Like many new skills that we develop in life, breastfeeding can take time, patience and strength to learn. To support women with their breastfeeding journey, a Breastfeeding support clinic is now available at Epworth Geelong.

There are many reasons someone might want to see a lactation consultant during pregnancy. Sometimes people come in as they’ve had breast surgery in the past and are concerned about how that may impact their breastfeeding. Others may have concerns about breast size or nipple shape. Some may have had difficulty breastfeeding their last baby and want to make a plan about how to handle this next step on their journey.

One of the most common reasons people see lactation consultants in pregnancy is to learn about antenatal expression – that is, collecting some breastmilk before the baby is born, in case it’s needed to supplement the baby’s feeds once they are born. Some reasons mothers may consider expressing milk in late pregnancy include:

  • a family history of allergies (especially cow’s milk protein intolerances) – extra colostrum can help prevent the need to supplement with formula which is associated with increased risk of developing allergies.
  • diabetes during pregnancy – babies born to women with diabetes often have difficulty keeping their blood sugar levels stable after birth. Some extra colostrum on hand can help keep their blood sugars stable and can help to reduce the need for more invasive treatments.
  • any known or potential conditions for baby that might make it hard for baby to feed from the breast after birth, for example babies who have been diagnosed with a cleft lip and/or palate, or babies who may have cardiac, neurological or genetic conditions
“There are many other reasons as well, as unique and individual as the women we work with. It’s always recommended to make an appointment to see us if you have any worries about breastfeeding that are not addressed in a breastfeeding education class. The earlier we see you, the more we can help. It’s never too early – or too late!”

Some of the most common concerns mums might have include ‘how will I know when my baby wants to feed?’ and “how do I know that they are getting enough?’ A great idea is to pop along to a breastfeeding class to learn all about baby feeding cues. Once your baby is born your midwives will also help you identify your baby’s cues and give you some guidance about normal newborn feeding patterns.

Another big challenge in those early days is being able to recognise good attachment at the breast. Achieving a good latch is key to breastfeeding success – without it, breastmilk supply can be slow to build up, baby won’t get much milk, and nipples can get sore!

“I always compare attachment and positioning to learning a new dance with a new partner. Sometimes it can take a bit of gentle coaching before the dance goes smoothly. Midwives and Lactation Consultants are there to support you to achieve good positioning and attachment. Don’t just suffer through on your own, feeling uncomfortable. If it doesn’t feel right, or if you are unsure, let us know. We want to help.”

The number one preconception we hear is that breastfeeding should come naturally. We need to get the word out that breastfeeding is a LEARNED skill, and just like any skill, it takes practice and guidance. For many women, the first time they are up close and personal with a breastfeeding baby is when they are feeding their own baby for the first time!

Other common preconceptions are:

  • I can’t breastfeed with flat/ inverted nipples - yes you can!
  • My small breasts won’t make enough milk - yes they will!
  • Skipping feeds won’t affect my supply - yes it will!
  • My baby wants to breastfeed all the time, I must not be making enough milk - babies breastfeed for MANY reasons, not just for food
  • Nipple pain is normal - no it isn’t!

Some people may find that their breastfeeding history predicts how future breastfeeding journeys will go, but it is also very common to have a completely different experience with each baby. Why? This is a whole new partnership. Remember that dancing analogy? Your new partner needs to learn all the steps that you have already practised with someone else, except this new partner has a different personality, is a different size, has a different shape.

It may also be that your coach wasn’t as good last time, or you didn’t have a coach at all. You are different too. You are entering into this new partnership with a different attitude – good or bad - based on your previous experiences. With a new partner, a new coach, and a new perspective, it is likely you will have a different experience.

“We definitely encourage our clients who have had a challenging breastfeeding history to come and see us. There is often a great deal of anxiety and sadness associated with a difficult breastfeeding history, but it doesn’t have to dictate the future. We can help.”

Don’t hesitate to seek support if you need it. There are wonderful, evidence-based, resources at your disposal including antenatal education classes, midwives on the ward, Lactation Consultants, the Australian Breastfeeding Association, and mothers’ groups.

Appointments for the breastfeeding support clinic at Epworth Geelong can be made by anyone, regardless of their birth hospital.

14 September 2020