Very often, the furthest we get in terms of ‘preparing’ for breastfeeding during pregnancy is attending an antenatal breastfeeding class and buying a bra or two. If you want to dig a little deeper, there are also many more simple ways that you can build up the breastfeeding scaffolding. Sso that if the building (ie you!) starts to get a little crumbly on the breastfeeding front, you already have a pre-built frame of strength around you.
I have seen many times how this can and will go miles in helping you to have both an easier time feeding and to feel more confident and calm in any times of need.
The Baby Feeding Book, from which this extract is adapted, has lots of information on what to expect both practically and emotionally. For specific ‘mind-prepping’ tips, have a look at the following ideas:
- Start by brainstorming any thoughts, words or feelings you have about breastfeeding. Anything at all that comes to mind. Once you have put it all down, take a moment to think about where these have come from. Are they accurate? Are they a true representation of reality?
- Address any existing breastfeeding experiences which may have been negative or even traumatic. This could include having seen a friend or family member in distress whilst feeding their baby, reading difficult breastfeeding stories online, or having a personal experience breastfeeding a previous baby that has left you feeling concerned about how things will go this time around.
- You may want to ‘get it all out’ by writing everything and anything relevant you can think of down, or confiding in a trusted friend whom you know will listen without judgement and simply let you speak. If you feel that you need professional input, arranging a 1-1 session with a certified breastfeeding specialist, to enable you to find some clarity on what may have happened and why it happened with any previous babies, can be hugely beneficial. Having a session with an understanding practitioner certified in gentle fear release techniques, can also offer a swift and safe method for shifting negative thought patterns, towards a calmer and more confident viewpoint.
- Get visual. One of our major barriers to feeling confident in our own ability to breastfeed, comes down to the fact that it’s not something that we would classically see going about our everyday business in the UK. When we don’t see something happening that often, if at all, it naturally seems a little alien and daunting.
It’s never too early or too late to start
There are easy ways to counter this and it’s never too early or too late to start:
- Watch videos on YouTube and follow breastfeeding influencers and hashtags on social media, such as #normalisebreastfeeding, #breastfeedingsupport, #breastfeedingmama and #breastfeedingbaby for tonnes of inspiring and often funny pictures and stories of real-life breastfeeding.
- Visit a local breastfeeding drop-in Most people there will have already had their baby but you will always be welcome to attend during pregnancy.
- Design yourself a breastfeeding vision board by cutting out positive and inspiring words and pictures you find from magazines, the internet or leaflets you’ve been given and add to it with any of your own creative sparkle too.
- Make it personal. After a few weeks of following these previous ideas, you may well be surprised by how your ideas of seeing yourself breastfeeding are changing. Now is a great time to start personalising these images and create a picture of what it looks like for YOU to breastfeed:
- Visualise your own positive experience by closing your eyes, imagining you are in a familiar and comforting space and take a moment to create a picture in your head of you breastfeeding.
- Affirmations. Repeating positive breastfeeding-related affirmations out loud to yourself may not be up everyone’s street but if you have done something like this before, or are willing to give it a go, I can’t underestimate how powerful they can be!
- Build A Breastfeeding Village. Depending on your situation, this ‘village’ may be ready and waiting for you, or it may take a little work to start to build the foundations. So where to start?
- Your own family and existing friends. In an ideal world they live close by, are rooting for you, will listen closely to what is important to you and want to help out in any way they can. We all know that life isn’t always this straightforward, so learning to tune in to those who make you feel good and filtering out any unsolicited ‘noise’ is key.
- Making new friends. ‘Dating’ apps for new parents are a great way of connecting to like-minded parents in real life and sometimes just diving in and starting up conversation with a fellow parent-to-be or new parent that you cross paths with, can lead to all sorts of awesomeness.
- If you have a partner, spend a little time sharing your thoughts about how you both envisage feeding your baby will look like.
- What are you both excited about?
- What are you both feeling nervous or worried about?
- How do you see things working out?
- How long would you like to breastfeed for?
- What are your roles going to be?
- Having a little clarity about where you are both at with your thoughts will undoubtedly help to reduce any unexpected conflict when your baby is born.
- Professional support. Write down contact details of local and online support groups, breastfeeding professionals and helplines and keep them somewhere close to hand.
Vanessa Christie (MSc, MN, IBCLC, RHV, RNC, CIMI) is author of The Baby Feeding Book (Piatkus, 2020), an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, birth and perinatal trauma practitioner, health visitor, children’s nurse, infant massage instructor, mindfulness coach and a mother of three. She has worked alongside over 10,000 new families over the past 20 years and now runs a busy independent practice, The Parent & Baby Clinic, consulting with families online and face-to-face on a range of pre- and post-natal issues from infant feeding, unsettled babies and sleep, to birth and peri-natal trauma recovery. www.vanessachristie.com