World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from 1-7 August every year to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.
The theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2019 is “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding” so we asked a Mum with personal breastfeeding experience what advice she would give to new parents starting out on their breastfeeding journey to help them feel more empowered, and find support when they need it.
Siân Smith is a parenting blogger with two children aged 6 and 4
“Breastfeeding is a hugely personal subject. It isn’t for everyone and I am a firm believer in every mother having the right to make her own personal choice about breastfeeding – without facing any judgement from others. There is no right or wrong way to feed your baby – ultimately it is the health and wellbeing of both parent and child that is the most important thing. This post is based on my own personal experience, in the hope that it might help another parent on their own journey.
This week my eldest child turns 6, which means it is 6 years since my breastfeeding journey began. I breastfed both of my children and both experiences were completely different, but they were both equally wonderful, difficult, emotional, sometimes painful, but so rewarding. I always knew I would breastfeed my children, I never really considered not doing so. Breastfeeding felt like the most natural thing in the world to me, it was what my body was built for and I just saw it as part of being a mother. Perhaps this is why I didn’t really prepare myself – but then how could I when it was an experience so unlike anything I had done before?!
When I was pregnant, my midwife gave me lots of leaflets telling me why I should breastfeed, but none of them really explained what it would actually be like or feel like – both physically and emotionally. Nobody told me that whilst breastfeeding is natural, it doesn’t always feel that way. And nobody ever explained the possible hurdles that I might face along the way. I spent many night-time hours scouring internet search engines looking for answers to questions I had never considered before:
“How do I know if my baby is getting enough milk?”
“How long should I feed my baby for?”
“Why is my baby always hungry?”
“Should breastfeeding be painful?”
Aside from a brief lesson from a hospital midwife straight after giving birth on how to latch my baby onto my breast, I was pretty much on my own. And when things didn’t go completely to plan, I really struggled to find help and support. In order to empower parents to breastfeed, we need to equip them with the right information, so these are my top 5 tips to breastfeeding mums find advice and support when they need it.
- Ask another parent
The best source of information I found to help me was other mothers. Mums love to share their experiences, and they love to help each other. Over time other Mums became my number one source of advice and support – I asked my own mum, my friends who are Mums, and sometimes complete strangers in supermarket queues! But they were always ready with advice, or just a sympathetic ear when everything felt a bit too much.
- Find a support network and drop-in session
Most towns will have a local breastfeeding support group or drop-in session, ask your midwife or health visitor for information. You can also search Facebook or Twitter for local breastfeeding groups – most places will have one. My local Baby Bistro was a lifeline! It was run by a breastfeeding support worker and attended by lots of local mums – there was even cake! I used to look forward to those sessions every week and I am still friends with some of the mums I met there now. Basically, everyone sits around chatting, sometimes about breastfeeding and sometimes about something completely different! These sessions are also a great way to build up your confidence to feed in public, which is something I found quite daunting. My sessions were sometimes attended by a local midwife, she helped me work out how to best hold my baby, she also helped me when I developed mastitis, and later to diagnose and treat my son’s tongue-tie – without her support I would have really struggled.
- The National Breastfeeding Helpline
I have called this number so many times! Hearing a friendly and sympathetic voice was so encouraging, because breastfeeding with a newborn can often be a lonely experience. The helpline is run by volunteer mums who have breastfed themselves and have been trained to advise others. It is independent, and costs no more than a standard local UK call.
The National Breastfeeding Helpline is 0300 100 0212, it is open all year round, from 9.30am-9.30pm. Visit https://www.nationalbreastfeedinghelpline.org.uk/ for more information.
- Ask your partner
NHS UK advises that “Mothers are more likely to breastfeed for longer when they have their partners support” and I couldn’t agree more! Whether it is a partner, grandparent or friend, just having someone to take baby off your hands for rests between feeds and to make a cup of tea when you need one is invaluable.
Trying to breastfeed a newborn is tricky at first! You aren’t sure how to hold the baby, where to put your arms and how to support yourself so it is very useful to have a spare pair of hands available for help in the early days – and beyond.
Night-times are particularly hard as you adjust to life as a parent, and night feeds are often the toughest thing of all. Asking your partner for help at these times can relieve the pressures a bit. Just simple things like taking the baby once you have fed them, or at least offering some sympathy or comfort while you are awake feeding will help you feel much less isolated and resentful – remind them that parenthood is a team sport!
- Preparation is key
Preparing to breastfeed before baby is born will help you through those first few weeks. Pack a few breastfeeding essentials into your hospital bag, and in preparation for when you and baby come home. I found the following really useful:
- Nursing bras
- Breast pads
- Muslin cloths for spills, leaks and discretion if needed
- Nipple cream
- Plenty of water because fluids are essential
- Snacks – something you can eat with one hand, and remember that hospitals are warm places so nothing that will melt or go off (natural energy bars are good!)
- Breastfeeding support pillow
- A top or nightwear that you can easily pull up or down for feeding
Once you are home and settled always make sure you have plenty of fluids and snacks within arms reach and be prepared for some lengthy feeds, always keep a book or the TV remote nearby!
If you have a lot of visitors in the early days prepare them too by requesting short visits, ask them to make a cuppa for you and themselves when they come, and maybe even bring a few essentials for you as well as baby – everyone forgets about Mum when there is a cute newborn to coo over!
It’s really important to remember that breastfeeding is different for every mum. Don’t be fooled into believing those picture-perfect Instagram feeds, and don’t be hard on yourself if things don’t work out. The most important thing to remember is that you and your baby are happy and healthy. Accept help whenever it is offered and be proud of yourself because motherhood is hard!”
Learn more about World Breastfeeding Week here
For advice and tips for keeping your family happy and healthy, visit the Kinetik Blog