Welcome to Day 1 of World Breastfeeding Week!
How to prepare to breastfeed is a question that concerns a lot of pregnant women. In the UK, 81% of mothers initiate breastfeeding, but most women’s friends experiences will reflect the fact that only 55% of women are breastfeeding at all, and 23% exclusively breastfeeding, at 6 weeks.
In the bad ol’ days, women were toughen to old up their nipples before baby arrived, a process that would surely have the most pro-breastfeeding mum reaching for that bottle. Thankfully, we now know that there is no need to or benefit from toughening up your nipples.
Physically, there is very little that an expectant mama can do to prepare for breastfeeding (although I do like to talk to clients about the benefits of practicing hand expressing antenatally!). There is a lot they can do, and their partners can do, in terms of getting the information they will need (more on this later this week!).
Another way they can prepare to breastfeed is to hire a birth and postnatal doula!
Women who hire Doula UK doulas are more likely to initiate breastfeeding and are more likely to successfully establish breastfeeding and be breastfeeding at 6 weeks *. Of course, some of this may be because a woman who hires a doula may be more likely to seek out antenatal education and inform themselves, but that’s not all of it by far.
If you hire a birth doula and let them know you want to breastfeed, they will encourage you, help you get informed (not sure where the best local drop-ins are? Ask your doula!) and you will know that you will have continuous support with your breastfeeding journey from the moment of birth. If you hire a postnatal doula before baby arrives or straight after, you’ll get that support and more.
Got normal worries about supply and meeting your baby’s needs? Your doula is there to listen, give you a hug and tell you you’re doing a great job. Baby gets diagnosed with tongue tie? Your doula is there to support, listen and help you find additional help if you need. Wanting to get extra trained breastfeeding support but not confident about going out with a new baby (or not able to do so on your own if you had a caesarean or difficult birth)? Your doula can go along with you. Feeling exhausted with the demands of feeding baby frequently night and day? Your doula can look after baby or your older children or your house while you rest, bringing baby back to you if they need a feed (some doulas even work nights!). Having initial difficulties and needing to express to protect your supply and get baby the breastmilk they need, but not sure how the hell you do that while looking after a baby and yourself? Guess what! Your doula can help.
I know from my own experiences that even when you are well informed, the support a doula brings to a breastfeeding journey can be invaluable. Emotional, informational, practical support. And the caring individualised care the NHS is simply unable to provide.
Wanting to breastfeed? Hire that doula.
To find out more about doulas and find UK doulas local to you for a no-strings interview, see the Doula UK website.
* Goedkoop V. MIDIRS Midwifery Digest, vol 19, no 2, June 2009, pp 217-218