I wouldn’t dream of beginning to tell anyone how to BF, how long to do it for, or how important or not it is. It is probably the most controversial thing you will discuss if you are a new mum (particularly in London I have found more so than in Northern Ireland), with new mums and midwives/health visitors getting very vocal about this topic in particular.
It is such a personal experience and, for some people, it just doesn’t happen for one reason or another. There’s lots of help out there if you are struggling- midwives, BF clinics, BF support groups, your NCT friends – so don’t be afraid to scream and shout! But for others it goes swimmingly and is the b(r)est, most natural thing in the world.
If you plan to give it a go, there are some tips I can share to get you started at least.
1. Nursing Bras
Buy a couple of nursing bras – you will live in them, and very possibly sleep in them (I did!) so you’ll need a couple at least: maybe 2 x dark and 2 x white or nude to go with your wardrobe. M&S have a bra fitting service which is handy, so go along to get measured up a few weeks before you are due.
2. Breast Pads
Buy Breast Pads before bambino arrives. I would recommend Lansinoh – I bought their Disposable Nursing Pads and they were great as they have double sticky pads and are very absorbent. They’re also pretty cheap. My friend Orla highly recommended Tommee Tippee ones but I never tried them. I did try the cheaper own label ones but they were pants and kept falling out of my bra. LilyPadz are new ‘invisible’ pads which are great for a night out with no lumps and bumps showing.
Start with one pack and go from there.
3. Nursing chair
Some mums swear by a nursing cushion or chair to ease pressure on their backs when they are feeding. I’m not sure, I did use a cushion for my bump when I got very big towards the end of my pregnancy and it helped me sleep, but I could never get the knack of using it as a BF cushion. I did buy a gorgeous nursing chair from Fergus at The Pine Box in Coalisland and I use it now to read Maggie a story at night. It also looks very pretty in her room (which is the most important thing, right?)
4. Maternity tops
When you are BF your wardrobe becomes pretty limited. If like me you spent the last 8 weeks of pregnancy wearing more or less the same thing because nothing else fitted, you’ll be dying to get into something new and fresh. There are special nursing tops you can buy but I did loads of online searches and found them all quite hideous. Best to get normal tops in a bigger size that you can easily pull down so as not to reveal your belly and boobs. Or if you are brave, get pretty ones that are loose at the bottom that you can lift up and have a nursing vest top underneath.
5. Capes ‘n Covers
If you are BF in public, you might need more than a little Muslin square to cover you. Quite a few of my friends wore capes to cover themselves in public – Bebe au lait seem to be most popular – but others got away with a cleverly placed pashmina or an Abel & Anais muslin. The key is not to panic and get yourself all flustered when it happens (as I did!) You’ll only end up drawing attention to yourself AND exposing yourself, when really no one would have noticed otherwise.
6. Breast Pump
In my electric v manual breast pump strawpoll on Facebook, my mummies voted 90% electric. I would recommend the Medela mini electric breast pump, even though I never used it. I was lucky to get a loan of an Avent double pump from my friend Anita, which was very fortunate indeed. But it wasn’t portable and a bit fiddly so expressing always felt like a big deal. My sister had the Medela one and it just looked so much handier; I mean, she could load a washing while expressing- how cool was that. This display of multitasking was beaten only by my friend Sam who regularly breastfed on one boob, pumped on the other and did a spot of online shopping on the iPhone with her free hand.
My issue with expressing was that I fairly soon had one under-performing and one over-performing boob (the Dud and the Megaboob I liked to call them). So for quite some time I was getting very little milk from The Dud, and expressing constantly to try to ‘stimulate’ the bugger. It was very frustrating to say the least.
One good piece of advice I was given, however, was to wait until you know you can BF before you invest £70+ in a pump. Some mummies just don’t produce enough milk to express, so ideally borrow one if you can.
7. In Case of Emergency
Even though you are BF, have some baby formula in the cupboard. You might never have to use it, but it is very reassuring to know that it is there if you aren’t producing enough milk/just can’t do it/are knackered/ get mastitis etc and – this is important – it’s not poison! If you have to use it, it’s fine, don’t allow any midwife or health visitor or well-meaning yummy mummy tell you any different. I was terrified to start using formula, but was then reminded that my friend’s little baby was fed formula milk for the first days of his life because he was premature and in neonatal AND IT WAS FINE. I also found out that I was never ever breastfed, not even for a day. Apparently it wasn’t advised as formula was all the rage back then. And I’m FINE (mostly).
Aptimel and SMA seem to be the most popular, but there are lots of others – some friends use HiPP Organic, and there’s always the old favourite Cow & Gate.
8. Drinking from a bottle
Even if you never use formula, it is a brilliant idea to get your little duck used to drinking expressed breast milk from a bottle. Honestly, it is so important to encourage this early so that at some stage in the near future you can leave your little one in the capable hands of your partner, mum, sister, neighbour while you go to the hairdressers, the gym, amdram rehearsals, or just get out of the house. Again there are lots of brands of bottles out there. You might try out a few different ones and it’ll really be a personal preference. I was always told that Dr Brown bottles reduced wind but I wasn’t a big fan of the long teat- it just didn’t seem very boob-like (you imagine that something as close to the boob as possible is best). I also tried Avent bottles as they came free with the steriliser, but didn’t really like them.
In the end I went for Tommee Toppee as it was recommended on a lot of websites and won lots of awards & have used them since. You’ll need No. 1 teats for the first few months and then can upgrade to no. 2 and no. 3 as they grow up and need a faster flow. I mistakenly missed out on no. 3s for a while and poor Maggie was sucking the life out of the bottle and taking ages to feed.
You will need a steriliser for bottles, teats, breast pump utensils, dummies. I bought a Philips Avent microwave steriliser – they’re currently half price on amazon I’ve noticed – and it was great. You can fit 6 Avent bottles in there or 4/5 Tommee Tippee ones, which is plenty.
link to website here
I did end up buying a larger plug-in digital steam steriliser as we were going on a road trip to France and I was worried that we wouldn’t find microwaves on the way. I shouldn’t have, there was one at every motorway service station and on the boat, and the digital steriliser was just bigger, bulkier and held one additional bottle. Not worth the £50.
10. Weaning baby
When you decide to stop BF and are weaning off, you’ll find that your boobs get really big and heavy (and sore. Oh so sore). And of course you’re not meant to express the excess milk as it defeats the purpose.
So, a funny story to end – as I was weaning my Megaboob off around 3 months (The Dud was practically empty anyway) it got particularly big and sore and Full. So full in fact that it was rock hard. I swear to God I thought it was going to explode. I happened to be in Hammersmith at the time doing a spot of shopping, so I raced to the car park as I desperately needed to get home to express. I put Maggie in her carseat and was about to start the engine, but honestly the Megaboob was seriously sore and getting bigger and bigger. Could it explode? Hell, I didn’t know, but it was looking likely. So, after a cursory look around and seeing no one coming, I wound down the window, took the boob out, stuck it out the window and just pressed on it. Whooooooosh! The relief was palpable. Of course I’ve since thought about the security cameras which might have picked up an image the security men will never forget. You know, I always said I’d never tell that story, but there it is. If you didn’t laugh…
So, Good luck! And do get in touch if you want any non-judgmental advice.
Some official helpline numbers below
National Breastfeeding Helpline 0300 100 0212
NCT Breastfeeding Line 0300 330 0771
La Leche League 0845 120 2918
The Breastfeeding Network 0300 100 0210
The Association of Breastfeeding Mothers 08444 122 949