The breastfeeding journey

Vicki HallionLearning to breastfeed a newborn can be challenging for many new mothers, but trusting in your instincts and being able to ask for help when you need it are essential things to remember.

Murdoch Hospital Midwife and Lactation Consultant Vicki Hallion says there is excellent research to support breastfeeding your baby, but it’s not always that easy to do.

“Because we know breastfeeding is beneficial for both the baby and the mother, women can feel pressured to be able to do it successfully,” says Vicki.

“We need to support a woman’s right to choose – breastfeeding in itself should not be a source of stress.”

“As it doesn’t always happen naturally, it is important that new mothers understand there is help available, and it takes time to learn the most comfortable holding positions for mother and baby.”

New parents are often subject to, and can be influenced, by well-meaning, and sometimes unsolicited advice, experiences and opinions when they are sleep-deprived and sensitive.

“You might hear others talk about what is right for you; what you should do, but their opinions are not necessarily helpful,” says Vicki. “Every breastfeeding relationship is unique.”

Many factors influence your breastfeeding journey. Gestation and maturity of the baby, complication in the pregnancy, length of labour, type of delivery, medications, amongst others, can all impact on the ability to produce and/or express enough milk to feed a baby initially.

What works for some women, might not work for others.

Some of Vicki’s tips to aid breastfeeding:

  • Skin-to-skin contact is essential. Even if you’re not breastfeeding at the time, this is a huge source of comfort for a newborn.
  • Keep your baby warm to avoid cold-induced stress. Take a hat and warm clothes to the hospital.
  • Don’t wait for your baby to cry. Feed a quiet, alert baby.
  • Position is everything. Try to leave the hospital knowing how to breastfeed in three different holds you are comfortable with.
  • Passing your newborn to friends and family can be very confusing and ultimately interruptive of the baby’s sleep wake cycle. Avoid this if possible so he or she can show you the cues to breastfeed.
  • Remain calm and look to short term goals. If you don’t pick it up straight away, utilize the services at hand. It will be worth it in time.

If you need help, contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association on 1800 686 268, your local Community Health Nurse or a private lactation consultant.

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