The Blog

Boobing Along

One of my strengths in this whole mum-malarky has been that my (before best asset, now slightly crappy) boobs from the offset were good milk maids and in turn, I had a baby who was a good latcher, so I thought I'd offer up some thoughts on the subject to anyone who might be interested in giving it a whirl...

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses in life. For instance, I'm not very good at remembering why I walked upstairs, one side of my hairline rests higher up than the other (although I class that more as genetics than my styling skills being poor) and I can never manage a whole glass of drink. But set against that I'm shit hot at remembering pointless facts and have award winning handwriting and, here's where my point lies, I tend to think the same applies to motherhood. In the first three months of being pregnant with Milo I was a wrecking ball of sickness, sweat and emotions ready to knock out the nearest person to recommend ginger biscuits, then pretty much sailed through the rest without so much of a hint of heart burn, I just missed the alcohol. Then there are the women who relish all nine months and bump aside, barely even notice they're growing anything while lots are ready to sell their womb post-birth on the black market for fear of ever becoming pregnant again. We're all different. And I just wanted to make sure I'm very aware of that before I delve in to the minefield of breastfeeding because I'm not in the habit of wanting anyone to gently prod my eyeballs out with a Nuby teat.

One of my strengths in this whole mum-malarky has been that my (before best asset, now slightly crappy) boobs from the offset were good milk maids and in turn, I had a baby who was a good latcher, so I thought I'd offer up some thoughts on the subject to anyone who might be interested in giving it a whirl. I'd also very, very much like to emphasise I'm not a breast is best fanatic & know sometimes it just doesn't work; some babies would happily flip the bird at your nipples if they could. Formula serves a purpose, bottles serve a purpose, some people like cheese, some don't, etc etc etc. I just thought it might be nice to share how in the last 6 months we've taken to breastfeeding because I find a lot of the advice/tips you hear either come from a midwife who gave birth donkeys years ago or a generic site which doesn't go in to enough detail. Here's some pointers from me, from the boob, as I experienced it;

It will hurt. And probably a lot more than you think. If you're pregnant you will have been informed how in the first few days your breasts produce what's known as colostrum which has tonnes of great protein, carbs, fats, antibodies, the lot. Then after that, your milk comes in, like an angry buffalo pushing through each nipple. You'll almost certainly spend at least one day wanting to walk round your house without anything on your top half and I hugely recommend rubbing nipple cream in whenever you remember (I tended to do it just before Milo latched on, it's safe for babies to swallow and basically acts as a lubricant against cracking, and I'd use it after each feed too). Avent's moisturising nipple cream was my go-to but there are tonnes of others. And please be aware the pain will be enough to make you want to stop. I remember whimpering to Greg that I must be doing it wrong because the process was so horrid; 'the midwives say it should only hurt if the baby's not on properly, and otherwise I should just experience mild discomfort. This feels like I've trapped my nipple in a vice, why is it this bad?'

Now, I don't know if you're just not warned because midwives don't like to put you off, or if I was just being a pussy but I had stitches post forceps and I found my chest hurt on par with that. If I wasn't wincing because it felt like the world was about to fall out my back passage, I was wincing because Milo had his chops tugging on an area I really didn't want him to tug on. It wasn't grand.

I'd recommend using a piece of blanket to bite down on as your baby latches (it gets more comfortable as baby feeds) and just bear in mind after about a week it eases off and off and off. Fast forward to week 3 and you'll barely even notice you're feeding.

In those first few weeks, you'll feed 'on demand'. I find this saying a bit silly really, like your baby comes up all scrunchy faced with a clipboard and bailiff's notice, insisting you flash him the goods. Basically it means you have no routine and if you're not sure why your little one's crying, pop your boob in his mouth and see if he's hungry/thirsty. Some babies will settle in to a schedule really well and you'll find them going 2/3 hours pretty quickly, others not so much. Milo wanted food around every 90 minutes for the first month with the occasional 2 hour stint and now it's up to 4. Even throughout the night now he feeds a LOT (more on that later).

Some babies prefer one boob. Milo likes my right one.

There are different feeding methods. We opt for the (what I've called) 'exclusive feed'. I give Milo one boob, exclusively, for one feed. Then for his next feed, out comes the other. This will make you lopsided and annoyingly, some other women (my mum included 'til I had a word) comment on this approach. Milo would chomp for 15 minutes and then come off. I'd wind him and we'd crack on with the rest of the day. If he cried (normally thanks to his reflux) others would say 'Oh is he ready for the other half of his feed now? I think he needs the other boob' and I'd politely nod while wrestling him under 3 blankets and a t-shirt, him screaming. He never wanted a second turn, ever, and people should mind their own business. You know your baby, how long he feeds for and whether or not he seems hungry. Some will cluster feed, others feed for an entire episode and a half of Modern Family. Some will do both depending on their hunger at that precise moment. Healthcare visitors say they count a feed as any time between 10-30 minutes.

Babies can do a sped up sort of sucking; it feels a bit fluttery. This is ordinarily towards the end of a feed and I *believe* linked with comfort-sucking, whereby you're not letting down any milk but your nipple's essentially being used as a dummy. DON'T freak out and worry your baby's having some sort of oral fit on your boob like I did (I'm pretty sure I panic-Googled).

Sometimes you'll think 'HOW is he still going?' Again, he's just using you for comfort. Pffft, what a user.

Breast feeding in public is ALL good ladies. At the beginning, I definitely fed in some public bathrooms and I'll openly admit I had to do that over here in Arizona too (because I was in a sports bar and the masses of jocks around me didn't look too milk-friendly ifyouknowwhaddamean). If you feel comfortable, then go for it. Genuinely, the main stumbling block is confidence because it (obviously) feels so alien getting your knockers out in the fresh air and you'll (obviously) feel like everyone thinks you're a pervert. Which they don't. No-one will even notice. And if they do? They'll quickly avert their eyes. My top tips for feeding in public is to firstly ask for somewhere slightly more private if you're on arrival to a restaurant, have a blanket at the ready (although I'm always loathed to use one in case Milo gets too hot) and wear something with easy access like a shirt or baggy top so you're not fighting to get everything out discretely. Don't get flustered and panicky, just take your time and maybe do some solid fake laughing as you unclip your nursing bra at whoever you're conversing with.

Use nipple pads and try not to wear anything colour-wise that might show up accidental leaks. FYI when you feed from one boob, the other tends to let out a little bit too because it gets all excited so be prepared for that.

It's funny when your baby 'falls off' and you accidentally squirt them in the eye. That milk shoots FAR let me tell you.

If you decide to express for the occasions when someone babysits (yay!) I'd opt for an electronic pump rather than manual if you don't want your arm to fall off. I use the Tommee Tippee and it's a dream (and totally comfortable, if anything it just feels a bit tickly). While out, your boobs won't realise you're sans baby so again, prepare for leaking. And engorging. Last time I went to an event it overran by two hours rendering me Gingantasaur Boobasaur and they blew up (twice) during some televised awards. Luckily I was wearing black so no-one noticed but my dress went crispy and I probably smelt like vanilla.

Please don't panic your boobs will become crap from breastfeeding. It's pregnancy that makes them crap. Soz.

One thing to be aware of is you'll probably forget what it feels like to be someone who hasn't/isn't breastfeeding and discuss it with everyone like you're nattering about football/the weather. Expect uncomfortable glances while your dad hates to even remember you have boobs.

Don't just buy a few maternity bras, you'll be washing those things relentlessly. Get as many as you can afford, in lots of different colours and opt for comfort where you can. Sometimes if I'm trying in vain to be sexy or wearing an outfit where you can see part of my bra I like to put on something a little more 'old me' and a little less 'nursing me'. About 2 hours in I'm cursing the day non-clippable bras were ever invented and wrenching the damn thing down like I'm stuck in a straight jacket.

You will at some point end up feeding somewhere weird. I've done it in carparks, at a wedding behind a screen, in a moving car (I was strapped in and leant over in to the car seat, safety first), on a plane, while out walking, on a bus, on a train. If they need to eat, they need to eat.

During the early stages you'll feel like your baby hates you, is taking the proverbial piss and wants to make you feel like a cow. That'll stop.

We're now at the six months mark and are still feeding approximately six times a night (Milo sleeps in our bed and I dream feed so quite often I can't remember how many times he wakes up as I don't have to physically get up and go to him). I'd advise you always have water to hand as you get thirsty during the night.

Bearing that in mind, I'd also suggest before sitting down that you gather anything you may need for the next few hours just in case it's a long one. TV remote, phone, snacks, book, drink etc. Or at least have someone nearby who you can call on to grab you something.

Do NOT get hung up on angles. I understand it's tricky for midwives sometimes, trying to explain latching must be difficult, but having spoken to a lot of other mums I'm of the opinion it's over-complicated a lot of the time. You're told to rest the nursing pillow here, put baby's head there, flick the nipple in here, do this there, don't put that there; it's terrifying! Listen to what you're being told but don't panic. I see it as a bit like driving whereby you comply with the whole mirror/signal/manoeuvre/hands at 2 & 10 then forget it all once you pass. You'll find your groove don't worry.

And lastly if it icks you out a bit, all I can hand on heart say is that once all the painful bits were done and dusted, breastfeeding became my most favourite part of being a mum. I don't know why, but our last feed in bed each evening is my favourite time of day and something I genuinely look forward to. It's an experience which quickly goes from 'hmmmm, I'm not sure' to 'oh I've been doing this forever!'