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. I 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!