Breastfeeding – My 5 Top Tips to Success!
One of the many things (the many, many things…) I wish someone had told me before the birth of my first child, is that there is no easy way to feed your baby.
At least in the early days, from what I have experienced, latching on to a bottle or boob is a skill (much like the seemingly unobtainable skill of falling asleep alone) that requires patience, perseverance and a LOT of hard work – for both Mum and baby.
When people ask me about my feeding experience, I almost always say that breastfeeding my babies was without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever done. This statement is usually met with one of the following reactions:
- Sympathetic eyes and a knowing nod – usually from fellow mums;
- Confusion and concern – often from non-parents who’ve interpreted this statement to mean that my current mental state isn’t just ‘baby brain’, and sleep deprivation had resulted in my losing all grip on reality!
Breastfeeding is painful, awkward, confusing, challenging, exhausting… but it also beautiful, overwhelming, rewarding, and magical.
So, before I really get stuck in to the good (and often gross) stuff, I feel compelled to pass comment on the bottle vs. breast debate. There is this ridiculous pressure on new Mums regarding how they choose to feed their baby, and first and foremost I want to make it clear that this blog is no judgement whatsoever on Mamas that choose to bottle-feed. The only thing I will say on this topic (especially if you’re an expectant or new Mum) is my all-time favourite quote: “You can’t pour from an empty cup”. This statement rings true as a Mum more than ever before – choosing how to feed your baby is just as much about your health & wellbeing as theirs.
Let’s do this!
- Do your homework
There are so many ways that you can prepare yourself for your breastfeeding journey, even before the arrival of your little one.
Ask your midwife for any resources they can share with you (mine gave me a DVD and a breastfeeding magazine that has been photocopied and shared so many times it is no longer in one piece!).
Research local breastfeeding support groups (NCT and Sure Start for example) and talk to any mums you know about their time spent breastfeeding.
Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. Fingers crossed that you will have one of those ‘it’s the most natural thing ever, your baby is born to do it’ experiences (most-definitely not an experience that I’ve had!), but if you feel passionately about making it work, there is no harm in being as prepared as possible.
- Get the right kit
There is so much that I could type here – it would fill a blog all by itself!
I have tried it all! Breast pads, breast pumps, breast therapy packs, nipple cream, nipple shields, nipple everters (yes, that’s right – an amazing gadget that ‘pops’ your nip in to the perfect position! Over share? Probably, but I’m a mum – I have misplaced the part of my brain that inhibits this kind of word-vomit behaviour. I imagine it is gone forever, much like the nice underwear I once owned, and the shoe my son threw out of the moving car window that time…)
I’m sure you’re thinking that Lanisnoh and Medela saw me coming, but oh Mama, I am forever in their debt!
It is often a case of trial and error with these types of things, before you find out what works for you, but invest in some quality breast pads and nipple cream and you won’t regret it!
It is also worth taking the time to research formulas and bottles so that you are prepared for this scenario too, in case for whatever reason, breastfeeding just doesn’t work out for you this time.
- Mama tribe
Again, I could fill another blog post entirely by re-iterating the importance of this one.
The women that you meet when you become a Mum so rapidly become your support network, your soul sisters, your agony aunts, your cheerleaders… regardless of how they feed their own baby they will always be able to offer you a different perspective, a shoulder to cry on, or the overwhelming relief that comes from the spoken words “me too”.
I am honestly grateful every day for my Mama tribe: the mums I met at the start of my journey in to motherhood, and the ones that I am lucky enough to meet every week at my Sweaty Mama sessions. It brings me so much joy when a new Mama starts our classes and I witness the Mama tribe bonds begin to form.
You know who you are Mamas – shout out to you!
- Take it easy
By this I mean take it easy on yourself, and relax into the journey. There are hiccups and set-backs all the time (hello my old friends mastitis, nursing strikes, and sickness bugs), so when it’s going well – enjoy it! When it’s not – don’t sweat it!
And don’t let anyone else knock you off your stride, and ruin the experience for you. If anyone you don’t know finds it necessary to comment on your feeding choices, ignore them and don’t give it a second thought.
Nothing infuriates me more than the all-to-frequently-recited story of breastfeeding Mamas being approached in public and requested to cover-up. As if the notion of me baring my boob in public makes you more uncomfortable than me? Yeah, right! I would altogether prefer it if you hadn’t seen my breast, but it’s just one of the sacrifices I make on a daily basis to ensure that my child is happy, content & well-fed, so if you’d kindly move along I’d like to return my attention to the bundle of joy in my arms!
The Mamas in my Sweaty Mama classes will tell you that I love to celebrate them multi-tasking and ‘Mum-ing’ the heck out of life by feeding their babies at our sessions. I have joyously skipped over to breastfeeding and bottle-feeding Mamas on more than one occasion with the request take a photo – they are amazing and the world needs to know it!
I love that our classes are a safe space, where you can put your needs AND your babies needs first. Side-lying, breastfeeding, leg-lifts anyone? Yes, I know, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – these Mamas are AMAZING!
- Enjoy it!
Now, as someone who has just come to the end of my breastfeeding journey with my 18 month-old son, this is an emotional one. Take the time to enjoy it. I will cherish forever the magical moments spent breastfeeding my babies: the New Years Eve when I saw the clock strike midnight, just me and my nursing newborn, cuddled together in the dark dreaming of the adventures 2017 would bring… the countless times the magic medicine that is breast milk soothed my pained or poorly baby, when nothing else would…
Take the time to watch your sweet little angel while they sleep, and relish the realisation that you MADE them. YOU! You grew them inside your wondrous self, and you have worked tirelessly to support and sustain them even further in a way only you can do (regardless whether it is breast or bottle).
Own it ladies – you are AMAZING! You are a SUPERHERO! You are a MAMA!