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Our Top 3 Tips on How to Prepare For Successful Breastfeeding in Dubai

Pregnant in Dubai and want to get breastfeeding off to the best start possible?

If you are considering breastfeeding these Top 3 tips will help to maximise your chances of success

As an antenatal and parenting teacher I have worked with thousands of new mothers and babies. In our class discussions I always ask what mums have found to be most surprising and challenging about motherhood, and I hear again and again how difficult breastfeeding was in the early days and weeks. Most mothers are very surprised by this, having assumed that breastfeeding, a natural process, will be easy and immediately enjoyable. Unfortunately many new mothers and babies in Dubai find it challenging, painful, and often completely impossible in the early days and weeks.

There are a couple reasons for this: first-time mothers today don’t have much experience with newborns, let alone with breastfeeding. We live in a bottle-feeding culture so few of us find breastfeeding natural and simple at first, and if our family and friends are not familiar with breastfeeding we don’t get the support and encouragement we need. Though your baby will have the instinct to nurse, it can also take some time for them to learn the skills. Medical interventions during labor, hospital practices after the birth, and other factors can make it more difficult for babies to breastfeed well in the early days.

Additionally, few mothers receive the information, support and follow-up that they really need to succeed at breastfeeding. Support in the hospital can be great or it can be non-existent and you won’t really know until you get there who will be on duty. Even more critical is the reality that nowadays most mothers and babies are discharged from the hospital before breastfeeding is well established. If things are not going well, it may be too soon to tell and get the help you need, and once you leave the hospital any follow-up help must be arranged by you—no health visitor is going to turn up at your door to make sure that your baby is doing well.

The other reality about breastfeeding help is that every health care provider you meet will give you different and often conflicting information and advice. This is especially true in Dubai where you will encounter medical staff with cultural and language differences, as well as a huge range of knowledge and expertise when it comes to breastfeeding. In the hospital the constantly changing advice you get from each nurse, midwife or doctor can make your head spin. Once you leave the hospital your pediatrician will likely have little or no training about how breastfeeding works, and if there is a problem will usually just advise you to give formula. If they don’t also send you to someone who can address the breastfeeding problem and help you return to exclusive breastfeeding, supplementing with formula will often quickly lead to total weaning from the breast.

In addition to the many mothers who express regret and grief that they were unable to meet their breastfeeding goals, I often meet mothers who have suffered great physical pain and babies who have failed to thrive when simple interventions by a breastfeeding specialist could have prevented all of this. Some parents didn’t even realize that there was a problem until it was too late and formula was absolutely necessary. This is completely unnecessary and tragic but fortunately is easily prevented!

Here are some things you can do to avoid these pitfalls for yourself and your baby:

1 Take a breastfeeding class before your baby arrives.

Research shows that attending a breastfeeding class during pregnancy can significantly increase your likelihood of accomplishing your breastfeeding goals. Having dad attend the workshop also increases your chances of success dramatically! We offer an Antenatal Breastfeeding Workshop for Pregnant Couples, that covers everything you need to know to get off to a good start and to identify problems early and get the right help quickly. There are other midwives and lactation specialists who offer similar classes, including private sessions in your home.

2 Arrange for lactation assistance for after the birth

Even if you think breastfeeding is going well ALL BREASTFED BABIES should be seen by a breastfeeding specialist in the hospital before discharge, and again between days 3-5 to make sure they are feeding well and getting enough milk. Finally, all babies should be weighed at around 2 weeks to make sure they are back to birth weight. The best person to do these check-ups is someone with knowledge and expertise in breastfeeding--meaning a lactation consultant or experienced midwife (not usually your pediatrician, who will have had very little training in breastfeeding, as a rule.)

Make sure that your hospital provides a lactation specialist who will be able to observe at least one breastfeed from start to finish before you and your baby are discharged. If this person offers any follow-up visits after discharge be sure to take advantage of this.

If you do have problems with feeding, then you may require more visits than these. This is the bare minimum follow-up which all babies should receive, but which will only happen if you set it up and pay for it (insurance should cover this as well-baby care or feeding problems.)

Midwives and lactation consultants are also available at Healthbay Polyclinic and Genesis Clinic (home visits also possible). These midwives also run free baby cafes on a weekly or monthly basis, during which you can also have your baby weighed and ask for some advice.

Dr. Delphine Dupuis in Dubai (she works in Medicentres in Motor City) and Dr. Evelyn Ruf in Sharjah are both GPs and lactation consultants and are both gold standards in this field.

3 Join a breastfeeding support group

Either on-line or in real time to connect with other breastfeeding mothers and experts both before and especially after your baby arrives. Continuing support is crucial!

Breastfeeding Q&A is a wonderful Facebook group which also offers in-person support meet ups with peer counselors and guest lactation consultants.

Just Kidding baby store offers a monthly breastfeeding support group run by a midwife/IBCLC on the first Monday of each month, Safa Park Branch, 10am-12.

Babies and Beyond offers regular breastfeeding support groups run by a midwife in Dubai Media City.

City Hospital Mothers' Group - monthly meetings on Tuesday. Not a specifically breastfeeding meeting, but facilitated by an IBCLC.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful experience that is beneficial to baby and to mother in many ways. Not everyone struggles, but everyone DOES need information, reassurance and support, and every mother/baby pair needs to be observed by someone who understands breastfeeding. That way if you need help, you will receive it, and if all is going well you will be reassured, congratulated, and empowered to help another mother who may be struggling through her breastfeeding experience. As I tell mothers in my classes, the first 2 weeks are the hardest, it gets easier by 6 weeks, and by 3 months you will feel sorry for the mum who has to mix formula.

Written by Amy Vogelaar, LM, IBCLC

Licensed Midwife and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

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