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Podcast: Early days - what do you need to know? (Season 1 Episode 2)

Talking about preparing for breastfeeding

What did you imagine life with a new baby would be like? How can you prepare for breastfeeding before your baby arrives? In this episode Jennifer, Jessica and Nina talk about their expectations and adjusting to the reality of life with a new baby. 

Baby led attachment

Podcast episode

Companion blog post

If you’re pregnant, whether it’s your first baby or you’ve done it all before, chances are you’re busy preparing. Thinking about the birth, going along to appointments with your health professional and making sure you have everything on your shopping list. But what about preparing for breastfeeding?

Podcast information

Show notes
Talking about preparing for breastfeeding

What did you imagine life with a new baby would be like? How can you prepare for breastfeeding before your baby arrives? In this episode Jennifer, Jessica and Nina talk about their expectations and adjusting to the reality of life with a new baby. 

Information discussed in this episode:



This episode is presented by Jennifer Hurrell, Jessica Leonard and Nina Chad. Special thanks to Monica Spillman.

Show notes by Emma Pennell. Transcription by Madina Hajher. Produced by Belinda Chambers, Sky Mykyta, Jessica Leonard and Eleanor Kippen.

Episode transcript

JESSICA: Congratulations, you’re pregnant! Whether it’s your first baby or you’ve done it all before, you’re probably busy preparing for the birth. But what about preparing for breastfeeding? In this episode of Breastfeeding … with ABA, we’ll talk about common expectations for life with a new baby, Breastfeeding Education Classes, normal baby behaviour and finding a community to support you.

We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we are recording this podcast and on which you are listening. We pay our respects to indigenous elders past, present and emerging and particularly to any Indigenous people who are listening. We also pay respects to the long history of oral story telling in this country and the long tradition of women supporting each other in motherhood and in feeding their babies.

JENNIFER: Welcome to Breastfeeding … with ABA. A podcast brought to you by volunteers from the Australian Breastfeeding Association. Breastfeeding … with ABA is a podcast about breastfeeding, made by parents for parents. In each episode you’ll hear from different mums from around Australia. My name is Jennifer and I’m a volunteer breastfeeding counsellor and community educator with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. I’m speaking from my home on the lands of the Dja Dja Warrung people in central Victoria. I have two children, and my son is 17 and my daughter is 14.

NINA: And I’m Nina, I’m also a volunteer community educator and breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. I’m talking from my home on the land of the Darkinjung people which is on the Central Coast of New South Wales. I have three children, my eldest is 22, my second child is 18 and my third child is 17.

JESSICA: And I’m Jessica Leonard. I’m a breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association. I’m speaking from my home in the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. I have two children, a 14-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.

NINA: Well, that sounds like we were new mothers a very, very long time ago and sometimes it feels like we were. I’m often reminded that while the days and nights are very long when you have little kids, the years are incredibly short. I don’t know about you, Jen, but it feels like just yesterday when I brought my very first little tiny 2.5 kg baby home.

JENNIFER: Yeah, my second child was 2.3 kg and I was joking the other day she used to just fit in one arm, and now she’s taller than me so when she wants to hug me it’s like my entire body is involved rather than just one arm. And the difference is really stark, but she still seeks me out for that comfort and support just like she did when she was a baby.

NINA: Yeah, I remember changing Jack’s nappy on my lap at my very first Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting and having other mothers just looking on in wonder that that was kind of even possible. I mean, I am tall but, that was amazing.

JENNIFER: Whereas at my first meeting my daughter did the world’s largest poo and it went down my leg, down onto the white carpet in this woman’s home and I was mortified ‘cause it was a very big poo! And she wore very tiny nappies because she was a very tiny baby, her nappies were the size of a cloth napkin and it managed to shoot out of it. [laughter]

JESSICA: When you’re about to have your first baby, you might have an idea of what life is going to be like. Or, maybe you’ve got no idea what to expect. Here’s Jennifer and Nina with what they thought.

JENNIFER: I, I was the oldest of four children and I’d been a nanny for years and a babysitter for most of my teenage years, and I was also a health professional, so I had this idea that I knew all about babies. I’d actually supported lots of new parents with their babies as a nanny and as a parent helper so, I thought ‘this will be hard, but I’ll be fine’. My perception around feeding was a bit influenced by my cousin who had a child just before me and had had trouble. So, when she told me ‘get help, get help, get help!’ there were some classes at the hospital that were available just more generally about birth, but nothing specifically around breastfeeding, and at that stage when I’d been living in Victoria there weren’t Breastfeeding Education Classes through the Australian Breastfeeding Association. So, I accessed support through the hospital by visiting one of the lactation consultants, just to kind of prepare myself and get some more information. And I thought, ‘okay, I’ve done that. I’ve already keyed up that when I give birth, if I have trouble they’ll come and see me. So, I did the best I could to get some information and I think because I had some past experience of working with breastfeeding families, I had a bit of an idea that it might be a bit of a bumpy journey. But I wasn’t as prepared, as I think I could have been.

NINA: It’s hard to know, isn’t it, what we’re going to need when we kind of take that leap into new motherhood. I remember very distinctly people asking me questions about ‘do you want to come to … something’, or ‘come to dinner’, or ‘would you like to join us for a … something’ … in a period that was after my due date and I was very, or recently, heavily pregnant with Jack, and I used to just think ‘I don’t know’. I felt like I was looking into a great, dark space and that I had no idea what it was going to be like. I think a lot of times when you ask a question, you know ‘what’s it like?’ the answer kind of becomes, ‘oh you won’t get much sleep, the baby will want to feed every X many hours’ it’s all kind of numerically driven, a very routine description driven. And I think one of the great things that I learned, and only really learned through the Australian Breastfeeding Association, is that parenting is really, is a conversation and breastfeeding like any other kind of parenting is really about building a relationship or learning about this new person in my life. And learning to recognise when they’re hungry or when she’s kind of uncomfortable, or when she just needs to feel close.

JESSICA: So, if you want to learn about breastfeeding before your baby is born, where do you go? Here’s an idea of what to expect if you come along to one of ABA’s face to face Breastfeeding Education Classes.

NINA: The curriculum of the Breastfeeding Education Classes, the way that they work, they’re small, you usually have around 10 couples at a time. We encourage people to bring their breastfeeding questions. We try and have some content for partners and to bring in some new mums who are a little bit ahead and show them what it looks like and talk about what it feels like to be breastfeeding a baby and I think while all of those skills are important, it’s really about the conversations and the relationships. 

JENNIFER: One of the real differences between other breastfeeding classes out in the community and the classes that we offer as an Association is that we talk about breastfeeding as part of normal life, and we talk about how life changes and how to work with that. I remember thinking about the fact that I used to watch the clock a lot and one of the things that we talk about in our breastfeeding classes is that the clock isn’t necessarily your friend with a small baby. Sometimes it’s necessary medically, but sometimes watching your baby and not the clock and knowing how breastfeeding works and knowing the importance of just sitting and following your baby’s lead to actually establishing a good milk supply is such an incredible strength. At the classes it’s such a great opportunity to talk about expectations, we’ve talked about them today. At our classes we encourage mums to come along and bring a support person whether that’s a partner or a few times we’ve had mum, or even a sister come along supporting the pregnant parent. And it’s amazing to talk about expectations in that moment and talk about what’s normal. And within those classes we talk a lot about how frequently babies feed, and that babies feed for more reasons than just food. And I think helping people to explore what their expectations are like we’ve talked about today, Nina, but also whether or not they might need to adjust some of those expectations to fit what real life is going to look like can be really important. And I don’t know that there are many other places that have that conversation with parents while they’re still pregnant.

JESSICA: And if you’re in an area where there aren’t any face-to-face Breastfeeding Education Classes, ABA has an option for you as well.

JENNIFER: In response to the situation with COVID and some of the lockdowns it was pretty clear to the Association that offering in-person classes only wasn’t ideal and so, very rapidly the Association turned around and created an online breastfeeding class I guess, called Breastfeeding Education Live. These are one and a half hour webinars that are actually run live, they’re interactive. So, it’s not just your pre-recorded webinar, when you’re attending. There’ll be facilitators present. There’s the opportunity to chat with other parents in the session and to ask questions and there’s also generally a question and answer session with a breastfeeding mother of a little one. So, there’s that chance to actually talk with somebody who’s in the middle of that early phase of the journey to get a real sense of what to expect. We talk again, like our breastfeeding education classes, we talk about positioning and attachment, reading your baby’s cues, information about supply and demand, how to tell your baby’s getting enough, but it is also an opportunity to have some interaction and ask these questions you might have. Those Breastfeeding Education Live sessions can be accessed through our website, signing up to attend one of our classes, and they’re often run over weekends or evenings. There’s access to the videos after the event so you’re actually purchasing access to a resource that’s really useful in those early days.

MONICA: You’re listening to Breastfeeding …with ABA. My name is Monica, and I am an ABA volunteer. Before the birth of my second child, I downloaded the mum2mum app. I didn’t realise how helpful it would be. I find it useful to record nappy counts over a 24-hour period, it can be so tricky to keep abreast of this in the blur of the newborn phase. I have loved the notifications and reassurances about what is typical around particular ages. I feel like it’s been an age since I had a newborn, I’ve forgotten so much that the mum2mum app supports me along the way. It’s my little helper.

JESSICA: There’s a lot of information covered in the Breastfeeding Education Classes and the Breastfeeding Education Live webinars about things like cluster feeding.

NINA: Cluster feeding’s one of those things where babies tend to have a period during the day and it’s often just right about cooking dinner time where they just want a feed and it feels like constantly. You feed them and they have a good 10–15 minute feed on one side and you think they’re asleep, and they’re out cold. And you go to put them down and just as you take your hand away, they’re screaming like they haven’t eaten in a week! You pick them up and feed them again, and it can go on for sort of between 2–4 hours. But it tends to come just right before their biggest sleep of the day. Lots of parents think it means that they’ve run out of milk at the end of the day, but it doesn’t mean that: it means putting in the next day’s order, telling your body what you need for the next day.

JESSICA: So, what’s normal for how often a baby will breastfeed?

JENNIFER: I think one of the challenges is a lot of parents will have health professionals ask them, you know, ‘how often is your little one feeding?’ And it’s about a ballpark figure. And we talk about the range within the Association of 8–12 times, but to be honest with you it’s often more often than that for some babies.

NINA: Especially in that first month you know I quite often say the best research we have is that babies are only breastfed in that first month tend to feed on average around 10 times in 24 hours, but in that first month when the baby’s really kind of getting used to being earth-side, as they say, sometimes it’s 12 and sometimes it’s 20. And that can be kind of harrowing, but, it is normal, and as long as mum’s comfortable and baby’s kind of, satisfied for some periods during the day and they’re having enough wet nappies and enough pooey nappies, then, you know, you can usually assume that everything is okay. And baby’s just settling down, and usually it settles down to a pattern of, as you say 8–12 in 24 hours and they’re not generally evenly spaced.

JESSICA: But what if your baby’s extra sleepy to start with and maybe isn’t feeding often enough?

NINA: some mothers also have that kind of opposite experience where they have a baby who’s very sleepy and who doesn’t really let them know what they need. I think it’s worth mentioning that sometimes, you know, for those babies for a short time it can be worth, or you know, you will need to wake them up and give them a bit of an encouragement to have a feed. And that can be a bit challenging, but once again, it generally passes. And that can be one of those times where the clock is important, just for a few days or a week until baby wakes up a little bit, gets a little bit more energy and is able to kind of, let mum know what they need.

JESSICA: You’ve learned all about breastfeeding. You’ve got a bit of an idea of what to expect. What’s the next thing you could do to prepare for breastfeeding? Well, now’s a good time to start building a support network and linking in with your local community. Nina and Jennifer both remember what it was like to go to their first ABA group meeting.

NINA: My mother was a breastfeeding counsellor when I was young. Also, I knew about Australian Breastfeeding Association meetings and I knew about the helpline, and I do have vivid memories of my mother supporting other women as they breastfed their babies and cried in our lounge room, and then left kind of feeling much better about their whole situations. Jack was born early, he was born at 35 weeks, and I brought him home not feeling that great myself. So, one of the very first things I did when I got home was tried to find out where my next Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting would be. The one tip that my mother gave me at that point was, ‘take something for morning tea, even if you haven’t baked it yourself, and offer to do a job, and then, you know, you will find that you kind of build that group of friends for life,’ and I think that was about right.

JENNIFER: I didn’t have the same exposure to the Australian Breastfeeding Association other than knowing that they existed and knowing that they’re in the community, I didn’t really understand how it worked. And I lived between two groups, and I was really torn going ‘I don’t want to pick the wrong one’, I lived on the border between two, like ‘I don’t know which one I should go to’ so I just didn’t go. I didn’t know that it wouldn’t matter, that I could visit one and then the other and then make my mind up, I didn’t know that I could visit any Australian Breastfeeding Association group at any point. Now I know I could go anywhere in Australia and find a group, and I certainly have when I’ve travelled, but back then I didn’t. So, I sat there wanting to join, wanting to be part of that movement, and now knowing how. And it wasn’t until I moved to the country when my first child was 1 and felt really lost without a group. I’d been part of a quite supportive council-based mothers’ group that became a really good playgroup, and I moved away, and I was really isolated, and when my second child was born, I needed a group and I sought out the Breastfeeding Association when she was, I don’t know, 2 weeks old. So, I rang the local group leader and asked about it and she said to come along, so I did. And I’m so grateful because that’s how I formed my village in my new community, I didn’t know anyone pretty much, and suddenly I found a group of women that I could connect with and I’m still in that group now. So that group has created for me connections that all of my friends from my university days are in Melbourne, and here in central Victoria I’ve got my ABA peeps. Which has made a difference, it really has.

JESSICA: ABA meetings are different to mothers’ group. Firstly, you can come along before your baby is born to learn things and meet people. But there are some other unexpected differences, too.

NINA: People used to ask me, you know, why would I go to an Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting when I’ve got my local mothers’ group meets? And I ended up realising that the reason I went to an ABA meeting was because in my local council mothers’ group, it was nice because everyone was kind of going through the same thing at the same time but what that meant was that we all just kind of felt really overwhelmed. Whereas with the Australian Breastfeeding Association group, there was always someone who was just a few weeks, a few months, or even a couple of years ahead who could reassure me that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Or, who could offer a different approach or some suggestions that I hadn’t kind of considered or thought about. And to me that was really, really valuable and I think it’s worth reflecting that now, you know 22 years on, and I’ve been a counsellor now for 19 years, that those friendships have supported me through some of the most tumultuous and also wonderful life events over the years that I certainly wouldn’t be without. [Music fades in]

JENNIFER: For more on this topic you can go to Australian Breastfeeding Association’s website, and check out the show notes below for a link to this episode’s blog post which contains further links and information. 

To speak to a breastfeeding counsellor, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268. 

NINA: Or you can also use our LiveChat, which is available via our website, which is at and you can find your local ABA group by visiting the website, too. You’ll also find lots of really helpful breastfeeding information and a link where you can join the Association as a member.

JENNIFER: You might like to join our Facebook group to continue the conversation, just search for Breastfeeding … with ABA. Make sure you answer the joining questions so that we can add you quickly.

NINA: And just a little word about sponsorship and advertising. In each episode you’ll hear about other ABA services and products that we think might help families like yours. We’re a not-for-profit member organisation, a charity, so we need to look for sources of income to support our activities. You might also hear about some external products or services that we’ve carefully chosen because they’re consistent with our goals and aims. You can feel reassured that the advertising on our platforms will always be compliant with the World Health Organization’s International Code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.

JENNIFER: Rate, review and subscribe. We want this podcast to be a resource that any new parent can find and come back to, because these issues are timeless. Do you like what you’ve heard? We would love it if you could share this podcast and our website with your friends and family so that other families can use this information and find support too.

NINA: Thanks everyone for listening.

JESSICA: As volunteers with the Australian Breastfeeding Association, we follow a Code of Ethics that guides us online and in person. To maintain our relationships with health providers, we refrain from identifying practitioners and clinics. To keep things neutral, we interact respectfully and non-politically. To honour each other’s’ privacy, we uphold confidentiality. You can learn more about our Code of Ethics on our website at


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