One of the most daunting moments of being a new mother is the breastfeeding experience. You'll hear claims that it's the "most natural thing in the world" however for the majority of women, that's not the case.
We absolutely advocate for "fed is best" but as a Mum who found breastfeeding a challenge with both of my babies, we reached out to a breastfeeding expert, as like me, I was sure this is subject you'd also like to know more about.
We spoke to expert Susie Prout, who is a registered midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC).
Susie saw a disconnect in how mothers are consulted about breastfeeding and a desperate need for support, which is why she created her breastfeeding and bottle refusal program online.
We asked Susie a number of questions regarding her experience, tips and other pointers she can provide for first time mums.
What inspired you to become a lactation consultant?
After I became a registered midwife I realised just how much our postnatal ladies were suffering with their breastfeeding due to lack of education and support.
Being a midwife, you only have a very basic knowledge of breastfeeding and you are certainly not qualified to assess a mother and baby when breastfeeding is not going well. I could see the gaps in the system and I didn’t want to be a part of the problem. I needed to be part of the solution.
Most people go into midwifery with a passion for labour and birth - however my passion is breastfeeding and the early postnatal period - so becoming an international board certified lactation consultant was the next step for me and I haven't looked back!
How do you work with new mothers to help them establish successful breastfeeding?
My ideal scenario is to be able to educate the mother while she is still pregnant! Learning how to breastfeed BEFORE you have a baby lying on your chest squawking at you after birth is the best way to learn.
I believe that having easy to follow, step by step videos that you can go back and watch over and over again is the gold standard for breastfeeding success. You can’t learn it once and then remember it all! It's a learned skill and there are many parts to it. So, I teach women within an online membership model - so they have videos, step by step, they have me as their support person and they have other women in the community that are all going through the same thing.
Support, education and community is what makes breastfeeding a success.
What are some common misconceptions about breastfeeding that you often need to address with new mothers?
There are two main ones. The first being that women are told that breastfeeding is painful. Yes breastfeeding can be painful when the attachment is not correct and too shallow on the nipple. However breastfeeding is NOT a painful thing when it works. Sometimes it can feel a bit sore in the first couple of weeks but it doesn't last! Lots of mums-to-be are frightened of breastfeeding - because everyone loves to tell you a horror story and rarely shares how amazing and easy and painless breastfeeding can be.
The second misconception is that it's common to not make enough milk for your baby. If you breastfeed exclusively and your baby is draining the breast well, it's actually very rare to have a true low milk supply from having insufficient milk making tissue in your breasts. What is common is if someone is not breastfeeding effectively - maybe using a bottle or the attachment is not right - then breastmilk can dwindle - but this is due to how you are feeding and not due to your bodies inability to make milk.
How do you support mothers who are returning to work but want to continue breastfeeding?
I see lots of ladies in this position, and it usually can be done. The main thing is that we work on protecting your milk supply so that it doesn't drop while you are working - an individual expressing plan is important so that you know when and how to express, and then store and then transport your milk home.
Baby will need to have bottles (or cups if they are older) while you are not with them so that's another thing to factor in, and then sometimes babies can get fussy on the breast if they really enjoy the bottle.
Demand feeding at the breast is important to prioritise when you are not at work so they really get that time there so as not to breast refuse. But it certainly can be done.
Any advice you would give to expecting parents unsure about their feeding journey?
Breastfeeding is a learned skill - we are not expected to just instinctively know what to do. So many new mums are hard on themselves because they are struggling, yet they don't have the support and the right education to help them learn.
Find an IBCLC who can support you, that you gel with. Find a breastfeeding support group or join a breastfeeding membership, like mine. Something that makes you feel like you are not alone - there is so much help out there and linking in with an IBCLC or group is everything!
The other thing is that breastfeeding is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because you are having a bad day or week with your feeding does not mean that you will always feel that way. Early intervention rather than winging it is key.
What are the essential items you’d keep in your baby bag to assist with feeding?
- Breast pads for leakage.
- Big water bottle because you need to keep your fluids up. A snack - same reason.
- A light wrap or feeding cover (if you find feeding in public a bit stressful these may help you feel better about it).
- Face cloth or similar for spills/spews.
Note, Alf the Label is proud to provide access to guest bloggers in a variety of fields to assist in the parenting journey, however it's important to note this is not personalised medical advice and we always recommend consulting with your health care team for any medical related queries.