4 years, well 47 months to be exact, and going strong. That’s how long I have been breastfeeding for. It’s something I hold so close to my heart and its accounted for many special bonding moments between my kids and I. It is something that I very nearly gave up however, and I certainly had no idea it would be as “hard” as it was. This post is aimed to educate new mothers about breastfeeding, because it truly does take a village. Whether you choose to breastfeed for just one day, or if you choose to do formula feeding, there is no judgement here at all. “Fed is best” at all costs, and a happy mommy is most important. HOWEVER, the amount of mothers that give up on their breastfeeding journey due to lack of support or mis-education is huge, and it’s those mothers that I hope to try and help. So If you are expecting, or if you plan to breastfeeding, PLEASE read this post. PLEASE try to remember the points I make and lets dispel these myths, one by one. Welcome to my “Ted talk”.
Lets begin in the early days, because if you have just started your journey you will relate.
Congratulations, and welcome to the crazy journey of motherhood. Its actually one that has made me so in awe of our creator. The whole process of growing a human, giving birth and then being able to nourish this tiny being, is mind blowing, and it’s just incredible to see what our bodies can do. The moment your little one is brought into this world, they can “crawl” their way up your chest to find milk. It’s incredible to watch and even more amazing to experience. The best piece of advice I can give for the early days is to “feed” baby as much as possible. Demand feed. Baby wants to be connected to you again in some way so let baba nurse as often as they want. As a new other you have no idea what to expect or what is “normal” in terms of milk. The amount of times I have heard “I don’t have enough milk” is shocking, but as a first time mother, how are you meant to know what’s normal and what is not? We see these big bottles of formula filled up and we presume our milk should be the same amount. I’m here to tell you ITS NOT. The reason the formula has to be such an amount is because it has to try and replicate the nutrition that babies get from just one drop of breast milk.
Myth 1: I “couldn’t” breastfeed
I have heard a lot of aunties and people say these words. While I don’t know their personal circumstances, the vast majority of women are physically capable of breastfeeding, as long as they have the help and support they need. Even if you haven’t physically given birth (adoptive mothers) you CAN breastfeed. Unless you have a rare condition called mammary hypoplasia, where women don’t have enough of the right type of breast tissue to produce milk, you are able to breastfeed. Whatever your breasts or nipples look like, you are equipped for the job.
Myth 2: I don’t have enough milk
I want to scream when I hear this. I want to scream even louder when I hear nurses telling a mother this when a baby is only 2 days old. Bar a serious medical condition or medication, there is NO such thing. Refer to the graph below. Your baby’s’ stomach is the size of a cherry, a cherry! All it needs for the first few days is a teaspoon amount of your colostrum at a time. It is truly the perfect 1st meal for a baby. Don’t expect your breasts to fill up straight away. Colostrum is made up of living cells, it forms a protective lining inside baby’s gut and protects them from germs outside the womb. It also has a natural laxative effect, helping baba to clear out their system. Literal liquid gold. That’s why I say even if you only manage a few days, you have done an amazing thing. Newborns don’t need much but as you learn each other and your bodies, let baby suckle for as long as they need. Initially the feeds will take longer (20 minutes or so), but this often decreases as time goes on.
But how can I tell my baby is getting enough milk?
Before you turn to formula, the best way to tell whether your baby is getting enough is to look at his nappies. Up until about day 3, there should be about 3 wet nappies a say. Then from day 5 there should be at least 5 wet nappies a day. Always measure the nappies. Newborns tend to feed between 8 and 12 times a day.
My eldest was a little fighter (funnily enough he is now my softy), but as a baby my word he tested me. He had an incredibly strong latch but in those first few weeks, despite him gripping onto me like a bulldog there was clearly some air getting in somewhere and I ended up with blood blisters. Enter the all saving nipple cream that other mums swear by. Yes, it provided some relief but actually I found that “air drying” was the best. He would pull on my boobs, cry out in frustration, get wind and then get reflux, it was like a vicious cycle. He would scratch me, wack me in the face with his arm, I felt like giving up on more than one occasion. Then, without even realising it, one day it just clicked. We found our grove, which looking back, probably would have come a little quicker if I had seen a lactation consultant. Then I started expressing in my preparation to go back to work. Imagine my horror when I realised that I could only pump between 80 ml and 120 ml at a time! SURELY he was drinking more than that? According to the formula tin we needed about 180 ml per feed? Guess what? 3 kids later and I still only pump between 80 ml and 150 ml per feed. That’s what my babies drink, and its raised 3 pretty healthy kids. That’s the beauty of breastmilk. The amount may not change, but the nutrients inside do! Magic right?
As you start getting into the swing of things and you get over all the initial fullness and discomfort, your baba starts to mature a little bit and will start experiencing typical newborn winds and cramps. You may think your baba is in pain or is even constipated because they are struggling to “push”. Firstly, please remember that a baby needs to adjust to the world. They don’t come out walking and talking. Their muscles have to develop and their bodies have to learn. Their skin has to adjust to the air, material against their skin, dry air. This is typically when baby acne or little spots can start to appear. This is also when the next round of myths typically appear.
Myth 3: Your milk is too rich (or too weak)
I’m sorry but your milk is freaking perfect! It’s from you, and you are perfect! Breast milk is always just right and adjusts to babies needs. If you start expressing, you’ll notice how your “foremilk” will be a grey, watery consistency and then gradually as becomes a thick creamy consistency. The thinner milk is high in protein, sugar and vitamins and minerals. Its “refreshing”, (think coconut milk), while the creamier hindmilk has a higher fat and calorie content, to “fill baba up”. Your milk is not too rich, spots and cramps come with newborn territory and it is generally just their bodies adjusting.
Myth 4: My baby is allergic to my milk
Errrr no, sorry, they are not. Your milk is perfect. Baby COULD be allergic to something you have eaten that could pass through your milk, but typically, the biggest advantage to breast milk, is that it is introducing all these flavours and tastes to your little one “through a filter”. Breastfed babies often have less allergies as they have been exposed things all the way through. Newborn babies are often are most sensitive to the protein found in cow’s milk, or in soy and their tummies have a hard time digesting it. Cramping can occur, so if you suspect this try cutting it out of your diet to see if it improves. In addition, if you notice any blood in their stool it is typically a sign of an allergy.
Myth 5: Why is your baby rooting all the time, is she hungry all the time? You aren’t feeding her enough
Want to scream yet? I know I did! Your newborns stomach is the size of a fist. They need to fill it up little and more frequently, sometimes they drink to fill and other times they drink for comfort. Breast milk is also easier to digest then formula, so it digests quickly. There is nothing wrong with frequent feeding, if anything, in the early days, it’s setting you up for a great supply and it’s giving you time to just bond with baby.
Myth 6: You should feed every 4 hours.
This is a newborn we are talking about. Why would you want to “time” them? Feed on demand in the early days. Their appetites will vary every day so for the first few weeks just follow their cues. I always used the “4 hour rule” as a “must feed”, so if we were out and about and baby hadn’t had a feed for 4 hours, I knew to stop whatever we were doing to feed. When we were home however, I always fed on demand. As they hit the 3 or 4 month mark however, I do use the 4 hour rule as a guide.
As your baby grows, your milk matures.
Typically around 2 to 3 months the “let down” sensation wont “hurt” as much. Yes I found that tingling sensation to be so strong at times it hurt. It should all settle down and you will find your natural groove. The “struggle” will fade and the fighting and the “fighting” will not be as bad. You will feel more comfortable to feed in public now. You may have to start thinking about returning to work and expressing milk to freeze. Make sure you have the best quality pump you can afford, please don’t buy a second hand one. You can read the reasoning behind that here. Building a stash takes some time but its worth it. Be patient with expressing and try to stick to the same schedule every day (muscle memory). The more you express, the more milk you will get. Remember that demand always equals supply with breast milk. Its during these 3 – 4 months that you may notice that your milk supply varies. A number of factors influence your production, mainly, hydration (yours), stress and sleep. You could be starting to worry about your return to work, or you may have just have had one to many sleepless nights. When I see my milk supply decreasing at all I take it as a sign that I need to take a little time to slow down. Rest a bit more, increase my fluid in take and by eating certain food groups you can help to increase your supply (thanks Mrs.Milk). Medela has always been my pump of course, and I have used the swing, the swing maxi as well as the freestyle. Each pump is deigned for different price ranges and “lifestyle” needs.
Myth 7: You will have to stop breastfeeding when you return to work.
I’m here to say that I have worked with all 3 of my children and have managed to express for all of them. I fed my eldest for 15 months, my youngest son for 2 years and 4 months and know babygirl is on 4.5 months. Know your rights at work as well. Your workplace has to provide a safe place and give you 2 30 minute breaks to “feed your baby/express” up until 6 months. Remember, once you start your solids journey you may be able to drop a feed in the day as well. For anymore tips on breastfeeding while working you can read my previous article here.
We finish off by dispelling the biggest myth of all:
Myth 8: You can’t fall pregnant whilst breastfeeding
Well hi there, my name is Rebecca and I fell pregnant when breastfeeding 🙂 So did a few of my friends. If you are exclusively breastfeeding, a minimum of every four hours, then your chances of falling pregnant within the first 6 months are LESS, but still possible (Month 7 over here !). Its definitely not the most reliable plan for a contraceptive.
A few top tips to help you on your feeding journey:
- Approach breastfeeding with determination and a strong mindset. You CAN do this, it may be natural but it doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Persistence pays off.
- Get comfy – Before you sit down to feed make sure you have everything around you within reach. Some water/tea, your remote etc. Get comfortable. Feeding pillows are the BEST and help you and babe to be more comfortable.
- If you are ill – I’m sure you have read it before but if you or your baby become ill, keep feeding! Your body produces breast milk containing more antibodies which protects your baby’s immunity. I have fed through flu, tummy bugs and bronchitis.
- What happens when you get Mastitis – Blocked Milk Ducts and Mastitis will be experienced at some point, no doubt. It is uncomfortable and painful but it is manageable. Speak to a healthcare professional or a lactation consultant. The best way is to sit in a warm shower and massage your breast to try and “unblock” the duct. Warm face cloths and expressing can also help. If your nipples are extremely sensitive or baby is struggling with a latch, nipple shields and expressing can also help you get over the hill.
- Nipple care: With your first baby in particular, you need to take care of yourself, and your milk makers 🙂 Its an adjustment and they go through a bit of a tough time. It does get easier, and with each child after a little easier still. Use a nipple cream (works for some and not others. Some people are actually allergic to lanolin. I preferred not to use it as I didn’t like the sticky feeling). Air dry as much as you can – don’t put your bra on straight away. Sit for a few minutes after each feed and let them dry naturally. If you are at a low point or are suffering, use a nipple shield. A few moms I know swear by them.
Don’t be afraid to reach out for help. It truly does take a village. Please share this article with any new mum to be. We are all in it together. If love to hear if you have any other stories or tips. The challenges you faced and how you overcame them. You can make a difference in one persons life.
In light of giving back and helping another woman in their breastfeeding journey, I have partnered with some of the brands that helped me along the way. I’ll be giving away 1x Snuggletime feeding pillow, 1 x Medela mini-electric pump, Natralogic Nipple Creme and a variety pack of Mrs. Milk lactation bars.
Make sure you follow all brands involved on Facebook and Instagram;
And of course me 🙂 In these Stilettos.
Comment below and share your tips. This really is all about helping one another and encouraging each other. So I would love to hear your success stories and personal journeys to inspire others.
That’s it! Competition will close on Friday 20 September at Midnight and winner will be announced after. Please note that the design and style of the Snuggletime pillow may vary dependent on availability.