some mothers can’t, or choose not to. It can be physically tiring over time, and other commitments simply have to take priority …. Thanks for stopping by my blog so I could find yours too!

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  11. shima

    I wish I found your page before I delivered (or rather I wish I did research into it). I tried every remedy anyone could give to build up milk supply after delivery, from fenugreek, papaya soup, barley, soya, red dates, longan, white carrots, lactating milk, nursing tea, you name it I’ve tried it. After investing in a wrong breastpump due to ill-advice from a shopkeeper (yes, I listened to shopkeeper instead of doing my own research!), I was panicking as I thought my milk supply isn’t enough, as everyone especially those who came to house to visit was tellling me ‘not enough milk’ everytime baby cried. So, I was frantically searching for new breaspump as I would be starting to work after 3 months. I was also learning how to do manual breast milk expression, all during confinement period. Although I started to properly express breast milk to build up supply at week5 post delivery, I am glad to say better late than never. Now I am still breastfeeding before and after work and during days off-work. When I’m at work, baby gets milk from stored breastmilk using calma from medela (suppose to mimic nipple, was an interesting idea that got me to try it), which I had doubts on but baby has less colic and vomiting with that – Thanks to my mum. I wish I could nurse 247 as I am my calmest self during that time, I love also cuddling my baby near to me, feels all warm :).

    I agree with your advice, but unfortunately for me I am not able to ban the bottles. I wish to breastfeed my baby exclusively, for this, I need to use those bottles to replace me when I’m not around but I make sure I breastfeed directly when I get the chance including throughout the night. I think if one is determined, it’ll happen, just have to think about baby, if we are given the strength and patience to bring a child into this world after 9 months, I am certain we can produce milk to nurse them adequately for as long as they need! But I wonder how to store expressed milk when traveling, that I have yet to try. Maybe you can advice.

  12. Mama J

    Breastfeeding-working mothers like you are absolutely fantastic. You can express enough milk for your baby and work at the same time! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’m sure other mothers reading it will be encouraged.

    When I had my first baby, I was studying full-time and expressing milk was such a nightmare for me. I could only produce a few ounces each time, and it took forever. When I was at classes, my mum would feed my baby expressed milk using the Medela cup (pictured above), no bottles. I was glad when I finished my course so I could stay home full time.

    One of my friends went back to work when her baby was 2 months old, and she asked me for advice on how to use the cup. Eventually, she trained her caregiver to give expressed breastmilk using the cup. She said it was challenging, and there was some wastage from spills, but eventually her baby became so proficient at the cup that she never ended up using a bottle. She’s the only mother I know personally who went back to work, but never used bottles!

    About storing expressed milk when traveling, do you mean being separated from baby for a few days? I’ve never gone on a trip without my children, so perhaps can’t advice you much on that …

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