I am a believer that it doesn’t matter how your child is fed, once they are fed.
Don’t get me wrong, I would advocate breastfeeding as being of huge benefit for mother and baby, but it frustrates me enormously when I see such a divide between mothers who make different choices for their babies. I believe we all need to do what’s best for us and our babies and that we should have each other’s back not tear each other down.
This week is National Breastfeeding Week and it got me thinking about my own journey with breastfeeding to date.
Penny is 8 months and I am still breastfeeding, though not exclusively. I applaud those that do it exclusively for a year or more but it just didn’t fit with my life and I won’t apologise for that. I love breastfeeding, it has been the perfect way for me to make sure I have time with just penny (which can be hard with 3 kids).
I have put together a list of things I want boobing mammies to know, not to scare or put them off feeding but more to let them know it’s all normal. (Disclaimer: if you feel something is wrong or just not normal, get it checked. I am not an expert by any means).
1. Niplash is a thing. This is when baby decides to have a good look around while remaining firmly attached to you. Who knew nipples were so stretchy!
2. Biting. Unfortunately, some babies bite when they get teeth. It’s usually only temporary and there are things you can do to help. Usually unlatching for a minute distracts them enough to stop the biting.
3. Feeding makes you sleepy. It could be because it gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling or it could be because they are literally sucking the life out of you. Either way, you will be wrecked, mama!
4. Friends and family who have breastfed before will become an invaluable source of advice and a great sounding board. Forget Dr. Google, these ladies will become your Encyclopedia Breastannica!
5. Thrush. If baby gets Thrush, it can pass to your nipples and back again. If you suspect Thrush which hasn’t cleared in a few days, see your doctor.
6. Trifecta of pain. Mastitis, blocked ducts and cracked nipples are a very unfortunate possible side effect of feeding. They can happen as a result of over-supply, poor latch or a whole host of other reasons. They can happen individually or all at once and they are agony (feels like you are being stabbed by tiny knives while your boob is about to explode). A trip to the doctor is often necessary. Don’t suffer in silence. There are no medals available if you do.
7. Leaking. Ah yes, this is great! Don’t even look at a baby unless you are wearing breast pads. Breast pads are your best friend now. The boobs can leak a lot at the start as your supply settles. The rule of thumb with milk production is the more you feed, the more you make, so during cluster feeding that is pretty much 24/7. Even after a while, leakage can happen if you leave it too long to feed. Recently, I was doing tan on my legs for a wedding and noticed something was dripping on me…..It was me! I laughed as I pumped, removed the tan and started again. O, the glamour!
8. Latch issues. This is probably the most frustrating thing at the start. It can take weeks to get the latch right as baby is just learning to perfect their suck reflex. It’s not easy but keep trying. I found the flipple technique worked really well (Google or youtube it for tips).
9. Contractions in the early days. Oh god, this came as a bit of a shock to me. During the first few days, you may have aftershock pains during feeds as your womb contracts back to normal size. Not pleasant!
10. Cluster feeding. You may be lucky and escape this but most babies have days/weeks where they feed around the clock. They are growing rapidly in the early days and trying to trigger your milk production so while it’s frustrating it’s a good thing!
11. The clothes. The range of clothes available for feeding is sh*t. Most are maternity and nursing which is fine except most people don’t still look 9 months pregnant when they are feeding (it’s common to retain some weight but unlikely that you will still have a big round bump). Don’t get me started on nursing bras….ugly, non-wired granny bras seem to be the standard here. It’s like you don’t need to feel good because you are busy feeding. I also found myself having to double layer in order to avoid showing my stomach if I wore a normal top when feeding in public which is not ideal in summer!
12. Not everyone loses weight. You may have heard that breastfeeding gets rid of baby weight almost immediately. This isn’t the case for everyone. In some cases, it happens slowly, for some not at all. Part of the problem is that breastfeeding makes you hungry, so you might have the urge to eat all around you.
13. The unquenchable thirst (& hunger). As I mentioned, you might get really hungry but nothing prepared me for the thirst. I had a constant dry mouth, especially in the beginning. I always make sure I have a drink beside me when I feed her now to make sure I stay hydrated.
14. It’s all you. Choosing to breastfeed can be a massive commitment as every feed is your responsibility but remember that once feeding is established, you can try to introduce expressed bottles so your partner can help with feeds and maybe you can get a full nights sleep, go for a walk or catch up with friends without worry.
15. It’s hard. Make no mistake, breastfeeding is tough. There will be days where you want to stop, days where you resent your other half because they don’t have boobs and days where you are so exhausted, you can barely open your eyes. Breastfeeding is not for the faint-hearted.
With all this in mind, there are a few things to remember:
1. You are not failing if it doesn’t work, stop putting pressure on yourself. No-one can tell you whether to breast or bottle feed, it is a personal choice but whatever you choose, don’t ever feel you are failing if it’s not working. Keep trying, you are doing a great job.
2. There is help available. Local Cuidiu and La leche league groups are great for support and social interaction. Your GP and public health nurse are a great help too. If things are really not going well and you don’t want to quit feeding, there are certified lactation consultants you can hire to come to your house to help and advise on things like latch technique, feeding positions and expressing. You can find them by location here.
3. It will settle. All of the issues and difficulties you might experience at the start will settle and feeding will get easier. Once it does, you might even forget how hard it was!
4. The Internet is one source of info but there are professionals available to advise on safe medications etc…don't rely on search engines/forums to give you medical advice. If you are worried or need to know if something is safe, ask your doctor or a pharmacist as they are the only ones qualified to give such advice!
5. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks so give yourself a pat on the back! If you breastfeed even for one feed, give yourself the kudos you deserve. Every feed has benefits, so don’t put yourself down for not doing more. You are doing well to give any!
Enjoy it while it lasts, you might miss it when it’s over and when the time comes to stop, the last feed can be bittersweet so roll with it!