Breastfeeding is a minefield, there is no doubt about that! From the moment we decide to breastfeed it is advertised to us as the ‘easy’ and ‘natural’ way of feeding our babies. And while there is no argument that it is the most natural way to feed your baby, that certainly doesn’t mean that it is always easy. One of the hardest things that any breastfeeding Mother will have to contend with is all the outdated and misinformed advice out there. It only takes one bad piece of advice to end a breastfeeding journey and so that is why I have decided to put together this list of tips for new breastfeeding mums, in the hopes that it can help even just one mum who may be struggling. Which leads me straight into tip number one:
Like most aspects of Motherhood, the world and his wife will have an opinion on how you are feeding your baby. And while I don’t think we should be openly rude to complete strangers who are just trying to help and give us advice, that also definitely doesn’t mean that we really have to take any of it on board. Nodding along and then totally ignoring everything that they had to say is totally okay! Advice and information with regards to breastfeeding is updated all the time, so unless the person you are talking to has access to this most up to date information, then take everything they say with a pinch of salt.
One of my favourite ‘side effects’ of breastfeeding is the way in which it constantly reminds you to take care of yourself. When you have a newborn to look after it can be only too easy to neglect your own well-being. But being dehydrated, forgetting to eat and stress can all effect milk supply. So it is the perfect excuse to take yourself off to bed with a packet of biscuits every once in a while! (Good, nutritious food is of course preferable, but let’s be honest we all want the biscuits too!) Also if the swarms of visitors in those first few weeks are getting overwhelming, breastfeeding is the perfect excuse to take yourself and your baby off to get some peace for while.
This is a biggie, and SO important. When you are a breastfeeding mum, your boobs are literally the most important thing so it’s important to take care of them. Treat them like the queens they are! There are so many different nursing bras to choose from, that it can be hard to find the right one, but once you do – buy ten of them! Okay, maybe not ten, but make sure you have a few good nursing bras you can use in rotation so that you are always comfortable and supported. My favourite nursing bras are from Camille. They have a really good range of different styles to suit everyone but my personal favourites are the underwired ones. I love the extra support and it feels like a regular bra, just with the added bonus of clips. The clips are simple to undo with one hand which means it’s easy to feed discreetly and your baby isn’t totally frustrated by the time you’ve managed to get access to a boob. I love the selection of styles and colours to choose from. A lot of the time nursing bras don’t look like the most appealing of items and can make me feel quite frumpy, but Camille are changing the game with their range that includes some gorgeous and bold prints.
Breastfeeding hurts. Sorry but it does. At first, anyway. I’m absolutely not trying to put any mums to be off breastfeeding, but I want to reassure those that are currently in pain that it is, in fact, normal! The first time you breastfeed is the first time your body has produced milk and had a baby suckling at such a sensitive area for all hours of the day and night. Unless you have nipples of steel, it just is going to hurt for a while until your body gets used to it. For some people that could be a week, for others six weeks, but a certain amount of pain is normal. Over time it will become the case that the initial latch is painful and the duration of the feed is okay. Then one day you just will suddenly notice that it hasn’t hurt for a few days! If that isn’t the case and the pain isn’t easing or is even getting worse then seek advice from a lactation consultant who will be able to help you. If you have ongoing latch issues, make sure to get your baby thoroughly checked for lip and tongue ties.
When I was feeding my first baby, we didn’t have the easiest start. She had a tongue tie and even once we had it cut, feeding remained very painful for a few weeks afterwards. Holding her to feed in the ‘normal’ cradle position just didn’t work. It was so painful and she struggled to get a latch. Once I discovered the ‘rugby hold’, our feeding journey turned a corner and things started to get easier. It is also sometimes more comfortable to feed lying down or there is ‘dangle feeding’ which can relieve blocked ducts. There are some great videos on YouTube that explain the different ways to hold your baby to feed them.
It is very common, I repeat – very common – for a newborn to want to breastfeed for hours on end. It is their way of letting your body know to keep producing milk for them, and also they just love the closeness and the connection. Often when a baby feeds for hours on end it is taken as a sign that you don’t have enough milk for your baby, but usually that isn’t the case. So long as your baby is producing sufficient wet nappies then they are getting enough milk. (Don’t fret about dirty ones, everything in breast milk can be used by the baby so it can be normal to go up to a week without a poo). Settle down on the sofa, put some Netflix on and just let your baby keep feeding as long as they want. I know I made that sound dreamy, but don’t worry I do also know how tedious and painful it can be. Hang in there Mama, it does get easier!
Another worry that new mums often have regarding milk supply is not being able to pump very much. I often hear mums worrying that this means that they simply aren’t producing enough. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The thing to remember is that babies are biologically designed to get milk from a breast and they will (generally) be much better at it than any pump. Some women can pump ounces and ounces, while some other women barely get a trickle. Chances are that both their babies get sufficient milk during a feed regardless. Again, so long as they are producing wet nappies, things are almost certainly okay. It’s also recommended to try not to introduce bottles until at least six weeks, if a baby gets used to the easier flow of a bottle, they could be put off trying to feed from the breast.
Just because breastfeeding is the biological norm, doesn’t mean it will come naturally to everyone. There are a whole host of obstacles that could get thrown in your way. If can hurt, it can be hard to get the correct latch, you could suffer with mastitis, blocked ducts or your baby could have a tongue tie – ultimately breastfeeding is a skill that both yourself and your baby need to learn. There is help out there but you probably won’t find it knocking at your door. Look up local breastfeeding groups and online communities too. Never be ashamed to admit you are struggling, we have all been there! The more we can all talk openly about our struggles, the better life will become for all of us.
Your breastfeeding journey is your journey. Not anyone else’s! There are a tiny percentage of women who cannot breastfeed but, with the right help and support, most of us can! If you are determined to make it work, surround yourself with supportive people who actually want to help you to do so. A positive attitude goes a long way, and as with most parts of motherhood – you will surprise yourself with what you can achieve! Equally you are the only person who knows when the right time to stop it, and if you are ready to call it a day at any point then that is your decision, and only yours. Don’t allow anyone to make you feel any guilt or shame over your decisions, whether that be to stop after a few weeks or if you’re still breastfeeding your toddler years down the line.
You’ve got this Mama!!
If you ever want someone to chat breastfeeding with, my Instagram inbox is always open!