Worried about breastfeeding? You’re not alone.
Pregnancy can feel overwhelming, especially when you’re trying to keep up with all the dos and don’ts! From those 3am cheese toastie cravings, to the first big nappy change after baby arrives, there’s lots to look forward to!
Breastfeeding is one of many things you may start thinking about during pregnancy. It’s normal to feel overloaded with information, but remember that everyone’s pregnancy and breastfeeding experience is completely unique, so there are no set rules on what should happen or how you should feel. Your breastfeeding journey will bring you moments of pure joy, but you might also face some challenges along the way.
To help you feel more prepared we’ve answered some of the “what if” questions we hear a lot from mums, and they will give you a helping hand when planning your breastfeeding journey:
What if I give birth prematurely?
It is important to understand that if your baby arrives early, in most cases, it shouldn’t impact your ability to produce milk. Lactation can be encouraged and maintained with support. If you place your baby close to your breast whenever you can and keep creating skin-to-skin contact (also known as kangaroo care), this will help to release hormones which trigger you to produce breastmilk.
Breast massage can also help, and your health care team will be able to teach you techniques to help you boost your breastmilk production. It’s also useful to have a good breast pump, which will allow you to express your breastmilk to feed your little one if they’re unable to feed at the breast.
Remember that just because a baby may not have been able to feed at the breast from the start, it doesn’t mean that they will be unable to breastfeed when they’re a little bigger.
What if my baby refuses my breast or is a ‘slow starter’ to feed?
Sometimes a newborn is unable to latch onto the breast immediately after birth. This might last a few hours or days, and it can be very distressing or frustrating for you as a mother.
By trusting your baby and yourself, increasing skin-to-skin contact, and learning to identify their hunger cues, you can continue to bond with them while learning more about how they feed. Usually, with good practical and emotional support, feeding issues can be resolved, and you can go on to breastfeed successfully.
Some babies just need a little time to get used to the breast, so don’t rush them before they’re ready. Try hand expressing a little milk to encourage them and place them on your breast often.
What if I experience pain when breastfeeding?
You may hear about cracked nipples and pain while breastfeeding, but these do not have to be rites of passage! A baby who is correctly positioned, who has no sucking problems and who can easily access the breast, should not cause nipple damage.
If you can, take the time to get to know your breasts before baby arrives. Breast massage is a great way to do this and the movement helps relieve pain and discomfort and reduces engorgement or tenderness when your milk comes in. The key is to make sure you and your baby have good positioning and latch.
Can I breastfeed lying down?
Everyone is different, so if a position doesn’t seem to be working for you, try holding your baby in a different way. Just remember that baby’s head and body should be in a straight line, and their nose should be opposite your nipple.
If you do experience pain when breastfeeding, speak to your healthcare professional who can check your latch and positioning.
What if I have insufficient or low-quality milk?
Most women are able to produce enough milk to feed their baby and their milk will always have all the nutrients that baby needs. It can be difficult to trust this and just go with the flow (excuse the pun!), however, because if you’re feeding from the breast, it’s impossible to know exactly how much milk your baby has had.
Keeping track of wet and dirty nappies and your baby’s weight gain will help to reassure you that your baby is feeding well. If you’re trying to build your milk supply, remember that your body has its own supply and demand system going – the more you feed or pump, the more milk your body produces.
When is the best time to express milk?
Night feeding is important for this system, as your body produces more milk during the night. As a new mum, it may be hard to know what a normal amount is, so if you are in any doubt, seeking support from a professional will help put your mind at rest.
What if my partner feels excluded?
Every little bit helps when you have a newborn, and this is true for breastfeeding too! Including your partner in your plans to breastfeed will help to make sure you have the support you need. Including them in all aspects of caring for baby will help him to bond with the baby, and it will also give you time to rest between feeds.
Whether it be helping baby go to sleep, enjoying skin-to-skin contact, changing nappies, going for a walk, playing, smiling and laughing, these are all things that will help your partner to bond with baby and feel like a part of the team.
What if my body doesn’t go back to normal?
Your body will change during and after pregnancy, but the good news is that breastfeeding uses additional calories! If you have a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, your body will burn some of the extra fat stored during pregnancy. Remember to not restrict yourself, listen to your body and treat yourself from time to time. Your milk will always be just what your baby needs.
What if I need to breastfeed in public?
Some mums are very comfortable feeding in public, but for others, breastfeeding in public can make a new mum feel nervous. Feeling nervous won’t help you when you’re trying to nurse, though!
Going out with friends or other mums the first time you nurse in public might help you to feel more at ease. You could also use a nursing cover or find a quiet place to sit to make you feel more comfortable during a breastfeeding session.
Remember that your comfort while feeding is important and you have the right to breastfeed wherever you need to. Thanks to the hormones that are released when you breastfeed, you will feel more relaxed and confident when doing it – so even if it feels like a challenge now, you may feel more confident when the time comes!
To learn more, you could speak to other mums who have breastfed, they will be able to tell you their story including the magical moments and some of the challenges you might experience, so you can feel totally prepared. You can also read more about breastfeeding in public on our blog. There are also healthcare professionals who have experience and breastfeeding advice and can help you find answers or solutions that work for you.
Breastfeeding is a journey that is unique to everyone and the best thing you can do for you and your baby is to learn about it so you can make the right decision for you when the time comes.