10 November 2010

The Battle to Breastfeed....Are You Ready?

I'm yet to meet a Mother who does not want the best for her child. Most pregnant women I know want and plan to breastfeed their babies. The natural process of breastfeeding is rarely discussed by professionals during pregnancy with few first time mothers really understanding the demands that breastfeeding will place on her emotionally and physically. Dealing with changes in hormones, exhaustion from labour and the exhilaration of becoming a Mother is overwhelming enough without adding the additional demands of needing to establish breastfeeding.

Layla (4 days old) and I. Both of us looking a bit tired and worn out already!

While breastfeeding is the natural way to suckle a child, it needs to be learnt by both Mum and Bub. This can take time, trial and error. The days spent in hospital are supposed to be spent learning the fine art but in all honesty there is not enough time to truly get the hang of it. From cracked and grazed nipples to engorgement and leaking as well as attachment issues, the art of breastfeeding is not always glamorous. Having your breasts exposed while a nurse tweaks, pushes and prods is a unique and not always welcomed experience. Many women are unable to breastfeed or find it all too hard ted to switch to formula before the WHO recommended 6 month mark. There was many a time when I too felt like throwing in the towel. I'm not going to bore you with the details of my ordeal (yes it has been an ordeal) but I will say that 6 months on, we are still feeding and finally enjoying the experience.

When I first started to have feeding issues I was shocked and amazed at how many women disclosed the problems they had had once I started to discuss my dramas. Breatsfeeding is emotionally and physically draining yet the demands of breastfeeding are rarely discussed with expectant mothers. Why is it that breastfeeding problems are kept such a secret?

If you are pregnant and wish to breastfeed, here are some tips to help you prepare for the 'challenge':
  • Attend a breastfeeding class while you are pregnant. We had a small component of our parenting classes devoted to breastfeeding but it was not nearly enough. Most hospitals run classes as well as the Australian Breastfeeding Association. HIghly recommended;
  • Find the name of a good lactation consultant and have the number handy for when you go home. Some LC also run classes for pregnant women;
  • Find out whether there is a community lactation consulant (read 'free') in your area that you can drop into see either at the hospital or your Early Childhood Centre;
  • Join the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA). They do great work and can offer a lot of assistance. They have also have a free support line manned by Breastfeeding Counsellors who are also breastfeeding Mums - 1800 MUM 2 MUM / 1800 686 2 686 (Optus phone lines drop the last '6');
  • The ABA has a great online breastfeeding forum which is a really good place to discuss breastfeeding issues;
  • Take a tube of Lansinoh cream with you to hospital. This pure lanolin cream is essential for maintaining good nipple condition and is safe to have on your nipples while breastfeeding;
  • Buy a breastfeeding pillow and take it to hospital with you;
  • Discuss breastfeeding with your partner and family.Make sure they are supportive as you will need their support when and if the going gets tough;
  • Put some disposible nappies that have been wet lightly into the freezer. They will act as wonderful cold packs on your breasts when your milk is coming in and if you run into any pain issues;
  • Buy a wheat pack that can be heated in the microwave as heat can be important in helping the milk let down;
  • Buy a squeezy water bottle that you can operate with one hand. It's important to drink plenty of water while feeding. Having a bottle you can sqeeze and not having to fiddle around with lids can be really helpful;
  • Make sure you have a good chair to feed in. You'll be spending a lot of time in the chair so make sure it works. The back needs to be upright and arm rests can be really helpful;
  • Get a small foot stool. I got a plastic one from K-Mart kids department that is normally used for kids to stand on while they brush their teeth. The foot stool will let you elevate your feet and knees which helps with positioning and attachment, especially in the early days.
Breastfeeding can be both a wonderful and an awful experience. While things have now settled down for me, some of my darkest days were due to feeding problems. Ultimately I was not prepared for what was involved and hope to spare others the problems I had. Saying that, I also have a number of friends who have had no problems at all with feeding. Good luck with your breastfeeding journey - I hope it is a wonderful bonding experience for you and your child.

1 comment:

  1. You forgot the nail brush trick a couple of months before birth. Every night when you shower you run a nail brush on the nipples to condition them for breastfeeding. Worked a charm on everyone that did it