Breastfeeding. It’s something everyone has an opinion about, from well-meaning midwives and health visitors, to other mums and even that person in the cafe down the road. But it’s something lots of new parents worry about – and it’s something there’s a tonne of conflicting information out there about. We asked breastfeeding pro Chantelle Champs to share her top tips on the hottest topic in parenting.
Chantelle Champs is a mum of three and author of the book Milk It. She’s the breastfeeding cheerleader every new parent needs when they’re navigating the milky waters of breastfeeding with her judgement free, down-to-earth advice. Dedicated to making sure every you’ve got as much information as you need to make sure your baby is fed in whatever way you think is best, she joined us for our Spring Virtual Meet-up to share Everything You Need to Know About…Breastfeeding.
1. Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally – and that’s OK
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world, but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone who wants to do it. It takes work, determination and sometimes, a bit of bloody mindedness. If you’re aiming to breastfeed your first baby, it’s about learning on the job and doing so without judgement. Neither you or your baby are doing anything “wrong” if breastfeeding isn’t straightforward and it’s important to be as kind to yourself as possible
2. Research is key
While research won’t solve every bump in the road you encounter when you’re breastfeeding, it can go a long way. Fill your brain with as much research as possible when you’re pregnant and you’ll find it’s helpful when you’re in those hazy days of early babyhood. Join relevant Facebook groups, ask questions, seek support and you’ll find determination when you really need it.
3. Take comfort in the science
Your milk production works on a supply and demand basis: the more your baby demands, the more you’ll supply. The more you put your baby on your boobs, the more they’ll take and the more your body will make. Whatever you do from one day to the next, you’re basically putting in the order for the next day. Remember too that your body responds to your baby’s needs: if you’ve had a “straightforward” birth your milk comes in around day 3 when their stomach is ready for it – your body knows what your babe needs.
4. Cluster feeding is normal
Yes it’s exhausting. Yes it’s bloody hard work. Yes you’ll probably cry through some of the feeds. But it’s normal. And your body has enough milk. Remember that supply and demand theory. It usually comes when your baby is going through a developmental leap and lasts around 5-7 days. When you’re in the midst of a cluster feed and having a bad day, remember there are better days ahead. Chantelle’s top tip? “Don’t give up on a bad day”
5. Speak to the experts
If you feel like you’re struggling with breastfeeding or if your baby is experiencing a low weight, it’s worth chatting to your midwife, health visitor or a lactation expert. Your baby’s weight is a good indicator of your milk supply so if you find they’re losing weight, it might be that you’re not producing as much milk as you could be, and you might need a little extra support. That’s what the experts are there for, so don’t be afraid to reach out. And don’t be afraid to support your breastfeeding experience with formula if you need to. Breast fed, bottle fed – as long as they’re fed, it doesn’t matter.
6. Length of feed doesn’t indicate milk supply
It’s a myth that how long your baby feeds for is an indication of how much milk you have. Some days babies feed for ages and some days they feed for short, sharp bursts. The length of time they feed for can be down to developmental leaps or even how efficient they’ve got at feeding.
7. Look out for signs of mastitis
Mastitis can happen when you get a blocked milk duct that gets infected. It results in a high temperature and patchy, red boobs but it can be quite nasty if it’s not treated, so it’s really important to speak to your GP if you think you have mastitis. If you think you have a blocked milk duct, try massaging your boob with a warm flannel and make sure to get your baby to feed from the boob with the blocked duct to get things moving.
8. Sometimes it doesn’t work – and that’s OK too
Sometimes, even with all the will, determination, research and dedication in the world, breastfeeding isn’t possible and there is absolutely no shame in that. Whatever the reason for not being able to breastfeed, whether medical or otherwise, there can be a lot of stigma attached to a Mum who doesn’t breastfeed and we’re here to call bullsh*t on that. No parent should ever be made guilty for the way they feed their baby. Sometimes there are complications that come with the territory and we don’t do anyone any favours by pretending otherwise. Ask for help if you’re struggling to feed your baby, but please, please don’t beat yourself up if it’s not happening. And don’t let anyone else give you a hard time either.
9. Fed is best
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you feed your baby as long as they’re fed. A healthy baby is a happy baby, and a happy mum makes for a happy baby (where have we heard that before?!). If breast feeding isn’t working for you, don’t beat yourself up over it. Do what is best for you and your baby – and remember that you know better than anyone exactly what that is. However you choose to move forward on this journey, you’ve got this.
If you’re thinking about breast-feeding and want more advice from Chantelle, watch our supportive, encouraging and unbiased workshop below. It will not tell you how to feed your baby or that ‘breast is best’ but give you the benefits, facts and realities of starting out and establishing your breastfeeding journey with your baby. And if you’re looking to express, or move on to the bottle and not sure how, Chantelle will cover off a few of the basic myths and facts to help you on your feeding journey.