Tools for successful breastfeeding

NS August 5th, 2010

In honour of World Breastfeeding Week, I’d like to share which tools I think are the most important for successful breastfeeding. Between my two children I have breastfed for 38 months (and counting!) and know how difficult and tiresome it can be. I also know how wonderful, convenient and rewarding it is. But a gal needs a lot — I mean a LOT — of support to get started. And that is number one on my list.

1. Moral and practical support – from your partner, friends, family, health care providers and the community at large. When the going gets tough and sleep deprivation + pain + massive learning curve + screaming baby hits you upside the head at 3am for the fifth consecutive night and formula sounds like a mighty fine option, lean on your support system.

My husband’s unfailing support when I was learning to breastfeed my first child made all the difference. Instead of running out to buy formula when I screamed, “This isn’t working!” he held me while I cried, walked our daughter around in the sling so I could rest and regroup and then did everything possible to make the next feed better, more comfortable and less stressful.

2. Access to helpful resources — My biggest regret about my first pregnancy is that I didn’t read much on breastfeeding, or source any professional support networks beforehand. When I ran into problems a few days after my daughter’s birth, I scrambled desperately to find someone, anyone, able to help me. None of the people I was closest to could help me, having either not breastfed, not having had children yet or having done it so long ago that they couldn’t really remember what it was like or how to explain it.

An online friend sent me some Kellymom links and others suggested the NCT or La Leche League. I scoured countless articles, watched videos and looked at diagrams and pictures, trying to figure out what we were doing wrong. I visited my GP and Health Visitor, neither of whom seemed to have a clue. Finally, an NCT breastfeeding counsellor came to my house and gave some advice and practical assistance, which helped a lot. Mostly though, it gave me a massive confidence boost to read about and meet all these other women who were going through or had gone through the same things.

In the end, I believe that finding those sources of information and support helped me to carry on and have a happy and fulfilling breastfeeding relationship with both my children.

3. A bit of determination and grit — Finally, my infamous stubborn streak paid off! I was determined to make it work and even though it took nearly 3 months for it to be a pleasant experience, I persevered and learned a lot about myself and my capabilities in the process. I also learned not to leave such a monumental life-learning process to chance and that forming a support network ahead of time is so important.

4. Small comforts make a big difference — Even though they may seem trivial things, a big squeezy bottle of water (glasses just spill and you need two hands to get a screw top off), a nice snack, reading or viewing material to cure boredom and a cosy environment can make all the difference between relaxed, comfortable breastfeeding and tense, stressful breastfeeding. My number one tool for making breastfeeding easy and comfortable was my Boppy pillow.

The Boppy pillow is a U-shaped nursing cushion that sits on your lap and supports your arms and the baby’s body, ensuring optimum positioning and ergonomic support. There’s nothing worse than the dreaded Breastfeeding Backache, which often results when you are hunched over a baby that is too low, or with your arms feeling like dead-weights from being pinned underneath your 10-lb. bundle of joy for an hour at a time.

I don’t remember who recommended I get one but it was one of the best purchases I made during my pregnancy. The £200 gliding nursing chair? It ended up in the rubbish bin when we moved as the arms were too narrow and the back didn’t give enough upright support. Instead, I used the Boppy every time I sat down for a feed, anywhere in the house. After awhile, I was able to use it to breastfeed entirely hands-free, allowing the early readers of Noble Savage to carry on reading my scintillating posts. Another handy use was when Noble Girl was learning to sit up, it created a safe little ‘nest’ around her, a soft place to fall. And dribble. Luckily, it has a removable, washable cover to sort that out.

The fact that it’s been through two children and still has pride of place on our sofa today speaks to its longevity and usefulness. It’s a great cushion for a small child (or adult!) to curl up with. It also makes a fantastic pregnancy pillow (for placing under your bump when trying to get comfy) and back support when reading in bed. My Boppy pillow has even been on holiday with us, to Greece and America! Perfect for sleepy children slumped over on hard aeroplane armrests and for long delays on airport floors.

That’s why when the people at Boppy asked me to help spread the word about their product, I was more than happy to make an exception to my normal cynical, dubious attitude towards marketing and PR on my blog. When I’ve actually used a product and found it truly useful — no, loved it — I’m more than happy to give an endorsement.

To help promote the pillow, and breastfeeding in general, they’ve come up with this fun little game called Mom’s Revenge. It allows you to delegate tasks not relating to the hard work of breastfeeding and baby care to your virtual partner or mother-in-law while you relax and look serene.

Happy breastfeeding!

7 Responses to “Tools for successful breastfeeding”

  1. Expat Mum says:

    This is rather timely, given that Giselle what’s her face Super Model, is trying to have a law passed that all women should breast feed for 6 months.
    See – http://www.powderroomgraffiti.com/shout-it/despicable-me.html
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    NS Reply:

    @Expat Mum, Yeah, been reading about that. While I think what she said was stupid, I would hope that no one actually thinks Giselle has the ability to pass a law based on her opinion. As far as I know she is not trying to introduce legislation to make this idea of hers a reality. It’d be fun to see her try though; hoo-boy!

    I do with this kind of comment what I do with any celeb gossip — roll my eyes and ignore it.

  2. geekymummy says:

    Great tips. Though I have to say, that though the boppy worked great with my kids once they were a bit older, and I got a lot of use out of it, I couldn’t get a good nursing position on its rounded surface in the early days. It was the appallingly named “my breast friend” pillow, which straps around you like those trays the cigarette girls in the cinema’s of yore used to wear, that worked for me.

    As for Giselle, it seems we damn celebrities when they don’t breast feed, and damn them if they are breast feeding advocates. I think the best thing Giselle could do to encourage breastfeeding would be to model her post breastfeeding boobs and show the world that they still look great!
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  3. A squeezy bottle! Genius. Why didn’t I think of that? I was permanently thirsty when breast-feeding, and used to use a pint glass, but a squeezy bottle would have been so much better. A friend gave me one of those thermal mugs, which was great. I’d make a cup of tea, and then it would stay hot for ages while I got settled, and did the job.
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  4. Courtney says:

    I’ve heard nothing but good things about the boppy pillow so I definitely will order one before my baby arrives. I have to admit I am nervous about breast feeding – I am open to a few weeks of difficulty but three months…that would basically be the majority of my maternity leave…I’m prepared for the first couple of weeks to be tough but am not prepared for that difficulty to continue.

    NS Reply:

    @Courtney, Congratulations Courtney, I hadn’t seen your pregnancy announcement! I didn’t mean to say that I found it difficult for an entire three months but that it wasn’t entirely pleasant until then. The painful bit only lasted a couple weeks but it was trying to get my supply up after stupidly supplementing with formula (bad advice from a health visitor) and having to pump AND feed to get it back up again that made it difficult. If I had known more about how breastfeeding works beforehand and had knowledgeable support systems in place, I wouldn’t have run into the number of problems I did in those first weeks.

    I highly recommend reading ‘The Food of Love: Your Formula For Successful Breastfeeding” by Kate Evans; she’s a cartoonist and so the text (which is very conversational) is accompanied by useful drawings and funny cartoons. It’s not dry and technical like many other breastfeeding books. I also recommend you bookmark some videos on Jack Newman’s site, there are some great ones showing positioning and latch which are great to watch in those first couple weeks when you’re trying to figure it all out. Lastly, look up your local breastfeeding support group and make sure you know where it is and what time they meet. Having these things on hand before the baby is born will save you time and stress trying to locate resources in an exhausted state.

  5. I need one of these. No. 3 arriving and I can’t find any of the baby gear I used for no. 1 and 2. Plus my lovely sofa that worked so well to breast feed on has bitten the dust and I don’t know where I’m going to feed. I shall be investigating. Thanks for the tip!
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