If you’re a new mum, mum to be, or just looking for a little advice on what to expect whilst breastfeeding, this blog post is for you. I’ve put it together in the hope that it will help you to feel more at ease and feel confident to be able to stop too when the time is right for you (I stopped at when H was 18 months old – just as the 2020 lockdown started!). Perhaps you can resonate with some of my experiences too!
What the Recommendations for Breastfeeding, and what are the Benefits?
The World Health Organisation recommends that new mums breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years and beyond. 👶🏼
The U.K. unfortunately has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Europe 🇬🇧 Latest figures show that only 40% of babies are breastfeed at 6-8 weeks of age, in comparison to Norway where 70% are breastfed at 6 months. I am however in support of one of the RCPCH’s key messages that women who cannot, or choose not to breastfeed should be respected and supported as needed.
For me, breastfeeding is something that I’ve always wanted to do; not only for the proven health benefits to baby & mum but for the convenience & cost (it’s free!) too. I loved being able to leave the house with just nappies & wipes (ie not needing to pack any formula!) & although the first few weeks are extremely demanding on mum (I had never heard of cluster feeding before attending NCT!) it DOES get easier.
Breastfeeding is not only free & super convenient but it has a number of benefits for your baby too as it reduces your baby’s risk of:
• infections, diarrhoea & vomiting = fewer hospital visits
• sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
• cardiovascular disease in adulthood
Breastfeeding also reduces YOUR risk of breast & ovarian cancer as well as osteoporosis 🦴
What can help along the Breastfeeding Journey?
🤱🏻 Discussion at my @nctcharity class on breastfeeding; we were taught to ‘tickle’ the baby’s nose with the nipple to encourage ‘burger mouth’ ie big & wide! 🍔
🤱🏻 NIPPLE CREAM .. after each feed! I used Lansinoh & My Expert Midwife on my nipples for 2 weeks after the birth & after an initial ‘breaking in’ period of slight tenderness they soon got used to breastfeeding!
🤱🏻 Breastfeeding BRAS .. I loved my prettier bras from Dorina & more sporty/sleep bras from Emma Jane/Amazon.. linked below. I also loved my BF nightie from Fig Leaves 😴
🤱🏻 Breast PADS .. I used these during the first couple of weeks as my milk flow regulated & then occasionally on a night afterwards. I love the ones from Laninsoh 💜
🤱🏻 The La Leche League BOOK on ‘the womanly art of breastfeeding’ .. it’s a brilliant ‘how to’ manual! The @nctcharity also have a BF helpline, & there’s always the ‘National BF Helpline’ too! ☎️
🤱🏻 SUPPORT from my family & partner to breastfeed where ever & whenever; ‘if in doubt get it out’ was my motto 😂
🤱🏻 I planned to EXPRESS at 5/6 weeks post birth using the @lansinohfamily Breast Milk Collector & their electric pump.
My Breastfeeding Essentials
Expressing Experience & Tips!
Six weeks after giving birth I started expressing my breast milk & luckily for us H took to a bottle straight away.. my husband gave him this with the plan to give a bottle when I was away from him.
I was advised to wait at least 4 weeks after giving birth before expressing to let my milk flow regulate & for breastfeeding to be established.🤱🏻
I started with a breast milk collector from @lansinohfamily which works on a suction before plucking up the courage to assemble their electric pump & have a go at that & I quickly got the hang of it!
I’ve found that as time went on, the amount that I can express in one go got more and more.. I expressed either whilst breastfeeding or in a morning with the electric pump on one side & the handheld pump on the other. I usually expressed for 10-20 minutes (depending on my patience!!). ⏰
I stored my milk in breast milk bags in the fridge for around 3 days or the freezer (for up to 6 month) & although H did drink cold milk we sometimes warmed it in a bottle popped in a jug of hot water. ❄️
I was advised not to shake breast milk (you must swirl it if it’s separated) nor heat it in the microwave.🙅🏻♀️
I combined milks from different expressing sessions once they were at the same temperature ie cooled & I washed the parts in warm soapy water in a designated washing up bowl. I also had some microwaveable sterilising bags (just click ‘feeding’ on mummynutrition.com/shop to see what was recommended to me!).
👉🏼 For more information, don’t forget to visit the NCT charity website!
My Expressing Essentials
The Highs and Lows of Breastfeeding!
Health – Breastmilk provides all of the nutrients (including antibodies) that your baby needs for their first 6 months of life & it helps to reduce the risk of infections & diseases (it’s amazing stuff!).
Convenience – This was a biggie for me.. I LOVE leaving the house with just nappies & wipes (ok & a spare change of clothes, a muslin & as time passed, a bib & food!) .. and not having to worry about taking formula or a sterilised bottle.
Bonding – Breastfeeding encourages skin to skin contact with your baby which has an amazing calming & bonding effect.
Soothing – Hungry? Boob. Upset? Boob. Agitated? Boob. It seems breastfeeding calms down a baby no matter what the issue!!
Sore Nipples – This lasted about 2 weeks for me & a kind friend who warned me about this told me to use a nipple balm ALL the time.
Cluster Feeding – This lasted for a few weeks after the birth & is just something you have to embrace 5-7pm every evening 😳
Being the only Feeder – The role of a mum is intense.. and when you’re EBF it steps up a notch.
Pumping – Yes the Elvie is a game changer but pumping is pumping & it still requires washing & thinking about in advance.
Wardrobe – This was such an annoyance for me, especially as I love jumper dresses!!
What happens to your periods whilst Breastfeeding?!
If you breastfeed your baby day & night then your periods may not start again until you stop breastfeeding, or until you stop night-time breastfeeding. This is because the hormone that causes your body to make breast milk (prolactin) can stop your body releasing the hormones which allow you to ovulate & therefore have a period. I stopped breastfeeding H at night when he was 10 months old, & at 16 months old was still feeding him 3-4 times a day. I stopped BF at 18m PP.
🚲 My cycle returned monthly from the moment it reappeared (I track is using @flotracker) which I was surprised about as I’d read that they could be irregular. What I did experience though was a darker coloured period & more cramping than I remember .. however this did thankfully ease over the following months.
👶🏼 I’ll say now that I was relieved when my periods made a return as I’ve made no secret that I would love to have a second baby & wanted my periods to return first (to reset the cycle so to speak!).
🙅🏻♀️ Just because breastfeeding can stop your periods, it doesn’t mean that you can’t get pregnant! And everyone is so different. Some women may get their periods as early as 6 weeks post birth, others not until 18 months or more. For some they may be heavier and more painful, for others they may be very light.
Stopping breastfeeding at 18 months – A personal reflection (this was written back in May 2020!)
“Although other mums may breastfeed for much shorter or longer periods of time (or not at all), each mum has to do what’s right for them & their baby.. and this is what was right for me & our situation.
👉🏼 New norms are scary, and I’ll admit now that I was scared of stopping breastfeeding my LO. Mainly, I was scared that we would lose our special little connection.
The thing though, is that new norms become just that.. the new norm, and it’s the THOUGHT of doing it that is the scary bit!
👶🏼 When H was born, I planned to BF for 12m.. well, this is what I said anyway, “I want my body back after 12m”, .. but in reality I wasn’t ready to stop when the 12m mark came. However, over the last few months a few things have made me think that now IS the right time to stop & these things were amplified after lockdown began.
I started to resent BF. I found it annoying when H asked for milk & I resented having to dress appropriately & decline delicious food (I haven’t eaten dairy & soya for a year now). The tipping point came when H’s skin took a turn for the worse & I knew it was because of my diet, and so the decision was made.
We actually started by swapping H’s evening milk to oat milk (daddy gave it in a bottle & now a sippy cup), & then I went cold turkey last week (although this isn’t the advice from lactation specialists such as @feedeatspeak who has been so helpful).
Last week I used an electric & then a hand pump to relieve some milk & this week I’m expressing by hand 1-2 times a day in the bath/shower to prevent blockages. H has adapted so well. Instead of calming him with milk, we are cuddling more & he loves giving little kisses.
I have truly loved every part of BF (apart from these last few weeks) however I appreciate that I have been very lucky.. I received great support from NCT, staff on the birth ward & my mum. To me BF made being a new mum that little bit easier as it was one less thing to worry about.
I can’t recommend BF enough and have loved our little journey.”
Click right on the image below for information on how to stop xx
I would love to hear more about your breastfeeding experiences?! Feel free to comment below or let me know on my instagram page.
You can read more about others’ experiences in the comments of my #mummynutritionbreastfeeding posts.