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Continuing to breastfeed

We know breastfeeding provides the best possible start in life for babies but many mums find it hard to continue over time. While any breastfeeding is beneficial, the benefits increase the longer the baby is breastfed. Sydney Local Health District's Clinical Midwife Consultant for lactation and parenting, Carmel Kelly explains some of the problems new mums face when breastfeeding and how to overcome them.

In Sydney Local Health District 97% of babies start their lives being breastfed. However this number drops to 50% by the time the babies are four months old. Ms Kelly says many women stop breastfeeding before they intended due to breastfeeding problems and a lack of support.

"One of the most common issues is not understanding normal baby behaviour. Breastfeeding can take six weeks to get right and babies feed quite regularly. It's really normal for a baby to feed between eight and 12 times a day until six months of age."

When babies start cluster feeding (lots of small feeds in a short amount of time), mums often feel confused about what that means.

"Many think their milk supply must be low but really the cluster feeds are a normal part of baby behaviour – and won't last forever!" says Carmel.

Breastfeeding mother of two Stephanie Machado found the early days feeding her first baby very difficult.

"Initially I had sore nipples, and every time bub was attached it would hurt."

But Ms Machado always wanted to breastfeed, so she was determined to keep going.

"I used nipple shields for a few weeks. Eventually there was no pain and she attached well. It was just hard in the beginning."

According to Ms Kelly, experiences like this are quite common.

"For some people if they get damaged nipples they might think it's all over, but it doesn't have to be. With support it's possible for the baby to attach comfortably and breastfeeding will become easier."

Back at work after having her second baby, Ms Machado is still breastfeeding when she can. Ms Kelly encourages other mums to do the same. "You could still breastfeed morning and night, and give the baby formula during the day."

And if you're a mother who needs to be taking medication, don't automatically assume that means you need to stop breastfeeding. Speak to your family doctor or contact Mothersafe for advice (details below).

Despite all the early troubles Ms Machado had with breastfeeding, she thinks it was worth pushing through, and encourages other new mums to do the same.

"I love breastfeeding. I have a beautiful bond with both my kids and I would do it again in a heartbeat even though I went through so much pain and so much doubt with my first."



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Page Last Updated: 28 February, 2018