Preparing for breastfeeding – the expert advice that ALL mums -to-be need need to hear
Breastfeeding provides your baby with the very best start in life.
It is nutrition tailormade for newborns, and will, on top of nourishing your baby also provide their immune systems with a boost, as breastmilk contains antibodies, offering passive immunity transferred from mum to baby for longer.
These days, most mums wants to breastfeed their babies, knowing the facts and the amazing benefits this has not just for your baby, but also for your own health. This, says Denise Mc Guinness, Lecturer in Midwifery and Assistant Professor at UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems, is amazing.
"More and more mums are opting to breastfeed, and this is such great news," says Mc Guinness. "We are so happy that the tide is turning when it comes to breastfeeding in Ireland, and Irish mums are doing an amazing job."
When it comes to breastfeeding success, the explains, there is a lot that can be done to help a mum prepare for it, and studies show that being prepared, and aware of certain factors, can largely determine how well a new mum gets on on how successful her breastfeeding journey is.
We sat down with Mc Guinness to get her very best tips for mums to be on how to best prepare for breastfeeding – and what you need to know for those early days:
Preparing to breastfeed – seven tips to try before baby get here
1. Attend an antenatal breastfeeding class
"These are not the regular antenatal classes, but ones spesifically about all things breastfeeding," says Mc Guinness. "The midwives or lactation consultants teaching at these will be able to answer all your questions about breastfeeding and provide you with so many tips and tricks, and reassurance that you will feel much more prepared and confident about feeding your baby when he or she gets here."
Mc Guinness says it is also a good idea to bring someone with you to the class, like your partner, mum or a friend.
"It is great for your family, like your partner and mum to be involved in your breastfeeding plans, and atttending this class with you will not only give them some insight into just how amazing breastfeeding is your both you and your baby, but will also give them tips on how to best support you and how they can help out."
Another reason it is a good idea to bring someone along to the class, says Mc Guinness, is to have an extra pair of ears there on the day.
"There is a lot of information, and so to have someone there who might be able to remember bits that you might have missed or not picked up on, can be really helpful."
2. Identify potential challenges
To some mums, going along to a antenatal breastfeeding class can help them potential issues and challenges that can arise once baby is here and you start feeding.
"For instance, if you find that you have nipples that are inverted, you can get great help by using a supple cup for a while before baby arrives," explains Mc Guinness.
"The midwife or lactation consultant running the breastfeeding class will discuss this with you, and will be able to let you know other tips and tricks and props that might work for you.
Knowing about potential challenges beforehand can take a lot of stress out of a situation.
3. Go to a local support group
It might seem a little strange to go to a breastfeeding group before your baby is even here, but Mc Guinness says it can be a great way when preparing to feed your own baby.
"You will get some much wisdom and tips and tricks from other mums who are currently feeding their babies, she explains. "You will make friends, and you will learn so much and gain confidence simply by being in proximity to other mums who are nursing their babies."
Mc Guinness explains that because of Ireland's up-until-now formula feeding culture, many new mums today haven't really seen or witnessed breastfeeding up close until they themselves have their baby.
"A breastfeeding group can feel like a safe space when learning to get the hang of feeding out in public, and is therefor an excellent 'first outing' place to take your baby once he or she is born. In a room full of other mums feeding, you will feel safe, and you will have so much support or knowledge from these other mums at your fingertips."
4. Respect the 'golden hour' after birth
Once the baby is born, says Mc Guinness, ideally mother and baby should get at least an hour of just skin to skin with eachother.
"When your baby is lifted out an onto your chest, he or she will immediately calm down and often begin to search for or even crawl towards your nipple. He or she will hear the sound of your heart, just like they did in the womb, and this will make them feel safe and secure after what is a pretty intense journey into the world."
As well as this, studies have shown that being naked on their mothers chest will help to regulate the baby's own heart rate, release oxytocin, which again helps with breastfeeding and the feeling of bonding, and will also even help regulate your baby's microbiome, as he or she is exposed to good bacteria from your birth canal and area around your nipples.
5. Keep baby close
To make breastfeeding easier, baby should be kept close to mum, both in hospital and once you arrive home.
"By keeping baby close, you make frequent feeding easier, and you will learn to respond to your baby's cues for hunger," Mc Guiness explains.
"For instance, crying is a late sign of hunger, and by the time he or she cries, they have usually been trying to tell you they are hungry for a while, often by doing things like moving head to one side, putting their hands up their mouths or rooting around and being unsettled."
Feed on demand is the key when it comes to breastfeeding, reminds Mc Guinness.
"It is so important not to let others stress you over sleep and routines," she explains. "Because Ireland has a formula-feeding culture, many will ask questions about your baby's routines and sleep, and this is not helpful when you are trying to breastfeed your baby. Feed when your baby is hungry – and know that demand will regulate supply. Breastfed babies have lots of little feeds, and the milk your produce at different times a day is not the same, so for instance, night time milk is different from the milk your breasts produce in the morning."
"Use feeding as a time to really enjoy your baby and this very moment," says Mc Guinness. "And feel confident in that you are doing the very best you can for your baby."
In the evening, she explains, cluster feeds are normal in the beginning, and baby will feed little and often.
"But this is important, this is what will trigger your breasts to produce more milk and your baby will slowly regulate the supply, so that he or she will get enough milk to grow and thrive."
6. Understand that baby is getting enough
It is common for new mums to worry over whether or not their baby is getting enough milk.
"If you baby is content and calm and relaxed after a feed, they are getting enough milk," Mc Guinness explains.
"If he or she produces wet and soiled nappies, that is the sign you need they are getting enough, and if you just keep feeding, your breasts will produce more milk."
She also reminds us that it is perfectly normal for newborn to loose weight those first few days after birth.
"Most babies loose about 7 percent of their birth weight, before starting to gain weight again," she explains. "By 14 days, most babies will be back up to their birth weight again."
Newborns have tiny little stomachs, so where you might worry those seeminlgy few drops of milk surely can't be enough, Mc Guinness assures us they are.
"This is why newborn who are breastfed will feed little and often. And this frequent feeding will build your supply, so as they grow and require more milk in each feed, your breasts will produce enough for them."
7. Ask for help
Help and support is vital. Study after study show us that mums who feel like they have support and help on hand will go on to breastfeed longer, and will have a mroe positive experience when it comes to breastfeeding.
"Look up your local La Leche League group or Cuidiú group," says Mc Guinness. "There will be amazing help in having local support and someone you can turn to and aks for help."
As well as this, most maternity hospitals and regional hospitals now have lactation consultants who will be there to help you, or you can try reaching out to your local public helath nurse, who will help you or direct you on where to get more help."
There is also tons of information and help available on HSE's Mychild.ie, explains Mc Guinness. "You will find so many frequent questions answered, and can chat to a lactation consultant who will help you out with anything you need."
National Breastfeeding Week takes place from 1st – 7th October. Over 100 events will take place from coffee mornings to support group activities, and even a visit by breastfeeding mums and their babies to Áras an Uactaráin – to celebrate how everyone can support mothers to breastfeed. To find out about an event in your area, contact your local breastfeeding support group, details of which are on mychild.ie.