Breastfeeding doesn’t always come as naturally as we might expect, but with support and perseverance you and your baby can enjoy this incredible bonding experience.
“In an ideal world, we would grow up observing and accepting breastfeeding as the normal way babies are nourished and nurtured. We’d absorb all we need to know just by being around breastfeeding mothers and babies,” says Jean Ridler, RN, RM, international board certified lactation consultant. Unfortunately this is not the case and as a result there tends to be a lot of anxiety around breastfeeding.
The value of support
“It can take time for both mother and baby to adapt – breastfeeding may be natural, but it is a learned skill,” says Ridler. She recommends a pre-birth consultation with a lactation consultant for advice and possibly joining a mother-to-mother breastfeeding support group once your baby is born. “Understanding some basics and having your questions answered are important strategies for confident breastfeeding,” she explains.
Debunking common myths
There are myriad myths surrounding breastfeeding. For example, it’s not true that breast size influences the quantity of milk a woman produces. And it’s not necessary to “toughen up your nipples” beforehand as was once common practice – this will only increase nipple tenderness.
Many women are also under the false impression that they do not have sufficient milk. “Some studies have found that 75 percent of women who stopped breastfeeding before they had planned to, or introduced complementary feeds, did so because they believed they did not have enough milk,” says Ridler. Insufficient milk in the early days is, in fact, very rare. Speak to your paediatrician or lactation consultant before you make decisions based on this concern.
“Breastfeeding is a stable and robust activity – it’s designed to work,” says Ridler. “There may be some challenges in the early weeks but with patience, perseverance and competent help, these can be resolved.”
Flat or inverted nipples may present a challenge initially, however this can often be overcome by finding a technique that works for you and your baby. “Remember babies breastfeed, not nipple feed,” says Ridler. “They might not always latch on like little limpets from the beginning, no matter what the shape of the nipple. Working patiently with your baby’s inborn feeding reflexes will usually have positive results.”
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