Breastfeeding can be tough. It can be daunting. It can be magical and rewarding. It can be a breeze. It can be painful and most often new mums will go into it with expectations that it will all come naturally. Sometimes that’s the case and sometimes not. The journey into breastfeeding is different for everyone.
Whether you’ve feed for a few weeks or a year, or even just tried and it hasn’t worked out, there is one thing that you should remember. Breastfeeding, boobies and babies are all very unpredictable and the best option is always to do what is right YOU and YOUR baby.
After having 8 children myself I can most certainly vouch for the winging it option. Beating yourself up with unnecessary mummy guilt is extremely easy to do. BUT if you go into it with no pressure or expectations on yourself then you’ll enter onto the path of motherhood going in a fab direction.
I’m often asked what my breastfeeding tips are and I always recommend 3 things:
- You don’t need an expensive nursing bra. A good supportive stretchy sports bra does the job.
- Get yourself a good electric/battery operated breast pump. I would highly recommend the Medela breast pumps as I’ve used them with all 8 children and it’s an essential.
- Listen to your body to save on your own sanity. Enjoy the journey but never feel afraid to call it a day if it’s not working for you.
But everyone’s journey is different so I asked our Parenting Community what things they were not told about breastfeeding and the things they had learned along the way.
Here’s What They Came Up With
- Breast milk can spray out at epic speed from both boobs and cover baby, sofa, floor and unexpected people who happen to walk by.
- When you’re on a 2-day work trip and the pump is just not cutting it, you might find yourself in so much discomfort you would happily grab any baby nearby for relief! (Obviously, this impulse can’t really be acted upon.)
- Try not to care about what people think when you are feeding.
- Mastitis and infected mastitis is worse than labour (especially when getting drained).
- It’s just as tricky to stop breastfeeding as getting rid of a dummy.
- Cluster feeding! Mums need to know that cluster feeding is completely normal and it’s baby’s way of upping your supply. It does not mean they’re too hungry; it does not mean you’re not making enough milk and it certainly doesn’t mean you should introduce formula. Yes, it’s hard to be constantly feeding (particularly at night) but if mums know that it’s normal and it’ll pass then it’s much easier to ride it out with Netflix and bountiful snacks!
- That some babies just can’t latch on and no matter how hard you try it just won’t happen. This happened to me and I was so disappointed I couldn’t feed when I thought everyone could. I also wish that ‘fed is best’ had been said to me so I didn’t feel so guilty about having to move onto formula.
- Your nipples probably will bleed.
You start to hate your hubby on the 3 am feed because they can’t produce milk.
- Your boobs become a psychic superpower. ‘Oh there must be a child somewhere in this town in need of food or comfort, I’m tingling’.
- It’s hilarious to walk in on your children breastfeeding their baby dollies in emulation and you have to fight the need to laugh and take pictures because you need them to see it normalised.
- When feeding in public baby gets distracted quite a bit by sounds and motions leaving you muttering under your breath often “get back on the boob or it’s going away!”
- But to make up for that, when in the comfort of your own home and you’re feeding baby and they finish up and mush their face into your boob and hug it like a pillow and drift off to sleep, that’s the best!
- Your boobs will turn into mountains 4 or 5 days after giving birth and you’ll wake up in pools of milk.
- A tip for anyone who ends up expressing for a newborn that is intensive care/hospital on a feeding tube. The expressing machines at the hospital are really, REALLY good so don’t get carried away. I got an enormous supply by using those machines but way out of proportion to my baby’s needs. So she only really got fore-milk, not the fatty nutritious hind-milk and, as a consequence, she was really really colicky.
- If you are expressing at home for a baby in intensive care, a photo of them and sniffing a babygro that smells of them can help.
- Nobody tells you how hard it is!
- No two breastfeeding journeys are the same.
- It can hurt a lot at first.
- It’s so much harder after your first baby.
- You’ll spend a lot of time in the house, topless!
- You’ll definitely think about giving up on a few occasions, especially during the night or when baby’s cluster feeding.
- But above all that it’s the best thing ever! When you catch your baby looking up at you full of love you forget about all the obstacles.
- Your baby might be up more regularly at night than those of your bottle-feeding friends but will probably go back to sleep quicker.
- Breastfeeding is instant and a lot less faff and expense than bottle feeding.
- Feed as long as you can but don’t ever let anyone make you feel that it wasn’t long enough.
- Never quit on a bad day. Don’t sit down for an evening cluster feed without having a big drink, snacks and the TV remote in reach. Have friends bring you cake and flapjacks. Expect afterpains when you feed. They get worse each time. That’s normal and will pass. You won’t shop for clothes without pondering boob access – potentially for years! Buy pretty bras. You’re worth it.
- Oversupply issues. My second baby couldn’t feed because my flow was too fast for her. Expressing and feeding her after expressing the first bit of milk helped a bit and feeding lying down. Once she was bigger and my milk settled she could manage well.
- Multiples… Babies 3&4 are twins. I had to breastfeed two children for an extended time but the twins were a different thing altogether. The expectation is that you CAN feed in tandem and you can manage to feed twins. I tried but mine were too heavy for me to handle at the same time as their jaundice meant they were sleepy and didn’t have a good latch. I fed them separately but it took 3 hours per feed and with two older children that was not something I could maintain. I fed them each at the breast once a day and the rest of the feeds I expressed but it was a 24/7 job to do this. The literature and support is good if you just have the twins but if there are older kids, lone parenting issues, school/nursery and work involved then fed is best however that is. I felt pressured all the time and managed to continue for 13 months but it almost broke me. Expressing is a brilliant help for multiples but keeping an actual breastfeed did help maintain supply and giving it in bottles meant my husband could help feed while I expressed during the night.
- Breastfeeding support groups have saved so many breastfeeding relationships. Find your local one and go as soon as possible. If you have any problems, get help as soon as possible. Don’t grin and bear it as it will only wear you out. The slightest change in latch can revolutionise feeding for you. And Laid Back Breastfeeding/Biological Nurturing is the best thing ever!
- There’s actually a way of knowing when your baby is full! If you pick up their free arm while baby is still nursing, and they keep their arm bent, they are still hungry. The arm acts almost as a gas gage. When full, baby’s arm will feel like a limp noodle.
- Exhaustion! Went to breastfeed in the baby room at a restaurant. Walked back over to the table and my partner was just staring. He pointed at my top and I looked down. My top was still up over my shoulder, boob not back in bra just swinging with milk dripping out and I had breastpad stuck to my jeans. I think I was just tired and desperate to get back to my beef.
- Your baby will try to latch on to anyone they are with and that person normally gets embarrassed and swiftly hands them back. That they will at some point unlatch and look up to “smile” at you sweetly then bring the entire feed back up over your whole tummy boob area as you weren’t ready with a cloth quick enough usually just before you’re about to go out. In the first few weeks, you will feel like a dairy cow and think about giving up and grabbing a bottle every other feed. But you enjoy the cuddles and bonding so much you can’t bring yourself to but it’s sooo rewarding and you’ll feel blessed that you are the only one who can give him that comfort.
- Always carry extra breast pads! I had to present my work at university, my milk started to leak which made me overheat which made them leak more.
- The hunger! And the whole “if you breastfeed, you will lose weight quicker” forgetting to mention that only really applies to the first few weeks, because after that, you will eat everything in sight!
Regardless of where your feeding journey takes you, ensure you make the most of the fleeting moments when you have a newborn.
- Some babies/mums do just “get it” from the start but that doesn’t mean it’s the norm. Everyone needs some sort of support. Sounds barbaric but I was advised to pinch my nipples regularly leading up to the birth of my first-born as they’re naturally soft and sensitive. It certainly desensitized them and I had no cracking or bleeding! Didn’t do it with the second one and had bleeding. The expensive nipple cream was worth its weight!
- I never realised how painful it could be. I never realised how lonely and frustrating the nights would be, feeding the little one while hubby blissfully sleeps and snores next to me. I never realised how much I’d be chained to the sofa. I never realised how much I’d stress about my supply and whether he was getting enough milk. I never realised how hard it’s been trying to get a good latch (nigh on impossible with very big boobs!) But I also never realised how amazing it’d be, how convenient, how great for bonding and how awesome.
- Don’t be proud A white cabbage leaf down your bra is amazing when you’re sore. Keep putting a nice cool one in! As a mum of twins, I found one did well on breast, the other not so well. Don’t be ashamed of a bottle. I expressed with a hand pump for the bottle-fed one for 3 months. I also wish I’d introduced both bottle and breast to my daughter who would not take a bottle. My advice is to get them used to both then you can have help. Either express or formula. Don’t feel guilty about bottles.
- Newborns have small mouths and you’ll probably have huge milky boobs. After a few days or so if baby is struggling to latch on ‘pinch’ your boob and feed it into baby’s mouth. When they are latched, gently pull their chin down to open their mouth without unlatching them.
- That baby might just want to use you to suck and no matter how hard you try they won’t take a dummy. I remember midwives telling me if my little boy was rooting he was hungry. I felt like such a bad mum cos that’s all he wanted to do and he was ‘hungry’ all the time. TOTAL RUBBISH! Babies use boobie as comfort not just to feed. If I’d known this I’d have felt a lot better about it and wouldn’t have spiralled into post natal depression. AND tongue ties DO affect feeding so if baby has a tongue tie fight to get it cut. It saves a lot of pain, disappointment and heart ache in the long run.
Check out our New Parent Tips – The Advice You Really Need
- Somewhere between the 8 week to 12 week mark your supply levels out as your boobs have figured out baby’s needs. This can mean that you suddenly don’t feel so full anymore, and also this period tends to coincide with a growth and development spurt for baby which means they want to nurse all the time. All of this together is commonly mistaken for ‘mum’s milk drying up’ which couldn’t be less of the case. With my first I ended my breastfeeding journey prematurely when I thought that I wasn’t producing enough milk all of a sudden and had started to supplement with formula that he didn’t need and he ended up having a bottle preference.
- Keep baby’s nails short as they will scratch.
- Nipples get sore but Lansinoh is heaven.
- You are emotional before during and after feeding so don’t watch anything sad!
- You will hate anyone suggesting that you allow others to feed expressed milk from a bottle. (I cried the first time my hubby fed my baby) but it gives you much needed freedom.
- Boobache is a thing.
- Your baby WILL come off mid-flow and you WILL squirt milk on people by accident.
- Your baby will give you love bites.
- Most importantly, it’s an extremely difficult yet beautiful bonding journey.
- After each feed, express some milk and rub it around and on your nipples. Reduces redness, cracking, mastitis. Recommended by an old midwife. I fed for 6 months with no problems.
- Breastfeeding causes your uterus to contract and it can feel like you’re having labour pains again! But it also helps your tummy to get nice and flat again. Calendula cream excellent!
BUT MAYBE THE MOST ESSENTIAL PEICE OF ADVICE IS:
- Ask for help if you need it, and take it when it’s offered! It doesn’t mean you’re a failure. All parents are winging it.
We were overwhelmed with responses to our breastfeeding post and literally had hundred of mums from our parenting community respond, see more of what they had to say HERE.
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