A tête-à-tête with Amberley Harris of Maternal Instincts

Breastfeeding is one of the most special aspects of the mother/child bond. Yet so often breastfeeding is far more challenging than new mums anticipate, resulting in a short breastfeeding journey. In this article we speak to midwife and lactation expert, Amberley Harris, about her top tips for breastfeeding success.  

Writer: Rebecca Walker, The Conscious Wordsmith


What are your top tips for a successful breastfeeding journey?

I have a FREE MasterClass on my "Top 5 Tips for Breastfeeding Success" where I elaborate on these, but here they are in point form:

  1. Ideally allow your baby to choose her/his birthday.
  2. Learn about the Breast Crawl
  3. Breastfeed on demand
  4. Avoid dummies, bottles and formula
  5. Seek education in pregnancy (my Breastfeeding Course is a great place to begin) and engage in professional support 
What advice would you give mama’s who are struggling to breastfeed?

First and foremost, we are not supposed to learn how to breastfeed alone. Seek support from a breastfeeding specialist; someone you vibe with, so that you can get the education and help you need. 

What are the most common mistakes first-time breastfeeding mama’s make?

I meet a lot of mothers who decide to "wait and see" how things go and only if they have challenges will they intend on seeking support with breastfeeding. These mothers I find are far more likely to encounter hurdles, than the mothers I connect with antenatally. I think being really proactive is key; engaging with someone in pregnancy and doing some breastfeeding education goes a really long way.  As opposed to just being reactive, if you are worried about how your breastfeeding will go and really want to successfully breastfeed your baby, be proactive. 

What is the fastest way to boost your milk supply?

Before recommending ways to build supply, I would always encourage mothers to seek professional support to determine if they have a low supply? There are two versions of low supply; perceived and actual. If you do have an actual low supply, the fastest and quickest way to increase milk supply is to breastfeed your baby more often. Feeds don’t need to be long in duration, snack feeds are perfect and powerful as they send extra signals to the milk making cells in the breast to increase milk production.

Why is a good latch so important?

When a baby is attached correctly to the breast they remove the milk efficiently and effectively. Correct attachment sends the right signals to continue making milk for your baby to grow and thrive (baby gains weight) and it prevents things like nipple damage, blocked ducts, mastitis, etc. Of all the problems I see mothers face in the early weeks of breastfeeding, the majority is incorrect positioning and attachment so when we get this right, we are more likely to go on and successfully breastfeed. 

Do you have any tips about ways to overcome mastitis naturally, without antibiotics?

Frequent feeding is really important to help clear mastitis, in addition probiotics, physio treatment for vibration therapy, heat, massage and cold packs can go along way. A lot of my clients have the beginnings of mastitis but can clear it effectively without needing antibiotics, so it’s important to have the information so that you can help your body get through this without needing antibiotics. Antibiotics are great for some mothers but I do feel that overused and they come with negative side-effects. So if we can clear the blockage before it becomes mastitis, it’s going be much better for you and your baby. 

Do you have any advice about the weaning process?

I have a 662movement which is an alignment with the world health organisation guidelines for breastfeeding. If mothers decide it’s the better fit for them to actively wean their baby, as opposed to baby lead weaning, then a starting point would be to drop one feed at a time, and go very slowly to help your baby or toddler and your body adjust. 

You are currently crowdfunding to make a documentary, ‘For Our Daughters’, about breastfeeding. Why do you think breastfeeding is such an important topic? And what information are you hoping to share in your doco?

I am making a breastfeeding documentary because I want to educate the world on how challenging it is for mothers of today to successfully breastfeed. Too often the responsibility to breastfeed is placed solely on the mother. I believe the medical profession, policymakers, governments, communities and families all have a strong role to play. I am making this documentary because I want to see more mothers achieve their breastfeeding goals. 

Stats show while 96% of Australian mama’s initiate breastfeeding, just 39% are still breastfeeding at 3 months of age. Why do you think so many mama’s end their breastfeeding journey so early?

Statistics from the 2010 National Infant-feeding survey tell us that initiation is not our problem, duration is our Achilles heel. I think it’s multifactorial why so many mothers have trouble achieving their breastfeeding goals and this is exactly why I’m making my breastfeeding documentary.

What is the key message you’d like to pass onto your daughter, and the next generation, about breastfeeding?

There are so many benefits to breastfeeding; there’s nutritional, immune, intellectual, emotional, social and great maternal benefits. I deeply want to increase the chances our future generation of breastfeeders achieve their breastfeeding goals, because when mothers successfully breastfeed, wonderful things happen in the form of a confidence that overflows into all aspects of mothering. 

For more information about Amberley’s services, check out her website https://www.maternal-instincts.com.au/