Breastfeeding-my way (tips from a dietitian and a mum!)

If you're pregnant or just starting out on your breastfeeding journey, I hope that my experience of breastfeeding my own four children and the combined experiences of all the parents I have encountered over the years will offer you some practical tips on how to breastfeed your way.

Believe in the benefits. These aren't always visible, your baby may still get sick or develop a food allergy (my eldest had eczema, milk, egg, kiwi and nut allergy!). Read up about the science of breastfeeding and believe it.

Be prepared. Take a good antenatal breastfeeding class. I knew lots about the theory of breastfeeding but there's a huge difference between theory and practice. An antenatal class will give you the skills and knowledge you need

Be stubborn. Few have a problem free experience (but remember formula feeding isn’t without problems). My firstborn was a nightmare initially, he was jaundice, wouldn’t latch on, on top ups and fed on one side only so I ended up pumping as well. Work through each challenge, you will get through it with the right help.

Ask for help. Being shy will get you nowhere, ask the midwives even when they're rushed off their feet, ask Cuidiu or Le Leche League, Friends of breastfeeding, a friend who has breastfed, a PHN or a private lactation consultant. There aren't enough supports but use what's available.

Breastfeed the way you want to. Breastfeeding can be wrapped up with other parenting choices, like co-sleeping and baby-weaning. If you want to do those things, do but don't feel that breastfeeding comes as a package. For me, breastfeeding was simply a feeding choice, not a mothering choice. I didn't want to co-sleep so I didn't, by 10 months I’d had enough so I stopped, feed for as long as suits you and your baby.

Keep it real. For some breastfeeding is an amazingly emotional experience. I'm not a sentimental person, for me breastfeeding was a neutral experience, a convenient way of feeding my baby that I knew was beneficial for our future health. Just like childbirth don’t place too many expectations on the experience!

Caroline O'Connor is a mum of 4 (3 Men and one Little Lady!) and a registered dietitian. She is passionate about helping families establish healthy attitudes to food and eating. Her pet hates are food fads and nutritional pseudoscience! She founded Solid Start which aims to help parents raise happy, healthy eaters.