So world breastfeeding week has come to an end. I totally wanted to get on the bandwagon and spam my Instagram and Facebook pages with breastfeeding stuff but I kept finding myself deep in the rabbit hole of making online shopping carts for no reason (please confirm I’m not the only one who does this) and I was too busy (slack) to post anything on the subject. I read a bajillion articles and liked a bajillion photos though, got caught up in the typical arguments and so on. It got me thinking about the struggles new mums face accompanied with the crazy amounts of misleading information that we get about breastfeeding and the amount of mistrust we have in our own bodies to feed our babies. Here’s what I’ve learned in the five months of exclusively breastfeeding my daughter.
It’s a learned skill.
You’d think it would just come naturally right? Well for the majority of us it doesn’t and your baby is pretty crap at it to start with too. It took Violet and I around three weeks for the toe curling pain to ease and my nipples to not be scabs anymore. It was pretty intense and I can easily see why it’s not for everyone. The best thing to do is relax but that’s incredibly difficult when it hurts so much. We eventually worked out what a proper latch looks and feels like and it’s second nature now, we can walk the streets and feed at the same time whereas before we needed to be sitting upright with our breastfeeding pillow and everything we needed within arms reach. I promise it gets easier.
Most babies have a preferred side.
I always (and occasionally still) had one regular boob and one ginormous, engorged boob. Every time I tried to get my bub to feed from the less preferred side she’d crack ’em. I discovered I had a really strong let down on that side and the fast flow was too much for her. I fixed the issue by expressing a little before I fed her and used the football hold position so she didn’t realise she was on the crap boob. Now she’s a monster and latches on to anything you put in front of her, she’s had a go at my nose and somehow even my knee, it’s difficult to imagine we ever struggled with getting a correct latch.
There’s this thing called cluster feeding and it sucks.
Early on while you’re breastfeeding your baby likes to bunch feeds close together, it helps to stimulate and establish your milk supply.
If it wasn’t for my sister in law who is my breastfeeding oracle I wouldn’t have had a clue about it, my health nurse never talked about it and it didn’t come up in antenatal classes either.
Basically from about 4pm to 9pm every evening I had a fussy, unsettled baby attached to me. It’s hard work and it’s intense but it’s normal and it does end. You need all the support you can get and all of the Netflix because you’re going to be trapped for hours. It went on for several weeks after I had my bub and she still does it occasionally as she approaches a growth spurt or enters a leap. This is a time when many new mums switch to formula or supplement as they assume they aren’t making enough milk to satisfy their baby. The best way to tell is nappy output, at least 6 very wet cloth nappies or at least 5 very wet disposable nappies in 24 hours.
Then your milk supply settles down.
Your boobs won’t leak forever. The internet told me they’d probably leak for around 8 weeks, mine didn’t stop for around 4 months. It’s different for everyone. Your supply eventually stabilises and you’ll produce the perfect amount for your baby. This can also lead to stopping breastfeeding prematurely as you don’t have that full feeling as often and might think your milk has dried up. There’s still plenty of milk in there, keep on boobin’.
Nursing clothes are super annoying in the beginning.
I bought a bunch of nursing clothes in anticipation for my baby and pretty much spent the first three months in only a crop top with nursing pads, if my boobs weren’t leaking all over the place the crop top would’ve been gone too. Trying to get that latch right is hard enough without having 700 layers in the way.
I went out to a cafe with my nursing cover, feeding top on and nursing bra underneath and noped the eff out. Sorry other diners but if you want discretion then don’t look because we need to see what we’re doing. I’ve discovered nursing clothes are a non essential item, if you can pull it down low enough it’s a feeding top. We’ve gotten the hang of the clothes now though and I think my baby could find the milk through three feet of water and bulletproof glass so they weren’t a total waste of money.
12 isn’t the magic number.
Pre baby me thought you breastfed till your baby was 12 months old, though that’s an awesome achievement the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for the first 2 years and beyond if mother and baby are happy to continue. The thought of breastfed toddlers really disturbed me prior to having my own baby, I thought if the child was old to enough to ask for it then they’re too old. I was so stupid. Now I’m really hoping we make it to 2 and any longer is a total bonus, there are tonnes of nutritional benefits in breast milk for toddlers. I can understand how people are weirded out by it though, it’s not every day you see a giant child being breastfed but I’m hoping the world becomes a more accepting and more knowledgeable place for my daughter if she chooses to breastfeed her own children.
Informed is best.
I love this. Knowledge is totally power and it’s out there but you just need to find it. If you’re struggling with breastfeeding then the best place to get help is with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. There are some really great support groups too, my favourite is the Australian Breastfeeding Project Facebook group. I’ve learned heaps from those ladies and no question is too silly.
All this being said though breastfeeding isn’t for everyone, some people find it too difficult and some people just don’t want to for whatever reason. Weighing up the pros and cons and reaching the best solution for you and your family is the best advice I’ve heard. We all know breast is best but formula is a great substitute and every breastfeed is a successful breastfeed no matter what.