Pregnancy and Breastfeeding – Dispelling the Myth

At the latest Baby Show in London’s Excel I supported the Medela team with some expert one to one sessions as well as on the stand where I met with expectant mums, their partners and family discussing both pregnancy and breastfeeding. Listening to their questions I was surprised that so many felt that breast feeding was a huge issue of apprehension and uncertainty. The most common statements we heard were:
Breastfeeding and Pregnancy

I’d like to breastfeed but I don’t know if I can”.

 “Well my mum / sister / cousin had problems so I’m not likely to succeed but I’d like to give it a try”

I’m sure that many expectant mums have these concerns and feel that this is an area of motherhood that comes with uncertainty. However, let’s put everything into perspective and allow us to enjoy and embrace the miracle of motherhood and what the female body does to make sure that you provide the best start for your little one…

At the very beginning when you contemplate starting a family, it is completely natural to feel apprehensive but once you have that positive pregnancy test, first scan and the first few months under your belt, you do start to relax and enjoy pregnancy. Your morning sickness settles and you’ll start to see your bump growing and later feel your baby’s movements. What we take for granted is the amazing way that our female body has just kicked in and adapted to supporting our baby’s growth and development, whilst still responsible for the physical demands of keeping our own bodies working.

Equally, as we look out of the window and watch ‘Countryfile’ on TV, we are rewarded with visions of spring lambing, calves, birds nesting and new life, we don’t question what nature does but accept that nature has given the female mammal the body part of making milk for its newborn. It’s only if mum has triplets, newborn animal is small, ill or mum rejects the newborn that farmers or vets interrupt the natural cycle and provide artificial feeds in a bottle or sucking device.

So ‘Countryfile’ aside for a moment, there is nothing that you can physically do during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding, just ensure you look after yourself by following a healthy varied diet, ensure you rest, sleep well and have minimal stress. The female breast is programmed to start preparation for making milk early in the second trimester with lots of tissue development, an increase in bra size, fuller, slightly tender breasts and for some women, milk leakage right up to birth so just let nature take its course.

From a breast development point of view, a good supporting maternity bra can ease the increased breast weight and support those softened ligaments to minimise back ache and improve comfort. It is advisable to avoid a bra that is underwired as this may compress the delicate breast tissue that is very close to the surface of the skin.

The process of birth and delivery of the placenta is the switch on for the breasts to activate and start making milk. The early milk is colostrum and is liquid gold, it provides your baby with all it needs from an immune, high energy, super food that is easy to digest. Frequent feeds with good latch and comfortable positioning helps baby to remove colostrum and encourages your milk to come to volume around day 3-5.

 At birth having your baby in skin to skin introduces your baby to your natural skin flora that will help protect him. Your body’s own power house will boost the skin temperature to help keep your baby warm and as you both surge in oxytocin this hormone of love embraces you both, relaxes you, helps with the tender moments of pain and discomfort that makes you forget for a while the labour of birth so that you embrace motherhood with tenderness, joy and emotion. Whilst being responsible to support milk production through the hormone prolactin. Lots of skin to skin with mum is really great for these breastfeeding hormones so it’s not just for the time after birth it’s what we do when we keep our babies close and secure by cuddling, rocking and cradling baby.

One thing you can do in the last weeks of pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding is ensure you have a good support network around you that can help and encourage you, support you when you are tired and unsure if breastfeeding is going well. Find your local breastfeeding support group before the birth so you can easily pop along if you need a little extra help. Meeting up with a breastfeeding group and sharing your worries while chatting with other breastfeeding mums will help, it is a great place to seek advice and top tips.

There is also a National Breastfeeding Helpline that is open every day of the year 9am to 21.00pm where you can talk to an advisor by phoning 0300 100 0212.

Medela have also just launched a new breastfeeding app, MyMedela, designed to be a breastfeeding companion, providing support and tools that can help you feel reassured throughout your breastfeeding experience.

It is a time of uncertainty and apprehension but have a little faith, remember your body has the foundations for breastfeeding, keep calm, be realistic and ask for support. You can both work through those early weeks and establish breastfeeding with a lovely warm chain of support and encouragement.

Sioned x