Breastfeeding is not an all or nothing experience. There is a grey area that many
families fit into. Long gone are the days when you have your baby and are then
surrounded by other mothers, aunts, sisters and neighbourhood women, ready to help
support, teach and take care of the new parents. All the breastfeeding mother had to
do was rest, eat nourishing meals, drink tea, bond with and breastfeed their baby.
There was always a helping hand to care for the new mother while she got use to her
With a new baby nowadays, there is typically the birthing parent and a partner or close
support, who might still be leaving everyday to go to work and maybe one other close
friend or family member that comes and goes. And that is it! The new parents walk
through the door with their new baby, to an empty home, expected to figure out how
to care for and breastfeed their baby around the clock, while maintaining their home,
feeding themselves and trying to fit in a shower or two at some point. Many new
parents do this without the knowledge of how breastfeeding works or how to know if
their baby is doing well. They assume breastfeeding will just happen or they will
simply wing it. This approach to breastfeeding is not usually sustainable.
Too many times, I have seen new parents completely overwhelmed, with no
insight on what to do once the baby arrives. I witness their distress and anxieties
interfering with the bonding that needs to take place for a smooth transition into
parenthood and breastfeeding. I have observed new parents blessed with beautiful,
textbook birth experiences, only to find themselves completely ill-equipped with what
to do next. They have all the gadgets - wipe warmers, the newest strollers, video
monitors etc. but NO support network in sight. Nobody to help them with meals, or
housework while they walk around like zombies, stressed out because they can’t
afford a night nurse. They have no knowledge of which professionals they need or
where to find them!
A sustainable approach to breastfeeding should be based on the family dynamic and
goals. It might be mixed breastfeeding with some bottle feeds. It might be the
breastfeeding parent going back to work and pumping at work, while breastfeeding in
morning, evenings and on weekends. Or even exclusive breastfeeding with co-
sleeping to provide around the clock feeds. There are so many ways to make
breastfeeding sustainable within every family dynamic.
Regardless of how you choose to sustain your experience, it is so important to have
the right start to breastfeeding. There are important recommendations which need to
be considered before the breastfeeding journey even begins to allow for more
flexibility later, so that it can sustainable. If you are struggling with supply, nipple
pain, or keeping baby at the breast, because of a rocky start with breastfeeding, then it
becomes more challenging, but not impossible, to have sustainable experience.
One approach that expecting parents may take include the following THREE steps:
1) Start your education early - Start building your knowledge before the baby
arrives so that you know what to do in the first days and weeks after having
your baby. This includes planning for your supports too, so you have plenty of
people helping out. Learning while you are stressed and exhausted often leads
to lower success rates of a sustainable experience.
2) Build your community - Get early hands-on professional lactation support even
if you think you have it covered. Having an extra pair of eyes on your positioning, latch, and baby’s oral anatomy can sometimes identify areas of