In the previous post, I have discussed about 5 common breastfeeding mistakes that can ruin your milk supply in the beginning. This article is the continuation of that one. Here, I will discuss about a few tips that I do to prepare for my breastfeeding journey. And yes, in case you asked, with the steps taken, I was able to exclusively breastfeed my second baby up to 6 months, and continue to breastfeed her until now (she’s 23 months old today!)
Before we start on taking action, let’s recap the 5 mistakes:
- Not gaining enough information
- Separated from baby after birth
- Not supported by pro-breastfeeding health care personnel
- Not supported by family (family does not know how to support correctly)
- Not dedicated the first two weeks after birth to yourself and your baby
Now let’s fix those mistakes by applying these 5 tips to prepare for breastfeeding.
TIPS #1 Information as a KEY
If you want to give your milk supply a head start, you need to do a lot of readings. I’ve compiled a list on what topics you should read about, including general information, preparing to breastfeed, identifying breastfeeding problems and its solution, and where to get help and support group.
- benefit of breastfeeding for mothers and baby
- recommendation from WHO
- what is exclusive breastfeeding
- What to prepare prior to birth
- Knowing your breast anatomy
- How milk production works
- Giving your milk supply a head start
- How do you know if your baby is getting enough milk
- Common misconception about breastfeeding newborn
- The correct latching position
- Breastfeeding hurts. What’s wrong?
- Do I have low milk supply issue?
- How to increase my milk supply?
- Breastfeeding and jaundice
- My baby refuses to latch
- What if supplementation is needed
Where to get help:
- Find nearest lactation consultant
- Social media support group
Most of the information listed here are available online. Here are some of my favourite trusted websites:
TIPS#2 Practice skin-to-skin contact after birth and rooming in with baby.
Studies have shown that babies underwent immediate skin-to-skin contact with baby latches on breast more easily (even without external help), and as you all know, a good latch stimulates breast properly to produce milk, and hence establishing your milk supply.
Rooming in, on the other hand, lets you identify your baby’s hunger cue early and respond as early as possible. By rooming-in, you can always breastfeed your baby as frequent as needed. With frequent breastfeeding, typical early breastfeeding issue such as incorrect latch can be addressed quickly. And with frequent milk removal, you are training your body to make more milk, hence, building up your milk supply to fulfill your baby’s need.
TIPS #3 Find pro-breastfeeding health care personnel
You need to engage pro-breastfeeding medical staff which will guide you and accompany you throughout your breastfeeding journey. This include:
- Pro-natural and pro-breastfeeding gynae
- BFHI (baby friendly hospital initiative)-certified hospital
- Pro-breastfeeding pediatrician
Let’s discuss each of these in more details…
Choosing your gynae
Your birth method may impact how your breastfeeding journey starts. The more natural it is, the easier it is to start breastfeeding right. This include higher chance for immediate skin-to-skin contact with the baby, which has proven to increase the duration of exclusive breastfeeding.
Do you know that medication that you receives during labor may affect baby alertness? When a mother receives pain killer at labor, the baby is sleepier compared to baby of mothers who didn’t receive any pain killer.
Now that you have understood how your birth method may affect your milk supply, you should be able to better plan your birth, by having birth plan. But a great birth plan would only be put into action if you have a communicative gynae. A good gynae would welcome your birth plan and discuss with you in details her/his opinion. By having a pro- natural gynae, you are even in a better position to negotiate your birth plan because s/he will likely support your decision and would do all a/he could to make it a reality.
My gynae was a pro-natural. With her, I was able to discuss any concern regarding birth method that may affect my breastfeeding effort.
She’s very supportive on my request on having skin-to-skin contact with my baby and not receiving any medication during labor (as long as it is not necessary). She’s also being real by telling me that ‘sometimes things just go unplanned.’ In that case, I should let the doctor team in charge to decide the best procedure for me and my baby.
She even goes extra mile by assigning another pro-natural gynae on stand by (and briefed this stand-by doctor about my case) just in case she was not able to assist my delivery at the actual labor day.
Choosing the hospital
Make sure to choose a breastfeeding-friendly hospital. An easy way to do this is to make sure your hospital is BFHI (baby friendly hospital initiative) certified. BFHI is a program launched by WHO and UNICEF to promote breastfeeding awareness and support exclusive breastfeeding initiatives. There are 10 criterias to be fulfilled to be BFHI-certified. Among them are:
- Providing education to expectant mothers on the benefit of breastfeeding and how to prepare for it
- Have a written breastfeeding policy which is regularly communicates to all the staff
- Helps initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour after birth
- Give newborn nothing except breastmilk unless medically necessary
- Encourage rooming in
- Support the mother postpartum by teaching how to breastfeed and maintain milk supply
- Actively monitor mother and baby’s progress after discharge and inform them about any available breastfeeding support group
You can read the full details here.
As you can see from the criterias above, a BFHI-certified hospital has a full support towards the success of your breastfeeding journey. And thus, it is more likely to have a smoother start in breastfeeding.
I personally receive a tremendous benefit by choosing a BFHI-certified hospital. What did I get:
- Private breastfeeding course with lactation-certified nurse, as part of its antenatal program. This is amazing. The nurse basically explained all basic things about breastfeedin that you need to know and you can ask as many questions as you want. I attended this with my spouse and let me tell you, this is the easiest way to get your spouse know everything about breastfeeding and how they can help support your breastfeeding effort.
- Skin-to-skin contact right after birth. I’ve explained how beneficial it is, so I won’t repeat it again
- All nurses in duty are lactation certified. That means you don’t really need to call lactation consultant every time you have nursing problem. Just call the nurse and they are happy to help you. I especially thank one of the senior midwife who checked on me on the first few hour post birth. We haven’t see any colostrum yet, but she assured me, ‘don’t worry, keep nursing your baby and your colostrum should be there very soon.’ What an encouragement that I really need.
- I got a free newborn log book, where I could note down my breastfeeding log and my baby diaper’s output. Here’s the link to download it for FREE).
- A TV channel dedicated for breastfeeding and newborn care videos durin our hospital stay. I ended up not watching it because I already watched it after giving birth to my first baby, but for a first-time mother, this will be very helpful. I especially recommend watching videos on correct latch on.
- Follow up call from ward nurse to check on my breastfeeding progress. It’s a nice little gesture showing that they really care about you even after you left the hospital.
All in all, the benefit of choosing BFHI-certified hospital is tremendous. So, make sure to choose the right hospital.
Chances are in the first few months after birth, you will be visiting your pediatrician quite often. Therefore, it is crucial to choose a pro- breastfeeding pediatrician.
Both of my first and second babies suffered from jaundice. But the second baby was able to get rid of jaundice without any need of supplementation. I strongly believe that this is partly because of the support from the pediatrician.
A pro- breastfeeding pediatrician (PD) will be able to:
- Identify whether your baby is getting enough milk
- Know exactly that it may take 2-5 days for milk (white milk, not colostrum) to come in, and therefore, not rushing in suggesting supplementation
- Keep cheering you up for your breastfeeding effort and listening to all your concerns
I was particularly impressed with My daughter’s PD. She calmly listened to our concerns (that her elder brother was also suffering jaundice and perhaps I wouldn’t be able to fulfill her milk intake and need supplementation). Then assuringly she said that let’s see in a few days whether the condition improves and meanwhile she suggested us to keep fully breastfeeding the baby.
Three days later, we went back to see that doctor, my baby was all yellow from head to toe. But thank God, even though the bilirubin reading increases, the rate is not very drastic, so doctor keep advising to continue our breastfeeding effort and promised to monitor our case closely.
Next day we came in again, my milk was just started to come in, and the doctor can immediately see the improvement. The jaundice has not gone away, but it’s reading decreases drastically. She congratulated us for fighting jaundice with purely breast milk and still promised to monitor our case until the jaundice completely goes away.
We were put on next week appointment, whereby the doctor confirmed that the jaundice level has been within normal range and we were discharged from further monitoring.
Can you see how the doctor has been patiently following up our case and giving assuring suggestions and even cheering us up? This is so invaluable and until now I’m still very thankful to her for being my daughter’s PD.
TIPS#4 Surrounded by supportive spouse and family, and educate them how to support breastfeeding correctly
Once you are discharged from hospital, your family support is invaluable.
If you haven’t talked to your husband about your plan to breastfeed, do so way before you give birth. I like to forward good breastfeeding articles to my husband by email, but the easiest and fastest way to get him understand about the whole world of breastfeeding is by dragging him along on breastfeeding preparation course. By attending courses, you get the information right from the expert (which is way more convincing), you got the opportunities to address the concerns that you have (in our case, we discussed a lot about how to tackle jaundice), and both your spouse and you have sort of similar understanding.
By ‘educating’ my husband about breastfeeding, I could discuss any action plan that we might use. My husband became my pillar support especially during labor and right after birth to remind hospital staff about some of my specific requests (e.g to expedite skin-to-skin contact, and having baby in my ward right after birth), all when I didn’t have more energy to do it on my own.
And my husband has been my great listener to all my concerns and worries about my milk supply. If you are a husband and wondering what can you do to support your wife’s breastfeeding efforts, I suggest you to read this beautifully-written article, and also here from moms who are very grateful for their husbands’ support. So really, husband’s support is very essential here.
For family other than spouse, say, parents, I printed several breastfeeding-related articles that they can read in case they question some of my breastfeeding approach which may be different from them. Luckily, breastfeeding awareness has been increased drastically over the past few years, and a lot of news and broadcast about breastfeeding effort are on TV and other media. If with my first baby my mom thought that pumping milk is a waste of time, now she has entirely different opinion. Looking at how I struggled pumping drops of milk (I told you, my milk is not abundant at all), she recalled her abundant milk supply (which leaked a lot) and jokingly said if only she knew about pumping and storing expressed breast milk years ago, she could even donate extra milk to those who needed,lol.
If before (with my first baby), she would rush making formula milk if I was happened to do something else when my baby cried, now she’s willing to soothe the baby while I finished what I need to do.
So you see, by having knowledge about breastfeeding, my husband and my parent are much more supportive with my breastfeeding effort, and it truly helps me going through the challenging days of early breastfeeding.
TIPS #5 Dedicating the first few weeks after birth to focus on your baby and you
As I mentioned in my previous article, the first few weeks are important for establishing your milk supply. You want to be able to nourish your self and your baby, nurse as frequently as needed with correct latch to ensure effective milk removal and thus, effective milk production.
Now, just forget about the laundry, or the dusty floor, or the dishes. Let some one else do it. Accept helps from your surroundings.
My husband only got one-week leave (oh yeah, Singapore, you need to give more), which he used it to settle down my baby’s immigration documents (birth certificate and passports, since we are immigrants). So, I couldn’t rely a lot on my husband to do housework and such.
I asked my parents to come over so we got a bit of extra help in taking care of my elder kid, especially that he just started attending school the very same day I gave birth.
Since we are not comfortable letting our parents doing all the house works, we decided on postpartum doula care.
What a relieved. It really eased my mind that I don’t need to think about laundry, cooking, and such, and just focus on my newborn baby and taking care of myself. That means eating enough, napping enough, pumping to increase supply.
Well, some of you may not have the luxury of having parents coming over or postpartum care. But, it all can be planned. Discuss with your husband that you need to focus the first few weeks for the baby. Perhaps, you could prepare one-month batch of freezer meal before giving birth? (I’ve seen a lot mothers doing that and it tremendously ease their task because they don’t need to cook, just reheat a single serving portion of their freezer meal). Or perhaps you are going to engaged somebody to do cooking for you and deliver to your home. Some of my friends did this.
So, the point here is to do the planning such that you can dedicate the first few weeks focusing on you and your baby.
Your baby is important and breast milk is one of the best thing you can give to your baby. So, plan ahead and give your milk supply a head start.
I hope these tips are useful for you to prepare for your breastfeeding journey. If you have any question, leave a comment below and I’ll happy to answer.
Have you been breastfeeding your baby before? What did you do to prepare for breastfeeding? I’d love to hear from you!