Tips for successful breastfeeding

Leading Irish lactation consultant gives you her brilliant advice

Breastfeeding is wonderful, not only is it the best nourishment for your baby it is also a lovely way to bond with your baby. 
There is nothing quite like latching your hungry baby on and just watching as they relax and snuggle in  – it is great for the baby but also empowering for mum!  This is the image that most pregnant women will envisage when they are thinking about breastfeeding their baby.  But the reality is that for many women the first few days or weeks of breastfeeding can be quite challenging and overwhelming and often new mum’s think they must be doing something wrong.  But the fact is that breastfeeding is a learned skill and takes time to learn and master and feeling overwhelmed at times is completely normal.
There is a common assumption that “breastfeeding is natural and therefore it should be easy” but this just simply isn’t the case. Breastfeeding is one of those things we are meant to learn during childhood by watching our mothers, aunties etc breastfeed...but for many women this hasn’t happened and so when they come to breastfeed they have little or no knowledge about it.   
So… how do you get to the place where breastfeeding is easy and a pleasure?  Well, firstly it is important to recognize that breastfeeding is something we need to learn, just like we learnt other skills in life such as driving a car or cooking.  As with all things we learn, preparation, patience and persistence are the hallmarks of success and this applies to breastfeeding as well
Here are some suggestions to help ensure you have a positive breastfeeding experience:
Take a class before baby arrives!
Research shows that learning about breastfeeding before the baby arrives will increase your chances of success.  Understanding the basics about breastfeeding will help you enormously when it comes time to actually breastfeed. 
Immediate Skin to Skin contact after the birth
Skin to skin is an important first step in the breastfeeding process and most babies will latch and feed within the first hour after the birth.
Feed the baby whenever the baby wants to feed 
Newborn babies don’t have a “routine”, they didn’t have a routine in the womb, so why would they have one within days of coming out?  Newborn babies have small stomachs that fill up quickly, breast milk is then quickly and easily digested and so they get hungry and need want to feed again.  In the first few weeks they need to feed quite regularly, at least every two hours or so, they need to do this because they are growing loads and putting on the pounds!
Make sure baby has latched on correctly to the breast
The latch is how the baby attaches onto the breast and it is essential that the baby latches well so your nipple doesn’t get damaged and also so that the baby will have a good feed.  When a baby is latched onto the breast correctly the breastfeeding should not hurt and there should only be a gentle tugging sensation.

Take time to rest and recover from the birth and to learn the skill of breastfeeding
Labour and birth are exhausting, having a new baby is demanding – a new mother does not need to do any else for the first 4 weeks other than recuperate from the birth and learn about her baby and how to breastfeed.  Women really struggle with this recommendation but in my  years of  experience in helping new mum’s I know it is the cornerstone to ensuring successful breastfeeding and a happy confident mother. 
Surround yourself with support  
Connect with other breastfeeding mothers, by phone, by internet and by going to support groups.  Many mothers say to me it is a lifeline to talk to women who have babies and are going through similar experiences.
If you are having problems access skilled breastfeeding help
An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) is the health professional who specialises in resolving breastfeeding problems and is the professional that you need to contact if you are having a problem with breastfeeding.  Most hospitals have breastfeeding clinics run by IBCLC’s but there are also IBCLC’s who work in private practice, they can be found here
Clare Boyle is a midwife & lactation consultant, her Preparing for Breastfeeding Class is available in Dublin, Cork and Limerick. 
Check out Clare's wonderful video entitled Love Breastfeeding where breastfeeding is candidly discussed by seven Irish mothers using their own words. This beautifully shot film illustrates what breastfeeding means to mothers, how they feel about the experience even though at times it can be challenging. 

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