Thank you to Lucy, who you can find over on Instagram here, for this detailed blog post sharing her top tips for those initial weeks- with a great blog post link, feeding into a pregnancy and how she has a pair of brilliant breastfed sleepers. A positive post I urge anyone boobing or about to start to read.
Did you have an expectation in your mind before you started breastfeeding?
I’ve always known I was a breastfed baby, my mum exclusively fed me till I was 6 months old when she returned to work and then I believe continued to night feed for a few months after that. So even before I fell pregnant I’d always planned to breastfeed, I’d just never really had any experience of bottle feeding. I didn’t research any formula brands, I don’t think I’m really organised or structured enough for bottle feeds. I do think that going into each pregnancy and birth “knowing” that breastfeeding was my only option really helped as it meant there was no other option, I had to focus on making it work and all those around me (family, friends & midwives etc) knew my plans to feed.
Obviously the hospital would’ve helped with formula if absolutely necessary, but the mindset really helped.
With both babies I was lucky enough to fall pregnant naturally (despite being diagnosed with PCOS at 14), and despite lot of sickness (HG with my 2nd) I had good pregnancies. However both births left a lot to be desired. Both babies were born by Cat 1 emergency C sections (2nd under a general) after labour starting naturally. But we made sure both babies were on my chest and latched as soon as possible, that first rooting instinct is not to be ignored, even if it’s the only feed you ever do.
Were both babies the same in their patterns of feeding?
I’ve never really noted down any kind of pattern but I think looking back they’ve both fed fairly similarly, the only major difference is that my son (1st) always fed to sleep. Right up until we finished feeding he wouldn’t go to bed any other way. My daughter (2nd) has been pretty independent since early on, she loves a good feed but then pushes me away to go to sleep on her own (total game changer). I’m not sure if it’s the difference between 1st and 2nd born or boys and girls or a combination of the two.
I would say though for us and friends (and from what I see in breastfeeding groups), the general pattern is the first 6 weeks are hard, you’re recovering from birth, learning about a new small dependent human, surviving on zero sleep and feeding constantly. Trust your body and your baby, there’s nothing wrong with your milk or your baby. You are both building up your supply, sharing antibodies and finding what works for you both. If you can get through those 6 weeks you can do anything. It may feel like forever and there’s no routine or structure but you’ll suddenly wake up one day and realise you’ve found your own pattern.
How long have you breastfed each for?
My son fed till 22 months, I was around 18 weeks pregnant with number 2 which I believe is when your milk changes slightly and I was struggling with HG and feeding aversion (I didn’t want to be touched by anyone). We were down to only bedtime feeds by then so we gently swapped it for cuddles.
My daughter is currently still feeding at 13 months. Morning, bedtime plus the occasional afternoon feed or if she wakes overnight.
I also don’t want to brag but want you to know it’s possible for breastfed babies to sleep through the night. Both of mine have slept through pretty consistently (bar illness/major teething) from around 7/8 months. I know so many swap to formula thinking it will fix their babies sleep but there is no need. And I know plenty of formula fed babies that didn’t sleep.
Your top tips for handling engorgement?
Hand expressing for comfort (pumping will only encourage your boobs to keep making milk so won’t help in the long run). And then if baby is ready for a feed do it lying on your side to ease the flow.
Warm showers or a flannel whilst massaging you breasts. That will also help if you get any blocked ducts (sore hard lumps), but feeding is the best way to get rid of them.
Make sure to watch for signs of mastitis too which can be similar but will require treatment.
Tender swollen breasts
Presence of lumps
Flu like symptoms/fever/sudden fatigue
Support (friends, family and medical if required)
Pillows/feeding cushions (at the beginning)
Wonderweeks app to give you a heads up on developmental leaps
*I believe all new mums should read this blog post from Steph Don't Buy Her Flowers.