I started and stopped writing various posts on all the things I wish I had know before having my kids many times before I gave up and decided to split them into sections.
Here is the random list of things I discovered on my journey through breastfeeding two babies.
- The person who decided to tell pregnant women that they should not wear an underwire bra during pregnancy was either male or had small breasts. Trying to find a supportive, comfortable and remotely attractive bra when you are pregnant and feeling like a huge blob, is hard enough without also having to remove the one part of bras that actually gave you any kind of support. I went in to get fitted in my first trimester, and was told that I had already gone up to a FF cup. I decided I would never get fitted again. I did not need to see evidence of progression further down the alphabet. There was no way I was going to carry around my new watermelon breasts without some decent underwire so I purchased a couple of good quality, large cupped bras with underwire to see me through. No regrets.
- If you have larger breasts, prepare yourself for the day your milk comes in. It would be comical if it wasn’t so uncomfortable and ridiculous. I remember putting on one of my husbands t-shirts in a desperate attempt to wear something loose fitting and comfortable only to discover that it was tight across my chest. I thought for sure my tiny little baby was going to suffocate while feeding and I did often have to express before some feeds just to deflate them a little. After a few weeks they settled down a little but those early days were challenging.
- Breastfeeding takes forever in the first few days. I never felt comfortable feeding in front of people without some type of cover, mostly because my breasts were so large that it was impossible to feed without a large percentage of them on show. So I would take myself off to another room and feed, only to have my husband or someone come looking for me after I had been gone for an hour. That is how long it takes to feed a newborn in the beginning.
- When you breastfeed in the early days, your uterus contracts and it feels almost identical to the contractions you felt in the early stages of labour. It hurts. I wasn’t expecting it at all and it was like being stabbed in the guts. At the same time though it was oddly exciting to think my body was already working on returning to normal.
- Did you know that breast milk is a miracle liquid? Aside from the incredible value it has for your baby, it also comes in handy for many other things. I found it particularly wonderful when my newborn had sticky eye. This is a normal and non contagious ailment that most newborns have where they get a build up of secretions in their eyes. Squirt some breast milk straight onto their eye, or if that is a little too gross for you, use a cotton wool ball dipped in some expressed breast milk and wipe it over their eye. It works almost instantly.
- When you are beginning your breastfeeding journey, your nipples will crack and bleed. It doesn’t last long, persevere and it will get easier. Lansinoh nipple cream is your best (or breast) friend here. Put this cream on your nipples after feeding and in between feeds. The babies don’t mind the taste of it and it is harmless for them. It really works amazingly well to heal your nipples. Another tip is to express a little breast milk before and after each feed and rub it over the nibble then let it dry there. It helps soften the cracking.
- If you want to eventually get your baby taking a bottle, whether it is because you will be returning to work or you are clever enough to realise that if your baby takes a bottle you will get some freedom, introduce it early on or they will fight you on it later. I made this mistake with my first. I never introduced a bottle and I had to go back to work when she was six months old and still breast feeding every four hours. I was in an absolute state. I tried everything but she just refused to take a bottle. I don’t want to think about how much money I spent on different bottles. Eventually I had to admit defeat and she had solids during the day and I would give her a big feed before and after. We got through it, but it was difficult. My second had an occasional bottle from five weeks of age and it made life so much easier.
- Weaning can sometimes be baby led. Both of my girls weaned themselves around nine months old. I had always planned to breastfeed until they were 12 months, but in the end it wasn’t up to me and I thought nine months was a pretty decent effort so I didn’t stress when they cut me off. My first quit the breast the week I got my first period, I assume it altered the taste and she wasn’t impressed. This was a challenge because I wasn’t prepared at all so to go cold turkey was pretty brutal. I was in a lot of pain with engorged breasts but I couldn’t express too much for comfort because that would stimulate my milk production even more. Trick of the trade if you need your milk to dry up? Cabbage leaves. Worked beautifully although it was a bit stinky. My second child weaned herself at nine months as well, but she was by that stage having formula to supplement her feeds due to the fact that I was busy and stressed caring for her and a toddler while working, so my supply wasn’t as good this time around. She had gone down to only feeding at night by the time she stopped so it was simple to recover when she stopped completely.
- Don’t feel guilty if you are a little bit thrilled when you stop breastfeeding. It is incredibly exciting and liberating. All of a sudden you can wear clothes that don’t have to provide easy breast feeding access and your body belongs to you again.