It’s day two of the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt and today’s topic is Breastfeeding tips. After four solid years of breastfeeding, there are some things I know for sure about my babies and my breasts, and the road they travel together.
The first rule of breastfeeding club is….We don’t talk about breastfeeding. Well, not to some people anyway. There are people in my life with whom I can talk about boobs peacefully and respectfully…and some people who make my blood boil when the subject comes up. There are people who sadly will seem to make you feel bad about whatever path of parenting you’re traveling on, and you’ll find yourself trying to justify your own choices in breastfeeding, and then feeling bad when the conversation ends. It’s taken me two babies to realise who I can and cannot talk boobs with without my blood pressure raising, and the same goes for co-sleeping, and cloth nappying, baby sleep patterns, baby led weaning and crying it out. It reminds me of when I was younger; I wasn’t allowed to talk to my Grandad about politics, religion or unions.
The second rule of breastfeeding is…You need to talk about breastfeeding. Finding someone that you can talk to, who isn’t going to judge you, is crucial. There is nothing that the mister, my mother or my best friend Melissa (who also breastfeeds) do not know about my breastfeeding and the problems I’ve encountered.
Thirdly, babies get very hungry. Breastfeeding is like a career path for them. Your baby is going to want to feed more than you ever imagined. Some days it seems like all day. There will be comfort feeds, cluster feeds, growing spurt feeds, bonding feeds, feeds for the fun of it, and more feeds besides. Your baby will most likely want to be attached to your breast 23 hours of the day if he can. Jensen used to snuffle and snort like a little piglet hunting for truffles constantly whenever I held him and honestly, because I had no idea about breastfeeding and babies back then, it drove me to distraction because all I wanted was a cuddle and all he wanted was to nurse. Find a comfortable haven in your home that supports your back very well, and make sure you have plenty to drink nearby. I never sit down to feed without a drink. A huge drink. When I was feeding Lyoto, the lovely Thrupenny Bits sent me a breastfeeding pillow that saved my back completely, especially when I was out and about.
Babies can’t read is fourth on my list. Textbooks that I read recommended feeding my baby every two hours, or following a strict routine of how long to feed for. As a new mother I was completely clueless and trying to memorise the various routines from one particularly well known book like I was cramming for my finals at law school again, even whilst I was in labour. Remember your baby can’t read, didn’t sign any agreement to abide by the routine in the book, and take your watch off. Your baby will let you know when he’s hungry, how long he needs the comfort of your breast for, and you’ll be more relaxed. Feeding my second baby was so much easier when I let him take the lead. It’s his tummy, his need, and only he knows how much and when he needs it. Plus, there’s nothing as awful as the rising panic you feel when you’re one hour and 50 minutes into your allocated between feedings time and you’re stuck in traffic or wherever.
Number five… Protect your nipples. Your nipples are going to be working hard, so look after them! They might get sore for a while as your baby learns to latch, but there is help! It’s in the form of a beautiful purple tube of Lansinoh cream. My sister calls this the cream of the heavens and she isn’t wrong. It’s expensive but SO worth it. If you can’t afford it, when your baby has finished feeding, let your nipples air dry with a little milk on them. You do not need to grate your nipples (ouch!) toughen your nipples up (whatever that means) or take them through any kind of boob boot camp. Just look after them. I’ve heard cabbage leaves in the fridge are good for engorgement, but I’ve always used my pump instead.
Six… Breasts and breastmilk generally follow the laws of economics; supply and demand. The more you feed/express milk for your baby, the more your breasts will produce. For most of my friends, their baby has demanded more milk, been suckling constantly in order to stimulate the breasts to produce more milk, and they’ve panicked that their baby isn’t getting any milk and topped them up with formula. Yet, if you’re topping up with formula, your body will not know that your baby now needs more milk, and will not respond. I have lost count of my friends were advised to top up with formula and then ended up despondent and feeling blue when their breastfeeding relationship came to an early end. Trust your body. I pump to increase my supply (which I’ll explain later this week).
Do not ignore painful breasts is at number seven. I’ve had blocked ducts which were miserable, but I also developed mastitis a good few times and it was horrific. I was shaky, teeth chattering and feeling like I wanted to crawl into a ball forever. I don’t ever remember feeling so suddenly and violently ill. Any red spots or flashes on your breasts, any lumps or bumps, pains…get to your GP. Better to be safe than sorry. It might just be a blocked duct that you can feed through and massage, but it’s best to know. And having mastitis does not mean you need to stop breastfeeding.
Ask for help….and keep asking is my most important tip. Both my boys had tongue ties although Jensen’s wasn’t discovered, and was probably the reason why we had such troubles. I can’t help but think if I had read more about the subject of breastfeeding and had been more insistent that things weren’t right, I might have travelled a less bumpy road. And if the help you find doesn’t feel right for you or your baby, find someone else to help. My experiences in hospital with Jensen still haunt me, yet my memories of the kindness and compassion of the midwives in the birth centre at 3am as I sat sobbing in their lounge, one month after giving birth, with raw and damaged nipples still make me smile.
I could go on and on, but my biggest tip is to remember to take the time to enjoy your breastfeeding journey. It hasn’t in my experience been a smooth journey with either of my boys, and maybe it will be this time when he makes his entrance, but then I generally tend to think that nothing in life worth experiencing comes easily. Whatever troubles you’re having, whatever stage your baby is at, however beyond tired you are, remember there is a reason for your baby’s needs, and the pain will pass. And you will look back on it fondly with the biggest rose tinted glasses…because it is a beautiful time, we’re just too exhausted to realise it when it’s happening.
More bloggers joining in with the Hunt today are… Mummy Memories, Mummy to Boyz, My Little L, Attachment Feminism and Mummies Waiting!