We have had a wonderful week here at She Births® working from our hub in Bondi and welcoming lots of happy babies into the world around the globe via our new video based Online Course. Many families blown away by what they could achieve during birth with the right knowledge, tools and support.
I have also been working with SBS on a documentary about the review of the NSW Govt Towards Normal Birth policy. As one of the only non-OB / midwives included it was an honour and also a responsibility to try and convey what we as mothers feel and experience. What contributes to birth trauma and what normal birth means for us.
At She Births® we are committed to the positive birth movement. We aim to prepare parents for positive parenting experiences too and for many of us that includes breastfeeding.
At She Births® we believe, like science does, that ‘breast is best’ but of course ‘fed is always best’ when glitches or trials occur! Breastfeeding brings so many benefits (both nutritional and emotional) and it’s a topic we cover in our course to help mums and their babies have the best possible start.
It’s so important to start to consider your perceptions of yourself and perfectionism before your baby arrives. Feeding will always have a few bumps in the road. Whether that’s an occasional bout of mastitis, oversupply, undersupply, attachment, tongue tie, lip tie, the work / pump juggle, weaning, conflicting advice etc. The journey is fraught with learning and is unique to us all. Just like birth – you will find your way that works for you and perfection is never 100% everything we want it to be in our minds.
Georgina is a well qualified woman to speak to on the topic of breastfeeding. She is a registered nurse, midwife, an international board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), and a mum. She lives in the beautiful Ballina Shire in Northern NSW with my husband and 2 kids, who are aged 3.5 and 1 year. She is currently working in private practice, which involves supporting women on their breastfeeding journey, as well as educating families about normal infant behaviour. If you follow her on social media you will agree that her passion lies in empowering parents to follow their instincts and to nurture their babies responsively. She certainly lives by example. We have to acknowledge that she has grown up surrounded by paediatrics as her Dad is the renowned and much loved Baby Doc Dr Howard Chilton.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us Georgina.
What is a lactation consultant
In Australia, a lactation consultant is usually someone who has completed the IBCLC exam through the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners. This is an international certification and is recognised worldwide. Lactation consultants all have a background in health sciences and have completed numerous theoretical and practical hours in breastfeeding education and support. Breastfeeding is a learnt art and while it is the most natural thing to do, it can take a bit of practice. Many woman find getting the advice and tuition from a IBCLC really helps them on their way.
Why do you encourage women to breastfeed?
I think most women understand the message that breastfeeding has vast health benefits for both themselves and their baby. But especially in the postnatal period, while they are trying to recover, there is another reason that I’m going to offer up that I think is fantastic motivation for women to breastfeed – believe it or not, mothers who exclusively breastfeed actually get more sleep! This has been shown in the research (Kendall-Tackett, K. A., Cong, Z., & Hale, T. W. (2011). The effect of feeding method on sleep duration, maternal well-being, and postpartum depression. Clinical Lactation, 2(2), 22-26) and contradicts the popular myth that if you feed your baby formula, they will sleep better and thus, mum will also get better sleep. Also, with a bit of practice, women can learn to breastfeed lying down, allowing them to use those moments when baby feeds to rest and recover after birth.
How can a woman prepare to breastfeed?
I think that it is so important for pregnant women to take steps to prepare for breastfeeding. In my opinion, one of the best ways to do this is by seeing breastfeeding in action. We don’t live in tribes anymore, where we are exposed to breastfeeding every day. So for many women, the first baby they have ever witnessed feeding, is their own. Like She Births® recommends watching birth videos to prepare for your birth, I recommend you watch breastfeeding videos to see how others do it. If you have friends with breastfeeding babies, ask if they can show you how they position baby and if you can watch baby feed. I’m betting most women would be more than happy to share these moments. The other thing women should do is make it clear to the people who will be with them during and after the birth that baby needs to spend as much time skin to skin as possible. Those early hours (and even the early days and weeks) after birth are important to establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship. So, assuming baby is well, he or she needs to spend a lot of that time on mum’s chest, skin to skin. This is where they learn to breastfeed – not swaddled up in a bassinet!
How can we support a breastfeeding mum?
New mothers really need to be snuggled up in bed with their baby, learning about each other and learning how to breastfeed. With that in mind, the best support we can give mothers is doing things that allow them to do this – help with the housework and meals, or taking older siblings out and about. If mum is exhausted and needs a break, taking the baby for a while so she can have a proper sleep and recharge her batteries can also be really helpful. Most importantly, if mum is struggling, reach out and get her the appropriate help. Especially when it comes to feeding difficulties, the sooner you seek help, the better.
What is the role of the dad in breastfeeding?
Dad’s have a very important role when it comes to breastfeeding. It’s not always going to be easy. Regardless of the type of birth, Mum is going to be exhausted and sometimes, breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally. Sometimes there are hiccups and bumps. It’s dad’s job to be her rock, to support her and to cheer her on. To have unwavering faith in her ability to nurture and nourish their baby. New mothers constantly doubt themselves and sadly, many doubt their bodies too – this is especially true if the birth hasn’t gone to plan. Dad needs to remind mum of her strength and lift her up if she’s struggling. Most importantly, if she desperately wants to breastfeed, but she’s struggling and it just doesn’t seem to be working – get her help from a professional. Support will enable a successful breastfeeding journey.
In celebrating World Breastfeeding Week, we wanted to acknowledge two groups doing amazing work to promote positive breastfeeding experiences.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association is a volunteer run service across Australia since 1964. They offer a range of support services including an introduction to breastfeeding class for expectant mums and also an invaluable 24 hour support line. 1800 686 268 is certainly a number to have in your favourites as telephone counselling is available free to all callers. More than 400 breastfeeding counsellors volunteer on the Breastfeeding Helpline each month, answering up to 6,000 calls. They are a membership based organisation, click here to find out more.
The Australian Breastfeeding Project is an initiative by Photographer Sarah Murnane. She travels the country taking powerful images to erase the negative stigmas that surround breastfeeding. Her movement is called “Feeding the Change” and aims to create awareness through education and public participation on the Australia wide photo sessions as well as on social media and via news media exposure. Every participant is involved in helping normalise breastfeeding together they fill social media with breastfeeding images and support each other in changing negative stigmas associated with breastfeeding. Check out the special shots on her facebook and instagram
Love and gratitude,
Header image: Monet Nichole