I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while but I knew it wouldn’t be a quick one. I’m not sure why breastfeeding is a controversial topic, but it really is.
A bit about me: it is safe to say that I was more worried about not being able to breastfeed than giving birth itself. I knew I wanted to breastfeed and I knew I would not cope well at all with the guilt of not breastfeeding.
When Jared and I went to look around our local midwife-led unit the first question the touring midwife asked me was:
…” Are you going to breastfeed?”
….and I sheepishly replied: “Yes, I’m going to try my best”.
…then she said: “If you say you’re going to try you won’t – you have to decide to do it”.
…to which Jared replied: “She meant to say: she definitely is”.
Most people might have been offended by this conversation; but I was grateful for it. It was this conversation and further conversations I had with my sister and Mum that made me realise that there must be more to breastfeeding than simply giving birth and latching on. I did so much reading and ordered the whole sch-bang of La Leche League leaflets when I was just a few months pregnant…they have a leaflet about absolutely everything to do with breastfeeding – weight loss in babies, cracked nipples, tongue tie, C-sections, mastitis, blocked ducts, premature babies etc.
I got so worried when I spoke to and read online about woman after woman who suffered from all manner of feeding problems. What if I couldn’t? What if it wasn’t meant to be? I am by no means a breastfeeding expert and have only had one baby but I certainly learnt a lot in the first few weeks and months of breastfeeding. I also feel like there is a lot of preparation couples (yes, get your partner involved) can do before the birth to make breastfeeding a less confusing experience. Hubs is into anything that is free!
Here are 10 tips I’ve put together from my breastfeeding experience:
1 – For most people it doesn’t feel natural and very few people really enjoy it. It is without question for most people a skill that can take weeks to establish and months to perfect. If you think about how unnatural our daily routines can be and life in general – it is no wonder that very few women feel that breastfeeding comes naturally…our daily lives are no longer as connected to nature as they once were. Don’t worry if it feels only practical rather than natural – that is absolutely fine and lots of women feel like that.
2 – The advice given by midwives and health professionals is so mixed. It is essential to do lots of reading and know what the correct information is. Winston didn’t latch on until day 6 but there was no pressure and certainly no “wake him up every 3 hours” – my breastfeeding adviser and midwife were still so relaxed about everything saying that for some babies it takes time…but I know not all women are told this and are made to feel a failure so early on. We tried multiple times a day to encourage him but for the first 5 days we used an array of syringes and cups until he finally latched on. I remember my husband and I cheering when W finally decided to latch on then both quickly going silent in case we’d frightened him into coming off!
3 – There are so many support groups all over the country. Do not hesitate to get in touch – they have dealt with all manner of breast feeding scenarios and really know their stuff. When Winston wasn’t latching on for days, the breastfeeding lady advised me to take a bath with Winston and kind of sweep him around in the water to ‘remind him of birth’. Sounds a bit random and nothing to lose I thought…he latched on after the bath. Chance? Who cares? It worked.
4 – Buy a decent electric breast pump – just do it.
5 – Do your research about growth spurts. Some weeks your baby will seem to want to feed twice as much as they did the week before and women worry that they don’t have enough milk – this is completely normal and it’s essential to persevere.
6 – I’m very pro breast feeding but that doesn’t mean I feel ok about getting my boobs out in public. I’m a pretty shy person and very body conscious so I bought a nursing cover in plain black to be discreet and to ensure I felt confident I wouldn’t be flashing any unwanted flesh. My midwife suggested taking a few breastfeeding snaps – no thanks! I have fed confidently on buses, trains, benches, in parks and wherever I’ve needed to.
7 – Make sure you and your partner know the signs of mastitis and other breastfeeding related problems. I narrowly missed a bout of mastitis because my husband pointed it out – I’ve never felt so awful but we acted quickly and prevented it from getting any worse.
8 – You really need your partner 100% on board. There will be moments when you simply do not want your child attached to you (sounds awful I know) because you’re sore or just need some space. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong or it’s not meant to be. Make sure your partner is informed and you’ve discussed together how you want to feed your baby. Once my husband suggested going to the shop to buy some formula and I shouted at him quite badly (the poor man, he was only trying to help) – he didn’t suggest it again but I remember feeling devastated that he didn’t think I could do it. A few times he took W out for a midnight pram because I just needed some ‘boobs to myself time’.
9 – Read about the health benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby – they are endless and may influence your decision. Midwives might not tell you all of the reasons why they appear so pro-breast feeding but it is with good reason. I read that bronchiolitis is 70% lower in exclusively breastfed babies. Having a baby that suffered terribly with bronchiolitis within his first year (read about it here) I’m not sure I could have coped with the illness plus the guilt of knowing I might have been able to prevent it. It would have been a heavy burden to bear.
10 – However you feed your baby; make sure it is a decision you and your partner are 100% comfortable with – really discuss your reasons why, your motives, don’t feel pressure or worry about judgement from other people, don’t feel the need to justify your decision to anyone else or feel the need to ‘cover up’ when it is an arrangement that you are completely happy with. Do what is best for your family.