I have been a breastfeeding mum for the past 3.5 years. I am not an expert – everyone’s experience is different, and as I have learned first-hand with my two children, every baby is different too. But I know the importance of sharing our breastfeeding experiences and knowledge, so here are a few things I would have found helpful to know when I was new to breastfeeding, and things that I will be sharing with my own friends when their time comes.
The early days of breastfeeeding are like nothing you’ve ever experienced before, and the frequency of this demand can feel a little overwhelming. But this period is not forever, it does get easier, and one day soon you will realise you barely even have to think about it any more. TRUST ME.
Don’t look at breastfeeding as like a ‘meal’ that will fill your baby up for a good few hours. Breastfeeds can often be more ‘snacky’ and frequent. The nature of a breastfed baby does not always lend itself well to a feeding schedule.
If you think you cannot keep up with your super hungry baby, the best thing to do is to put him/her on the breast on demand, your supply will adjust to match your babies requirements.
Also, be aware of growth spurts and the typical times that these occur. Your baby might shock you with a sudden frenzied need to feed ALL THE TIME for a day or two. Don’t panic, it will pass, just go by their cues and keep offering breastmilk.
Your breasts won’t always feel like rocks and you won’t always feel like ‘just’ a milk machine. Somewhere after the first few months, your breasts will start to feel normal and soft again, even though there is still plenty of milk for your baby, and you will probably find less of a need to be wearing breastpads.
Somewhere around the 3-5 month mark, most babies start waking more frequently during the night. It’s a well-documented sleep regression that usually happens at around the same time as a 6 week growth spurt and your milk supply settling down so your breasts start to feel less ‘full’ all the time. These three things combined can result in more worry that you don’t have enough milk for your baby – as usual, the best solution is to feed on demand to ensure your milk supply stays in sync with your baby.
The whole ‘removing your breasts from your clothing and having to think about breastfeeding access every time you get dressed’ can feel odd at first. But don’t feel that your wardrobe will be restricted to ‘breastfeeding clothes’ for the duration of the time you breastfeed your child. You can breastfeed in nearly any top with a stretchy vest underneath.
Don’t buy the cheap two-pack of t-shirt bras. They offer little support and will lose their shape in a matter of weeks. Decent nursing bras are WELL worth the investment, and will make you feel and look 10 times better. There are some pretty nice looking ones on the market – try Hotmilk or Bravado.
You don’t need to pump and dump every time you have a drink. Alcohol does not stay in breast milk, it evaporates at a rate of approximately 1 unit per hour. When your blood alcohol levels are back down, so are your milk alcohol levels. See Kellymom for more info.
Know who to speak to for breastfeeding support, right from the start. Before your baby is born, get the details of your nearest drop-in breastfeeding clinic, and the details of a local lactation consultant. Write it down and stick it on the fridge or somewhere easy to locate – there is so much going on when your baby arrives, your head is preoccupied with a million different thoughts about learning to care for your newborn baby, that even thinking about finding the contact details for breastfeeding support can feel like an impossible task.
If you are finding breastfeeding difficult, call the numbers you noted down. There is no need to ‘soldier on’, you will be glad you called. Don’t dismiss any worries that things aren’t ‘right’ with you and your baby’s feeding technique. No concern is too small if you are struggling with any aspect of breastfeeding.
Partners: The best way you can support your breastfeeding partner right now is to be encouraging, and make sure your partner knows that you know that learning to breastfeed, and feeding an infant around the clock, is a big deal. Listen to her if she needs to offload about it – it can be frustrating that there is no active way to solve breastfeeding-related stress, or that there is no straightforward solution to be found, but in this case sometimes talking and listening can be the biggest help.
Get on Twitter. It’s great for feeling connected with the world during long feeding sessions. Hashtags such as #3amfeedclub and #teamupallnight will lead you to lots of new mums at the same stage as you. The Twitter parenting community is huge, and very handy when you want a chat.
Formula is not the devil to be avoided at all costs. Neither is letting your child self wean.
Achieving your own personal breastfeeding wishes is all that’s important.
This post is part of the Breastfeeding Scavenger hunt. Check out some of the other bloggers and companies taking part: