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Grandparents’ Guide to Modern Breastfeeding: 5 Things You Need to Know


This post was written in collaboration with my friend and colleague Freya Mahal, an expert midwife and founder of Expecting Antenatal Classes.


I know how excited grandparents can be when a new baby arrives. But things have changed since you raised your own children, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. This post aims to answer some of the most commonly asked questions, to help you better support new moms on their breastfeeding journey.


1. Tiny Tummies, Frequent Feedings:


Babies tummies are tiny when they’re first born (about as big as a marble!) and yes, they fill easily but they also empty quickly too - this is with good reason. Breastfeeding works on a demand and supply basis, so if your baby is demanding it, your body will supply it. By feeding on demand, you’re working with your body and in conjunction with your baby. 


Babies sometimes appear to have grown overnight and this isn’t actually that far from the truth! Grandparents love to comment on how their grandbaby has grown - take secret pride in this, that by feeding on demand, you’re doing an awesome job!


It doesn’t just stop there; the composition of your breast milk changes to meet the nutritional needs of your baby which are ever changing and ever evolving. This changes according to their their age, developmental stage, even the weather. Their demand might change at various stages and according to these factors and more.


Plus, if we had unrestricted access to food and drink, it’s suggested we’d reach out for something approximately 18-21 times in a 24 hour period! It might be worth reminding grandparents how often they like to pop the kettle on, or open the fridge door.


2. Embrace the Flexibility:


As an expert midwife I know (and all health professionals should be in agreement with me) that regardless what you choose to do later, feeding should always be on demand initially. Please then reflect on your own personality. Some parents (and therefore babies) thrive on a routine and others thrive with no routine. It’s not always about there being a “right” or “wrong” but rather discovering what is a right or wrong way of doing things for you and your baby.


When it comes to breastfeeding, it’s essential that even if you need some sort of routine to thrive, you remain flexible when feeding. You only need to think about how a change in environment (hot or a little stressful) can make your throat dry, your tongue parched and the same can be said for your baby.  


You may find grandparents were told when nursing you or your siblings to feed with a set routine, timing every feed, swapping breasts back and forth, clock watching for the next feed and…repeat. Babies aren’t born with built in timers!


3. The Golden Hour (or Hours):


As a midwife I know how exhausted and sore women can feel after birth, how concerned they are to establish feeding and I also know how desperate grandparents understandably are to meet their grandbaby. But those first few hours are precious and this is not a time to people please. This is an amazing opportunity to spend time together as a new family (whatever your new family looks like and soak up the Golden Hour (or hours). The arms of the next generation can wait. 


Placing your baby skin to skin can not only help with bonding, but also regulate your baby’s temperature (the room is always colder than inside the womb), regulate baby’s heart rate (not to mention yours!) and even regulate their blood sugar. Skin to skin helps transfer incredible microorganisms from you and your skin, to your baby and their skin. This can help establish your baby’s microbiome, which is amazing for their gut and developing immune system.


Even if your baby doesn’t feed during the Golden Hour, (they have enough brown fat reserves to keep them going for much longer than that so you can relax!) soaking up that time, placing them skin to skin, can help initiate your baby’s instincts to find the breast and help stimulate prolactin, your milk producing hormone. Use this time to begin to get to know your baby and begin a lifelong journey of understanding one another. 


4. Modern Safe Sleep Practices:


This is a huge topic that can be hard for grandparents to get their heads around. Todays evidence based advice is often the exact opposite to how you or your siblings were brought up. Breastfeeding can halve the risks of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). You’re far more likely to have your baby in your room if you’re breast-feeding; who wants to get up in the night and cross the landing?! And it’s essential to room share for at least 6-12 months. People often think this is because you need to hear them but if a baby stops breathing there is no sound. Instead by sleeping in a room with another person, babies are gently disturbed by noises of breathing, moving, rolling over, snoring. This helps prevent them falling into such a deep sleep that they stop breathing. 


Older generations will often tell you not to co-sleep because you’ll (wait for it..) “make a rod for your own back!” In actual fact, co-sleeping can enhance breastmilk supply, enable you to sleep (you may now have a deep understanding why sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture in some countries!) and give your baby the security that you’re there for them. This last point can lead to them being less clingy and more confident as they grow and explore away from you. 


However (and this is a big however) please only co-sleep safely! This short video from The Lullaby Trust is a great summary of how to do just that.


5. Support is Key:


Breastfeeding comes with challenges, and new moms often feel overwhelmed. Offer emotional support, listen without judgment, and help with household chores and errands. Encourage them to seek professional help if needed, and remind them that support, not pressure, leads to success. Danielle offers support for breastfeeding mothers on every step of their journey. You can book a 1-2-1 consultation with her, here.


Join Our Grandparents Refresher Course!


Want to learn more and forge an even stronger family bond? Join my "Grandparents Refresher Course" and gain valuable insights into modern baby care practices. Use code BFMENTOR for 10% off here. Remember, supporting new moms on their breastfeeding journey creates a positive impact on the entire family.


With love,

Freya X Danielle

❤️




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