Expert Tips for Breastfeeding Mums Juggling It All In 2020
There’s no doubt this year’s been tough on everyone – but perhaps even more so on breastfeeding mums.
For many mums, they’ve managed breastfeeding in isolation with a newborn baby – first time, or with other kids and family members, had limited access to support from loved ones, or juggled the balance of breastfeeding while working in a world where things change daily. Or faced lost jobs and incomes.
As a certified lactation consultant every day I talk with these incredible women about the challenges they’re going through – and 2020 has taught us it’s the year to expect the unexpected.
And even for myself – it’s been just that.
When I thought my breastfeeding days were well behind me, this year I discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant at 10 weeks, with child number four on the way for our newly blended family, in the middle of a global pandemic.
It was then the shock of it all sank in.
How will I juggle a newborn, tweens, two businesses and a household in a time of constant change?
How will I juggle breastfeeding – or will I even be able to breastfeed, having had bariatric surgery, a mere three months before?
But, before I let my imagination run riot, it was time to take a step back heed the advice I give to the mums I help – and here’s just a few important ones I’ll be doing:
Tips for how I’ll balance being a breastfeeding mum, “while juggling it all”
1) Get clear on my breastfeeding values and have a “flexible” plan
While my breastfeeding values are similar to what they were previously with my last pregnancy, but this time is different – as a newly wed to my husband.
Having both had other parenting experiences of newborns with our older children from our previous relationships, we each bring different experiences, expectations and understanding.
We make it a priority to talk often and prioritise taking life more mindfully and slowly.
I intend to have a 42-day postpartum rest period, so my baby and I can have a calm, restful and healing entry to the world.
I will also prioritise as much skin-to-skin contact and “bonding” time with my baby to help promote the best breastfeeding experience.
If you want to become more breastfeeding wise, and develop your own approach for breastfeeding, a great way to do this is via an antenatal breastfeeding session or class with your local International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC®), at your hospital, or through The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA).
2) Prioritise what’s important, and forget or get help with what’s not
Whether you may or may not have support around you, this is the time to focus on what’s important, and outsource or drop what’s not.
I’m taking pressure off myself to do all the “things”, and just be.
For me – housework is not top of the priority list.
We’ve created a chore list for the kids they love to work on when they want extra money. We’ve also asked our cleaner to ‘extras’ like laundry and dishes, hired a gardener, and we’ve started using a meal delivery service.
And I’ll also be streamlining areas of my Lactation Consulting Business to keep work as straightforward as possible.
Even if you don’t have additional support to bring in – remember, take things off your do to list. Folding for one should be dropped!
3) Focus on my wellbeing for the best breastfeeding experience for me and my baby
Self-care is thrown around a lot these days, and there’s a good reason for it. Barely do us mums have time to slow down and take better care of ourselves.
A few ways I’ll prioritise my wellbeing is to get adequate nutrition and calories to sustain my milk supply.
I’ll also have my Medela Harmony breast pump on hand to help build and maintain my supply if extra support is needed.
And even as an IBCLC, should I need additional, independent support I’ll lean on my private practice midwife and registered IBCLC colleagues to get my maternity care in the privacy (and COVID-free safety) of my home – and I encourage all mums to do the same.
4) How I’ll prevent or manage any pain with breastfeeding
Unfortunately, too many pregnant mums fear breastfeeding from the horror stories they’ve heard about pain, nipple damage or mastitis.
While everyone talks about the horror stories, we rarely share the good stories, so no wonder new mums can feel hesitant.
Fortunately, there are things you can do (and of course I will too) – to know, prepare for and help avoid pain while breastfeeding. It includes:
a) Nailing your position (and attachment)
A less-than-effective latch is a fast track ticket to pain, damage, decreased milk removal and a cranky mum and baby!
No matter what position you feed your baby in – whether it’s cradle position (as per image), football or under arm position, laid back or lying down, we want your baby as close to you as possible, with their arms almost hugging your breast. Think “tummy to mummy”.
Figure 1 An ideal attachment with baby on breast, using cradle position - image sourced from Medela Australia
Now we want your baby to be able to extend their head back. This is so they can open their mouth wide and get a good mouthful of your nipple and areola when they come forward and latch to your breast.
To help ‘line’ your baby up so their head isn’t too far forward and their chin isn’t pointing toward their chest, it is helpful to line their nose up with your nipple.
That way, when they extend their head back, their mouth lines up with your nipple. A good way to remember this tip is “nose to nipple”
It is much easier to swallow with your head tilted back slightly and much more uncomfortable if our chin is pointed toward our chest (go on, give it a try!).
The same is true for little babies. We want their chin pressed into your breast tissue, to help them extend their head back.
We can accentuate this by pulling their hips closer to us when feeding. We call this one “chin to breast”.
b) Remove milk frequently
Mastits happens when there is ‘milk stasis’ and we aren’t removing milk frequently enough, or completely enough.
Babies feed 8-12 or more times during the day to satisfy their hunger and thirst, while also keeping your supply in line with their nutritional needs.
If you miss a feed, extend baby’s feeding times as your breasts can become quite full and engorged and this leads to mastitis.
The easiest way to help alleviate this is to bring your baby to the breast for a breastfeed, they are very efficient at removing milk.
Sometimes we will require the use of a breast pump to help remove milk if your baby becomes full but it feels like more milk needs to be removed.
c) Make sure breastfeeding aids are correctly sized
Breasts come in all shapes and sizes – and they change throughout your breastfeeding journey!
Ensure your nipple shields and pump flanges are sized correctly for you to avoid rubbing of your nipple or areola.
Speak to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC®) about what is the correct size for you.
Medela’s new Harmony™ hand pump, with the PersonalFit Flex™ breast shield, is one that adjusts to fit every mum’s natural shape, for more comfort and milk5 – and you can also check out this video on how to fit your shield.
d) Get expert help and support tools if you have pain or breastfeeding challenges
If you experience a drop in milk supply or you’re experiencing pain, it’s important you talk to a health professional – like your GP or IBCLC or contact the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s Breastfeeding Helpline.
Knowing who and where your local public and private practice IBCLC’s are before you have baby can be helpful, especially if you want to reach out for help in the middle of the night.
Some ways you can increase your supply include feeding or expressing frequently (at least eight times in 24 hours, preferably more often).
You can also try ‘hands-on’ breastfeeding (massaging your breast while feeding or pumping) to increase milk output.
You may also require a nipple shield if you have challenges with pain.
Together, we’ve got this!
So, as a final prompt to myself and other pregnant and breastfeeding mums today, in this extra time of change – take life slower, more mindful and be kind to ourselves – and always call on help when need it. Together, we’ve got this – and whatever life throws our way.
ABOUT NATASHA LUNN
Nastasha Lunn is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) who helps mums breastfeed in a way that works well for them and for their baby. She is the author of a number one Amazon bestseller “Boobalicious: From Hot Mess to Breastfeeding Success”, has a Masters in Osteopathy and is a mum of two children.