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Is there anything normal about Breastfeeding?

If you were to take a glance at my internet history this time last year, I think 80% of the Google queries would be about breastfeeding. Before becoming a mother, one of my biggest concerns was about feeding Tibbs. I knew I was going to give breastfeeding a shot, but I had serious doubts that I’d manage it. If I’m honest, I couldn’t imagine it being in any way emotionally or physically pleasurable. I have quite a large chest too, and I was concerned this would have a negative effect.

I’ve been asked by Medela, one of the UK’s most recognisable breast pump technology brands, to tell my breastfeeding story. No pun intended, but I sucked these sorts of stories up with relish when our baby was on her way and I was first feeding her. So, I’m contributing my own in the hope that someone else might benefit too.

I’ll cut to the end of the story straight away – there is nothing, absolutely nothing, normal about the way you’re breastfeeding your baby. We all do it differently, and each baby does too. Almost the only thing we all have in common is the motion of baby’s mouth to your nipple. And in some breastmilk cases, even this gets bypassed.

I was determined not to leave that hospital without knowing what to do. God, it was hard to listen through the pain and the euphoria and the visitors and the hot hot hospital. But I even took notes. We chased that first colostrum round my chest with the syringe with determination (nobody told me about this – and it was easily the weirdest thing I’ve ever done with my husband)

However, it was when we got home, on the classic day 4-5 when your milk comes in (this happens whether you decide to breast or formula feed by the way) that the breastfeeding journey really began. My milk came in like a fire hydrant. My poor sleepy baby, who established herself as a little and often feeder from the start, got completely hosed. She couldn’t keep up. Both of us got soaked. It was mega painful to feed her. I really struggled. Here’s some things I did that helped breastfeeding be less painful:

  • I pumped from the start. I had to – Tibbs needed supplementary feeding as she lost weight, and I figured pumping would be a relief for my sore chest. It was, but I also created a little bit of an over-supply issue by pumping too much too frequently at first. Do speak to your health visitor/midwife/breastfeeding councillor about this. Medela actually has a lactation consultant who will answer questions on its FB page
  • I threw my pride out the window and asked ANYBODY for advice. I found the physical side really hard – finding a position that actually worked for me and Tibbs. It ended up being sitting with my knees up to my chest and slotting her in between them so I could keep both hands free to move myself about and hold her head. This meant I could only feed on a deep chair or against a wall.
  • I used the purple cream. A lot. And I still do for chapped hands. Get it. Now.
  • I wore a sleep-bra at night, like those crop tops you wore when you were 11. And I put muslins, not breastpads, down it. Not just to catch leakage (which, by the way, does not equate to supply – how much you leak is not to do with that) but also it’s the easiest place to store a muslin when you don’t have any hands free. You can literally pull it out with your teeth and pass it to yourself if you need to
  • I kept going with the expressed  in a bottle from 2 weeks old. I took advice from those who told me to ignore the ‘nipple confusion’ warnings and made sure she had a bottle every day. This paid absolute dividends for me, I wouldn’t change it and I stand by it, but it’s not for everyone. I also introduced a 11pm formula dream feed at eight weeks
  • I persevered, through the horrible hot summer sweat and the confusion of trying to feed her in public. Again, not for everyone – at the end of the day, for your own sanity – DO WHAT WORKS
  • I got out of bed, every time, and fed her in a different room. It was almost ritualistic. It created a ‘just you and me, against the world’ capsule feeling, I loved it, she thrived off it, and it’s one of my happiest early memories. I look back on night feeds very fondly
  • I got a Kindle Fire and used my iPhone like never before. I read and read during feeds, not watch TV. I also listened to a LOT of audio books. My friend Gill over at A Baby On Board has a great post about this
  • In fact, check out her entire back catalog on breastfeeding because she’s a great resource. And note the physical and choice differences between me and her. Neither of us is NORMAL. There is NO NORMAL when it comes to breastfeeding!

Medela has produced this very handy graphic to help mums and dads understand that there is no normal, and that things vary so very much for breastfeeding babies and their mothers. The most helpful bits for me would have been the stats related to how many feeds, and how much is average. Everybody worries their baby isn’t getting enough, in fact I think it’s quite a common reason for introducing pumping or a formula feed. normal breastfeeding jpegI stopped expressing at about six months, and, in the end, Tibbs gave up breastfeeding completely of her own accord at seven months. Feeds got less frequent, down to morning and last feed, and then one morning, we sat down to feed, and she just looked up at me, smiled, and looked away. I was so surprised, but most of all, so very very fecking proud. We’d done it. We did it together.

Medela has given me one of these fantastic Breast Care sets to giveaway to expectant or new mums. They are perfect for the hospital bag or the changing bag in the first months. They contain Purelan cream, some lovely cooling gel pads, and some sets of breast pads, and come in a wicked little bag which would be great for make-up, on-the-go medicine or even snacks! Good luck!

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26 Comments

  1. despite this being something i can’t identify with as i don’t have a child, this was really interesting and insightful to read and i can imagine it being useful and a relief to new mothers and mothers to be.

    • Thanks Laura, that’s really nice of you!

  2. Great post, I just did mine yesterday if you want to take a look?!
    http://yummyblogger.com/2014/06/17/my-breastfeeding-story/

    I’ve never heard of a sleep bra, I’ll have to check it out… I had to laugh at your mention of Muslins though… I use those… And the nearest t-shirt to catch night leakage! Given up wearing bras/pads at night… Didn’t touch the sides 😉

    • Didn’t touch the sides is a HIGHLY accurate way of describing the situation! I love your post, thanks for linking up!

  3. I found the early stages of breastfeeding exhausting, and at times emotionally very draining, but once it was established it was the most amazing thing I’d ever done and I was pleased that although it didn’t work out with my first son, I persisted with the second! Ask for help from other mothers or professionals it’s what they’re there for!

    • I agree – I found other mothers to be excellent helps, and tried really hard to return the favour without pouncing from shadowed corners like a patronising crone.

  4. I love the bit about you pulling a muslin out of your bra with your teeth! I’m so lucky in that despite the usual thing of both babies wanting to nurse round the clock for months and months on end I didn’t really have any problems. Apart from quite a few blocked ducts, now I’m done and I’ve been left with a saggy old flap of skin, only one because I only fed from one towards the end. Still it was totally worth it! x

    • Seriously, am I the only one who does things with their teeth/forehead/toes when they are feeding a baby? Light switch with chin?

  5. pregnant with my first, I never even thought about breastfeeding, I mean, I knew i would, but just thought it would ‘happen’. I never expected the pain or the difficultness…. but it was worth perserving through. My second and third I only breastfed for a while, as I needed to be back on medication and a healthy mama had to come first :*(

    • Well, you’ve hit the nail on the head – you HAVE to put yourself first when you’re responsible for someone else. And that means making sure you can feed your baby from whatever position you’re in. Glad it was worth every step of the journey for you!

  6. Breastfeeding was horrendous for me at first, for the first 3/4 months in fact. Toe curling screaming through the pain sort of mild depression type awful. I didn’t want any help because I wasn’t really thinking at the time and pretty much the only thing that got me through was the support of Tom. Funny enough I’ve just this week stopped our breastfeeding journey with Wilf (two and a half) and am so grateful I was able to get through it as once it worked it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life I think xx

    • Wow, that is one heck of a journey. Congratulations on finding a peaceful and loving end to it.

  7. I always find it really interesting hearing others stories about breastfeeding – it’s funny as I only ever considered it the only option – I expected it to be hard but without it humanity would not have survived so unless for some medical reason which only effects around 2% I would not be able to do it I was sure it was possible – but I think it’s just down to my personality being stubborn and strong willed. I found I hit a hump around 3 months but went to some groups and they helped to show me an easier way to position him, without that I don’t know what I would of done as he just wasn’t feeding. The thing I found the hardest was he never wanted it to finish – some babies such as yours come to a natural end, which I envied as it was tantrums all round when I decided to stop when he was 2.5yrs, I think it would of been easier if I had stopped earlier.

    Laura x

    • I was very grateful that by stopping herself we avoided future tantrums, but I wasn’t at all prepared when it happened!

  8. Like you, I love reading others’ breastfeeding stories, especially positive ones like yours. I smiled at the muslins down the shirt!! I can certainly identify with worries around big breasts!!

  9. Your story sounds so much like mine, I wrote a post about it too. There is nothing normal about it, the cracked nipples, the pain, urgh and don’t even talk to me about the milk coming in and me resembling Jordan! Still I persevered and all ended well until about 4 months when I couldn’t produce enough to satisfy him and we were told to introduce solids
    Thanks for sharing your story! X

  10. It always amazes me the different stories about breastfeeding, and how people face different challenges! I feel like my own story was relatively easy, after the first week of not so easy but luckily being forced to stay in hospital with nurses on call to help! I think that is probably what made the difference, having and asking for help! I also went to a bf support group for a while, not really for support, but just to meet people. But I could see how reassuring and helpful it could have been if I was struggling. I loved the breastfeeding days, and in hindsight would have perhaps carried on a little longer than 18 months!

  11. Jemma Jemma

    Hearing Breastfeeding stories always upsets me for some reason. I’ve had quite a traumatic experience with my daughter due to rhesus incompatibility. She started her life extremely sleepy due to jaundice and still is due to being anaemic now. Never the less with it all against me I have continued trying to breastfeed her. I feel proud that I have got her to 4 months considering everything we have gone through and it would be so easy to give up but I won’t. I have set a goal of 6 months, at least and just keep pushing through, even though I now have teething issue and reflux to contend with. I am determined to do this for her.

    • It sounds to me as if you’re doing a fantastic, loving, wonderful job and you should be patting yourself (gently) on the back every single day.

      • Jemma Jemma

        Emotional is clearly my thing tonight as your reply has just brought me to tears. Very few people have told me I’m doing a good job not that I need that. It’s just nice to hear especially when you feel like everything else is going wrong. Thanks

  12. Really interesting post – I could’ve done with this information after having my baby. I didn’t get the help or information I required but I hope when I have baby no.2 I will be much better equipped with knowledge – what’s right, what isn’t – who to ask for help etc. My first breastfeeding experience was traumatising but it hasn’t put me off trying again in the future. Great post and giveaway. x

  13. I breastfed all my babies until they were six months old except baby #6 that I breastfed until he was 12 months old, I then found out he was lactose intolerant so I was so pleased I hadn’t weaned any earlier. I plan on breastfeeding baby #7, due in December, for at least 12 months again.

  14. Natalie Crossan Natalie Crossan

    I had a really difficult time with breastfeeding. It’s good to see so much support out there though.

  15. Great post. I had such a hard time with my third so I think it’s important to get as much information as there is for anyone who might be having a hard time.

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