Whether creating a birth plan feels comfortable to you or not, there are many advantages in talking through and communicating your preferences to those who are supporting you. Birth plans are talked about a great deal and some NHS trusts have a space in your maternity notes for you to write down your wishes.
As a lactation consultant, I would love for you to write down your feeding preferences as well. And I don’t mean whether you plan to breastfeed, or bottle feed your baby – although this is a good place to start.
Adding a feeding plan to your birth plan is a great way to open up the conversation with your partner and loved ones about your feelings around feeding your baby. I have put together a list of things that you may want to consider and discuss as well as some example sentences to get you started.
Straight after the birth:
Skin to skin immediately after birth creates a gentle transition for your baby as they come from womb to world. However, you want to feed you baby, as long as Mum and Baby are doing fine then prioritising this contact helps your baby to regulate themselves in their new environment and optimises normal neurodevelopment for both Mother and Baby.
It’s not just for vaginal births. You can request skin to skin after a caesarean birth too. Pop it in your plan and communicate this to your caregivers.
We know that having skin to skin in the first hours after birth improves breastfeeding outcomes. Babies will often start to search for the breast on their own and may even latch on unaided. You can request for this time to be uninterrupted.
It can be useful to make a plan in case you and you baby need to be separated for a while. Babies can have skin to skin with partners and other family members too.
I would like to hold my baby skin to skin straight after the birth
If I am unable to hold my baby after the birth, I would like my partner to be shown how to hold our baby skin to skin.
Please give us an hour skin-to-skin with our baby before any cleaning up or other routine care is carried out.
Environment is just as important when learning to breastfeed as it is during the birth. When the hormone oxytocin flows, breastfeeding is easier. Oxytocin isn’t easily released when you feel stressed, watched or criticised. You can use your breastfeeding plan to prioritise an oxytocin friendly environment:
Please keep lighting low and noise to a minimum after the birth
Please knock before entering the room/bed-space
Please keep language positive and supportive when talking to us.
We do not want visitors during the first…… hours/……. days after the birth.
I would like my partner to stay with me.
Support is vital to new parents and it may sound obvious but writing in your plan that you would like help with breastfeeding lets those looking after you know if breastfeeding is important to you.
You may want to ask for specific help with getting a good latch or trying different positions. If you are worried, then don’t be afraid to ask.
You may want to ask if there are breastfeeding peer supporters or an infant feeding team on the ward or in the community team where you are being cared for.
I would like support with learning to breastfeed my baby as soon as possible please.
We would like to be given information on getting a good latch and how to know if our baby is getting enough milk.
Please use a hands-off approach to breastfeeding support so that I can learn through doing.
My main worry about feeding my baby is………………………………………….
If you are separated from your baby:
One of the common concerns about writing a birth plan is that women may feel like they have failed if they haven’t experienced their ideal birth. I think this could be said for writing feeding plan too. But I strongly believe that discussing and writing down your preferences for IF things take an unexpected turn, can be a powerful exercise and ultimately help you feel a part of the decisions being made.
It can be helpful to write about how you would like your baby to be fed if you are separated from them. You may want to consider any of the following:
If I am unable to be with my baby, I would like them to have breastmilk/formula
We are happy for our baby to receive donor milk.
Please help me to hand express colostrum for my baby if we are unable to be together.
We do not want our baby to be give formula milk. Please ask permission from one of us before giving any.
I am happy for my baby to receive formula milk if we are separated.
I have antenatally expressed breastmilk for my baby, please use this first if I am unable to breastfeed.
If breastfeeding isn’t going well:
For man,y the early days and weeks for breastfeeding can be tricky. It’s something that both you and your baby need to learn and asking for support is so important. Giving a bit of formula is sometimes suggested when breastfeeding is difficult, but this can often have a negative impact on breastmilk supply. This is because milk needs to be removed from your breasts for supply to be established. Artificial nipples can also cause issues for babies when breastfeeding is getting started and any feeds away from the breast is time not spent learning how to breastfeed. Breastfeeding friendly solutions to breastfeeding problems make all the difference.
As well as using any of the sentences above, Other things you may want to consider writing are:
Please show me a variety of positions to help me get a comfortable latch
If we are struggling to breastfeed please refer us to the infant feeding team
If my baby needs supplementary milk, please feed them via a cup/spoon/syringe/bottle
Please teach me to hand express/ use a pump so that I can provide my own milk for my baby.
Learning as much as you can about breastfeeding before your baby comes can make a big difference. Research shows that those who have antenatal breastfeeding education are more likely to meet their goals. You may wish to look for a class close by or online. Understanding how breastfeeding works and what is normal will also help you to put together a plan for feeding your baby.
As you’re writing, remember that none of this is set in stone, but it is a great way to start up conversations about feeding and communicating your wishes to others.