Article originally published on Mumlife Australia
The most common responses I hear when asking a pregnant client about her breastfeeding goals are:
“If I can”, “I’m not going to put the pressure on myself in case it doesn’t work out”,
“Of course I want to give it a try”,
“I want to breastfeed but my partner / dad is really keen to feed the baby so that he can bond”
This article explores some of the common challenges faced by women who want to make breastfeeding work, and steps you can put in place both now and once baby is here to maximise your chances of success.
But firstly, it’s important to acknowledge that some women do make an informed decision to not breastfeed, and that decision is, and should always be, respected and supported.
Your Breastfeeding Goals Are Realistic
I want every pregnant woman to know that with the right advice, support and preparation, you absolutely can meet your breastfeeding goals. Unless you belong to a very small group of women with a condition such as insufficient glandular tissue (which you may be born with or can be a result of surgery e.g. breast reduction/augmentation) – you absolutely can make enough milk to feed your baby (or babies!).
But Breastfeeding Is A Learned Skill
Unfortunately, our generation is ‘behind the 8-ball’ when it comes to shared knowledge about breastfeeding. The knowledge simply hasn’t been engrained in society as a whole; we haven’t learned through seeing our family breastfeeding on a daily basis as our ancestors would have.
Yes, breastfeeding is normal & natural, but it is also a learned skill for mum, baby and the family unit as a whole.
This is evident in the observation of breastfeeding rates in Aboriginal communities nearing 100%, and it’s thought to be because they all see their mothers, sisters and other women in the community breastfeeding – breastfeeding is a totally normalised activity with none of the sexual connotations our society seems to attach to it.
So How Do You Overcome This?
The best place to start is with education.
Be critical about the information you are absorbing – where is it coming from? Are there any biases or obvious scare-mongering tactics e.g. emotive language, funding from third parties with a vested interest and do they have references for their claims?
Be sceptical of any breastfeeding stories coming from conventional news outlets, social media, or books by any ‘baby whisperer / expert’ who promises you sleep or a ‘good baby’! Even if they are a qualified health professional – probe their credentials & philosophy first!.
And on that note, you don’t need a ‘baby whisperer’, mama! (whatever that even is!).
What you need is a good understanding of what is normal, empowerment to deal with challenges and a good support network to take care of you!
Where To Start?
A recent study concluded that we can best support mothers to overcome difficulties and find confidence in their own abilities to achieve their feeding goals through a combination of:
- Realistic antenatal education
- Effective social support
- Reassurance and guidance from skilled practitioners
- Well-Rounded Childbirth Education Classes
Ask your maternity care provider for options in your local area including hospital classes and private classes. Consider breadth of content, your learning goals, practitioner qualifications, overarching philosophy and class sizes when making your decision.
Australian Breastfeeding Association
The ABA is a non-profit organisation encouraging and supporting mothers who want to breastfeed their babies. Their website is a gold-mine of quality, factual & practical information to help you understand normal and dispel any myths. They also run excellent, affordable breastfeeding classes around Australia.
Raising Children Network
The Raising Children Network is an educational tools funded by the Australian government. It contains fantastic videos and resources to assist you in navigating early parenthood, on topics including breastfeeding positioning and attachment, normal newborn behaviour, common problems etc.
Find A Private Lactation Consultant In Your Area
International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) are highly qualified breastfeeding experts with the specialised knowledge and skills to support you in your breastfeeding journey. If you have any specific concerns e.g. previous difficulty breastfeeding, suspected IGT or other health conditions, it is a great idea to book an antenatal breastfeeding consultation to discuss your concerns and make a plan.
Make An Education Plan With Your Maternity Care Provider
Write down a list of the things you want to know & ask your care provided to address one or two points each visit. Consider your care provider’s skills, knowledge, attitude & experience with breastfeeding. Obstetricians are skilled experts in high risk pregnancy but generally have little or no specialised knowledge about supporting women to breastfeed. Ask for a recommendation or referral to a IBCLC or midwife if necessary.
But What About The Bond Between Father And Baby?
Fatherhood is about so much more than providing nourishment to your baby and there are many meaningful ways dad can bond with baby without a bottle. For example skin-to-skin time, singing, bathing, dancing and going for walks. This can also extend to other well-meaning family and friends who want to do their best.
A great place to start is talking frankly with your support network about what your parenting and feeding goals are, why this is important to you and ways they can support you.
You may like to make a list of ideas for them – setting the boundaries and expectations early.
Ideas might include:
- Making sure visitors call before popping over
- No unsolicited advice
- Organising a cleaner (great baby shower gift idea!)
- Chores roster e.g. dishes, vacuuming, washing
- Meals roster
- Taking mum or dad outside of the house for a couple of hours
Whatever your breastfeeding goals, know that with the right preparation, guidance and support – anything is possible!