There are a few things you can plan for to help make breastfeeding a positive experience for you and your baby. You may want to include some of these requests in your birth plan. They can include:
- Try to minimise using medicated pain relief during the labour and birth, especially narcotic injections and epidurals. These have the potential to make the baby lethargic and reluctant to want to feed in the days following the birth
- Try to breastfeed within the first hour after your baby is born (even if you have a Caesarean). Babies who feed soon after the birth tend to have fewer problems with latching and feeding in the days following.
- Try to breastfeed your baby unassisted and only ask for help if you have difficulty. In many cases, if you hold your baby near the breast soon after birth they will eventually find their own way to latch on instinctively.
- Room in with your baby in hospital. This allows you to wake up naturally when your baby wakes for feeding, and helps you to get to know your baby's hunger signs.
- Breastfeed on demand, as often and as long as your baby wants to feed (day and night). This stimulates your milk supply, avoids engorgement and helps your baby to get into a favourable sleeping pattern sooner.
- Practice attaching your baby to the breast without assistance. Getting your baby to latch on well is the key to successful breastfeeding. Make sure you can tell when your baby is latched correctly before you leave hospital. If you have very sore nipples, seek help immediately. Remember that pain is not a natural part of breastfeeding. It is an indication that something is not right and needs rectifying. (Although it is normal in the early days to feel some discomfort when the baby first latches on, this pain should not continue for the whole feed.)
- Avoid using dummies, pacifiers or bottles (at least for the early weeks) so your baby does not experience 'nipple confusion'.
- Get as much rest as possible. Taking care of yourself is important for breastfeeding to succeed. Make sure that you have help at home, especially during the first few weeks and try to let someone else take care of all the household duties.
- Exclusively breastfeed for 4 to 6 months. Babies thrive on just breast milk and do not need additional food or water, even in heatwave conditions. As soon as you start introducing supplements, you start depleting your milk supply.