Unfortunately, we still read and hear about mums who had a really difficult time breastfeeding with their first baby. This could involve anything from not mastering breastfeeding in the first few days to ongoing breastfeeding problems or worries about low milk supply.
If this was your experience and you are now pregnant again, you may be wondering if you are destined to always have breastfeeding problems. Or, perhaps you are thinking about how you can make this new experience with breastfeeding more successful.
Thankfully, just because you had difficulties with your last breastfeeding experience does not mean you will automatically find breastfeeding difficult with your new baby. Try and think of this time round like a clean start.
This Breastfeeding Experience Will Be a Brand New One
It will be like starting again, yet you will have a little more insight and understanding of how babies “work”, which will hopefully make learning breastfeeding together easier this time around.
Often, mums who are having their second or third baby may feel like they should know everything already. As a result, they may not be as vocal when it comes to asking for help from their midwife or lactation consultant.
But if you had breastfeeding difficulties last time, this should be the pregnancy where you seek lots more guidance and support antenatally from your midwife or a registered lactation consultant. Do not be afraid to ask for more help from your health professional who has expertise in breastfeeding support!
Many mums find it really helpful in the antenatal period to talk through their previous breastfeeding experience with a lactation consultant. There, you can find explanations and answers as to why certain outcomes occurred last time.
Discussing and talking through what happened with a previous breastfeeding experience can be an effective way to mourn the loss of the breastfeeding experience you wanted, find acceptance for what occurred and achieve healing. This also allows women to feel more able to move on and start focusing on this new experience to come and work out a plan which can make you feel confident this time around.
There are definitely a few essential tips which can help every mum and baby to start off well with breastfeeding in the first few days and weeks:
Attend Breastfeeding Classes
These could include ones at your hospital or those classes which your private midwife provides. Have discussions about breastfeeding and seek help, support and advice during your pregnancy from a health professional with breastfeeding expertise.
Have Skin to Skin Contact with Your New Baby as Soon as Possible After Birth
Babies are often very alert and awake, seeking the breast in the first hour or two after birth. This is often called the “Golden Hour.” This is a really important stage for your baby to utilise all their innate reflexes which they are born with, to find their way to the breast and feed.
The best way to allow any baby to use all their natural reflexes and instincts is by being together in skin to skin contact. Continue skin to skin contact over the next few days or weeks before feeds.
If your baby is not yet ready to have a breastfeed in the first hour it is important to continue skin to skin holding and start expressing your milk as soon as possible. Thereafter, the midwives will support you to keep expressing your milk 8 times in 24 hours to initiate your milk supply, until your baby starts to breastfeed by themselves.
Keep the First Hour Sacred
Friends and family can wait! This first hour is a really special time for you and your baby… and for your partner, of course! This is a time which calls for quiet relaxation, just the noises which are natural from you and your baby.
Your baby needs time to find the breast and feed. Disturbing this sacred time immediately after birth can prevent breastfeeding in the first few hours.
Delay Delivery Room Practices, Such as Weighing or Early Bathing
These can all easily be done after skin to skin contact. This is supported by the Ten Steps of the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) which many Australian and all New Zealand hospitals follow and adhere to. If you unsure on whether these practices are routinely postponed in your hospital, then it is a good idea to discuss this with your midwife antenatally and place your requests in your birth plan.
Continue Skin to Skin Contact at Home
When we hold our babies repeatedly in skin to skin contact it has been shown to increase a mother’s confidence, increase baby’s ability to feed from the breast and enhances breastfeeding for both mum and baby. Skin to skin contact is not just for whilst you are in the hospital; it is a practice which should still be done at home. The midwives in your hospital will teach you the best and safest way to hold your baby and how to keep your baby warm.
Watch for Your Baby’s Early Feeding Cues
Crying is a late sign of hunger. Most babies will wake up slowly and give us subtle feeding cues before they start crying and really telling us they are hungry!
Look for your baby starting to stir themselves awake, turning their head and opening and closing their mouths, as well as poking their tongue out or turning their face in response to feeling something on their cheek. This is a great time to feed your baby as they are clearly signalling that they are hungry, yet they are still calm, which makes breastfeeding much easier than when they are crying!
Do not try to put your baby on a routine or ignore early feeding cues to push them out for longer periods between feeds. This is not only frustrating and upsetting for your baby but will actually upset your milk supply as well. Babies are designed to feed extremely frequently in the first few days in particular, but even as babies get older they still feed frequently. Follow your baby’s lead
Find Ways to Help Entertain and Include Your Toddler
Toddlers are naturally curious and will want to be a part of what’s going on. Keeping them involved can reduce the stress for everyone.
Rest and Relax as Much as Possible
Take advantage of all offers of help to do the housework, entertain your other children or provide you with delicious meals! Then, relax with your baby as much as you can! This will help your milk to flow and to give breastfeeding the best possible start this time round.
Have a read of the links included in this blog for much more information on getting breastfeeding off to a good start, as well as, knowledge on what is normal and to be expected with breastfeeding.
If you would like to tell us about your breastfeeding experience or tips which helped you the second or third time around join us on our Medela Australia Facebook page.