The Importance of Breastfeeding Help and Support

Breastfeeding isn’t always as straight forward as it seems. Parents can encounter a number of challenges and difficulties at first, but once established, it really does become second nature to both mum and baby. During the early stages, a good support network and reliable help and advice is essential. Where does this support come from? Our in-house Lactation Consultant, Sioned Hilton, explores the variety of ways you can seek support and help to get breastfeeding off to the best start.

Over many hundreds of years’ new mothers have had support in all aspects of parenting. Learning and observing the parenting styles of their own parents and close family, seeking guidance, words of encouragement and a shoulder to lean on in times of uncertainty has been the first point of call historically.

When it comes to breastfeeding, the last Infant Feeding Survey and interim reports inform us that over 80% of new mothers in the UK initiate breastfeeding. However, over the early weeks of nursing, a significant decline is seen in how many mums are still breastfeeding at 6 weeks, and even less at the recommended 6 months for exclusive breastfeeding. With mums saying they don’t receive support and help when faced with breastfeeding uncertainty and challenges, this inevitably leads to a decision to stop breastfeeding before they particularly want to.

So where is the best place to get information and support?

  • Reading-Up is a great way of gaining more insight, information and help. Access to social media and the web means that information is available 24/7 with the majority of information supportive and well intentioned. Social forums can lead to a wealth of posts and recommendations by well-intentioned mums with tips and solutions that worked for them. That said, information found on forums and social media does have its pit falls. We would always advise talking with your midwife/health visitor if you have a breastfeeding challenge, alongside receiving support on social media.
  • Health Professionals Midwives, GPs and Health Visitors all receive education on protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding mums. Unicef baby friendly initiative has invested over 20 years of training to support more consistent practical help to support and empower mums to not only have the skills for breastfeeding, but more importantly provide help when breastfeeding is more challenging. Making sure that breastfeeding mothers are advised correctly when discussing all things breastfeeding, expressing and more.
  • Specialist Lactation Support When things are tough and uncertain – many mums are apprehensive, stressed and concerned that breastfeeding is not going as planned. Talking to a specialist can help. There are telephone helplines run by Lactation Consultants and breastfeeding specialists such as:
    • The UK National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212
    • Local breastfeeding Peer Support Groups. You will find these in your local community, ask your midwife / health visitor for more information. You may find that they can visit you in your home too.
    • Medela globally has access to a number of Lactation Specialists who use Facebook, Twitter, personal messages, the MyMedela app, and email to provide individual tailored support from pregnancy through to the early years. Medela's UK's in-house Lactation Consultant is Sioned Hilton.
    • Our Medela UK Facebook page also runs a weekly Breastfeeding Café every Tuesday with a Live Q&A.
  • Family and Friends Having the support of your partner and immediate family is really important. Talking before baby is born – the practicalities. How grandparents can help with those early weeks of learning to breastfeed, help you to recover emotionally and physically from childbirth by assisting with household tasks, shopping, driving etc. if you have a c/section, help with siblings with school run or just keeping them entertained for a few hours can help. With vital support, you can then concentrate on getting breastfeeding established and build a fabulous foundation for your next few months. It’s not only the early weeks – words of encouragement are precious throughout your baby’s early years. Mum’s milk is amazing and has lifelong benefits. If you experience some negative feedback as you may do from well-intentioned family and peers – be strong, explain why it is important to you and your partner. Set realistic goals and seek additional support from your health professional if things do get a bit uncertain.
  • Baby Books The majority of baby books cover all aspects of parenting but they do need to be followed with some caution. They range from supporting the breastfed baby to establish routines for, sleep, feeding, activity and may influence a family unit to become stressed and dogmatic in attempting to conform to the schedule for fear of having a baby with bad habits, sleep problems etc. Many of these styles of parenting books are not useful for the breastfed baby especially in the first few months with the mantra of scheduled feeding and sleep patterns. Use books with caution and for reference in the early months. Remember the breast-fed baby has its own bio rhythm, body clock etc, there is no normal breastfeeding pattern.

    Human milk is adapting and ever-changing to your baby’s needs. There are some amazing books on what is normal for the breastfed baby – responsive feeding, tips for establishing breastmilk supply knowing its ok to have a baby that feeds 14 times a day or just 4-6 times when feeding is established. Night feeds are essential in the early months to support milk supply, feeding cues don’t develop ‘bad habits’ but help babies grow into healthy strong, infants who thrive with the stimulus of the interaction with mum and the family.
  • Believe in Mother Nature Mother instinct is powerful. Babies and mothers have carried on the human race for thousands of years by human milk with support from family and peers.