National Breastfeeding Week is marked each year from 01 to 07 October, it is an opportunity to discuss the importance of breastfeeding as the normal and healthy way to feed babies and young children. Breastfeeding gives babies the best start for a healthy life and it protects both mother and baby, the health benefits are undisputed. It is also crucial that women are empowered, enabled and supported on their breastfeeding journey.
Olivia Somers, Lactation Consultant at Portiuncula University Hospital has the following advice for women who are thinking about breastfeeding, preparing to breastfeed or who need a little support to continue breastfeeding.
- Prepare for breastfeeding when you’re pregnant
Classes are available in Portiuncula University Hospital to learn about what’s normal for breastfeeding and know what to expect in the first few days and weeks after birth. Here you will learn the benefits of breastfeeding, the importance of skin to skin contact, establishing a good milk supply by stimulation early and often, the importance of correct position and attachment, ways of protecting the milk supply if baby is unable to latch and that every breastfeeding challenge has a solution. These classes are available online and can be booked at puhmaternity.ie. You’ll also find lots of videos and other advice on preparing to breastfeed at mychild.ie.
- Build your confidence
After spending time at home during lockdown many mothers may feel less confident about breastfeeding in public places. Some mothers feel self-conscious breastfeeding in public the first time, particularly when attaching the baby to the breast. This gets easier with time. Most people won’t notice you are breastfeeding, as it looks like you are cuddling your baby.
Bringing your partner or a friend along for support until you become more confident can help. Ask if there is a dedicated feeding area if you want more privacy.
Wear a loose top over a cami top so you can lift up the outer layer and pull down the strappy top. Wearing a nursing bra can help too so you can quickly click it open and attach your baby.
Going to a support group and observing other mothers breastfeeding can help with your confidence. To find your local breastfeeding support group, click here.
- Breastfeeding when you have COVID-19
Breastfeeding is highly encouraged, even if you have COVID-19. There is no evidence that your baby will get the infection from your breast milk. Continuing to breastfeed at this time will help boost your baby’s immune system. The benefits of breastfeeding strongly outweigh the possible risk of transmission.
If you’re feeling unwell and think you might have coronavirus, practice good hygiene during feeding.
The advice is to:
- Wear a face covering during feeding
- Wash hands with soap before and after touching your baby
- Wipe and disinfect surfaces regularly.
The HSE encourages all pregnant and breastfeeding women to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Talk to your midwife or GP if you have any questions.
- Seek out support to help continue breastfeeding
Staying connected with others when you are breastfeeding will help you master the skill and deal with bumps along the road. Portiuncula University Hospital’s lactation specialist can help you overcome breastfeeding challenges when needed. Call 090 9624619 to make an appointment.
Spending lots of time in skin to skin contact with your baby boosts your supply of breast milk and helps bond with and comfort your baby.
- Have you a breastfeeding question
The HSE’s ‘Ask our breastfeeding expert’ service is available for free on mychild.ie. Talk to lactation consultants online for information and advice on any part of breastfeeding via email or live chat. The live chat service is available from Monday to Friday, 10am-3pm here.