Rebecca McAllister @breastfeedingireland is a Lactation Consultant, infant feeding expert, and is an award-winning breastfeeding advocate who lives in Malahide with her 3 children, husband, and miniature schnauzer Lola. Through Cuidiu she is an Advanced Breastfeeding Counsellor and Antenatal Breastfeeding Teacher. She has spent over 10 years providing voluntary support to parents and families on their feeding journeys. In her private practice as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, a healthcare professional who specialises in all things breastfeeding and mixed feeding, she provides expert support for families with in-person home visits and remotely via telehealth.
Parenting is a very rewarding stage in life yet it is also a potentially very steep learning curve. Feeding is often the first challenge for parents and children. You and your partner may have discussed buggy and car seat options, but have you talked about how you would like to feed your baby? One of the best things you can do is to talk to your partner about your feeding plans. Make them aware of why breastfeeding is important for you and your baby’s health. Discuss your goals and expectations, and be prepared to support each other. It is also important to seek professional help if you need it. There are many trained breastfeeding supporters and IBCLCs who can offer you evidence-based guidance and support.
There is so much information available online, it can be hard to work out what steps to take. To keep things simple here are my Top 5 Tips for Breastfeeding:
1. Breastfeeding is a learnt skill.
Take things one feed at a time. Breastfeeding is a skill you and your baby are learning together. Being aware of this can help your support network when it comes to expectations around breastfeeding. If you are not sure of what is or is not typical behaviour, you can contact a trained breastfeeding supporter. They can also give you guidance on how others can help you with feeding the baby and ways to bond as a family in the early days.
2. Learn about the early days.
Learn what you can before your baby is born. Many IBCLCs and Maternity Hospitals offer Antenatal education for breastfeeding. Breastfeeding works on a demand basis. The more frequently you offer your baby a feed, the more colostrum or milk your body will produce. Knowing about hunger cues and cluster feeding will be very useful in the early days. If in doubt, put a boob in their mouth! If still in doubt, ask for help.
3. Pain is not normal. Seek professional help.
Pain is not a normal part of feeding; it is a sign that something needs to be adjusted. Quite often small adjustments with latch and positioning can make feeding more comfortable. If this does not help you may need specialist support from an IBCLC. There are private IBCLCs and Community Lactation Consultants.
4. Attend your local breastfeeding group.
There is no such thing as too much trained support. Cuidiú, La Leche League, and Friends of Breastfeeding run groups throughout the country. It’s an easy way to make new friends as a parent with the added benefit of fully-trained volunteers being in attendance. You can ask as many questions as you’d like and get handy tips from other mums. It can make it much easier to reach out for support once you have seen how friendly the Cuidiú Breastfeeding Counsellors or La Leche League Leaders are….and did I mention that there’s often cake, biscuits, and hot drinks! You can also attend some groups virtually or seek support by phone. You can even attend before your baby is born.
Many Public Health Nurses also run groups in the Community.
5. There is no right or wrong way
It’s about what feels comfortable for you. Breastfeeding (and breastmilk) changes as your baby grows to meet their exact needs at that time. Things will continue to evolve and change over time. It’s about what you feel comfortable with and feeling supported to achieve your goals.
Remember that you are the expert of your baby. If you are not sure where to start, there are many resources available to help you.
Rebecca McAllister IBCLC
You can hire a private IBCLC via ALCI to come to your home in-person or virtually. I am available in-person locally and ‘virtually’ via video link for everyone. The HSE also has Community Lactation Consultants who are available free of charge, contact your Public Health Nurse for further details.