Question: What tips do you have to support women on their feeding journey?
Midwife Cath Curtin: New mums can have a positive experience when it comes to their feeding journey, however every woman needs a huge amount of support. Establishing breastfeeding can be really hard work, however once you have that connection, it can be quite incredible.
To support new mums on their journey, I recommend that:
• You consider getting education about breastfeeding and do your research prior to the birth of your baby.
• Nipples are such an important part of breastfeeding – however not one nipple is the same. Years ago, we used to check nipples prior to birth and I continue to do this. I recommend that you discuss the shape of your nipples with your midwife prior to birth to manage your breastfeeding expectations.
• Regardless of whether you think you'll need them, I recommend including nipple shields in your hospital bag as a packing essential. The NUK nipple shields are made of extremely thin silicone offering natural skin contact between mum and baby, can help relieve discomfort in the early stages of breastfeeding and allow calm and natural sucking.
• You get as much physical contact with your babies as soon as possible, for as long as possible.
• You surround yourself with a village of good professionals who provide positive advice and support.
• You focus on listening and learning from one core support person in establishing feeding and developing that initial connection with your baby.
• You understand that each day gets better and every day will be different.
• You don't try and rush it, we all want feeding, whether that from the breast or a bottle, to be quick and easy, but it takes consistent, hard work. For breastfeeding mums, milk can take 6-8 weeks to completely establish.
• For mums who have smaller babies (under 2.5 kilos) or mums with inverted nipples, it is recommended that you consider incorporating a breast pump into your feeding routine. This supports babies who need additional milk and support with feeding if they cannot attach or suck effectively from the breast. The technology behind breast pumps is incredible, with the NUK Nature Sense breast pump including 16 options for speed and suction to ensure maximum efficiency. It even has a memory function, so you can keep it set on the right setting that works best for you.
Question: Can you talk us through the night-time routine you swear by for new parents?
Midwife Cath Curtin: Both parents are so integral to supporting the development of a healthy and happy baby. Night time routines help to provide consistency, build trust and are a great way for both parents to get involved in developing a connection with their child.
I am seeing more and more that the partners of today are actively seeking a present and equal role in parenting their child. Wherever possible, I recommend that the father or partner gets involved and, in some cases, completely takes over the night time routine. This also gives mum some time to relax and recharge for the night ahead of feeding.
My recommended night time routine is known as the B, B, B method – Bath, Bottle and Bed. Fathers who take an active role in bathing, dressing and wrapping the baby and giving a bottle of milk, whether that is expressed breast milk or formula are establishing a winning routine. It's a win for dad who can play a part in the day with their newborn, a win for bub who develops a lifelong connection with both parents, and a win for mum who gets a physical and emotional break from the constant needs from the baby.
Then, when mums are waking again through the middle of the night, their breasts are full, and they are relaxed and rested; and the baby feeds well and efficiently.
Sharing the load results in a wholistic partnership – and we know that a happy couple means a happy baby.
Question: What is mixed-feeding and why do you suggest this type of feeding to new parents?
Midwife Cath Curtin: Parenting is consistent, hard work. More and more, we are seeing women return to work earlier following the birth of their newborn and mixed feeding is all about giving new mums options.
It offers mums the choice of giving a bottle to their partner or a carer to support in feeding their child, for when mum needs to return to work or be away from baby at the time of a feed.
This gives mum a break, and regardless of whether they choose formula or expressed breastmilk to put in the bottle, establishing a connection with a bottle early is important. I recommend adding the bottle into the routine the first night at home, as this allows the baby to get used to it so there's no issue down the track with the baby not latching.
We need to look after one another and not place judgement on those that wish, or need to, to formula feed. If new mums decide to express there are many great breast pumps available to support in this journey, and for those that incorporate a bottle, new NUK Nature Sense bottles have been developed so that they are as close to a mother's breast than ever before; and clinically proven to be accepted by 92 percent of babies that are breastfed.
Question: How can a new-father best support a breastfeeding mother?
Midwife Cath Curtin: Healthy and happy babies are the result of both parents working together as a team to support their development. Fathers who take an active role in the daily or night time routines are also supporting new mums.
That is why I recommend establishing a connection with a bottle early on, so that the father can take on giving a feed to the baby. This can then be throughout the day, or in the middle of the night, whenever the mum needs that support.
Question: How can mothers balance returning to work with feeding their baby?
Midwife Cath Curtin: In Australia we are living in a dual income society, and mums are more than ever returning to work early on in their baby's lives.
The most important element of returning to work is to establish a plan that works best for the mother based on their individual circumstance – this could mean expressing breast milk at home before work, and a breast pump can support that option, or relying on formula. It is important that mums understand that they are doing the best they can for their babies, regardless of the feeding routine they choose. This means mum can return to work without anxiety and focus on their return.
Question: What message do you hope to spread ahead of World Breastfeeding Week?
Midwife Cath Curtin: I think the most important message for mums is that breastfeeding is amazing. It provided a lovely bond with my own son, and I want mothers to experience a similar connection with their babies. However, it is important for new mums to feel happy with their choices.
There's no one way of perfecting breastfeeding, as every mum, and breast, is different. Exclusively breastfeeding is fabulous, but new mums have options, and a bottle of expressed breast milk or formula each day is OK too.
Women want to do what's best for their baby and there are many ways to get breastmilk into a baby. In some cases, breast pumps and nipple shields can alleviate the pain of breastfeeding that latching can cause. The NUK Nature Sense electric breast pump has soft silicone cushions that mold to the breast and NUK nipple shields, with their extremely thin silicon can in some cases also reduce this pain while keeping a natural connection with baby.
Question: What advice do you have for new parents?
Midwife Cath Curtin: • Keep having babies. I get to carry out amazing work everyday in supporting new parents on their journey of development with their incredible little human beings.
• Source and encourage support from family, friends and professionals.
• Take time for yourself. Both alone and together. Mums, take a bath and relax while dad does the night time routine. Dads, enjoy cuddles with your newborn and establish a connection.
• Take advantage of the products that are available to you, from NUK nipple shields that can relieve sensitive nipples during breastfeeding allowing calm and natural sucking, Nature Sense electric breast pumps which can support in expressing milk for a bottle feed and Nature Sense bottles and extra soft flexible teats in various sizes that mimic the nipple giving mums a much-needed break; they are all wonderful solutions in supporting you in how you choose to feed your baby.
• Always remember, that no matter your journey, you are doing a great job and your baby is beautiful - this is a saying that has stuck with me over the last 40 years.
Question: What's a typical day like, for you as a midwife?
Midwife Cath Curtin: I think that's what I love about being a midwife, that there are no typical days. You never really know what is going to happen day to day.
I might book a consultation, head out on a home visit, help a couple with a birth, or spend the day educating women on breastfeeding and feeling better about themselves. Regardless of what my day holds, I take comfort in the fact that no matter what I do, I'm guiding and offering options to new parents. That leads to a better relationship with themselves and their babies and that then transfers to our wider community.
Being a midwife is about being positive and kind; and making new mums feel wonderful. I'm as passionate today about that as I was in 1975 when I started nursing.
Midwife Cath is an ambassador for NUK, a leading provider of products and solutions for new parents, to make their everyday life easier. Visit www.NUK.com.au for more information or follow @NUKAustralia.
Interview by Brooke Hunter