So the latest story riling up mothers everywhere is the NHS's plans to 'bribe' mothers to breastfeed.
I'm not going to make this a breast vs bottle debate because there is enough of that and this new scheme seems to make it worse.
Many are arguing that mothers should not need to be bribed to do what's right by their children. Others are arguing that it adds to the guilt of those who for some reason can't feed or gave up, widening the gap between the breast feeders and the formula feeders.
But in my opinion the main problem with this is it's missing one very important point. A point I feel that I and many others make over and over again; most mums want to breastfeed. It's not a lack of wanting to that's a problem, it's a lack of knowledge and support!
It's an unfortunate truth that many health care professionals just don't know enough about breastfeeding. If you want to know how to do it you need to find a peer supporter, see a lactation consultant, go on line, ask friends and family and just hope for the best.
So here is my survival guide for those who really want to make it work.
First; acknowledge and accept that there are going to be bumps in the road. At times it might feel overwhelming. The first few weeks of being a mother are exhausting beyond belief, many people are led to believe that by switching from breast to bottle it will somehow get easier. This is often not the case. I advise you ask all friends and family to refrain from suggesting a bottle when things get tough because you need support to breastfeed and bottle feeding is not what you want to do. Get your partner on board, he (or she) can take the load off by helping more with other children, taking over the housework/cooking and bringing you cups of tea. You're going to spend a lot of time sat feeding. Have toys out ready for other children and don't feel bad for putting them in front of the TV during these early weeks. It will pass. It's not forever and it won't harm them.
Secondly; babies feed a LOT. It is normal. Breastfeeding is a 24/7 job. Get yourself books, DVD's, cups of tea, bottles of water and snacks. If they feed constantly; this is normal. Breastfeeding is for comfort as well as nutrition. It does not indicate you have supply problems. Unless baby is visibly losing weight, has a dipped fontanelle, is extremely sleepy and/or has few wet nappies (in this case do seek help from a professional) then your supply is fine. Let baby feed as often and for as long as he or she needs to and you will have enough milk.
Third; babies wake a lot in the night. This is also normal. Do not try to encourage them to sleep for longer by using sleep training techniques or giving a bottle. Night time breast milk is higher in nutrients than day time breast milk and it also contains hormones to make you both sleepy! Sleep is also a developmental stage, you can't force it no matter what the baby experts claim. (see link at the bottom of the page for baby sleep cycle information)
Try co sleeping to make night times easier to deal with. (see link at the bottom of the page for safe co sleeping)
If co sleeping is not an option, at least have them in a cot near by so you don't have to get right out of bed to feed, this will add to your exhaustion (trust me, I learned the hard way!).
source google image search
Fourth; latch. Ask for help. Over and over if you have to. This can be the most difficult thing for some babies especially if there is tongue or lip tie. Make sure your midwife or health visitor checks for this if latching really seems to be a problem. If you have constant pain when feeding, blistered, cracked or bleeding nipples, baby makes clicking noises and comes off the breast a lot they may have a tongue or lip tie. Once diagnosed this can be corrected by a qualified professional and does not need to mean the end of breastfeeding.
Common traps mums fall into.
Increased frequency of feeds - many things can contribute to this; growth spurt, developmental leap, teething, separation anxiety, tiredness, sleep regression. If baby is alert when awake, has wet/dirty nappies, a good layer of fat on them and is generally well you do have enough milk. A bottle is not needed.
Increased night waking's - see above. You do not need to give solids (unless baby is 6 months or more and showing signs of being ready) or bottles.
Breasts don't feel full any more - after about 6-8 weeks (sometimes more, sometimes less) your supply will probably begin to settle down and your breasts won't 'fill up' so often. This doesn't mean you're not making milk. It just means that your body has adjusted to your baby's feeding pattern and has stopped being over active. Milk is produced on demand so when you latch your baby on, this is the signal to produce milk.
The let down can't be felt any more - in the early days and weeks the let down can be really strong (it's that feeling of tingling/stinging when the milk starts flowing) again this is to do with the supply settling down and you might even find the longer you feed, the less you feel it. You might not feel it at all after a while.
Baby's weight gain is slow - now this obviously can vary a lot from baby to baby and case to case and I do not wish or intend to override medical diagnosis here but breastfed babies do tend to gain slower than formula fed babies. The charts that tend to be used are geared towards formula fed babies so can show that a breastfed baby is not gaining enough. Often mums are told to give formula top ups. My advise here is if baby is thriving according to the points above and not actually losing weight then carry on breastfeeding. Make sure baby is feeding well, for a good amount of time on each breast to ensure they're getting the higher calorie hind milk and from both breasts if necessary. Adding top ups will reduce the amount baby feeds from you because he or she will be very full and your supply will drop. This can become a vicious circle to those who want to feed.
Not being able to express much - how much you can express is not an indicator of your supply. The action of a pump or your hand is not the same as the suckling action of a baby. Mums with the most over active supply can still have real trouble expressing. When my daughters would feed I could fill a bottle with the opposite breast to which they were feeding from, I could shoot people across the room with my milk if they let go (thankfully the people this happened to have a good sense of humour!), but if I tried to express I could barely get a drop out.
Not having time - maybe there are other children to attend to, maybe you have lots of pets. I don't know everyone's specific situations but it's honestly quicker to breastfeed than it is to formula feed if you're going to formula feed correctly and safely. As you get the hang of feeding you can begin to do it one handed, in a sling and standing on your head. It does get easier. Your other children won't starve or be neglected because you're breastfeeding. See my point about supportive partners, snacks, drinks, toys and TV. It's ok! You can do it! Bottles won't make things less hectic.
Falling for the formula ads - this is a horrible trap! Giggling babies, teddy bears, health claims and 'helpful' statements about nutrition. Formula companies will say anything to make you buy their products. No matter what they say formula will never, ever be as good as breast milk (this is not a dig at anyone who has used formula, I have myself and I have also almost fallen for the lies too) Your breast milk DOES have everything your baby needs and no, those benefits never stop, you do not need to stop at 6 months, a year. Breast milk is good for your baby for as long as they're getting it. The reason formula is advertised from 6 months is because that is the law, they cannot advertise first baby milks. Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first 6 months *with continued feeding along side solid food* this often get's confused with 6 months being the amount of time recommended so formula companies jump on that. It's actually 2 years according to WHO.
I hope I have covered everything here! Please do feel free to post questions in the comments and I will answer them if I can!
I am a mum of two (soon to be 3!) who were both breastfed (13 months and 10 months, the next I am planning on allowing to self wean) and have taken a peer supporter course. I have been through everything mentioned here, I'm not just some self proclaimed expert who has no experience. It's tough, I know! But you can do this!
For more help and information visit these websites.
Here is information on baby sleep cycles http://www.parentingscience.com/baby-sleep-patterns.html
Here is how to co sleep safely http://kellymom.com/parenting/nighttime/cosleeping/