The Mama Diaries: Breastfeeding Tips & Tricks (From Someone Who HATED It!)
You know that time I absolutely HATED breastfeeding? Remember that? Yeah, me too. If you don't then you can read all about it right here. Because naturally, I wrote about it.
The thing is, I don't love it now. I just don't hate it anymore. Monica Stott (aka The Travel Hack) posted on Instagram recently saying that she wasn't in either camp really. She wasn't obsessed by it, but she didn't detest it either. Yes, it can be awkward and yes, it would be nice to have full ownership of my own body but, like Monica, I've got used to it. And, for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. Namely -- less washing up, less money spent on formula, gold stars from the health visitor (!) and the utter convenience of knowing you never have to remember to take food with you.
Because you, my friend, are the food!
If you just want to skip all my ramblings to what products I recommend then head straight to THE KIT
Before anyone shouts at me, yes -- I know it's recognised that ideally, breast is best. So, of course, unless I truly detested breastfeeding I'd choose that over formula. But, in my opinion, FED IS BEST. Because a happy mama is more important to a child's health than a stressed, unhappy one.
That's also a fact, right?
Personally, I like a combo approach. Anaïs first day home from the hospital (on day two of her life) was sponsored by Actimel. I hadn't slept for four days, and I was borderline hallucinating (!) so Oli put me to bed, and took over feeding duties. He doesn't produce milk so, you guessed it, he fed her 100% on formula. And guess what happened?
NOTHING. She was fine. And she went straight back to breastfeeding when I woke up and she was hungry. My milk supply didn't dry up, I didn't get told off by the health visitor, Anaïs didn't turn into the hulk......You get the picture. Nothing changed.
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After six-eight weeks of hating breastfeeding, something shifted and I started to do it automatically. I'd wap a boob out without even realising I was doing it and I'd even fall asleep while nursing at night too (we co-sleep and I feed lying on my side.....don't worry!)
So, what changed? I guess a few things really. I can't tell you any of these things will work for you because it is SO personal. Breastfeeding either clicks or it doesn't and if it doesn't, there's formula. I don't mind breastfeeding now, but I'm also not about to do it for years -- there are only so many nursing friendly outfits I can pull together you know?!
If you are able and want to breastfeed, here are a few tips and tricks that have made my life easier.
Depending on how long your baby feeds for (Anaïs used to feed for 5 mins, and now feeds for 20-30 ....sometimes 45!) you will be stuck in one position. Which, is great if you like to meditate and never get the chance to anymore (this is your opportunity!) but not so much if you get bored easily. Or hungry.
I found that consciously grabbing a snack, my phone & headphones, and WATER (omg you will need so much water now) got me through a session with ease. Which is more important than it sounds because your milk will flow more freely when you're chilled out (health visitor/midwife advice & my experience).
In my station (a tray, basically!) I'd have my phone, some headphones and a big bottle of water. At the beginning, I'd also have some Lansinoh nipple cream to hand too (life saver) which doubles as lip-balm.
Snacks (for you!)
There's a whole lot of gumph about eating certain things (and avoiding things) when you're breastfeeding, but I would honestly not worry about any of it. Unless you have a crappy diet already, in which case that probably needs to change regardless of breastfeeding!
My health visitor regularly tells me to have a glass of wine each night or, even better, a pint of Guinness because it's a nice thing to do and mama -- you deserve it! Also, you know that the wine doesn't bypass your liver and digestion and go straight into your milk flow, unfiltered, right?
I'm not suggesting you get trashed each night, and to be honest I only drink at the weekends now (because of sleep!) but don't stress. It's very similar to pregnancy, in that the NHS choose to apply a blanket ban on things because they can't trust mothers to make sensible choices (due to the minority who don't).
Look, 'm not a doctor, so ask your midwife or GP if you want medical guidance. But this is what's worked for me :)
In terms of snacking options, I eat stacks of bananas. And chocolate bars too. And crisps....nothing's sacred. Controversially, I've also made (and loved) lactation cookies which are packed with flaxseed, oats and brewers yeast and are said to increase milk production.
Breastfeeding-friendly outfit hacks
I initially bought a few 'nursing' tops from ASOS, but honestly -- they weren't my style, and I'd never wear them 'in real life' so I donated them to charity. I find the cami tops with clippy straps the WORST, as the strap always gets lost and you end up attaching a stray strap to your bra instead. Totally unhelpful.
So this tends to be what I do now: I have a few Emma Jane nursing bras that are comfy and a nice fit (albeit incredibly unsexy) which are the only official 'nursing' items I own. I layer stretchy cami's on top of that - ones you don't mind stretching down to pop a boob out, and a basic tee/jumper over that.
Another game changer was buying a racer/crop top combo from the workout section in Primark. They're designed to be work together, but I separated them -- easy to do with poorly made clothing ;) -- and I now wear the racer underneath whatever I plan on wearing that day. It works under dresses (as long as they're shirt/wrap style), jumpers, basic tee's etc).
If you want advice from a more stylish mama, I'd head to Bumpkin Betty, but I'm your gal if you live in leggings and stripey t-shirts!
Feeding-friendly places (EVERYWHERE)
I once listened to a poem by the amazing spoken word artist Holly McNish, all about her experience of breastfeeding. It'll probably make you cry.....because it perfectly captures how breastfeeding in public can feel for a new mum. She says: "In a country with billboards covered in tits....."
Because isn't that the truth?! Breasts were made to feed a baby (no drama if you can't or don't want to by the way!) and NOT to excite people sexually. That's an added bonus right? Or, I guess -- secondary to their main purpose.
Breastfeeding anywhere in public is your right. In the UK, it is illegal to prevent a woman from breastfeeding: "A business cannot discriminate against mothers who are breastfeeding a child of any age." so don't worry about whether a place is/isn't breastfeeding friendly, and certainly don't feel the need to ask permission first.
But the first few times can be daunting and a little awkward too. Especially because your baby might not have mastered latching straight away and you'll be feverishly squidging your nipple into their mouth while wincing at the latch pain. It gets easier, I promise. And if it doesn't, you can just switch to formula or expressed breast milk. No drama.
I found that I tested the waters in places I was super comfortable at -- my local cafes, not the nearest Pret -- and now, I'm often found wapping a boob out in the park, on the tube, on a train....anywhere. If you are super worried, take a massive scarf or muslin until you get used to it.
My Breastfeeding KIT
- A bog-standard pillow to prop Anaïs up on when she feeds in the traditional 'cradle' hold.
- Shed-loads of water
- Lansinoh nipple cream *
- Phone & Sudio wireless headphones (not gifted/sponsored or an affiliate link)
- Your chosen snack, ideally something that can be eaten with one hand!
- Breast pads. If you're using disposable ones I'd recommend Lansinoh, they're better than any others I've tried (but they're all a little annoying) and for reusables, I like these bamboo ones.
- Breast pumps. I have two Medela pumps: a manual* and an electric and I prefer the electric one by far. I've struggled with pumping and have only just managed to get 50ml in less than twenty minutes!
That's honestly it. I can't understand why people get so
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* These items were gifted to me but all views are my own regardless of who foots the bill.