Building blocks to breastfeeding

Prepare for your baby's arrival with these building blocks for breastfeeding.
Prepare for your baby's arrival with these building blocks for breastfeeding. Photo: Shutterstock

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 During your third trimester, consider taking some simple steps to set the scene for for your breastfeeding journey. 

One of the first adventures you and your new baby will experience together is breastfeeding, and if you're a first-time mum, you'll both be new to the process.

"We know that it takes about four weeks for a new baby to learn how to breastfeed," says registered midwife Dr Marjorie Atchan. "And so the two of you really need to build your confidence together."Often called the 'fourth trimester,' those precious weeks and months beyond your baby's birth are when you both get to know each other, says Dr Atchan, who's Chairperson of the Australian College of Midwives Baby Friendly Health Initiative Advisory Committee.

"It's your time for being with your baby; holding, feeding, learning all about your baby's uniqueness. Make space to discover each other, build on the positive feedback that occurs when you successfully respond to each other's cues and you'll enjoy a wonderful parenting experience," she says.

In your last few weeks of pregnancy, take time to lay down building blocks so that after your baby arrives, it's just the two of you.

Eating right

The key to healthy eating when pregnant or breastfeeding is important nutrients, but not too many extra kilojoules. Follow the recommended Australian Dietary Guidelines

"We've long known that the old idea of 'eating for two' is a myth," says Dr Atchan. If you're considered by your healthcare provider as being within the normal weight range, "you really only need about an extra 500 calories (2092kj) a day."

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Eating well in the third trimester is the recipe for your best breast milk, too. "You make milk from the fat stores that you've already laid down, so a nutritious diet is important," she says. Seek out foods rich in Omega-3 'good' fats."

Also, consider a supplement for added nutritional support for you and your little one. Ask your healthcare professional for advice.

Stay fit

Early motherhood is physically demanding. "You need a fair bit of stamina, because you're not going to be getting as much sleep as previously," says Dr Atchan.

The tiredness isn't just about broken nights, she adds. "When you're learning new skills the right side of your brain works really hard to absorb the new information and this adds to the tiredness for new mums."

Walking is one of the best exercises throughout pregnancy, and brings the added benefit of fresh air. After the birth, you can continue with baby on board in a stroller or sling. Swimming, yoga and other low impact exercises can all suit late pregnancy, but check with your healthcare professional to ensure activity is safe for you.

Learn to rest

Resting to restore your energy is an important skill for a new mum, and Dr Atchan suggests getting into the habit in your third trimester. "Try to diarize your rest the same way you schedule your appointments, and commit to it," she says.

While power naps are great, not everyone can sleep during the day, she adds, but chilling out on your bed or sofa will provide the same benefits. "It doesn't have to be long; just a good 20 minutes at a time will do. Try to establish that discipline and create a regular pattern in the last three months, so it's something you can carry over and do after the baby's born."

Resting can help keep stress at bay, which is good news for breastfeeding. "When we get really tired and our stress levels rise, our cortisol levels rise too, and this can impact the amount of milk that's produced and released during feeds, which can then affect supply." says Dr Atchan.

Set up your support

Late pregnancy is a great time to establish routines designed to ease your load so you can concentrate fully on your baby and breastfeeding.

"The third trimester is a time for those conversations at home about how can we manage things and problem solve," says Dr Atchan. "A new mum needs time to really focus on her baby and breastfeeding without being distracted by cooking, cleaning, shopping and washing."

She suggests considering online shopping and setting it up before your baby arrives, freezing meals now for use after the baby's born and buying a few ready meals.

Instead of extra baby clothes and toys, ask your friends to gift you practical help after the birth: a frozen casserole, an hour of cleaning, a grocery run. "Make sure the people around you really understand that breastfeeding is important to you," advises Dr Atchan who also suggests the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) as a wonderful source of support for all new mums. "The ABA puts you in touch with a community of women; it has really lovely classes, a book, and a wealth of resources at the website and forums."

Support for mum during her breastfeeding journey

A lot of focus is placed on the birth and the general care of a newborn. What is not often spoken about is the challenges that can come with breastfeeding. From improper techniques, sore nipples, engorgement, failing to latch, low milk supply, mastitis; the list can go on and on. Thankfully, you have help at your disposal. Your Maternal Health nurse as well as lactation consultants can help you with your specific challenge. Low milk supply, which is one of the main reasons women stop breastfeeding can often be improved by staying well hydrated, changes to diet or supplements containing fenugreek, a herb traditionally used in western herbal medicine to help increase breast milk production.

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Always read the label. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Supplements can only be of assistance if dietary intake is inadequate. Follow the directions for use. ^Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for 0-6 months. Fenugreek is traditionally used in Western herbal medicine. Follow the directions for use.