It is astonishing how something so natural and seemingly straightforward can be so darn difficult! I was devastated when my first two children didn’t feed properly.
All manner of different midwives tried to make it happen, prodding and pinching me and shoving the baby in the right direction. But they didn’t want to know.
With my third child, I was prepared for breastfeeding be difficult and was also determined not to be bullied into pursuing it if it wasn’t working. But we got there, finally
Here are some tips that made breastfeeding (a bit) easier for me
Try to be calm (!)
Find a comfortable, quiet and cosy place to breastfeed, where you will feel as relaxed as possible. Arm yourself with drinks/ magazines/ your phone etc. Your bed is the perfect place in the first few weeks. If you’re finding it works best when you breastfeed at home, don’t put pressure on yourself by being out and about during feed times.
Respect your privacy
Most places welcome breastfeeding mothers but you might feel a bit self-conscious/ stressed out about it to begin with. If this is the case, get yourself a privacy cover, such as this one from John Lewis, which allows you – but no one else – to see your baby as he feeds.
Wear two vests
A tip from Mumfidential columnist Emily Jenkinson: if you wear two vests you can lift one up and pull the other down, thereby keeping most of your boob covered when feeding.
Certain nursing vests, such as this one, do the same thing but they feel quite mumsy and if you’re breastfeeding for any significant period, you’ll want to wear something different sometimes.
Stock up on pillows
Normal pillows are much better than breastfeeding cushions to get your baby lying in the right place, according to breastfeeding expert Clare Byam Cook. This worked for me and it’s cheaper too.
Splash out on a good maternity bra
Your boobs can be so sore to begin with! A comfortable yet supportive maternity bra really helps. I found Bravado bras (£30) were amazing as they were soft, smooth and stretchy. Fraid, they don’t look that hot though 🙁
Invest in some hot and cold gel pads
Some people shove cabbage leaves down their bra, I went for Breast Nurse gel pads (£10.95). You use them warm, to get milk flowing and help feeding, or freeze them to soothe mastitis and engorgement. Complete game changer – I totally recommend them!
Consider using nipple shields
Hideous to look at (and wear in public) but I couldn’t have breastfed without them. When your boobs are sore, they make the whole prospect of breastfeeding a little less terrifying! And some babies find them easier to latch on to. Make sure you buy the right size; most shops only stock medium but there other sizes available online
It’s so important to eat well (and lots) when you are breastfeeding in order to keep your spirits up as well as your milk flowing. There’s a chapter in Allegra McEvedy’s book Big Table Busy Kitchen dedicated to recipes for during and after pregnancy; it includes nourishing things such as breastfeeding porridge and lamb and barley stew.
You’re not meant to drink too much alcohol when you’re breastfeeding (although I was told by a nurse that champagne is amazing for the let down reflex…) but you need to drink lots of water.
I was also recommended fennel tea in hospital and it was really soothing and settling.
Look after yourself
Arm yourself with a big tube of Lansinoh Lanolin to soothe and protect massacred nipples.
Some people love the pump, others can’t get to grips with it at all. It’s worth trying though, particularly in the early stages when breastfeeding is still a bit shaky and you want to top up your baby with bottles of expressed milk. Depending on how you use it, the pump can also help sort out oversupply issues and increase your supply (see Clare Byam Cook’s book for further info on this). Most excitingly, it gives you the chance to get a full night’s sleep while someone else feeds your baby bottles of expressed milk. WARNING: many pumps on the market are USELESS! I’d recommend the Medela double if you’re planning on regular pumping.
Breastfeeding can take ages to get established (up to six weeks apparently) so don’t expect it to work well immediately. You and your baby are both learning. Try to be relaxed and under no time pressure (easier said than done if you have another child!).
Don’t feel guilty
Have some formula on standby and don’t feel at all guilty if you end up combining breastfeeding with a few bottles or moving wholly onto formula. I gave a fair few bottles during the first six weeks while I was getting breastfeeding established (and my nipples were recovering!) but was able to drop them completely in the end (and now he refuses to take them, which is a whole new saga).
Call in the professionals
If you’re struggling, get professional help! Try your local breatfeeding support group and if that doesn’t do the trick, go to see someone else.
For me, a session with breastfeeding expert Clare Byam Cook really helped; she told me to unlearn everything I’d been shown in hospital and showed me a different way.
It worked. If you don’t live in London, you can buy her DVD and book.
DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS? IF SO PLEASE SHARE!
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