If you’re thinking of breastfeeding or in the early stages and caught yourself Googling every question you have under the sun. This post is for you!
I’ve been breastfeeding for nearly a year now, yes a year! I’ve nearly earned my golden boobies which I’m super proud about.
The thing about breastfeeding is everyone says it’s easy. It is, but not in the early days, not when it’s all brand new to you and the baby. This is a whole new learning curve so here’s a guide to everything you need to know, from why breast milk is good, the perfect latch and if you should buy any extras as a breastfeeding mama. I’ll cover it all here so sit yourself comfortably.
Why is breast milk so special ?
Starting off with the most common subject here… breast milk is magical. Not only does it feed and Nourish your baby with everything they need, it detects when your baby is ill too. How? the milk will change and give your baby everything he/she needs to fight the illness. If you pump you may notice a change in colour of your milk, which I can’t lie that’s pretty clever right?
Our bodies can do incredible things, we grow life inside us and then produce this magic juice. Pretty amazing huh?
Anyway let’s back to the pros of breastmilk :
- The love hormone oxytocin. There’s nothing else like it.
- Hormones are transferred though the milk to help your baby grow and thrive
- Less likely to get ill
- Less likely to suffer from colic and silent reflux
- Microbes help the baby organs , immune system and gut develop
- It lowers the chances of SIDs and Cancers.
- More likely to protect against allergies and skin conditions such as eczema
- You can never overfeed a breastfed baby
- Milk adjusts to babies needs the older they grow. If they need more milk your boobs will know and make enough. It also increases the fat content.
- It’s free! Huge bonus
- No time is wasted, as boob is available straight away. No waiting around for kettles or prep machines
- Breastfeeding is good for you too! It helps you lose the baby weight.
Formula doesn’t have the unique ingredients that breastmilk has. But of course with every pro there is some cons.
- Breastmilk doesn’t provide vitamin D like formula does. You have to supplement
- Breastfed babies are likely to be clingy, especially in the early stages
- Clothing can be awkward
- If you don’t or can’t pump, feeds can’t be shared and no one else can have that bonding experience during feeds. Which does put a lot of families off.
- Not every women can breastfeed. Be it milk supply issues , latch or medication.
- Engorgement can hurt
The basics of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding may come naturally to a lot of women and babies but realistically it’s a new skill to be learned for the both of you. Learning anything of course involves lots of practice and support.
Once you’ve mastered the basics and have a great support network around you, breastfeeding will become second nature to you. Here’s how.
The perfect latch
Latch is the first thing you and your baby will learn about. For me personally this took a while to get used to, when I thought the latch was right it wasn’t. It’s so easy to be confused between a proper deep latch and nipple sucking. Which in the early days of my breastfeeding journey, that’s what Logan did a lot. Let me tell you, it soon hurts after a few minutes and that’s when you know the latch is wrong.
Latching on can be uncomfortable in the early days but it should never hurt or come to the point you need to grit your teeth together. I’m going share some pictures and resources that I found useful below along with breastfeeding positions as I find this helps and links with the perfect latch. It took me a while to find the perfect hold that was comfortable for the both of us for Logan to latch on well.
If you need some support with latch please ask your midwife or health visitor, or research your local breastfeeding cafe and la leche league to help you out, as sometime in person and talking to others helps gain a better understanding, especially if they have latch issues regarding lip and tongue ties which is super common and often gets missed at newborn check ups.
For perfect latch the aim is to get the baby to take as much of your breast as possible, they should lead with there chin which should place just underneath the outer part of your areola. Whilst doing this they should have a big open mouth a bit like they’re doing a yawn.
Once baby looks like they’ve got a good mouthful, push them forwards and aim for a deep latch. Make sure you leave a clear space for there nose so they can breathe easily.
Now for positioning. Breastfeeding had so many different feeding positions. In fact as long as the latch is good you could feed your baby upside down.. But of course don’t do this. I can’t imagine that being comfortable.
Here’s some examples:
These are the most popular positions but of course there’s do many more, in the early days these are 100% easier in my opinion. As baby gets older and better head control you can change things up a bit…or at least your baby will they will decide how they want to feed trust me..that’s when odd positions come out!
My personal favourite is cradle hold. I also do side-lying especially when tired. This was the most comfortable position for me in the hospital too. That’s why co-sleeping is also recommended but I get on to that later.
Myths of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has so many myths and people may fill you with outdated information.
Who knows by the time you read this things may have changed again and new research may be found but I’m going to share with you what I know that commonly gets mistaken for breastfeeding issues.
‘My baby is constantly feeding, he/she is not getting enough’
This is the most common mistake and people may say that you child is feeding too much they’re not getting enough. This is wrong. Cluster feeding is normal, in the early stages and whenever baby has a growth spurt.
If you’re worried about your baby not getting enough, check your baby nappies.
Day 1 they should do one dirty nappy
Day 2-3 they should do at least two wet/dirty nappies.
Day 4+ this is usually when your milk comes in, once it comes in your baby will produce more wet and dirty nappies at least 6 in 24 hours.
Another way to make sure baby is getting enough is the amount of feeds. A baby usually needs feeding every 3-4 hours. At least 8 feeds a day anything less should be checked out.
If your baby has low sugars at birth you’ll be recommended to feed every three hours even if baby doesn’t hint for a feed. You’ll have to encourage them. Some midwives also advise this in the early days to establish your milk before doing responsive feeding.
‘You’re ovefeeing the baby!’
Nope, not possible. You can’t overfeed a breastfed baby. What you produce is exactly what your baby needs.
‘Breastfeeding causes your boobs to sag’
No, pregnancy causes that issue with all the hormonal changes. If anything breastfeeding gives you the occasional free boob job when they’re full of milk.
‘If you have small boobs you can’t breastfeed’
Um, no size doesn’t matter. If you’re a women you can feed. Saying that some men can actually lactate so as long as you got nipples you’re good.
‘You need to have a diet for breastfeeding’
You really don’t, unless of course your baby has an allergy then yes you will need to go on a diet to avoid the foods your baby can’t have. If that’s not the case though, you don’t need to diet. Eat what you want.
‘Breastfeeding makes your baby clingy‘
It can feel that way when cluster feeds hit in full force. However any baby can be clingy it doesn’t matter how they’re fed. Studies do show however that breastfed babies become more independent when they get older but you can say that about any child.
‘You can’t drink alcohol, if you do you need to pump and dump’
No, you can drink alcohol. No need to pump and dump. As long as you stay sober enough to hold and look after your child you’re good.
If not you can pump and 100% still use that milk up, don’t waste it.
‘ You can’t get Pregnant whilst breastfeeding’
Well, you certainly can. It’s not a contraceptive. It may work for a lot of women but it’s not 100% if you want to avoid pregnancy , take the right precautions. Don’t rely on breastfeeding to prevent it.
‘ You can’t breastfeed’ whilst pregnant’
Again, yes you can. This was a worry of mine but Logan is still feeding fine enough. It can be uncomfortable at times but that’s pregnancy for you.
What you need to buy for breastfeeding
Answer to this question is nothing but there is some products that come in handy to make your breastfeeding journey a comfortable one.
- Maternity and nursing bras – I could recommend these enough! When I were pregnant so many people told me not to bother, just wear a normal bra, nursing bras are a waste. WRONG. Oh God so wrong I wish I prepared. Nursing bras are a godsend. No underwires digging into you, which isn’t what you want especially when engorged, underwire bras can also do damage to your supply too. They also unclip easily so feeds are discreet and easy for you. Honestly, they are heaven.
- Breast pads – Okay, slightly obvious one but breast pads for first few months are 100% needed. I got disposable ones and added nipple cream to the pad before sticking them in my bra. Feels like heaven and protects your nipples at the same time.
- Nipple cream – I’d highly recommend Lansinoh. It’s a tad pricey but it’s so good. A little bit goes a long way and it just feels like heaven, especially if your nipples do become slightly cracked.
- Breast pump – Another item I got told not to bother with. I bought a pump within first week of breastfeeding, it was needed. I pumped in hospital too with the ones they had to offer. Honestly, it’s so good for relief if your boobs are engorged. If baby won’t feed or is asleep just get the pump out. The milk won’t go to waste, someone else can feed the baby, it can be frozen and used at a later date or even for popsicles in summer! Or teething aid. So many uses.
- Boppy – A breastfeeding pillow, everyone seems to rate these. I personally didn’t buy one as I just used my pregnancy pillow. So if you have a pregnancy pillow save your money and double the use. I can see why people I love a breastfeeding pillow, it does help make feeds more comfortable. Also stops your arm from going dead, bonus!
- Snack caddy – you can use anything for this! Just make a comfortable feeding space for you and the baby and have a snack caddy that’s easy to reach. Brilliant for the early days, as it can be a challenge to eat, you can of just forget when your priorities are elsewhere.
- Baby carrier – This isn’t for everyone. Baby carriers and baby slings are said to be easy for breastfeeders especially when out and about. Baby can get comfortable whilst you need to get things done. I had a baby carrier but hardly used it as it hurt my back. I did find it a little hard to breastfeed with too but that’s just me personally. I love the look of slings but the thought of putting one on scares me. It may work for you though so if babywearing is for you, get yourself one!
How long should I breastfeed for?
Recommended is 6 months minimum but there’s no set time. It’s whenever you and the baby are ready. Some mums decided they don’t like breastfeeding so do it for a day or so. Some babies wean off within the first three months. Some babies don’t wean until 2 years old and beyond. As I say there’s no set time and theres no need to stop when solids are introduced either. It’s all down to you and the baby.
How to prepare for breastfeeding
- Research – I’m hoping my blog and the links included have helped with some research on your breastfeeding questions. There are plenty of links online full of useful information. If you’re in the UK and received your bounty pack from the hospital , they should be a book/magazine in there. It has local numbers on and lots of information on pregnancy, baby and so much on breastfeeding. I found it helped me a lot.
- Support network – Support is so important, make sure you have good family and friends around you to give you support even if it’s a ‘well done’ or ‘you’re doing great’ little comments like that really do mean a lot especially when you do have a bad day. Also, find your local la leche group or breastfeeding cafe/group if it be online or in person. I find people who breastfeed themselves are the best people to support you as they’ve been through it.
- Breastfeeding classes – I personally had none near me but I’ve heard from other these are great to attend. So of there’s one near you why not check it out.
My personal tips and tricks for feeding in public
I see all the time how nervous people are to breastfeed in public, I remember being the exact same. I think we all overthink it. Especially with the horror stories online.
It’s not that bad, getting them first public feeds out the way you soon lose that anxiety. You realise no one really notices or cares. With my breastfeeding experience its been positive. If anyone has seen me I’ve been congratulated, which is super sweet.
So here’s some personal tips.
Save yourself some money and don’t buy nursing clothes, you can make most outfits breastfeeding friendly. I usually put a vest top underneath each outfit so it acts like a nursing top. It’s so easy to feed in, keeps you warm in winter and it keeps feeds extra discreet when feeding in public.
My second tip is to avoid formula. Many mums plan ahead and get formula in in case they can’t breastfeed. I thought it was a great idea myself however soon as I got to one tough hurdle I wanted to quit and use formula which upset me because I wanted to breastfeed so bad. However Logan didn’t take to it and Jonny encouraged me to stay calm and carry on , 11 months on I’m still feeding. Don’t buy formula unless you decide its not for you or you can’t breastfeed for medical reasons, save your money.
Personal preference which is against medical advice is … If you do want to use bottles for what you’ve expressed, introduce a bottle sooner then 6-8 weeks! When I used the formula on my set back, Logan happily took to a bottle, I then didn’t use one until after six weeks as adviced by professionals and he refused to take to one. Which is super common with most breastfed babies unless been introduced sooner which I plan to do with my next baby.
And for my last tip its how to soothe sore nipples. If you have no nipple cream to had, express some milk and rub the milk all around your nipple. Breast milk is known for being a fab healer. You can also use breastmilk for sticky eyes, cradle cap and nappy rash. So many uses.
I hope you found this post useful, if you’re wanting to know more about my breastfeeding journey and experience click here.
Or read my old post on tips to prepare for breastfeeding here.
Did you breastfeed? If so what would be your tops tips for beginners?