I remember the day a good friend of mine told me that the best moments she had with her baby was when she was breastfeeding. In fact here in Australia, we hear a lot of great stories about mothers' experiences with breastfeeding and all the benefits from it. This highly encouraged me to breastfeed my babies, and I certainly don't regret it... but it's fair to say that breastfeeding isn't always easy and feeling excessive external pressure to breastfeed doesn't always help either!
One of the lessons I learnt along the way, is that your environment plays a huge role when it comes to deciding whether to breastfeed, and how long for.
- From a cultural point of view, if you live in a country like Australia, you will be highly encouraged to breastfeed. This is not the case in many other countries, including my birth country, France!
- From an emotional point of view, your partner’s support is extremely important. I remember my husband staying awake during the entire feed (which was long) next to me and holding my hand when I had my first bad experience with cracks. His strong support gave me the courage to persevere.
- From a lifestyle point of view, you may have or want to go back to work fairly quickly after your baby's birth, which may not allow you to breastfeed your baby, unless you are prepared to use a breastpump and store your milk.
Without a supportive environment, breastfeeding can become really difficult. But it's important to remember that when you choose to breastfeed, you make an investment in your baby's future.
The most important benefit is that children who are breastfed have a 20% lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year than children who weren't breastfed, with longer breastfeeding associated with lower risk, according to a study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers by promoting faster recovery from childbirth, reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in later life, and reducing maternal depression.
Establishing breastfeeding is always easier if you put the baby to the breast within a few minutes of delivery. In addition, the colostrum in your breasts during the first three days after birth contains valuable antibodies that will protect your baby against all kinds of diseases.
Lisa Westlake, a highly renowned physiotherapist, says: “It is important to monitor your posture while feeding”. You can avoid aches and pains by ensuring you are well supported, allowing your neck and shoulders to relax. You may use a small footstool, so that your knees are slightly higher than your hips and a pillow under the arm that is supporting your baby.
Breastfeeding outside is always trickier, juggling between holding baby and trying not to show too much breast! Thankfully, I always wrapped my baby in his Babynomade blanket, so at least I knew that he was cosily wrapped and warm, protected from the wind. One less thing to worry about!
Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience but it is not always easy. You might hear about (and fear!) low milk supply, engorgement, crevasses, mastitis… yes indeed, I confirm, all this can happen and is not pleasant! But there are resources available for support. The Australian Breastfeeding Association is here to help. They provide regular breastfeeding education classes, which are a great way to gain skills and confidence!
So if you can breastfeed, my advice is: go for it! For me, as it did for my good friend, breastfeeding gave me wonderful moments of nursing, incredible connection with my baby and a great sense of achievement.
Hopefully you will soon have your own experience to share with us... we would love to hear about your personal breastfeeding stories (good or bad) to help new mums! Please don't hesitate to share it in our comments section below.