Whether you have a new baby or are on to your second (or third or fourth!), learning how to breastfeed can present some challenges. You may find yourself overwhelmed by the abundance of advice on offer about how to breastfeed, be it from health professionals or well-meaning family and friends.  To help you sort the good from the not-so-good, we‘ve collated our Top 5 Things You Need To Know About Breastfeeding. We hope they will help you in your breastfeeding journey and alleviate some of the fears or stresses you may have. 

1. It’s a learned skill

Contrary to popular belief, for the vast majority of women breastfeeding does not come naturally. Just like any important skill, you need to learn how to do it properly. It takes time, perseverance, tenacity and most importantly, practice.

Don’t feel bad if you or your baby don’t take to breastfeeding straight away. Banish the image of a mother magically attaching her child to her breast for the first time as angels flutter around her and a beautiful musical crescendo plays in the background. In reality, it is hard going and at the start it can be painful. But you will get there if you are committed to breastfeeding and persevere. In this case, practice really does make perfect and most of the time, it does get easier and faster!

2. Feed on-demand

Should you feed to a schedule or feed on demand? It’s a contentious topic that only serves to confuse the novice breastfeeding mother. In our experience, feeding according to the needs of your baby is most advantageous. Your child knows when he/she is hungry better than the clock on the wall. By feeding your precious one when they ask you to, your milk supply will naturally regulate itself to their needs. No more waiting for that magic four-hour mark to pass while you have a screaming infant in your arms and breasts painfully bursting at the seams. Listening and attuning to your baby’s own feeding cycle will produce a happier baby, a regulated milk flow and in the long-run, a much more efficient feeding process.

3. Support is critical

This may be the most important point in helping you establish and continue your breastfeeding journey. The first, and most vital, person you need to support you is your partner. They should share your commitment to breastfeeding and understand how important it is for your baby. If you don’t feel they do, make a time to talk to them about how you feel and why you need their support. If you can’t, talk to a friend or family member and see if they can help you talk to your partner. If you don’t have a partner, choose someone who is closest to you (perhaps your mum or a good friend) and explain how you’d love their support in helping you continue breastfeeding.

Another fantastic avenue of support is finding a community of like-minded mothers. A local mother’s group or a lactation group are great starting points. Just be sure they share your breastfeeding beliefs: it’s horrible to suddenly find yourself in a room full of women telling you to ‘just get them on the bottle so they sleep through the night’. It’s counter-productive to your journey and can only seek to erode your self-esteem and self-belief.

The internet is another wonderful way to connect with a support network. There are a multitude of forums available where you can find help, especially at 3am when you feel like death warmed up and need someone to talk to. The added bonus of the internet is you can reach out when you have time … and in your pyjamas no less! 

4. Seek professional help

There is no shame in seeking out professional assistance if you feel completely at a loss. There are many out there, some much better than others. We would recommended contacting the Australian Breastfeeding Association as they have many options available from home visits to phone support and even email counselling to support you in learning how to breastfeed.

5. Trust your instincts

You know your baby best. You may not feel it right now but it is true. You grew your little one inside you for nine months. Your bond is there whether you feel it currently or not. There is no one who knows your child like you. If you believe that ‘breast is best’, you need to trust in yourself and keep going. Be ready for the nay-sayers who try to sway you to stop. Arm yourself with the facts and be firm in your belief. You may need to develop a bit of thick skin along the way but in the long run, with perseverance you and your child will reap the benefits of the bond created through breastfeeding.