By: Jade Wilson
If you’re looking for advice or stories about breastfeeding, the best resource you’ll ever find is someone whose been there and done it. It’s all good and well watching all the videos, and reading all the books, but to get a real life account of the hard work it entails, look no further than a nursing mum.
I’ll be honest. I only exclusively breastfed for 6 weeks, and eventually stopped around 4 months. I have nothing but respect for those who continue to do it for years, it isn’t as easy as it looks.
As soon as I’d given birth to my son, he was desperate to feed. Unfortunately, I’d been left in a side room off the theatre, with nobody to show me what to actually do. I’d been to the classes, the workshop, had conversations with my midwife and had read and watched a record amount of material, but I still wasn’t sure what I was meant to do.
I laid back and thought ‘how hard can it be?’. I thought he’d latched on pretty well and seemed to be feeding nicely. It was only a day later when, I was still in the hospital, feeding him was becoming a very painful experience for me. I wasn’t shown the right way, or my technique checked until I was due to go home, and by then it was too late. My nipples had already split and cracked. I finally managed to get it right, but for the first 30 seconds of a feed I would be in tears with pain. I didn’t ever use nipple shields, but had been told by a friend of this ‘miracle cream’. At around £9.00 for a 40ml tube, it had better be a miracle. Let me tell you this; it’s like your nipples have gone to heaven!
It’s this tube of purple loveliness – Lansinoh’s HPA Lanolin nipple cream. Not only does it heal existing cracks, it also protects against any further cracks or chafing. It’s my number 1 breastfeeding must have. I don’t think I could recommend this to you any more. In 4 months, after using it almost every day, I still have half a tube left over. A little really does go a long way and the second best bit is that you don’t have to wash it off before feeding your baby.
Unfortunately for me, I’m not blessed with the biggest boobs, so I didn’t know if I’d actually be able to breastfeed at all. I can honestly say I had nothing to worry about because you will not believe how big they get and the amount of milk those things can hold. They’re not the prettiest, but they are the most comfiest things ever invented in the world of breastfeeding – nursing bras. A necessity for ease of feeding and comfort. I highly recommend getting measured twice, at a reputable department store or a specialist independent store; about a month before your due date and about a week after you’ve had your baby (because who’s up and out before that?) because it’s no secret they get bigger when your real milk comes in – I think I went up around 3 cup sizes.
You’ll need breast pads, and lots of them! I think I sometimes went through 8-10 pairs a day! I’d highly suggest you double up at night. It’s actually very surprising how often and how much breast milk you’ll leak, all over that brand new mattress you only bought 4 months ago. I found the best for me were the ‘Tommee Tippee’ breast pads, though I am very tempted to try reusable ones for when baby number two arrives. I was also happy to try the free samples I got sent from several companies and even store brand ones – though none of those quite had the absorbency required and I usually ended up soaked.
I won’t lie to you. Breastfeeding, though one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done, was by far the most testing and exhausting job I’ve ever done. The only problem is nobody else can do it for you! Unless you express milk, which I did on several occasions after the first 6 weeks, you will be up all day and all night, for hours. Day number 3 is the worst and I can honestly say I was ready to give up. The constant feeding for an hour at a time, on both boobs, with about 30 minutes rest, was about to break me. I broke down in tears on the phone to my midwife at 2am asking them why he wouldn’t get off me. They reassured me it was because he was doing his job in telling my body to make his milk. I can, hand on my heart, say that I know why some women don’t carry it on. It really is a test of character. Lo’ and behold, the next morning there was no stopping the flow. It went everywhere. Through my breast pads, and soaking the entire top half of the top I was wearing. God forbid you hear another baby cry, because that starts them off too. They throb and ache until someone gets that milk. In the shower, you’re like the leaky tap that drip, drip, drips, and there’s almost no stopping it.
My advice to you is don’t give up! If you’re struggling with breastfeeding, ask for help. Whether it be your mum, midwife, partner, health visitor and even, yes I’m really about to say it, your mother in law. Any advice is good advice (it doesn’t mean you have to use it, you do what’s right for you).
A few other of my breastfeeding must haves are here;
- Muslins, muslins, muslins! You can’t have enough. It’s impossible. Pop them under your boob so if you get any leakage during a feed, it’s not going all the way down to your foot! Use them for burping your baby, catching spit up and wiping away the cutest milky dribble from the side of baby’s mouth. Widely available.
- A good breast pump. I borrowed a manual one from a friend first (you can also be loaned them from some breastfeeding groups too) as I didn’t want to spend lots of money on one if I couldn’t breastfeed! I’ve heard the electric ones are pretty noisy, but very effective too. It’s about choosing the right one for you (just make sure it fits with your bottles).
- A nursing pillow. Lovely, comfy lifesavers. Not only can you rest your baby on them to feed, you can use them before you give birth as a pregnancy pillow. You can use them to help you sit up when you’re feeding and (shh, don’t tell anyone) but you can feed your baby and have a little snooze. Just make sure your partner is around in case you really doze off!
- Water. And LOTS of it. Keep a bottle topped up with you wherever you go. Breastfeeding is thirsty work and it’ll help keep up your supply. It doesn’t hurt to keep your diet balanced either. Now is not the time to think about fitting back into those jeans!
- A hairband. Because it’s always handy to know what side you fed from last time, though some health professionals suggest offering both boobs at every feed.
There are lots of cool breast feeding products out there to make your life easier. I’m due with baby number 2 next year and intend putting some of these products to the test. I never used a nursing scarf last time and tended to hide away in a café somewhere to feed, so I’m quite excited about feeding in public this time.
What are your breastfeeding must haves?