The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and then continued breastfeeding after the introduction of solids until two years of age.
Breastfeeding initiation rates here in Australia are very high with most mothers breastfeeding their babies for the first few months, however by six months breastfeeding rates drop quite significantly.
We know that breastfeeding can be challenging for many mothers particularly during the first few months after birth, the fourth trimester- a time of great physical and emotional change. Newborns take up lots of time and it’s very easy for new mothers and their families to become overwhelmed by the demands of feeding, lack of sleep, constant crying and just taking care of a new baby in general. Ensuring that mothers get all the support they need during this time is extremely important.
How we support Murdoch mums
On St Mary’s ward we have a fantastic team that consists of specialist obstetricians, paediatricians / neonatologists, experienced midwives, lactation consultants and physiotherapists who provide maternity and neonatal care. Supporting mothers who choose to breastfeed is a huge part of that job.
Babies are placed skin to skin on the chest of their mother immediately or soon after birth for at least an hour or more. This is a beautiful time to get to know your baby, fostering the release of hormones that facilitate bonding and the initiation of breastfeeding.
On average, mothers and their partners will spend between three and four nights in hospital rooming in 24 hours a day with their baby. Along with unlimited skin to skin, mothers will soon be able to recognise important feeding cues when baby is hungry. Experienced midwives and lactation consultants are available to assist with breastfeeding, positioning and attachment difficulties, and provide lots of support to help promote a healthy milk production. There are also opportunities to attend breastfeeding education workshops on the ward three days per week and, if desired, an individualised breastfeeding care plan can be made to help provide mums a more clear understanding of how breastfeeding will work for them.
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be perfect before mothers go home. In fact, it can take up to six weeks for breastmilk supply to establish. We recognise how important it is for mothers to have breastfeeding support at home. ‘Healthcare In the Home’ is a home visiting service that can be offered to those who would like a midwife or lactation consultant to visit them. This is a wonderful way mothers can feel more confident in their abilities to breastfeed their baby, and establish a healthy breastmilk supply.
For those mothers who are wanting to extend their village of support, ‘Murdoch Mums’ is another way for mothers to get together. Dedicated midwives and lactation consultants from St Mary’s ward run a local mothers group and welcome all of our Murdoch mums to come along.
If mothers are struggling with breastfeeding or have any serious concerns it is important they seek professional help. The Raphael Centre is a specialised community based perinatal and infant mental health service supporting parents through emotional challenges of early parenthood, so their families can thrive.