If I were to go back and give myself some advice before embarking on breastfeeding for the first time this would be it:
- Do your research. Read about breastfeeding and watch some videos of getting the latch right whilst you're pregnant. The more you know beforehand the less you'll have to find out when you're exhausted after the birth. I found the book The Food of Love extremely helpful - it was leant to me by a friend and was a great recommendation. It's written in cartoon format which bemused me at first but actually it's brilliant and so easy to follow. The last thing you want when reeling from pregnancy and/or birth is complicated wordiness. The troubleshooting section is especially good and got me through a few problems.
Knowing how to ‘latch on’ is the key at the beginning. I watched this video over and over (it's only a few seconds long) until I had it cemented in my mind - you’re exhausted after labour/birth so you don’t want to do much thinking.
Many people talk of nose to nipple positioning which worked okay for us but I found just ensuring Baby D's chin rested on my boob first and then she would automatically open her mouth and I could get the nip in there super quick and her nose would be completely clear of breast tissue ensuring a good deep latch.
Also read about oxytocin the love hormone and its role in milk flow.
- Go to a breastfeeding support group. Talk to other mums about how they got on and what helped them. It was suggested to me by my antenatal class teacher that I should visit my local breastfeeding group before baby's arrival. I felt a bit silly and didn't go along. I wish I had taken that advice and gone along. I now go to one every week, the mums there are full of helpful information and are very supportive with no judgement at all. There are always trained breastfeeding peer supporters who have extra knowledge and sometimes a lactation consultant comes along. I love to pick her brains. I've made some great friends there and we have a nice cup of tea and a natter together whilst the babies feed, sleep and play.
- Have a lactation consultant's phone number at hand. If you get expert help (not all midwives and health visitors are great with breastfeeding help, some are but not all) at the beginning when encountering problems they can be nipped in the bud. You do have to pay for a consultation but many mums I know said it's the best money they spent - and far cheaper than formula in the long run. Find your local lactation consultants here.
- Ensure your partner knows what they are in for and what your wishes are before baby arrives. Mine knew that I personally desperately wanted to breastfeed and had instructed him to not let me give up when the tough times came. On the sore, tired, bad days I was sometimes tempted to give up and if he had 'given me permission' (for want of a better phrase) I could well have stopped months ago. But he reminded me of my wishes at these times and helped me through.
Breastfeeding makes you extremely hungry and thirsty - so your partner will need to bring you snacks and drinks, pass you the remote control and for us Baby D kept sticking her fingers in her mouth when I was trying to latch her on so he had to gently hold her hands away!
- Get a good nipple cream. Lansinoh HPA Lanolin is great. A little bit goes a long way. It's very soothing and healing. (It shouldn't be used if you get nipple thrush though as is sort of seals it in). However if you're a vegan you may not want to use lanolin it as its derived from sheep's wool. In which case a coconut oil based one will be just as good. In fact coconut oil is naturally anti fungal and anti bacterial which helps keep the nasties away. There's lots of hand made ones on etsy or you could make your own like I do (use search engine to find recipes). In the first 8 weeks or so I used nipple cream after every feed and stopped using/needing at about 4 months.
- Have some comfortable breast pads at the ready. I've tried every brand of disposable pad I can find - most of which have been scratchy around the circumference or leaked. There are only two that I like: Lansinoh a Ultra Thin Stay Dry Nursing Pads which are lovely and soft and never seem to leak but are a little pricey and Johnson's Baby Nursing pads which are smaller (fine for me and my little boobs).
Many people use cloth washable ones - I've tried a few but none have been able to contain my terrible leakyness.
-Get some nipple healing/soothing things. As the soreness can get a bit much in the first weeks there are things other than just nipple creams that can help. There are compresses and such. I like Multi-Mam Compresses but there are other things available in all good chemists.
I also got some nipple shells. I like the Avent Comfort Breast Shells. You place them over the nipple inside your bra (only for 40 minutes at a time) and they prevent anything from touching the nipple which gives them a bit of relief. You wouldn’t wear them outside the house though, they look very obvious and weird. In this set you get 2 with air holes which are great for relief and healing or there are 2 that are sealed which are great for collecting leaking milk. I used to find during a let down when Baby D was on one breast the other would also have a letdown and release a lot of milk. This way I could collect it for later.
Other things to consider are:
Nursing chair or pillow
I hope some of this is of use!