By Liz Wilkes, Midwife and Philips Avent Ambassador
The Australian population reached a massive 25 million milestone and to celebrate, Liz Wilkes has compiled her top 25 tips for a new Mum to conquer their first month of Breastfeeding.
Consider education during pregnancy
A breastfeeding class during pregnancy will go a long way to easing the challenges of the first few days of mothering. Knowing what to expect and how to deal with it in advance will make you more confident, which will in turn make for better milk flow and better breastfeeding. Often a breastfeeding or antenatal class will form a mothers group after birth which provides another level of support for you during breastfeeding.
Trust your instinct
A mother's instinct is always right. Trust yourself and listen to your baby. In the first month, it's important to get both your body and baby into a good rhythm, so when your baby is hungry let them feed as much as they want. Your milk supply is directly related to your baby's demand, regular breastfeeding sessions in the early days will help produce your supply assisting bub to be more settled (and not to mention sleeping longer!)
Asking your midwife to support you with breastfeeding can give you a lot more confidence. A midwife is there for both partners in the relationship, so bring your go-to support person or partner to each midwife appointment so they can learn what to expect and also ways they can support you during this time. Remember no questions are off limits or too embarrassing to be answered. Communication is key!
Build a network of real-life support
Build a network that can help support you if times get tough. It's important to realise that support comes in many forms. It could be other mums, your own mother or mother-in-law, or simply your partner or other friends and family that you can lean on.
Stock up on milk
The task of being solely responsible for feeding your newborn can often feel overwhelming, however, it's important you do have some time to yourself and share the load with your partner or close family or friends. Using a high-quality pump like a Philips Avent Breast Pump to express milk can help you share some of that responsibility, and allow your baby to feed in a nurturing environment without the need for you to be there. Pumping may also take practice so ensure you check out the best information on hand to assist you.
Be kind to yourself
Take time out for you, judgement free. I often recommend a daily 20-30 minutes for mum to treat herself with something simple – whether that's a warm shower, a bit of exercise or even watching Netflix. It's important to take time for you.
Set up a nursery
When you're comfortable and relaxed your breast milk flows more easily, so when planning your nursery think about any potential distractions that may impact you or your baby's concentration. When choosing lighting, avoid halogens and exposed bulbs, instead go for fixtures that offer shaded or diffused light. Also, be sure to invest in a comfortable chair and nursing pillow to help support both your back and arms.
Things No One Tells You In The First Month
Listen to your baby
It may be tempting to search for hard and fast rules about when and how long baby will need to feed - but the reality is that the only rules you should be following are the ones your baby sets. In terms of feeding, most babies will naturally fall into a pattern of between one and three-hour meals, but an infant's feeding patterns are as individual as they are. Good indicators of a well-fed baby include plenty of wet and dirty nappies and healthy weight gain.
I always advise mums to set up space with all the things they need including somewhere to feed or express, or simply to sit and bond with baby and relax. If your 'tools' are at your fingertips, including nappy changing equipment, breast pumps, and sterilisers you will be able to grab them without even thinking.
You should feel no guilt about how you feed your baby
While breast is best to bond and pass nutrients onto your child, many mothers cannot or choose not to breastfeed for a variety of legitimate reasons such as medication use or prior surgery. It really is what works for you.
Persistence, persistence, persistence
If you are adamant about breastfeeding your child but feel like it's not working, know that your baby possesses instincts designed to facilitate breastfeeding. Babies have several inbuilt reflexes to help them to work out how to feed. You will also develop confidence and skills with good support. Having a midwife on call during the first six weeks will help.
Cut your nails
By cutting your nails you lower the chance of harbouring any germs that can be transferred to bub. Some of the most common germs found under nails can cause skin infections, so it is as important to cut your nails as it is to wash your hands.
You can still breastfeed your baby while you're sick
In fact, it's recommended. It's very possible to become run down and even catch something during the first month of child-rearing, and while you may think that you will pass something onto your baby, the opposite is true. The antibodies your body produces to fight your own infection will be passed on to your baby through breast milk.
Breastmilk is a natural and effective moisturiser
Cracked nipples can be common and quite painful, luckily the body is an amazing thing - rub a few drops of breast milk onto the skin and air dry. This will help your nipples to heal with antibacterial and antimicrobial agents within the breast milk working to assist.
You are not selfish
Momentarily missing your child-free days? It's normal to reflect on a time when the stresses were less, you were sleeping longer hours, and a time when you weren't responsible for another person's life.
Babies need a bit more attention during the summer
Babies under six months should stay completely out of direct sunlight and a high-factor sunscreen is always recommended to protect your baby's skin, which is still developing melanin (always check if a sunscreen is baby-safe). You may also need to increase how much you breastfeed, as breast milk is the primary source of hydration for infants since they cannot yet drink water.
You're doing okay
It's been scientifically proven that new mums are especially vulnerable to stress due to the major changes they've experienced, especially in baby's first few weeks and months, as they adapt to their new role. It can be more overwhelming in those first few months especially for mums who are feeling under pressure to be perfect, which can be closely linked to the misrepresentations of motherhood on social media. I always tell mums to be kind to themselves and give themselves a bit of grace, there's really no such thing as a perfect mother or 'perfect parenting.'
Top Tips For Travelling With Baby
Create a sanctuary
With new research from Philips Avent showing that breastfeeding mums are under more pressure than ever before, one way to take the pressure off while travelling is to create a low-fuss, chilled out zone in your accommodation. This area is somewhere where you can relax with your baby for feeding or bonding, without distractions and external stimulation. A special place for mum and bub to relax.
Nap time tips
Travelling can be a confusing time for a baby especially if time zones have been crossed. Holidays are all about relaxing, so whilst some holidays can be all-systems-go it is important that both mum and baby get adequate rest and get the most out of their time away.
Sticking to your rituals
Try to stick to your home routines as much as possible no matter your location, especially around nap and sleep times. If you bathe baby before bed continue to do so, if you nap together mid-morning/afternoon also try to keep this up. By keeping to your routines, your baby will adjust faster to a foreign environment and the holiday can be enjoyed by all!
When travelling with a baby - be it in a car, train or plane - you have to make sure that you have what you need to make sure every feed or change of nappy is as seamless as possible. Not only for the baby and yourself but also your fellow travellers. The best way to combat this is to ensure that the high use items such as nappies, wipes, a change of clothes, breast pumps (I recommend the Philips Avent Comfort Single Pump), bottles and favourite toys are at the top of your bag, it is all about easy access to ensure your trip is smooth sailing.
There are a million and one things that you think you will need, but I suggest planning it out in advance by writing a list. Your carry on will depend on the length of time you spend in a plane, but I will always suggest to pack a pacifier in case bub isn't hungry for the take-off and landing, try one of Avent's soothers, they stimulate the action of sucking, which should increase your baby's chances of a pain free flight.
Top Tips For The Friends And Family Supporting Breastfeeding Mums
Provide support by asking questions
We all care and want to provide support and advice, but for mums who are inundated with advice and opinions, sometimes the best support is not providing your own personal thoughts but instead asking questions to help start a conversation. Simply asking "how are you doing?" can show support and allow mum to unload or share her challenges.
Support through actions
When mums are struggling to breastfeed, try to support in other ways. Offering to cook a meal, run errands or help out with household chores can help relieve other day-to-day pressure for mum, allowing her to focus on baby.
Giving space to mum
In the first few weeks and months with baby, mum can be inundated with visits from friends and family. While this can be an amazing and celebratory time, aim to keep your visits short (no more than hour) so that mum can get bub fed or off to sleep without worrying too much about hosting and entertaining visitors.