This is my second time preparing for breastfeeding a newborn. The antenatal classes in the hospital barely touch the basics of what you need to know, but it’s easy to get lost online in a sea of information on the topic. Then the health professionals you encounter will vary greatly in their personal opinions on breastfeeding, how accurate their knowledge is, and how much actual experience they have with supporting breastfeeding mothers that are having difficulties. My first time round I found it difficult to get good breastfeeding support locally. We persevered regardless, but I will be happy to avail of better local support groups for my second nursling. Here’s my breastfeeding cheat sheet (with the benefit of hindsight) containing the shortlist of what you need, and the resources you can rely on for decent advice or help if you need it.
Initial Latching On
You can look up resources online (see below) for how to get your baby to latch. You’ll also receive useful La Leche leaflets from most hospitals that show you the basics of holding the baby and latching them on. Ultimately you can’t beat getting assistance from a midwife if you need help for the first feed. However that support isn’t always there, or may not be great if you’re depending on hospital support alone. If you’re having any trouble at all then you need to go straight to the a volunteer breastfeeding group for help. You can be confident that they’ve had a minimum level of training on how to provide breastfeeding support (and are pro-breastfeeding).
Update: Here’s a great video my midwife told me about for getting a deeper latch.
Cuidiú, La Leche, and Friends of Breastfeeding all have breastfeeding support groups in Ireland. You can ring Cuidiú or La Leche counsellors at any time for advice and help over the phone. Friends of Breastfeeding have a buddy scheme where you can sign up to be paired with another mother who has breastfed and been given training on how to help new mothers. Aside from providing help with any breastfeeding issues, unless you already have friends who are currently breastfeeding, the support groups are invaluable for providing a bunch of peers who are having the same experiences as you. The length of time you breastfeed for is very likely to be influenced by regularly seeing other mothers feeding older babies/children. I got induced before I made it to a support group on my last pregnancy. I’ve already been to one during this pregnancy and will continue to go until baby is born to get to know the faces in advance. Added bonus that I already know a few breastfeeding counsellors that are available over the phone, but sometimes face-to-face is the most effective way to resolve a breastfeeding problem before it becomes a big one.
If you’re really struggling and suspect an issue like tongue tie then the ALCI website has a list of lactation consultants that can check your baby and give you a specific plan of action for any issues you’re having. Most health insurance providers will contribute towards the cost of a session.
Is this normal?
Timeline of a breastfed baby
The number one resource you need to hand is the Timeline of a Breastfed Baby. You don’t need to read the whole thing in advance. Just the first few days of the timeline. Then bookmark it so you can refer back to it when it’s 3am in the middle of the night, you’re all alone, and you haven’t a freaking clue what’s going on with your baby. Is this insanity ‘normal’? The answer is probably going to be yes, and once you know that, you won’t have to worry (so much).
Newborn stomach size
1 Day – size of a cherry (5 to 7ml)3 Days – size of a walnut (22 to 27ml)1 Week – size of an apricot (45 – 60ml)1 Month – size of an egg (80 – 150ml)
Changes in milk
What’s a good latch?
What about everything else to do with breastfeeding?
Breastpads. You’ll definitely need them initially as your milk comes in. If you’re lucky you’ll be able to get away without them later. You can get reusable cloth pads, but if you have a lot of leakage after your milk supply has settled then these may not be up to the job. I found the Boots breastpads worked well.
Initially I found the best bra to use was one of the ‘night’ bras from the Mothercare range. Stuff some breastpads into them for the first few days. Later they can return to use for nights only.
While your size is changing a lot, the range of nursing bras in Penneys is a practical buy that will do the job for most of us.
I bought some breastfeeding tops last time round but I really hated the range of options in Mothercare. It’s expensive buying breastfeeding-friendly clothing, even online. It wasn’t long before I realised that it was really only the nursing bras I needed. Put a loose vest top from Penneys or Dunnes underneath and a normal top over that and you were good to go. Just pull up the top layer and pull down the vest for access when feeding. No post-baby tummy on show.
It’s optional to get a pump. When it comes to breastfeeding pumps, you really want to avoid using them in the first 6 weeks unless there’s a good reason. I ended up with an electric Medela Swing the day after we got out of the hospital because we were told that we had to get one. Pumping really did nothing but give me an oversupply. It got occasional use after that, but really wasn’t necessary. I don’t want to rely on figuring out how to manually hand express this time, so I’ve compromised and ordered a manual Avent pump. I don’t expect it to get much use, but it’s handy to have there for those occasions when you’re uncomfortably full of milk and have either no baby, or one that’s just not interested in feeding right now.
And that’s really all you need to get started. The most important thing is to know exactly where to go for help if you encounter a problem. Anything else can be learnt or bought as you need it.