I was lucky enough to breastfeed both my little ones until they were over one. Breastfeeding was something I personally really wanted to do so I am really glad that it all went smoothly for us. I totally appreciate that isn’t the case for everyone though. While I agree the breast milk is the best option for feeding a baby, I’m sure we have all heard enough times about all the health benefits, I don’t think it should be to the detriment of the mother. If it’s going to be a source of lots of stress, upset and ruin the enjoyment of the magical time of having a newborn then it’s not worth it.
I always felt like breastfeeding for me seemed like the easy (and cheap, formula is expensive!!) option. It’s so much easier and quicker to just whip out a boob when your baby is hungry rather than faffing around with sterilizers and bottles etc. especially in the middle of the night. When loads of visitors descend upon you in the early days I always found it made a good excuse to go off to my room to feed the baby. Not that I actually had an issue feeding in front of people, it was just nice to enjoy some peace and quiet when I wasn’t feeling quite as social! Sometimes I also liked to use it as an excuse to sit back with my feet up and get my husband to bring me things like snacks and cups of tea (even a few times when I hadn’t let on that baby had fallen asleep already)
I have put together a wee list of facts and tips that helped me in the beginning of the breastfeeding journey
- The early days: Milk only starts being produced when a baby is born so it can take up to 5 days for a milk supply to come in. In late pregnancy and the first few days the body produces colostrum, this is a yellowy liquid which contains immune cells and antibodies, which can help babies fight off infections. Newborn babies have tiny stomachs which don’t take much to fill and colostrum has a very concentrated amount of nutrients in small volumes, which is why it’s the perfect first food for newborns. It is normal for newborns to lose weight in the first few days after birth so don’t panic and assume they are not getting enough milk.
- Finding a good postion: As breastfeeding can be a very time consuming task it’s really important to get into a position that’s comfortable for you. When babies are teeny tiny a feeding pillow can be useful, I’d imagine particularly if you had a c-section. They are a c shaped pillow that you can position under your boobs to help support the baby. There are lots of pictures available if you google it of different positions and holds, you just have to use trial and error to find what works for you and your baby
- Latching on: Making sure your baby is latched on correctly is essential for babies to feed effectively and also to avoid the sheer agony that occurs when a babies latch is incorrect. Feeding is new to babies too so it they have to learn what to do too. I was told by the midwife that you should aim to point your nipple towards baby’s nose to get them to open their mouth wide and the whole nipple and areola should be in the babies mouth. If the baby hasn’t latched on properly you have to use a finger to break the suction befor attempting to take the baby off your breast or you’re in for some extreme pain!
- No pain, no gain: I know you always hear breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, and it shouldn’t be excruciating (if it is it’s more likely a latch problem) but honestly even with a good latch breastfeeding isn’t completely painless in the beginning and when your baby is cluster feeding, it does take a little while for your nipples to toughen up. During this time I couldn’t recommend Lansinoh nipple cream any more, it’s a lanolin cream and is made of all natural ingredients so you don’t even have to wash it off before feeds. It works so well to soothe sore and cracked nipples. You can pick it up in loads of places – like boots, superdrug or in supermarkets and it’s usually about £10 for a tube, but it lasts for ages and truly is worth every penny
- Milk supply: Breastmilk is produced on a supply and demand basis so the more you feed, the more milk you will produce. Also the emptier your breasts are, the quicker the milk is produced. That’s why you should feed from one breast until it is empty before switching to the other side. Some people write down which side baby fed from and for how long to keep on track, I’ve never been that organized. I’ve also heard of people putting a band on their wrist to remind them what side to feed for. I’ve never even been that organized. I’ve always gone with the ‘squeeze both boobs and go with whichever feels fullest’ method, although not sure this would be the one recommended by professionals!
- Enough milk? One of the worrying things with breastfeeding is not knowing exactly how much milk your baby is drinking. Newborns feed a minimum of 8-12 times a day, not because they are not getting enough milk but because it’s normal and important to establish a good milk supply, stop your breast from becoming engorgaged and nourish your baby. If you feed on demand, your baby has plenty of wet and dirty nappies and is gaining weight (after an intial drop) then you can be reassured your baby is getting enough milk
- Cluster feeding: Sometimes babies will feed lots of times close together and for longer. This is cluster feeding. It happens most in the evenings and it’s not because they are not getting enough milk, it can coincide with them sleeping for longer periods at night so it may not feel like it at the time when you feel like you’ve been feeding forever but it’s a good, and normal thing!
- Clothing: Feeding bras are essential for easy access, which unclip at the top and the cup flaps down. I had a few breastfeeding tops, but actually I found these weren’t neccessary. All you really need are cheap vest tops that you can wear under tshirt or jumpers and you can pull the jumper up and vest top down and you’re still all covered.
- Feeding on the go: One of my biggest concerns before starting breastfeeding was what I was going to do when I was out somewhere. I never fancied the thought of getting my boobs out in public but I soon learned that once you are used to breastfeeding you can be so discreet when feeding that no one around you would even really notice. A few things that made me feel better would be to try and opt for a seat in a corner or something rather than in the center of a cafe for example and I would use muslin squares, draped over my shoulder to cover myself just until the baby was latched.
- Expressing: After a lot of research I bought the Medela Swing electric Breast pump and it was brilliant. With an RRP of £134.99 (you can find it cheaper though!) it’s not a cheap option but they are very efficient and I found I could express a full bottle in no time. It’s best to pump in the morning, as milk is produced faster then and I also found it made a big difference to make sure you are nice and relaxed and with your baby or thinking about feeding. I didn’t express that regularly really but it was nice to know the option was there if I was ever going out somewhere, or sometimes just to have a break and an early night and let daddy do the feeding!
Hopefully some of this might be helpful to someone!
* This is all just things i’ve picked up from my experience, you should always speak to your midwife or health visitor if you concerns about your baby’s feeding, or anything else you’re worried about