A lactation consultant's guide to breastfeeding your baby

Lactation consultant, Sally Etheridge, explains why breastfeeding is so important and offers some handy pointers about how to get started and where to get the support you want.


Guest pregnancy blog by Sally Etheridge IBCLC, Deputy Chair of the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain, 03/08/2017

Why breastfeed?

During pregnancy, it’s natural to focus on the labour and birth. However, enjoying feeding your baby is the foundation of your relationship together, so seeking information and thinking about your support network is actually a very important part of the preparation for birth.

You’ve probably heard that breastfeeding is ‘best for babies’ because, among other things, it: 

  • protects against disease
  • encourages optimum health and development
  • helps with bonding
  • protects mothers’ health and wellbeing too.

But you might also have heard that it can be difficult or that ‘not everyone can breastfeed’. Maybe you have friends or relatives who didn’t find it easy, or who stopped breastfeeding earlier than they intended to. Are you worried that you will be one of those mums that ‘just can’t do it’? Or, perhaps you tried with a previous baby and it didn’t work out. Please don’t be put off by the stories you hear or previous experiences because every time will be unique. 

Like any new skill, breastfeeding takes time to get the hang of. Your greatest ally in developing this new skill is patience with yourself and your baby. Keeping your baby really close, not just in the first hour after birth but also in the hours and days following their arrival, allows you to get to know them, to pick up on their cues and to let your mothering instincts kick in. Remember, your body has grown this baby, given birth to this baby and now it is ready to nurture him or her.

Attending a local antenatal breastfeeding class is great, as they are often attended by breastfeeding peer supporters, allowing you to find out what is available near you.

Breastfeeding goals

You may have learned you need an induction, a caesarean section, or be facing something else that makes you fear that breastfeeding will be more challenging.

While every mother and baby’s birth and journey is individual to them, there are things that can help everyone meet their breastfeeding goals, and ensure you and your baby enjoy a close and loving feeding relationship.

Breaking down the barriers and figuring out where to start

Talk to your midwife and ask questions

Talk to your care team so they know how important breastfeeding is to you and your baby, and explore together how any barriers may be removed and overcome. If you have questions, always ask. If you need some extra support, then say.

Check whether your local hospital has Unicef Baby Friendly accreditation. These hospitals have been assessed to make sure they have a culture where breastfeeding is encouraged and supported, and where policies and training are in place to protect and promote best practice.

‘I was so grateful to be in an environment where I was constantly helped to learn how to breastfeed. I couldn’t do it without help at first, but by the time I left I had the confidence to feed my baby at home on my own – and it has been easy ever since!’Lily Cole on the help she received at Baby Friendly accredited St Thomas’ Hospital

Write a post-birth plan

Talk about your wishes for your baby with your (birth) partner. It can be hard to speak up for what you want when you have just had your baby so having a plan in place can really help. Your birth partner’s voice, along with the plans you have prepared, may be crucial to getting the support you want, how you want it.

Local support groups

Write down or save on your phone the numbers for breastfeeding support locally, along with the national helpline number 0300 100 0212.

Give yourself time and space

Talk to your family about your wishes too. Think about what visitors you want, and how to keep these special early days calm, private and unhurried.

Skin to skin

Skin to skin contact straight after delivery, or as soon as possible after, for at least an hour undisturbed allows you and your baby to rest together and have time to adjust.

Enjoy this time together

There are as many ways to enjoy nurturing your baby through feeding as there are mums and babies. Understanding the issues alongside sensitive trained help and a clear action plan, means most babies, whatever their initial challenges, can go on to breastfeed happily.

This is a special time for you and your baby, so treasure it.

Thank you

We would like to say a big thank you to Sally for writing these guest posts for us, and for helping us to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. Find out more about the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain by visiting www.lcgb.org or emailing [email protected].

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