Here is my TOP TEN to-do list for parents who want to succeed in breastfeeding their next baby:
- Make sure your Lead Maternity Carer / midwife / doctor backs you 100%. If they don't, find someone else.
- Learn as much as you can about the science and art of breastfeeding. The book Breastfeeding, Take Two: Successful Breastfeeding The Second Time Around was invaluable for me.
- Watch women breastfeed. Talk with them, ask them questions - I find most breastfeeding mamas are more than happy to chat about it! Watching breastfeeding technique videos on YouTube is also great. If you have breastfeeding education classes nearby, certainly try and attend one of these.
- Ensure you have dealt with any grief/disappointment/sadness/anger that may have arisen as a result of not successfully breastfeeding previous babies. Aileen Devonshire of The Holistic Birth Company helped me deal with the grief and sense of failure I felt from not breastfeeding my son. This was incredibly healing and prevented me from carrying loads of baggage into my relationship with Nina. Aileen continued to be a source of support once my daughter was born (I still vividly remember seeing Aileen one morning, 100% convinced I wouldn't be able to breastfeed, and she just told me I would be OK and I would succeed. I gave her such a "you are crazy and SO WRONG!" look, in the way only a crazed-sleep-deprived mother can). But she was right! - surrounding yourself with people who believe in you can make a huge difference.
- Do all your research about supplementing and donor milk BEFORE baby is born - it is so much easier to do it then, than when stressed and tired with a new baby. You could start here and here. Also, make a pact with your partner before the baby is born regarding supplementation. The agreement my partner and I had was that we would make no decision at 2am in the morning: If we were to supplement, it would be a decision discussed with our midwife and we would make that decision in the light of day. (For those of you wondering why this is so important, read this).
- Create your community of "breastfeeding cheerleaders" when you are pregnant: make your intentions clear with your friends, partner, family, birthing team... Find online support too. A good New Zealand Facebook page is Breastfeeding NZ. I had a great cheerleading team - midwives and lactation consultants that went out of their way to support me, friends that listened to my battle stories (my nipples are bleeding! I haven't slept in 53 zillion hours! I know I am going to fail again!) and still kept telling me I could do it, friends and family that helped look after Sol and helped feed us. They were amazing. The best advice I got:
Friend: "Rachel, can you do it for just one more day?"
Tearful me: "Yep, just one more day, I think I can manage one more day."
Friend: "OK, just one more day. And I will check in with you in 24 hours, and then you can quit if that is what you want to do."
24 hours later...
Friend: "How are you doing?"
Me: "I don't think I have slept, it's rough, my nipples are bleeding..."
Friend: "Can you continue for just one more day?"
Me: "Yep, one more day, I will be able to do that, just one more day..."
(Once we got the tongue tie sorted out properly, our problems were resolved. I am just so incredibly grateful for the support that allowed me to continue breastfeeding "for just one more day!" for those initial 13 weeks).
- Don't have any bottles in your house - you certainly don't need them in the initial weeks. If you need to supplement, I highly recommend you use an at-breast supplementer. These have the advantage of keeping baby at your breast while receiving supplemented milk, therefore your supply is still being stimulated and baby still gets the message that your breasts = FOOD!
- Go to La Leche League meetings when pregnant, and continue once your baby is born They are a huge source of support and information.
- Consider expressing colostrum before the baby is born. It was a huge confidence boost for me to be able to do this, and a wonderful thing to have in the freezer to supplement my daughter when she really needed it. Here is some information about this.
- If you have a partner, get them involved. Get them to participate in as much of these recommendations as possible. Talk with them about how their role will be different to the first baby - my partner had enjoyed bottle-feeding our son, so it was important we talked about how this would not initially (maybe ever) be happening with our second child. Also, make sure they know this magical trick.
Anyone else got any tips / ideas / anecdotes to pass on? I would love to hear them!
(As you may have guessed, I am passionate about helping women breastfeed. I completely understand that some women can't breastfeed exclusively: but for the small minority of women who don't produce enough/any milk, I want them to know that a breastfeeding relationship is still possible - breasts are way more than just milk! And I want for EVERY woman to have the option of choosing donor milk should they wish. I have written in more detail about my breastfeeding experience here.)