The very first thing you should know about breastfeeding is that is it the absolute best thing that you can do for your baby. Breast milk is the perfect food for Baby. It wins all nutritional awards without having to do a backflip, don a bikini, or swear its allegiance to world peace. And as you’ll probably hear time and again, it also comes in the most attractive packaging, is always presented at the right temperature, and can be served anywhere, anytime. If you’ve already made the decision to breastfeed your baby, congratulations! That’s a wonderful choice. Here are a few more things you should know about what you are about to go through.
It is Hard
Breastfeeding, for a first-time mother, is hard. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either very lucky, or lying through her teeth. There are new positions to manoeuvre, new jargon to make sense of, and if you’re pumping, a whole new set of tools to inflict on your exhausted body. You may be battling postnatal blues as well. The good news is, this is temporary. Accept that it is hard, get help, and continue. You (and baby) soon get the hang of it, and as the days, weeks, and months pass, it becomes second nature. Easy peasy lemon squeasy, as my preschooler would say!
Do Your Research
Preferably, while pregnant, before giving birth. Read breastfeeding books, go online, attend classes. Discover your motivations for breastfeeding so that you have these to encourage you when the going gets tough. The Breastfeeding Mothers’ Support Group (Singapore) conducts regular breastfeeding workshops. Just log on to their website to check for upcoming ones. Make a list of where you can get breastfeeding help, whether from hotlines, hospitals, or lactation consultants, and put that in an easy-to-spot location.
The Latch is the Key
You’ll hear the word “latch” a lot. It has nothing to do with children who return to empty homes, but much to do with breastfeeding success. Simply put, as long as baby latches on well, the problems associated with breastfeeding will probably cease to exist. Make use of your time in the hospital to learn from the lactation consultants and the nurses. Ask them to show you how to get baby to latch on properly, how to tell if the latch is not right, and how to adjust to get it right again.
Find a Support Group
Talk to mums who have breastfed exclusively for more than six months. They will be able to paint you a better picture of the process than those who haven’t. You’ll be able to find them on forums (like SingaporeMotherhood.com), message boards, meet-ups, Yahoo! groups. Or just approach mums who seem to know what they are doing. Who knows, this could be the start of a beautiful friendship!
Get Dad Involved
Chances are, he’ll be feeling left out. His two favourite bosom friends have been appropriated by his own flesh and blood and he has no me-time with them (or you) anymore. Get him in on the action. He can help plump up the pillows and position baby on them (for the football hold especially) or in your arms. He can help to wash and sterilise the pump and its million parts. He can bring you water, soup, and anything else you desire. He can serenade you and baby, and take beautiful photographs (like Brad Pitt did for Angeline Jolie – one picture was used as the cover of W magazine in November 2008). Most importantly, he can support you by fending off naysayers, negative comments, and unnecessary criticism. And because of that, he is – and will be – a vital link in a your successful breastfeeding journey.
Develop Thick Skin
Perfect that smile and nod, or in not so polite terms, be a stubborn b*t*h. You will find that everyone – and I do mean everyone, from your in-laws to the relatives, to the auntie in the kopitiam, to the uncle of your cousin’s niece’s son’s classmate’s brother – will have something to say about breastfeeding. Smile, nod. If whatever’s being said is useful, take note of it. If it’s not, smile, nod, and let it slide like water off a duck’s back. You’ve done your research, you know what you are doing, and you know that you are giving the absolute best to your baby. Let them talk! If it really gets to you though, recruit hubby to run intervention, and remove yourself (and baby) from the negativity. Call someone who will understand to vent, reinforce your motivations, and continue on the most beautiful journey you can have with your baby.