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The Breastfeeding Journey

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Did you know that in Australia, approximately 96% of babies begin life being breastfed, but only 39% are still exclusively breastfed by only three months of age? And that figure continues to drop as babies get older.


These stats speak volumes. It's clear that women recognise the importance of breastfeeding and want to provide that to their babies, but what is also obvious is that a) breastfeeding is not without its challenges and b) women are not getting adequate support to continue their breastfeeding journey.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life, and then continued breastfeeding until 2 years of age and beyond.


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Breastfeeding has numerous benefits for both baby and mother.


Health benefits like reduced risk of cancer, osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes for mother, reduced risk of SIDS/SUDI for babies, as well as infection-fighting antibodies and good bacteria.


The HMOs (human milk oligosaccharides) found in breastmilk are sugars indigestible to the human gut whose entire job is to feed the good gut bacteria of the baby - essentially developing the baby's gut flora.


Breastmilk contains a complete nutritional profile for a baby and adapts to their nutritional needs over time. Even the act of breastfeeding provides important stimulation which helps with baby's development.


Breastfeeding also provides your baby with comfort and helps with mother-baby bonding. And, let's not forget, it's generally free* and super convenient**


*in the sense that you don't have to go out and buy it; there is definitely a cost when you consider the time and energy a mother uses to breastfeed

**sometimes - particularly when compared to remembering to buy, prepare, clean, & sanitise bottles


So why are so many women giving it up?


Honestly, there are so many reasons, but the biggest one is that breastfeeding is not well supported or understood in our society, even our maternal healthcare system. We have a massive lack of postpartum support in general and most of the health professionals we see in that postpartum period have limited breastfeeding education - our GPs, MHCNs, and even many of our midwives.


Two of the biggest reasons women give up breastfeeding are a) actual or perceived low supply and b) ongoing pain and/or discomfort. In almost all cases, the right support could help women work through these issues, and personal education and breastfeeding knowledge can give them the confidence to push through.


What can I do to set myself up for breastfeeding success?

  • get educated with a breastfeeding course: Maternal Instincts by Amberley is one I can recommend, with fantastic videos that help demonstrate a lot of the techniques.

  • create a breastfeeding plan: either as part of your birth plan or a separate plan altogether

  • surround yourself with the right information: social media accounts by Pinky McKay, The Milk Meg, The Australian Breastfeeding Association, and The Breastmilk Queen are great places to start.

  • ready your support network: find care providers in your area who you know you can contact asap if you run into problems, ideally IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants)

  • avoid unnecessary labour and birth intervention: breastfeeding is a biological and therefore hormonal process, and birth interventions can significantly affect these hormonal processes

  • give baby time to self-attach after birth: learn about and be prepared to give the appropriate amount of time to the breast crawl

  • feed on demand: feeding to a schedule can really impact your breastfeeding journey!

  • avoid introducing dummies, bottles and formula for at least the first six weeks

  • look ahead to that golden six week mark, where for the majority of women, breastfeeding starts to really fall into place

  • be gentle on yourself! Breastfeeding, although very much an instinctive biological process, is still a new skill for you and your baby to learn. It can take time and effort, and many, many women need that extra support and time to get it right.



Pregnancy, birth, baby, labour, babies, doula, women, maternity, healthcare, twins, triplets, antenatal, postnatal, postpartum, trimester, gestation, gestational, intrapartum, delivery, hospital, homebirth, freebirth, hypnobirth, hypnobirthing, breastfeed, breastfeeding, pregnant, vbac, nbac, caesarean, physiology, csection, neonatal, caregiver, uterus, womb, dilate, dilation, cervix, oxytocin, endorphins, birth support, waterbirth, doula Penrith, western Sydney doula, postpartum doula, postnatal doula, blue mountains doula, nepean hospital, Hawkesbury hospital, blue mountains hospital, nepean hospital doula, nepean private hospital, westmead hospital, westmead doula, nepean doula, vbac doula, vbac penrith, vbac blue mountains, vbac western Sydney,

Western Sydney & Blue Mountains resources:


IBCLCs:

Liz Thornton

Kerry McCoy

Or use this link to find one near you


Apps:


ABA Groups:


Breastmilk Donations:

Pregnancy, birth, baby, labour, babies, doula, women, maternity, healthcare, twins, triplets, antenatal, postnatal, postpartum, trimester, gestation, gestational, intrapartum, delivery, hospital, homebirth, freebirth, hypnobirth, hypnobirthing, breastfeed, breastfeeding, pregnant, vbac, nbac, caesarean, physiology, csection, neonatal, caregiver, uterus, womb, dilate, dilation, cervix, oxytocin, endorphins, birth support, waterbirth, doula Penrith, western Sydney doula, postpartum doula, postnatal doula, blue mountains doula, nepean hospital, Hawkesbury hospital, blue mountains hospital, nepean hospital doula, nepean private hospital, westmead hospital, westmead doula, nepean doula, vbac doula, vbac penrith, vbac blue mountains, vbac western Sydney,

General resources:


Phone Numbers:

ABA 24/7 Helpline: 1800 686 268

(staffed by trained volunteers, call with any breastfeeding concerns)

Mothersafe : 1800 647 848

(helpline regarding exposures during pregnancy and breastfeeding)

Rodney Whyte : (03) 9594 2361

(legend - expert advice on medications and breastfeeding)


Podcasts:

The Midwives' Cauldron podcast (with incredible Midwife & IBCLC Katie James, co-hosted with Dr Rachel Reed)




Websites:


Facebook Groups:

Breastfeeding Co-operative Australia - this is a really brilliant group with excellent support

Breastfeeders in Australia - another great group



References:



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