Expert Tips for Breastfeeding Mums Juggling It All In 2020

During these tough times, we share tips for all Australian mums to stay healthy and calm in the year of the unexpected.

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.

Here are some tips to look after yourself during these difficult times.

1) Get clear on your breastfeeding values and have a “flexible” plan

Try to make it a priority to talk often and prioritise taking life more mindfully and slowly.

Prioritise as much skin-to-skin contact and “bonding” time with your 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.

Take the pressure off yourself to do all the “things”, and just be.

If you can afford it, ask your cleaner to do ‘extras’ like laundry and dishes, or start using a meal delivery service.

Even if you don’t have additional support to bring in – remember, take things off your do to list. Folding for one can be dropped!

3) Focus on your wellbeing for the best breastfeeding experience for your and baby

Self-care is thrown around a lot these days, and there’s a good reason for it. Barely do mums have time to slow down and take better care of ourselves.

A few ways ypu can prioritise your wellbeing is to get adequate nutrition and calories to sustain your milk supply.

You may also need a Medela Harmony breast pump on hand to help build and maintain supply your if extra support is needed.

4) 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.

Fortunately, there are things you can do – to know, prepare for and help avoid pain while breastfeeding. It includes: 

a) Nailing your position (and attachment)

One key to avoid pain while breastfeeding ensuring you have the correct position, and your baby latches well.

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

You have probably heard of mastitis. It starts off as engorgement, or a lumpy red patch on your breast and can quickly progress to flu like symptoms and require medication from your doctor.

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.

It’s also a great idea to keep a manual handheld breast pump like Medela’s new Harmony hand pump in your baby bag for times when you’re out and about.

c) Make sure breastfeeding aids are correctly sized

Breasts come in all shapes and sizes – and they change throughout your breastfeeding journey!

Luckily, breastfeeding aids like breast pump flanges and nipple shields come in different shapes and sizes as well.

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).

A pumping bra and double pump can be very helpful – like Medela’s Flex™ Family breast pumps.

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.

Remember, you’ve got this!