Breastfeeding is a funny old topic; it's something you're always strongly advised to do by health visitors, and something that you really just expect to come so naturally to you, but for some that's not always the case. Between trying to find positions that work for you, getting a decent latch, hour long feeds every two hours, even during the night, leaking and engorged boobs, it can be bloody hard work for those first few weeks. Once you have a bit of experience behind you, it's definitely easier, so today I'm sharing what I've learnt so far.
1 | Be Prepared
There are a few things Mothers deem as 'essentials' for breastfeeding, and for me, there's really just one; Lansinoh. If I'd stocked up on that it could have saved quite a few tears the first week. Ada didn't have a bad latch, we eased into it pretty well, but after the very first feed my nipples cracked and bled, after a few days every feed was like torture. After just a day of using lanolin everything felt so much better, I just berated myself for not having it in sooner! There's also nipple shields you could try, but I loved being able to pop on some soothing lanolin after each feed.
Other mentions need to go to disposable breast pads (in case you leak) and some muslin cloths; these have so many uses, I've used them over the shoulder when I'm burping Ada, as a bit of a cover if I'm in quite a busy area feeding, cleaning up spit-up.. just buy some! Oh, and of course a good nursing bra, gone are the days of being able to wear pretty options! There are some quite nice ones on the market, just make sure you buy a size or two up from your pre-pregnancy size.
If you're planning on expressing, a good pump is essential. I expressed for the first time at 7 weeks (it's only advised after six weeks when your supply is established, unless for medical reasons you need to pump as well), and using the Medela Swing I was able to get out 3.5oz in around twenty minutes, which I think is pretty good going! I also bought the Philip Avent Natural Bottles, which have a teat shaped similar to breasts for easy transitioning between breast and bottle feeding.
2 | Get Comfortable
Whether you fancy the idea of a breastfeeding pillow, or just using cushions from the sofa, being comfortable is essential, with a newborn you can be stuck in one place for a good few hours! I used to use cushions to prop Ada up but these days I just sit back with my legs crossed holding her up, which just works for us. You'll probably find with the shape and size of your breasts different positions work better, experimenting with different ways and using cushions is a good way to get it figured out.
3 | Have Snacks & A Drink On Hand
Again, this is something it took me a while to realise; one day I looked at my phone, realised it was 4pm and I hadn't even had a drink that day yet. Being dehydrated can effect your milk supply so it really is essential to keep something on hand. Unfortunately you'll probably only notice your suddenly incredibly thirsty after you've already started a feed (it just works that way!) so I always keep bottled water next to the sofa now. It's probably a good idea to make a little basket that's in reach, and you can fill it with snacks, and even books or other entertainment.
4 | Relax
And again, this is something I'm definitely guilty of. Babies are pretty intuitive things, and if you're feeling anxious and stressed, they'll pick up on that for you. Breastfeeding is hard work, and it's easy to get frustrated sometimes if you've spent all day looking after baby and they're not latching on, crying and fussing at the breast. Just take a second, breathe, and try again.
I really wish I'd relaxed more about feeding out in public; it's something I stressed about from as soon as she was born until I went out with her two or three weeks later, and I really didn't need to. The first experience wasn't great but after a couple attempts, it's so easy now, I feed her when and wherever, and I don't give the slightest thought to someone who might catch a glimpse whilst she's latching on! With the right outfit you can't see anything once baby's on anyway, so it's honestly not even worth thinking about.
I was one of the lucky ones that found breastfeeding came quite easily to them, the only issue I've ever had is that I actually have an oversupply which can give Ada quite a bit of a wind when she's trying to gulp it down so quickly, and she coughs and chokes on it which was a little concerning at first, but it doesn't give her any real troubles. The main thing I did find difficult was being the one solely responsible for feedings, especially when you're up for the third or fourth time in a night and your partner gets to snooze away next to you, undisturbed! But those sleepy night time feeds are just lovely, I actually quite miss them now that Ada sleeps through until 7am.
Even after all the frustrations that it can sometimes bring, I can firmly say that I absolutely love breastfeeding. For me there is no better way to bond with Ada, she's always staring into my eyes whilst feeding and occasionally giving me a cheeky grin half way through, it is honestly just wonderful. It's sad to see that whilst 80% of women start off breastfeeding, that reduces to 50% after two weeks; I know some women may have issues that stop them from being able to, but most of the problems are solved within two to three weeks, so my advice is really to stick it out. The benefits for your baby are so worth it, and it's so convenient! You may have to get your boobies out in front of others, but it saves you from hours spent sterilizing bottles and making up formula.
Did you breastfeed your baby? What are your essentials?