- Fail to plan, plan to fail!
Ok, that’s a rubbish phrase in this context but has credence none the less. Often when we fall pregnant we read all the books, make all the plans. For pregnancy – what to eat, how to exercise, growth rates. For birth – where, when and with whom. After birth – baby clothes, baby wearing, co-sleeping, attachment theory. But often we overlook breastfeeding – maybe because it’s natural and assumed to be easy. But when we research, understand the challenges and risks, we can consider these and plan to overcome them.
- Being informed is empowering
There is lots to breastfeeding to understand. When will my milk come in? What does that even mean? How will I know when it has? You might get awesome health care professionals that gently explain all of this to you, but some may not. And after you give birth is not the optimum time to be learning new things – you may still be buzzing on your oxytocin high, you may be tired and exhausted. Learn all you can in advance so you don’t need to think too hard about it or try and absorb it all after you give birth. And the reality is that not all places and professionals of healthcare are as knowledgeable or supportive of breastfeeding as you may think – they are all different, with varying levels of current knowledge and care. Don’t take the risk, learn what you can so that you can understand when you are receiving good advice, and when you are not. You will then have the tools to advocate for yourself and for your baby.
- Your Support Network
So much of the success of your breastfeeding can depend on the support you have. By including your plan to breastfeed in your birth plan, the subject will come up each time you speak with your chosen health care provider, your spouse, your birth support person, your doula. They will each come to understand how important it is to you, and will endeavour to help you reach your goals. It’s your chance to discuss with them what you have learnt and impart your knowledge, discuss concerns and make plans to overcome potential challenges together.
- Preparing your plan.
A piece of advice from my beautiful midwife that I have always considered worth repeating to anyone who will listen – was to attend ABA (Australian Breastfeeding Association, in other countries called the La Leche League) meeting before my first baby was born. I admit that I did feel awkward but I am so glad that I did it. I saw women of all types breastfeeding, describing the joys and the challenges. But best of all I knew I had support from trained independent volunteers if I ever needed it. Attend a meeting, get to know some people, ask questions. Tell them you are including breastfeeding in your birthplan – ask them what they would include.
- Get specific
Describe specifically how successful breastfeeding will look to you. Understand how the birth and labour interventions can ultimately affect breastfeeding and include strategies in your plan like your preferred pain management, extended ‘skin to skin’, delayed umbilical clamping, delayed bathing, ditching the hat and other things you have learnt in your research. Specifically list the ways you would like to overcome challenges that you may encounter, include phone numbers of trusted support services like ABA and LLL, and your chosen accredited Lactation Specialists that you personally have found and (more importantly) trust. If you have any concerns, identify them, address them and if it feels right to you plan for them.
Writing a birthplan is a really personal and hugely empowering exercise; it makes sense to prepare one. For my first baby, I didn’t have many concerns and felt super empowered as I had a very trusty support network. We did have some early challenges to breastfeeding, and I credit these strong relationships with our eventual success. For my second baby, I had concerns! They were mostly coming from a place ‘second time mama’ informed concern, but I wanted to address them and write them down. They lost their power when I wrote them down, and I forgot about them when I had made a plan for them that everyone understood and believed in. I felt empowered and prepared.
If you would like to ask me questions about my experience, or pick my brain for my favourite resources, please feel free to join our private group and ask away! There are many other mamas on there too, we’re a supportive tribe! https://www.facebook.com/groups/194734988109705/