Let me first put something straight. I don’t use the word failed when I talk about breastfeeding. Nobody fails at breastfeeding in my opinion. But I’ve used the word in this blog title because I know that it’s how you feel. When breastfeeding doesn’t work out it’s felt very deeply. You may feel guilt that your baby stopped getting breast milk. You feel pain and grief that something you wanted so much, stopped before you had planned it to. You feel anger at your body, anger that you didn’t get the help you needed.
Maybe you had a baby who wasn’t putting on enough weight. Maybe your baby just fed and fed and fed and you thought you didn’t have enough milk. Maybe you had a traumatic birth and were separated from your little one. Maybe your baby seemed to hate breastfeeding. Maybe those around you just didn’t support what you were doing. Whatever the reason for the end of your breastfeeding relationship with your baby, I know that it hurts. Even if you know it was the right decision for you at the time, there is still pain and a sense of failure.
So you’re pregnant for the 2nd, 3rd……or whatever time. And this time you want to do it differently. Well here’s my top tips for helping you to achieve your goal and have the breastfeeding journey you want. And just so you know, I think that you’re amazing. Your strength and determination will get you far and I’m going to help you to head into this new chapter of your life full of confidence and excitement.
Look at what happened before
It’s a good idea to revisit your last experience and see what feelings and emotions come up. You could write down or journal what happened and how you feel about it. Or you could find somebody to talk it over with. I often find that if you don’t think it through before your baby comes, that the emotions can come rushing back when you start feeding again. You may experience the fear of things not working out again or doubt your ability to breastfeed at all. By acknowledging the feelings and emotions that come up you can make a decision to start moving on from them and begin a new story when it comes to breastfeeding.
If you are finding it too difficult and painful to revisit that time then I would urge you to seek some support around this. There are many talking therapies that can help. I particularly like the rewind technique, which can be very effective in helping you heal from difficult feelings from traumatic events.
Think about what you would like to happen
Again this can be written down or talked over with someone who you feel will listen and not judge. It’s a great idea to have some goals. How would you like things to be with your new baby? How would you like to feel? What emotions do you want to have around breastfeeding in the future? What does breastfeeding look like to you? Thinking about the emotions you want to experience can be very powerful.
Get educated on breastfeeding
This is a big one. As a society we have a lot of expectations on babies and parenthood that can lead to problems with feeding. There is also a lack of good quality lactation support in many areas. By learning about normal infant behaviour and what feeding looks like in the early weeks you can go into it fully prepared and with confidence. Find a local class, go to a local breastfeeding group, chat to a friend or family member who has breastfed, read a book – a good one is Breastfeeding Take Two by Stephanie Casemore.
Know where to get support if you need it
So another useful thing that you can do when expecting your baby is to find your local breastfeeding group or one to one support. Most breastfeeding groups welcome pregnant women with open arms and can be a really useful source of information. If you know where your local source of help is, then you know where to go if you run into any difficulties.
Plan a Babymoon
This isn’t always easy when you have a toddler or older children as well, but a little bit of planning can go a long way. If you plan to make the 1st few weeks about getting breastfeeding established then it might make the whole thing feel a little easier. Babies feed ALOT in the early weeks, So put your feet up and enjoy that bonding time with your little one. Instead of having lots of visitors, make sure that those who come over are the helpful guests. Ask friends to take your older ones to your normal groups or for a playdate at the park. Ensure family members bring you yummy food and do some washing up or a load of washing for you whilst they’re there. As your milk supply establishes and you and your baby get to grips with breastfeeding you will find that spaces between feeds become longer and you’ll feel more confident in getting out and about.
Find Your Village
It can be quite normal in the UK to not have any friends or family that have breastfed. It can make it quite isolating when others around you don’t understand how it all works. Go and find some other breastfeeding parents to hang out with. There are lots of breastfeeding charities that run groups and breastfeeding cafés around the country. Ask your Midwife or Health visitor where you could find some breastfeeding buddies locally to you.
Learn to look after yourself
We are so bad at this aren’t we? Over the years, and each time I had another child, I started looking after myself a little bit less. It was so easy to put everyone else first and make them my priority. But what I’ve learnt over the last few years is that to be a happy parent, I need to care for myself too. Now I’m making it my mission to ensure that all the families I work with know how important self care is.
Oxytocin is the love hormone. It makes us feel good and the great news it that it’s released when we breastfeed. Our babies pick up on that warm and loving feeling and it helps them to relax too. It’s one of the things that makes breastfeeding so special. It’s also the hormone that allows the milk to let down from deeper in our breast, into the nipples. But oxytocin is quite shy. It hides away when we are anxious, fearful or stressed. Learning some relaxation techniques that can help you to release that oxytocin can be very useful. Just closing your eyes and doing some deep breaths before you feed is a great place to start.
And remember breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing
Feeding looks different for everyone. It’s your journey and experience and it won't mirror anyone else’s in every aspect. Some families choose to combination feed and some have no choice but to offer supplements of one type or another to their baby. Have they failed at feeding their baby? Absolutely not. Every drop of your milk that your baby receives is important. Every minute that your baby is close to you, having their needs met is important too and that can look different in every family.
I hope you feel able to go forward with a bit more confidence now and are feeling positive and empowered to parent your next baby how you want to. If I can help you in any way along your journey then get in touch.