After my last post, I realised I should probably share a few tips of how I managed to breastfeed successfully
1) Arm yourself with as much as information as possible – I went to an NHS and NCT course. The NHS one was quick and not as useful as the NCT one but I learned things at both. Ask for tips from friends and family – a willing friend may even show you first hand how it’s done.
2) Don’t be afraid to ask for help – I asked for help in hospital, from my midwife who sent round the hospital’s breastfeeding specialist, a breastfeeding cafe, the NCT and friends. Noone minds being asked – the NCT teacher told us she mans the NCT phones and often they are bored and want someone to ring – it’s their job after all. Other friends have asked to stay one or two days longer in hospital to establish feeding – this of course works if the hospital has space.
3) Get help face to face – advice is all very well but sometimes you need an expert or another mum to help you with the latch for instance. A friend’s baby was recently diagnosed with tongue tie – something which no-one else had thought of until a midwife went round and noticed straight away.
4) Be determined. If your mother or mother in law, or friends didn’t or don’t breastfeed, it can be tough to stand your ground. Explain why you want to – you believe it’s best for you and your baby – it’s your baby and your body after all. Hopefully at least your partner will be on your side and maybe you can show how natural it is to feed and change a few people’s minds along the way.
5) Don’t be afraid to feed in public. But don’t expect to be able to straight away – it takes practice. I bought nursing tops – not everyone I know has. The reason I did was because I was I had a c-section and so had to wear massive pants! Pulling my top up wouldn’t have worked as my pants would have been on show. Some people layer clothes – that can work too. The second time I bought a breastfeeding apron which was great. You can buy a whole variety of them and the baby carrier I had even had a way of feeding while carrying (far too complicated for my liking). But don’t be ashamed – you are just feeding a baby – and most people I guarantee won’t even notice you are doing so.
6) Be prepared to express. If you are suffering from painful nipples it may be your only option for a while. Ask someone to show you how to sterilise. You can use tablets or a microwave or electric steriliser. Breast milk is actually sterile so some people say there is no need to sterilise and just use hot water or a dishwasher. It is up to you – I sterilised at first but after 6 months just used the dishwasher or hand washing.
7) Be prepared to use some unusual things in order to help you succeed. You may need nipple shields and will almost certainly need breast pads – you can buy disposable or washable ones. You will need feeding bras, and maybe feeding tops. A breast pump (electric or manual – personal preference of what works for you), steriliser & bottles if you need to express. You may also need cabbage leaves or a hot compress for when you get engorged (!), a needle if you get a blocked duct and loads of cloths if you are leaking or spraying everywhere.
8) Be patient – your baby is learning how to feed as well as you – it is a journey together. You will have highs and lows. I didn’t enjoy the biting – especially with teeth, or the coming off to smile at me in public (slightly embarrassing as I felt a bit exposed) or when I was bitten, pinched or having my hair pulled. I hated the nipple confusion pain and the first few days when I was in agony at the latch. These bits are easily forgotten though and probably only a few (painful) minutes altogether.
9) Be prepared to bed share. I didn’t at all with my first baby, but with a toddler as well as a baby when the 4 month sleep regression happened, one night I just fell asleep feeding. I knew a little but not a lot about bed sharing. I wasn’t intending to do it, but with a baby who fed every 2 hours it was my only way of surviving. The NHS and other bodies advise against it. I say read up on it – I had no idea I shouldn’t have a pillow in the bed for instance. It’s better to be prepared & safe just in case (or if you decide to bed share) than not. Co-sleeping is different from bed sharing. Having your baby in a moses basket or cot next to you is classed as co-sleeping which is advised until your baby is 6 months old. My one regret is not buying or hiring a bedside cot like this one http://www.nctshop.co.uk/NCT-Bednest-Bedside-Crib/productinfo/4364/. The option of hiring them wasn’t available when I had my first baby and I just couldn’t justify the cost. But it would have saved my husband having to get out of bed to pass the baby over for the first few days after my c-section, and also it means the baby could just have fed as and when they needed.
10) If you can’t breastfeed or chose not to try not to worry or dwell on it. You did your best and how you feed your baby is your choice. I know that’s easier said than done – as I’ve said before I’ve struggled with having had 2 c-sections so feel I have failed at birth and I know some mums feel like they have failed at breastfeeding despite going to great lengths do so so. I think we just need to take a step back and realise we, as humans can’t be good at everything and I bet your children will never question the way you fed them as babies (or give birth to them).