I was recently reading an article about two mums who had both breastfed their babies, and had quite different experiences. Nothing new there – women are all different, so are babies, so are their personal situations.
One had managed to breastfeed as long as she wanted to, the other had to give up when things started spiralling. End result – two happy bubbies with full tummies, two mums happy with where things are at now with settled babies, making for a happier household all round of course. But the transition from breast to bottle and it being of your choosing rather than having it happen due to things that could possibly be stacked in your favour to keep going, is interesting. New motherhood is a huge life change anyway, so smoothing the way to avoid potential pitfalls is worth thinking about. This is not a value judgement on bottle feeding. No mother should feel guilty or embarrassed about how she feeds her baby. At the end of the day a baby needs feeding, and if a mum can’t breast feed or does not want to, then of course you have to bottle feed. The MOST important thing is that a baby is fed. But if you want to breast feed, knowing how to avoid some of the traps for young players is essential I reckon, as the article I read reaffirmed to me.
What I found interesting was the points at which things often come unstuck, where the choice to keep breastfeeding can be challenged. Getting the latch right to start is the big hurdle – if that isn’t supervised and sorted from the beginning, it’s hello sore nipples and hungry baby. Answer there? It’s something you both need to learn, so ask an expert to help till you know what the ‘right’ way is. It’s too important to guess it’s sort of right. If the delivery’s been challenging, that also makes things a bit uphill to start. Skin to skin for baby is a great way to get things on track, feeding and otherwise with much research around about how good it is for a baby. Nice for the adult too!
Another hurdle down track was introducing a bottle too early because some babies find it confusing to both bottle and breast feed. I was surprised to learn just how many babies, from the lactation consultant: “What we know is about 50 per cent of babies find it difficult to go from a bottle back to the breast”. That’s a lot of babies finding things tricky. Her answer: “Our advice would be to try and delay the bottle. Once breastfeeding is established and the baby has got the hang of the breast, it’s much easier to switch back and forward”.
The other issue was misinformation – not being informed about what a well-nourished baby looks like and then it’s often all a bit late when things do go pear shaped. You need to know the red flags, because a dehydrated baby not putting on weight is a major ‘hurdle time’. At that point (and always in fact) your baby’s health is the most important thing here, so it’s better to identify issues earlier rather than later and see if its fixable. It may not be, but earlier is better for everyone.
The other thing is ‘be prepared’. Even before that bump turns into a baby, do some reading on what this new job as chief supplier of food actually involves. In doing so you will be much better prepared for what is ‘normal’, what to expect and that in itself makes things a bit less stressful.
So if you’re a mum to be – upskill yourself before the baby comes – I have a set of videos on the how, what, why, when of it all on the Raising Children site under newborn breastfeeding stories.
La Lache are a fabulous resource and so are lactation consultants, so use them! And if you are partner or mother of a new mum, support her to give it a go – you are a big influence.