As soon as you get pregnant you know that you want to do the very best for your baby. You start making plans and taking decisions to make sure you do just that. One of the most obvious is the decision to breastfeed your little one. You may have a vision of cosy time, spent together bonding with your baby during feeds, popping baby on and off the breast at your leisure: what could be easier? Whilst time spent breastfeeding is a special time with bonding being just one of many benefits, many new mums are shocked to discover that breastfeeding isn't as natural and easy as they'd expected. In fact many find it so difficult that they give it up within weeks, guilt-ridden that they've somehow failed their baby and themselves. So here are some tips that I'd wished I'd had (or if I had them, actually took note of them!) in those early precious days:
1. Breastfeeding takes A LOT of your time
For first-time parents, this is probably the biggest shock. A newborn breastfed baby can take up to the best part of an hour to feed; and some may want to feed again in an hour, two if you're lucky. So my advice is - don't fight it! Just write off the first 4-6 weeks as time solely for you and your baby to get to know each other intimately. Empty your diary of pretty much anything else (including visits to friends and relatives to show off your pride and joy if needs be). Which brings me onto:
2. Enlist help - and use it!
Frequent and long feeds means you'll need someone to do quite a few things for you for a little while, like cleaning, cooking, shopping. There are no prizes for being the Mum with the youngest baby in the supermarket, so stock up in the last weeks of your pregnancy and send someone else out when you need supplies. Most importantly, remember that doing too much can seriously affect your milk supply. Mother Nature intended that all your energy in those first weeks is devoted to your baby . Concentrating on the two of you is far more important than household chores.
3. Eat well
To aid your swift recovery from pregnancy and birth and to enable you to begin producing milk you'll need to up your calorie intake with healthy nutritious food. You'll be surprised how hungry you'll feel initially as your body adjusts to its new task of producing milk night and day, For the first 6 weeks or so my other half would load up a little side table of goodies (bananas, malt loaf, almonds, dried apricots, oatcakes, chicken sandwiches) for me to graze on throughout the day. A nursing mother needs to keep her strength up! Keep nice and hydrated with plenty of water, too.
4. Take some supplements
As well as eating well you can get a little helping hand with certain supplements: iron (a water soluble powder is kinder on the stomach and easier to absorb), brewer's yeast (full of amino acids and great for energy levels), mother's milk tea (good for increasing milk supply) and milk thistle (ditto).
5. Positioning is everything
Newborns don't know exactly how to suckle in the most effective way. Just as you may feel you don't know what you are doing either! But breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, or mean you spend hours contorted in uncomfortable positions. So positioning for both you and your baby are essential. Latching on can be very tricky, so ask, ask and ask again if you need to. Hospitals now have a wealth of breastfeeding experts, as does post natal care. Use these and really do not be afraid to ask again and again for help. Your tiny baby may well need position and re-positioning over and over but believe me - suddenly it will all click and you will be able to (and will) do it with your eyes closed.
6. Finally - Relax!
If you are stressed, tense, or have simply done too much, these can all affect your milk supply. Also for milk to be 'let down' to your baby, your body needs to produce a specific hormone - oxytocin. Also known as the love hormone, you can easily imagine how it will flow much more freely when you are relaxed. Just think of breastfeeding as your job when your baby arrives. Whilst it may seem like day in day out in the beginning, that time is so precious and (though you may not believe it at the time) shortived. Enjoy!