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Things I wish I knew before I breastfed my babies

As I come to the end of my second breastfeeding journey (and possibly my last!), I’ve been reflecting on all the things I’ve learnt, the challenges I’ve faced and overcome, and thought it may be helpful for other expectant mums to read ‘the things I wish I knew before I breastfed my babies’. Please remember this isn’t professional advice, I am not trained in breastfeeding support, merely my own musings…

Kristina breastfeeding her baby whilst she's wearing sunglasses in the sunshine
Breastfeeding at the Farm

That you cannot ‘fail’ however you feed your baby. Please take the pressure off yourself! Do what feels right for you always. How long/if it all you breastfeed, it literally doesn’t define you as a parent. The BEST way to feed your baby is whatever makes you feel happiest. A happy mum = a happy baby.

How to feed your baby isn’t simply split into Breast V Bottle. There are many variations….Combination feeding; exclusive expressing; breast & formula;SNS supplemental nursing systems; donor milk… the list really does go on! Find what works for you.

an Elvie breast pump with expressed milk at the bottom
The Elvie Breast Pump

That the start can feel SO hard, impossible at times, but there ARE solutions and an easier path ahead.  Professional lactation consultants (IBCLC are the gold standard), local breastfeeding support groups (Milk & You for Northants and surrounding areas are amazing), Nipple Shields! (saved both my feeding journeys);The Breastfeeding Network; Tongue Tie Practitioners are all there to help you… which leads me on too…

new mum breastfeeding her newborn baby using breast compression
One of my baby's first feeds in hospital

TONGUE TIE TONGUE TIE TONGUE TIE - gosh, I really can’t shout loud enough about this one. Learn about it before you have your baby, watch out for the signs. And for god sake, don’t suffer unnecessarily. If you’re in pain feeding your baby, something is wrong. Reach out for help, and if you can afford it, do not delay getting in touch with a private tongue tie practitioner. The quicker you resolve the issues the easier your journey will be. It’s VERY common to be told in hospital that your baby doesn’t have tongue tie when in fact they may well do, for example I was told second time round by a (albeit very lovely!) midwife ‘no he doesn’t have it, he can stick his tongue out…’. Rubbish! A proper tongue tie assessment involves a gloved hand in your baby’s mouth to do a proper assessment, and a full discussion of feeding history by someone who has the correct qualifications.

Signs of tongue-tie:

  • have difficulty attaching to the breast or staying attached for a full feed

  • feed for a long time, have a short break, then feed again

  • be unsettled and seem to be hungry all the time

  • not gain weight as quickly as they should

  • make a "clicking" sound as they feed – this can also be a sign you need support with the positioning and attachment of your baby at the breast

  • sore or cracked nipples

  • low milk supply

  • mastitis (inflammation of the breast), which may keep coming back

Breastfeeding is a very useful parenting tool… When it does all ‘click’, into place it’s very handy to just whip your boob out - baby hurt themselves? Feed, breastmilk provides pain relief. sickness bug? Feed, your body is creating antibodies to help your little one get better. Want 5 mins peace? Feed, breastfeeding is more than just milk, it’s connection too.

Wide society often ‘expects’ you to breastfeed your newborn but can start to judge if you continue past 6 months?! But the World Health Organisation recommends you feed for up to at least two years, and then as long after that you’re happy too. Make it make sense?! Basically, do what you want, ignore others opinions. Breastfeed your baby (or don’t!) for as long as you want.

You don’t have to pump & dump! Luckily I figured this one out pretty quickly as I am partial to a pale rose. ‘It’s like a shot in a swimming pool’ has always stuck in my mind. Of course, don’t overdo it, but one or two glasses of wine and you’re golden. Just remember it’s not safe to cosleep with any amount of alcohol (Lullaby Trust).

Kristina breastfeeding baby whilst drinking glass of champagne
Glass of champers

Breastfeeding in public won't be as scary as you first thought! Have a go feeding your baby infront of a mirror at home, you'll see how little everyone else 'sees' - and remember it's literally what our breasts were designed for. Vests under your clothes are fab for easy access, one up one down, makes for discreet feeding (but you don't have to be discreet if you don't want to be! you have a right to breastfeed in public). It's also very unlikely you'll encounter negative comments, in the collective two years I've fed my boys noone has said anything to me, and I've only ever got one dirty look (from a woman! believe it or not).

woman sat on white bench breastfeeding newborn baby in public
First Public Breastfeed at Kelmarsh Hall

That it’s not so easy to just ‘stop’ - it takes time, consideration, and a whole complexity of emotions.  If you can slowly wean from breastfeeding to avoid mastitis (and before any aversion sets in) that’s a great plan.

That it could be one of your proudest achievements. It certainly is one of mine. I’ve come from being told by a midwife that I’ll NEVER be able to breastfeed my babies, to be adamant I’d prove her wrong. I  fed my eldest for 13 months and my youngest for almost a year now. I have overcame SO much, tongue tie both times round, and a whole load of crazy elimination diets this time round to try and help my son’s eczema (and one point I was drinking pea milk!? Wtf), just to name two things!

I hope you’ve found this insightful ! If you like my style of writing, perhaps I’m the right hypnobirthing teacher for you! I'd LOVE to support you in pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Details of my next group hypnobirthing course in Northampton can be found here (at the time of writing this is in August 2024!). Plus all the details on private 1:1 sessions here.

I like to make my antenatal courses fun, evidence based, comprehensive and realistic.

If you want to read more about my first breastfeeding journey you can do so here…

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