3. Babies spend a lot of time on the boob
You knew that right? Most newborns nurse anywhere from 8 to 12 times a day and the space between a feed can be anywhere from two to four hours although there is a big range of ‘normal’. What a lot of mums don’t realise is that the time between feeds is measured from the start of one feed until the start of another, not the space in-between. So if you have a baby that likes to nurse for an hour, once your precious bundle is finished you will find you have an hour or maybe even less before they are ready to go again, for another hour.
This means you could basically be spending every second hour, day and night nursing your baby for weeks on end, this can be as arduous as it sounds. Some new babies may only need 20 minutes to have a good feed everyone is different and the time it takes them may also change as they grow and develop but the fact remains, babies spend A LOT of time nursing.
They also like to throw you curve balls, for example you may start to think you have their routine all worked out and then they will suddenly decide they would like to nurse all afternoon, maybe non-stop. That dinner you thought you’d start cooking in the afternoon, forget about it, your baby has been nursing since 4pm with no sign of being done and its already closing in on 7pm. Maybe now you can see why new mums complain they don’t have time to get anything done and even taking a shower can feel like a big achievement.
Why do you need to know about this before your baby arrives? Am I just trying to scare the baby out of you?? A little bit of truth never hurt anyone, if you know that you are going to be busy then it gives you a bit of motivation to plan ahead, set up a meal or chore roster for all the friends and family who want to help and most importantly go easy on yourself. Some women decide they are going to be super mum, assume they will bounce out of the maternity ward and get straight back into their life, you’re not the kind of woman who is going to let your baby dictate your schedule are you?
Maybe you can be the kind of woman who knows that it is going to be hard work and is ready to just follow your baby’s lead and give yourself the space to chill out and let your baby do what they need to do to get big and strong. Don’t forget, your baby is running on thousands of years of evolution with a killer survival instinct, he knows what he needs to do to survive, no one has updated his programing much since we all slept in trees so he doesn’t realise a wild animal isn’t likely to eat him when you put him down, even though it seems like he really just doesn’t want to let you sit down for a meal ever again. Hang in there, by three months the spacing between feeds increases as does your window for a bit of sleep, someone much wiser than me wrote "dear mum, I wont always need you as much as I need you now but right now I really need you."
This week part two in this series looks at where you can go for help if things aren’t turning out as you planned.
2) Know where to go for help
You may not be interested in breastfeeding right now (it feels like you’re going to be pregnant forever right??) However, there will come a time when you may start to have a few questions, particular when you are faced with the reality of it all. It can be really helpful to have resources at hand and to know where to go for help well in advance so all you need to do is flip a page or make a quick call.
I can’t recommend the Australian Breastfeeding Association’s Breastfeeding Education Class highly enough, lots of women attend them during the middle of their pregnancy and then use their birthing hospital class (which is often right at the end of the last trimester) as a short refresher course. It’s a great way to get all the info you need to not only understand how to nurse your baby but to get an understanding of how breasts and breastfeeding works which can make it a lot easier to understand what might be happening when things aren’t working out the way you thought they might.
Not everyone has the time or inclination for attending a class so what about books? There are a number of great books around about breastfeeding and even if you can’t stomach reading them right now at least make sure you have one sitting on your shelf so you can easily pull it out when you need to. You’d be surprised how much easier it will be to read it once it’s actually happening to you. The ABA have a great book called “Breastfeeding Naturally” which you get free when you become a member and there are a few other great books including “The womanly art of breastfeeding” put together by the La Leche League and Sue Cox’s ‘Breastfeeding with Confidence’.
If you need some expert help you may want to get in contact with a breastfeeding expert, a Lactation Consultant. Try to ensure that they are a IBCLC (International board certified lactation consultant) as this is the gold standard and the process for becoming one is quite rigorous. Your hospital may have one on rotation you can access with no gap payment otherwise your midwife or maternal health nurse should be able to put you in contact with one. And for those desperate moments you can always call the Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686268 to speak to a breastfeeding counsellor, the line is open 24 hours a day. And the best resource of course is your postnatal doula who should be able to tell if you only need some simple guidance and adjustment or if its time to call in the troops!
Are you pregnant and thinking that you would like to breastfeed your baby? You’re not alone, 96% of Australian women leave hospital breastfeeding and why not? Its cheaper than buying formula, full of goodies especially tailored for your baby, helps you bond with your baby and can help your body recover after birth. Most pregnant women intend to breastfeed for at least some time once their baby is born.
So are you ready? Have you read all the books, attended all the classes, joined all the online chat groups? Probably not! Most of us are so busy dealing with pregnancy and preparations for birth that breastfeeding and the postnatal period get relegated to an afterthought. Maybe you’ve picked up a book on breastfeeding, skimmed a few pages and decided it can wait for another day, if this sounds familiar you are not alone. Breastfeeding may be something you would like to do but you may not be interested to spend hours researching and learning as much as you can about it, so what’s the big deal?
Perhaps you have heard the old adage, that ‘breastfeeding while natural is a learnt skill’. It is not just you that will have to learn it, your baby is going to need your help to learn how to attach and position themselves correctly so they can easily get the milk they need to thrive. In the past we learnt from our mothers, sisters aunties and cousins just by being around women having babies but these days some new mums may not have even held a baby for many years. It can be really helpful to try and find out the truth about breastfeeding so you don’t get caught out unexpectedly when it turns out things aren’t quite as easy as you thought they might be. Living with a new baby and recovering from birth are hard enough so why be burdened with breastfeeding questions? Here are five simple things that you need to know about breastfeeding before your baby arrives that should help you in those early days as a new mum.
Part 2 coming soon
Hello, my name is Celeste. I am a postnatal doula, a breastfeeding counselor and a mother.