I write and talk so much about the practical side of breastfeeding; from planning to troubleshooting and where to get help. But recently I’ve been pondering a lot more on how we think and how it affects our breastfeeding journey. This is not just our on-the-surface thoughts and worries but also what goes on in our subconscious, those deep-down views of ourselves and of the sort of parents we want to be. And like with any emotional issue, I think it’s best to tackle it head on. I believe it could help all of those who are planning to breastfeed and many who already are. This one is for Mums, Partners, Grandparents and anyone who might support you with breastfeeding.
1) Write down all the experiences you have had of breastfeeding in your lifetime?
Yep, your entire lifetime. Start with when you were born and how you were fed (if you don’t know, then ask a family member) and then go through your life and think of times you have breastfed, seen breastfeeding, spoken about breastfeeding with others, or overheard a breastfeeding conversation. Write these down. Put a little + or – next to each one to record whether it felt like a positive or negative experience for you and then think about how each experience has affected you and your overall view on breastfeeding.
How you feel about breastfeeding will have an impact on your breastfeeding journey. Bringing your attention to these experiences and feelings with undoubtedly give you a clearer insight into where any fears or concerns may come from.
2) Consider the experiences your friends have had?
We’ve touched on this above. But if you have had friends who have had a difficult breastfeeding experience and you have watched them or tried to support them through it, then you already know that breastfeeding can be very tough for some people.
Try and remember that their experience will not be your experience. You could even say this to yourself several times a day as an affirmation. It’s helpful to stay positive.
3)Recognised the subtle advertising
So you may not be aware of it but formula companies have been sending you subtle messages about their products for years, in fact probably your whole life. They do this by undermining breastfeeding but in very cleaver ways. Have you noticed how the television ads have a dull or cold outlook whist the Mother is breastfeeding but then everything cheers up and becomes warm once the baby is drinking formula. Do our children see these adverts? How will affect their views on how babies are fed? And our society (often unwittingly) plays along. What is the sign on the baby feeding room door? How are newborns fed in soaps and other TV shows. Have you ever read the story in the paper about the Mum who was asked to stop bottle feeding her baby in a cafe because it was upsetting the other customers? No, I haven’t either.
For most of us in the western world, breastfeeding is not normalised and this has a huge impact on how we feel about breastfeeding.
4) Learn what newborns do
When Ray Dodd and I wrote our online breastfeeding course we felt that this was an essential area to cover. It’s so important to us that we made the very first module all about just this. Knowing how newborns behave will really help you in the early months.
We are often told that babies should feed at regular intervals, that they shouldn’t be fed to sleep, that they need to be able to sleep alone in their crib, the list is endless. But do you know what, babies aren’t informed of all this before they are born. If we work against babies biological and emotional needs, breastfeeding can become an uphill battle.
5) Trust your body
This is another area where you have been receiving subtle messages your whole life. In this modern world we are not taught to trust our bodies. We are taught that they are too fat, too thin, too hairy. That our skin and hair is the wrong shade or texture.
Well pregnancy is a perfect time to start loving the body that you’re in. It’s growing a baby! Amazing! If you tune into your body and your baby before and after the birth it will help you to follow your parenting instincts. Biologically we were made to breastfeed and very few women can’t actually produce milk. The first few weeks can be tough and it will be a steep learning curve for you and your baby. Find support and keep your baby close. Having skin to skin as soon as possible and for as long as possible after the birth helps your baby and your body to tune into each other.
6) Learn to relax
Well this one is easier said than done, especially if you are finding the early days and weeks a challenge. But there are a few ways that you can help yourself to relax and you’ll be glad you did. When we relax and feel happy our bodies allow the hormone oxytocin to flow. This hormone helps milk eject from your breasts. Babies also relax when they feel you relaxing, so it’s great all round for everyone.
Here’s some ideas to get the oxytocin flowing.
– Find a relaxation MP3. These can be found online or if you have done hypnobirthing or hypnotherapy before you may already have one that you can use. We also provide one on our breastfeeding course.
– Write some positive affirmations about your breastfeeding journey. – re-framing worries and doubts can have a huge impact on our mood and state of mind.
– Have a bath or other self care activity. Ask someone to hold the baby and have 20 minutes of doing something for yourself.
– Eat some chocolate – This is a natural oxytocin booster.
– Hold your baby close and breath in her smell. Also proven to release the wonder hormone.
7) Know where to find help
This is not so much a mindset hack but essential to your emotional wellbeing if you are having issues with breastfeeding. Know where you can get good quality help, near by before your baby comes. This will help put your mind at ease and knowing that there is some expert help on hand can really change your outlook when starting your breastfeeding journey. Look for your local breastfeeding groups and know where your closest Breastfeeding Counselor or Certified Lactation Consultant is.
http://www.lcgb.org/ has a list of lactation consultants in the UK.
https://www.laleche.org.uk/ or https://abm.me.uk/ for local volunteer groups
or go and ask at your local children’s centre.
If you would like to know more about the online course mentioned in this article then go to www.thebreastfeedingschool.com