11 Dec Breastfeeding after IVF: 10 tips for success
Breastfeeding after IVF? It’s tougher than you think. A recent Australian study looked at breastfeeding issues following IVF treatment. It found that fertility patients were more likely to fail than ‘natural’ mothers. Breastfeeding is challenging at the best of times. After IVF, it’s even harder.
The study focused on women who’d had c-sections after an IVF cycle. Most patients wanted to breastfeed to the six-month mark. But many ran into difficulties. At four months, just 40 per cent of IVF mothers were still breastfeeding. That’s 10 per cent less than ‘natural’ mums. Delayed lactation, low oxytocin levels, lack of support are all to blame.
What can IVF patients do to improve their breastfeeding? We’ve compared studies, listened to the experts and come up with some ideas of our own. So these are our 10 tips to help mums succeed with breastfeeding after IVF.
1. Keep relaxed.
When the euphoria of birth subsides, reality kicks in. As an IVF mother, your birth is a particularly miraculous event. You may have had gruelling IVF cycles and a stressful pregnancy. Put all that behind you and relax before and during a breastfeeding session. Leave stress – the oxytocin killer – at the door.
2. Seek support from the start.
A key recommendation in the Australian IVF/breastfeeding study was that IVF patients should request more support from the outset. That means additional assistance from lactation experts, midwives and your local doctor. Insist on regular visits from one or more. Or check out well-established experts on YouTube. Private breastfeeding tutors are also cheaper than you think. A recent study highlighted the need for professional breastfeeding support.
3. Call in friends and family.
As an IVF patient, you’ll know which of your friends and family you can rely on for support. Ask them over, early on, to help with cooking and cleaning. You’ll be surprised how little time you have to do household chores yourself. This will give you more time to relax and focus on your breastfeeding agenda. Many cultures encourage close family support post-birth. Insist on it yourself.
4. Take fenugreek and folic acid.
IVF patients know all about folic-acid supplements during pregnancy. Take one after birth too, as part of a larger multivitamin. You may not eat too well after you return home with baby. For breastfeeding purposes, your vitamin and mineral intake matters. And take fenugreek – many midwives swear by it. Check you’re on the right dose, and run it past your doctor.
5. Eat like a horse – and order in the water.
You may have watched your diet during your pregnancy. Once you’re home, you can love food again. You’ll get ravenous after breastfeeding. Try to eat a balanced diet, including carbs, protein, fish, fruit and vegetables.
In the weeks leading up to the birth, prepare and freeze industrial quantities of sauces and soups – you’ll thank yourself for this. And order in 40 bottles of mineral water: breastfeeding makes you very thirsty. As for a daily glass of Guinness, try it.
6. Use a breast pump – it’s totally okay.
IVF patients are used to a helping hand. If your milk isn’t coming, use a breast pump. Try a manual, then an automatic one. Both will seem bizarre at first. But if they work, why not? You’ll quickly see if natural breastfeeding or the pump produces the most milk. If one breast works better than the other, don’t neglect the other one. Lactation needs stimulation. Remember: even if you produce little breast milk compared to a pump, it’s better than nothing.
7. Easy breastfeeding is a myth.
One of the many myths about breastfeeding, after IVF or not, is that it’s easy. It’s not. And nobody tells you. It’s a fact that many mothers run into difficulties. Well-meaning health professionals turn up on your doorstep and give conflicting, and sometimes inaccurate, advice. Add to that latching problems, sore nipples, reluctance to feed in public, social pressure, anxiety for the baby – mums are faced with a bewildering array of issues that scream: give up.
Take a deep breath. If you’re an IVF mum, breastfeeding is one more hurdle to overcome, and you’re strong enough to do it.
8. Run that bath – but banish the bubbles.
You’ll have been told to avoid baths after your IVF transfer. It’s time to reclaim the roll top. Having a daily hot bath has been proven to reduce stress levels. That means easier breastfeeding. So plonk the baby on your partner and take 30 minutes off each day to wallow in hot water. Don’t use bath oils or bubble bath: the perfume on your skin can discourage your baby from latching on.
9. Breastfeed or express in the early hours.
Stress levels are lower during, or just after, sleep. This may explain why many women find milk production easier in the early hours. If that’s true for you, get some expressing done then – you could even store some milk for later in the day.
10. Book that boutique hotel.
After the roller-coaster of IVF, then the birth, you’ll want to breastfeed your baby away from the stresses of everyday life. But after three or four weeks, whether you’ve had adequate support or not, it’s time to venture out. Be bold. Book a weekend in that fancy hotel you always promised yourself. The change of scene, could really makes a difference.
Hope your enjoyed our top 10 tips on breastfeeding after IVF. One final thought. If you’re breastfeeding, this will affect your prolactin levels. If you decide to try for another baby, using IVF or naturally, you may need to stop three months before trying to conceive. Check with your doctor or IVF clinic.