A guide…

I was reading this article regarding how you can scupper your chances of success in a new project if you worry too much about making mistakes. It seems that if you approach a new task as a way of learning a skill rather than proving your ability, you are far more likely to succeed.

This made me think about why so many women don’t manage to breastfeed despite starting out with the best of intentions: they want to prove that they *can* do it rather than approach it as learning a new skill, accepting that along the way, mistakes may be made.

I quote the following:

The problem with be-good goals is that they tend to backfire when things get hard. We quickly start to doubt our ability (“Oh no, maybe I’m not good at this!”), and this creates a lot of anxiety. Ironically, worrying about your ability makes you much more likely to ultimately fail. Countless studies have shown that nothing interferes with your performance quite like anxiety does – it is the goal-killer.

Get-better goals, on the other hand, are practically bullet-proof. When we think about what we are doing in terms of learning and improving, accepting that we may make some mistakes along the way, we stay motivated despite the setbacks that might occur.

Few times are more anxious than the first few days at home with a new baby, especially a first baby. Everyone is breathing down your neck and it seems that at every opportunity, someone is waiting with a set of scales or a bottle of SMA, waiting for you to cock it up.

The truth is that few women pick it up straight away and most need some help, whether that be in latch and positioning or in chasing away badly trained Health Visitors and Midwives. You know when they suggest a formula top up?

They are NOT SUPPOSED to do that. Nor, to be fair, are they trained in breastfeeding. Report them and seek further advice from a breastfeeding professional.

In that vein, I was going to set down what will mainly be a bald list of the things and people that helped me learn the new skill of breastfeeding.

First of all, learning before the baby was born that I would be spending about 6 weeks doing pretty much nothing else but feed was a revelation. I prepared in advance, lining up DVDs to watch, trashy books to read, frozen meals and plenty of cake. The rest of the family also knew what to expect. Newborns feed frequently: every 2 hours is completely normal but can come as a surprise if you were expecting every 4. And that’s day and night I’m afraid unless you have birthed a magical sleepy pixie. Lucky you.

You should not arbitrarily limit time at the breast: 20 minutes a side, 10 minutes a side, empty one side before the other… all hogwash. Feed on one side until the baby comes off itself, offer the other and so on. Breasts do not need to “refill” as milk is made on demand.

Knowing the red flag problems was extremely useful too. A newborn should be peeing and pooing frequently throughout the day. If they are not, seek help.

Agonisingly painful nipples are NOT normal and don’t put up with it. Whilst (this is my personal view) they might need some running in, like a new pair of shoes, you should not need to bite down on your finger at every feed. Problems like thrush or mastitis need urgent medical attention.

Get comfy before starting a feed. Ensure remote controls and cake are at arm’s reach, make sure you have had a wee, etc.

If you do have problems make sure that you have phone numbers and contact names ready. Whoever you get to help you, make sure they watch a whole feed rather than just natter at you and give you a leaflet.

Relatives may offer advice. Some is probably helpful, some is going to be poppycock. It is important that you accept the good and reject the bad as politely as possible.

Sod the obsession with pumping until you feel you’ve got feeding nailed. Granny may be chewing her arm off to give the baby a bottle, but she can be usefully deployed changing nappies or hoovering instead.

Talking of nappies, if you’re planning to use cloth nappies (and I do), be prepared to let them slide until you have the feeding sorted. Nothing is more important.

Dad needs to know all this stuff too: he is often going to be a slightly saner voice and is good at remembering stuff and shit, which you are not going to be quite so good at for a while.

If you’re worried about feeding in public, practice in front of a mirror first.

Some baby clothes make feeding quite difficult: dungarees and pinafores with lots of buttons and straps can get in the way when a baby is small.

Helplines are great but having a named person is even better.

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