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What difference can three weeks make?

As a trainee lactation consultant, I often hear from new mothers who are struggling with breastfeeding. One common theme I see is that many mothers wait too long to seek support, and by the time they do, the problems have become more difficult to solve. That's why I want to emphasize the importance of getting support early on and answer the question, "What difference does three weeks make?”

Babies develop so quickly especially in the early days. You may feel like you’ve just got into a routine and then baby will completely change it up. They are also getting stronger and more awake, but they also start developing preferences in what they like. In three weeks, your supply can be impacted, babies can loose weight, damage can be caused etc. We can normally fix these issues but the longer we wait the harder it can be to reverse any problems.

First and foremost, antenatal support is essential for setting the stage for successful

breastfeeding. This support can come in the form of antenatal classes, one-on-one consultations with a lactation consultant, or even just reading books and articles about


The more knowledge and preparation you have before your baby arrives, the better equipped you'll be to handle any challenges that come up. I often think that antenatal courses don’t spend enough time focusing on breastfeeding. It’s understandable as there is a lot of information that they want to share with you, but often I meet women who think that breastfeeding is going to be easy, and baby will just latch to the breast and that’s it. Unfortunately, both you and baby are going to be learning, yes breastfeeding is natural but so is walking yet we still have to learn how to do it. The more information we can gain pre-birth the better prepared we are and set up for success.

Once your baby is born, it's important to get a latch check-up, ask any questions you have, and receive advice from a lactation consultant. Often the hospital will have a lactation consultant available so make sure you ask to see them. Your midwife can also help, so please don’t be afraid to ring the bell and gain this valuable support.

This is a critical time when your baby is learning to breastfeed, and you are learning how to provide the best care and support for them. Even minor issues can become major problems

if left unchecked, so don't hesitate to seek help. An uncomfortable latch can turn into cracked nipples, baby not going to the breast often enough (we want baby on the breast and feeding at least 8 times in a 24 hour period – realistically this may be many more times and that’s okay too), poor weight gain, milk not coming in etc.

Weight gain is another important factor to monitor early on. Your baby's weight should be checked regularly in the first few weeks to ensure they are getting enough milk. If your baby is not gaining weight as expected, it may be a sign of an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. Baby will often drop a little weight after birth, this is due to the fact that they have been saturated with amniotic fluid. Weight loss of less than10 percent of birth weight during the first week is considered normal. If your baby loses more than this, there may be cause for concern. Your midwife and lactation consultant will enquire about how many wet and dirty nappies baby is having as this is also a good indicator as to what is going on.

When your baby is struggling with gaining weight you will often be recommended to give baby top-ups, this is offering baby milk, either breast or formula through a cup, syringe, tube or on a spoon to baby after they have fed at the breast. However, sometimes if you are doing this when you leave the hospital you can forget some of the vital information that was given (it’s not any ones fault it’s just a lot that you are having to take in very quickly after birthing) and if the support drops off, you then don’t realise that you must pump after the breastfeed to encourage your milk supply to increase. People also get trapped into always giving a top-up as they don’t know how or when to reduce.

Nipple shields can be a helpful tool for some breastfeeding mothers, but it's important to get advice and products from a lactation consultant. Using nipple shields incorrectly can lead to further problems, so don't rely on internet advice or recommendations from friends. Nipple shields can be used because baby is struggling to latch on the bare breast without assistance, however they may also be given if your nipples are damaged to give you some comfort. Nipple shields can be great, but often are tricky to get to stay on especially if baby is fussing or coming on and off the breast, which does happen at times. They can also be difficult to wean off, but again with support this can be managed.

Lastly did you know that there is a right and not so perfect way to give baby a bottle? If you want our baby to be able to feed from a bottle as well as from the breast it is important that you learn how to bottle feed.

We have learnt that babies don't necessarily get nipple confusion is more to do with the ease of how they feed. When feeding a bottle, you want to use a preemie or new born teat. To start with you tease the teat on baby's lips, just like when breastfeeding (they need to suck on the breast to get the milk flowing so naturally they don't initially get a mouthful of milk). You let them take a couple of suck without getting any milk. The bottle needs to be held parallel to the floor half

filled so that the milk is not being poured into baby’s mouth. This means baby has to suck to get the milk. After a couple of sucks, you would drop the bottle slightly, while keeping the teat in the baby’s mouth, to stop the milk flow and let baby have a breather, just like breastfeeding. Check out milk mob, paced bottle feeding to see a video on how this all works. It can make a huge difference to a person maintaining their breastfeeding journey.

In conclusion, the first three weeks of breastfeeding can make a huge difference in your breastfeeding journey. Getting support early on can help you avoid or overcome many common breastfeeding challenges and set you and your baby up for success. Don't wait to seek help if you're struggling – reach out to a lactation consultant or other breastfeeding support resources as soon as possible.

Sometimes a tiny adjustment can make all the difference to your breastfeeding journey.

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