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How To Best Prepare For Breast Feeding

With Joelleen Winduss Paye IBCLC Holistic Lactation Consultant, Midwife, Naturopath & Educator

Tell us about you and your holistic lactation practice JWP?

My name is Joelleen Winduss Paye, I’m an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Midwife, Naturopath and Educator, and I founded JWP to offer a contemporary holistic breastfeeding support service for parents in Melbourne, however, I also offer my services virtually too. 

As an experienced midwife and lactation consultant, I support and hold space for breastfeeding challenges and help parents to understand what their newborn needs while keeping in mind the family’s feeding goals and realities. I also use a holistic naturopathic approach to nutrition, providing support around diet, herbs and supplements to support postpartum and breastfeeding well-being. 

I am also passionate about quality breastfeeding education, and breastfeeding preparation/planning during pregnancy. I host bi-monthly breastfeeding online workshops which covers what can be expected, how to troubleshoot common challenges, normal newborn behaviour, postpartum nutrition, helpful products and much more! 


How can mothers/parents best prepare for breastfeeding?

I often meet mothers/parents during a crisis in their breastfeeding journey, lacking the correct information and experiencing the stress that breastfeeding challenges can bring. There is a lot of advice available to parents; however, you need to consider who is giving the advice and if it is evidence-based. Your breastfeeding journey starts from the moment you decide you want to breastfeed your baby, and taking your time during your pregnancy to not only plan for your birth and postpartum but also for breastfeeding is essential. Some of the things I suggest are:

  1. Talk to other mothers/parents about how they found breastfeeding - What was challenging and rewarding? What do they wish they had known earlier/done differently?
  2. Find and follow an IBCLC Lactation Consultant who shares information on social media as an easy way to glean and save bite-sized knowledge for future reference. Connect with them to see if they will have availability around your due date, and even pre-booking an appointment is a good idea. Since the pandemic, many health services are now being offered virtually, and virtual breastfeeding support can work well!
  3. Attend a breastfeeding workshop or do an online course to process all the information in stages. Learning breastfeeding techniques and positions and how to troubleshoot common breastfeeding problems is helpful to know ahead of time. 
  4. Learn about your baby's needs by reading The Discontented Little Baby Book by Dr Pamela Douglas. 
  5. Learn how to do antenatal/hand expressing, bringing any colostrum you collect to your place of birth. If you don’t get colostrum, that is ok; just knowing the technique will put you in a better position once your baby has arrived. 
  6. Expect to have some level of nipple tenderness while you and your baby are learning to breastfeed together. We know that nipple pain is one of the top reasons mothers end their breastfeeding journeys sooner than they want to. Knowing how to protect your nipples in the first place by understanding the principles of a correct deep latch (breastfeeding technique) and how to care for your nipples appropriately can significantly improve your chances of breastfeeding success when it comes to nipple pain. So many products are available to soothe and heal sore nipples; just keep in mind that prolonged moisture can slow the healing process, so avoid using creams and moist treatments constantly. 
  7. Like a birth plan, have a breastfeeding plan in case things get complicated. If you and your baby cannot breastfeed easily, what will you do to optimise your chances of breastfeeding success? Some things to consider: 
  • Knowing what alternative feeding methods are available; syringe feeding, cup feeding and paced bottle feeding 
  • If you cannot produce the breastmilk your baby requires at any point, would you and your partner be comfortable giving your baby donor breastmilk? 
  • Have a preliminary chat about what infant formula you and your partner may want to choose if necessary. You will want to take your time with this big decision if this proves necessary. 
8. Book a postpartum planning session with a doula and explore what a Meal Train looks like for your support village - keeping my nutrition tips below in mind. Taking time to prepare your home life in advance will allow you to focus on giving yourself and your baby the best chance of breastfeeding success. Just like pregnancy and birth, breastfeeding is a time filled with surrender. Preparing for your breastfeeding journey helps you to manage some of the variables that come your way. Every mother, breast and baby is unique, and the more quality information and support you have access to, the more likely you will have a positive breastfeeding experience. 


The moment our baby is put on our chest, motherly and baby instincts come into play! What can one expect when experiencing this moment for the first time?

Instincts can be strong yet blurred, so give yourself grace as you have only been a mother for a few moments. Intuition needs repetition to grow, and there is a lot of pressure on parents to act from intuition very early on. Skin-to-skin is all you need at this moment. It may not feel like it but your bodies together are achieving so much as the hormonal dance unfolds. Your baby will know your voice and may surprise you with how alert they are. Try to protect this early time as much as possible with dim lighting, warmth, privacy and delaying any non-urgent tasks until the first breastfeed is completed. For mothers and babies who don't get to enjoy these precious moments immediately post-birth for whatever reason, I suggest playing catch up and making up for the lost time with unlimited skin-to-skin when you and your baby are reunited. 


How important is nutrition when it comes to breastfeeding and milk supply?

It is great to have resources like the book The First Forty Days which has led to more awareness of just how vital nourishment is during postpartum and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and parenting are hugely demanding on your healing body's energy levels and reserves; therefore, eating nutrient-dense foods and choosing foods for hormonal balance will support more well-being for you and your baby. Breastfeeding mothers are advised to consume an additional 300-500 calories per 24 hours to support breastmilk production, which equates to around three large snacks. However, it's not just about how much you eat; it's about what and when too. 

I always recommend a protein-rich breakfast as soon as possible after waking and that all main meals have protein, fibre, healthy fats, plus slow carbohydrates (ideally consumed in that order). Focusing on your protein intake at regular intervals will help to support a stable blood sugar which means more consistent energy throughout the day and overall greater hormonal balance. Protein-rich foods such as eggs, salmon, beef, chicken and vegan protein powders are all great options to get your 25 grams of protein per meal or 1.4 grams per kilo per day. 

Hydration is also essential, as breastmilk is over 80% water, so a lot of your water intake is being diverted to your milk supply. Producing breastmilk also required water. Aim for 3+ litres per day and more during and after exercise and if you live in a warm climate. I recommend having a water bottle at each breastfeeding station in your home. Sipping on a bone broth or a nourishing herbal tea (I love nettle and chamomile) during breastfeeding will also help to keep you nourished and hydrated. If you struggle to drink water regularly, flavour your water with an electrolyte powder, I love Hydramama and LMNT. It’s also helpful to know that watery fruits, vegetables and soups also count towards your daily water intake. 

I often support mothers with low breast milk supply that can typically drop towards the afternoon and early evening. I always look back to how they are starting their day, are they skipping breakfast and finally having a bite at lunch? Or relying on caffeine or other stimulants like sugar and refined carbohydrates to keep them going throughout the day? We chat about their nutrition priorities and find ways to create more consistency, meeting their nutritional and caloric needs. This always starts with a protein-rich breakfast. Feelings of increased energy and well-being are noted fairly quickly, and these changes are often reflected in the milk supply increasing too. 

Having a meal train set up before your baby arrives, switching typical baby shower gifts for meal services vouchers and investing in some quality multivitamins and protein powders will go a long way to nourishing you and your baby during this special time. 


Mastitis. How can a mother prevent / manage this.

Firstly, a common cause of mastitis is a sub-optimal latch and nipple damage, get this assessed and supported with a local IBCLC is essential. Keep your milk supply well-matched with your baby’s needs. I caution against the use of milk catchers, particularly when your baby is feeding at the breast. These can easily stimulate an oversupply, which puts you at risk of inadequate milk draining and therefore mastitis. 

Rest, hydration, and using ice and anti-inflammatories as required for relief are the latest advice for treating mastitis. Avoid heat, deep massage and trying to ‘drain’ the milk with expressing or extra feeding. Your milk supply may reduce during the mastitis period, this is a natural reflection of your body mobilising its resources to heal the mastitis and will rebound with proper care and time. Probiotics and Therapeutic Ultrasound (TUS) can be supportive too. If symptoms are not resolving, or worsening after 12-24 hours, seek a GP with breastfeeding expertise for a medical assessment and possible antibiotics. 

How should mums look after themselves to thrive alongside their newborns.

Take small moments for self-care, starting with fresh air and sunlight as early as possible. It may feel hard to get outside, but nature is so healing and mood-boosting. Proper nutrition and hydration also go a long way. I love practices like yoga nidra or diaphragmatic breathing, and these can be done throughout the day. Invest in some nice products to use during the shower, something that refreshes your senses and drops you into your feminine energy. Investing in postpartum planning or postpartum sessions with a doula and bodywork if you have the ability to do so are also incredibly supportive.