7th August 2018

Dr Emily MacDonagh: A mum’s guide to (the reality of) breastfeeding

You’ve bought the baby clothes. The crib is built. After one or two ‘discussions’ the baby name has been picked. You’re ready to start breastfeeding…right?

If you do decide breastfeeding is for you, it’s often something that takes a little time to learn and you may even have a few false starts. As World Breastfeeding Week draws to a close, Dr Emily MacDonagh, junior doctor and mum of two, gives her advice on breastfeeding for those who choose to feed their baby this way.

Getting over the awkwardness of public breastfeeding

The combination of a hungry baby and a potential ‘public feed’ can be a terrifying thought. Sadly, the worry of exposing a little too much or getting stares from strangers can stop many mums from breastfeeding in public.

A really easy way to feel comfortable breastfeeding in public is to plan what to wear in advance (layering is key!), using a muslin or choosing a discreet spot to ease the worry.

But remember it’s actually against the law to stop a woman breastfeeding in a public place!
Coffee shops like Starbucks are letting mums (and the public know) they are breastfeeding friendly places – look out for the ‘breastfeeding friendly’ and ‘breastfeeding welcome’ stickers on their doors.

On demand Vs establishing a routine, what’s best?

Sometimes it can seem like a baby wants to breastfeed all day long, especially in the early days, when newborns can be insatiably hungry. During this stage it’s best to be guided by your baby and feed ‘on demand’ – our bodies are amazing things, providing a constant supply of food, ready at the perfect temperature, whenever your baby needs it!

As babies get older and more practiced they’ll need to feed less often and be able to go longer between ‘meals’, meaning you can start to establish a routine. The Start4Life Breastfeeding Friend can offer lots more advice to new mums throughout their breastfeeding journey. For further information and support visit the Start4Life breastfeeding area on the NHS website.

Don’t assume because you cracked it first time, it will be the same second time around!

I know from personal experience that every baby is different. I had a wonderful experience with Millie, yet with my second child, Theo, things were not so straight forward.

There are lots of reasons why mums in the UK might choose to give up breastfeeding; sore nipples, difficulties with milk supply and effective attachment can cause pain, discomfort and frustration.

But breastfeeding is definitely something which mum and each baby learn together so getting the right support is so important in helping mums overcome challenges and breastfeed for longer. Speaking and sharing your experiences with other breastfeeding mums (thank you MUSH!), contacting the National Breastfeeding Helpline or using a digital tool, can really help if you’re having a few difficulties.

Breastfeeding support – help is on hand

Breastfeeding can boost a baby’s ability to fight illness and infection. However, the UK has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.

Health visitors, midwives and local breastfeeding groups can provide a wealth of support, but what can we turn to during night feeds when the professionals are not around?

There are actually some amazing 21st century ways to get advice on breastfeeding. A new ‘Breastfeeding Friend’ has been launched this week on Google Assistant. It’s voice activated meaning mums can get NHS-approved advice in the moment and when they may have their hands full. Anyone with a smartphone can download the Google Assistant app and say “Hey Google, talk to Breastfeeding Friend” to access the service. It also works on a Google Home device.

The Breastfeeding Friend is also available via Amazon Alexa and Facebook Messenger – check out the Start4Life website for more information.

And as a final point – be prepared… there may be leakages and awkward moments but with the right sense of humour and support, it will be worth it!

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