Tracey Quinn is a 25-year-old first-time mother to baby Billy who is 10 months old. She lives and blogs from Dublin and is generally obsessed with all things baby. She also loves posting recipes and is never without her camera. For everything from breastfeeding to baking, you’ll find her parenting and lifestyle blog over at Love of Living.
I was never completely sure if I would breastfeed. I was scared because none of my friends breastfed and it wasn’t exactly the norm around me. I look back now and can’t believe there was ever a chance that I wouldn’t. It has been such an important part of my journey as a first-time mother. It’s afforded me so many beautiful moments, it’s free, it’s always with you and at the right temperature, and watching your baby grow big and strong because of your milk is just an incredible feeling.
I’ve learned a thing or two on my breastfeeding journey, and when I look back now these are the things that I would tell a friend who was hoping to breastfeed her baby. I hope it helps some of you.
1. Skin to skin is very important. When your baby is born try to get skin to skin as soon as possible and for as long as possible. This is an important moment for your baby, for you, and indeed your breastfeeding relationship. It helps to stimulate the milk production, it regulates your babies temperature, and it initiates your baby’s rooting reflex. Amazingly these beautiful babies are born already knowing that their mother has milk for them. It’s incredible really.
2. It is completely normal to feel like your baby is feeding 24/7 for the first six weeks. Just surrender to it, embrace it and trust your baby and your body. It’s all part of the process and an important element in what makes breastfeeding so easy and convenient a few weeks down the line. Your baby is “placing the order” and telling your body how much milk to produce for when they are bigger in a couple of weeks. A lot of women find that this “cluster feeding” happens in the evening times. Embrace it and set up camp. I used to get comfortable on the sofa, watch my favourite tv shows and have plenty of snacks and water to hand. I grew to cherish that time as my baby was snuggled into me feeding for several hours. Even now I look at each feed as an excuse to sit down, wind down, and have a few moments to relax. Cluster feeding is completely normal and is to be expected.
3. Your lips might feel dry and you will feel an insatiable thirst almost immediately when you start to feed your baby. Drink plenty of water and have some Vaseline or lip balm to hand.
4. Eat enough. It’s really important for you to have enough energy and healthy calories when feeding your baby. Surprisingly you only need about an extra 200 calories a day when breastfeeding. This would be a thick slice of brown bread as opposed to an extra meal. What matters is where your calories are going. So don’t count or get obsessed with any form of dieting. Simply eat a varied healthy diet with plenty of protein, vegetables, and fruit. Eat the kind of foods that give you energy and help your body do what it does best.
5. Sleep when the baby sleeps. I NEVER did this. I laughed when people said it to me. But looking back now I realize that the washing could have waited, the floors could have been hoovered later, the dishwasher wasn’t going to shout at me if I left it, and it really would have been better for me to sleep when my baby slept. This is especially important for preserving your energy and feeling your best. This is such a special time in your life. You are doing an amazing thing and you deserve as much rest as possible. Those day-time naps with your newborn are seriously special moments.
6. Don’t obsess over sleep. There are many reasons why a baby wakes several times at night and believe it or not it is actually a good thing. Ditch the watch, ditch the clock, and just go with it. The night feeds will settle eventually, but feeding on-demand is an important part of establishing your supply and creating the best breastfeeding relationship as possible. This article sums it up nicely.
7. Ask for help. You can’t be all things to all people. Ask people to bring food or help in other ways than holding the baby. It will help you out so much more in the long run.
8. Breastfeeding is not painful. Some people do experience cracked nipples, pain and discomfort. These can be attributed to latch issues, tongue-tie and various issues in the early days. In general though, breastfeeding is not a painful experience and can be a reason why people do not try when they want to breastfeed. There is a sensation whereby you feel your “let down” and some people feel it more intensely than others. It is basically a tingly feeling caused by the moment your milk starts to flow. Before I had my son I had never heard of a “let-down”. I assumed milk flowed immediately. For some people it does (and this is why women wear breast pads to absorb any milk that may leak). Turns out I had the opposite issue. My let-down is rather slow so it can take a minute or two of stimulation before the milk starts to flow. If you experience a lot of pain or discomfort seek the help of an experienced Lactation Consultant. It was the best thing I ever did. I saw Sue Jameson who is based in Dublin 6. She was amazing. She came out to my house and after an hour with her I had a whole new sense of confidence and happiness about breastfeeding. Also stock up on Lanolin Nipple Cream and Multi-Mam Compresses. Both are available in Boots or your local pharmacy. There is also nothing wrong with using nipple shields. Billy had problems latching until he was four months old. We used nipples shields for every feed and they worked a treat. One day he just didn’t need them any more. A friend of mine has been using them for almost eight months now with no issues. They are also available in your local pharmacy.
9. Buy a few nursing bras in advance. There are some lovely ones on the market. I’ve bought them in Penneys, H&M, Marks and Spencer, Mothercare, Debenhams and believe it or not, Aldi. Another handy tip is to stock up on string tops. I have about ten black and white string tops that I wear under everything. It makes feeding in public easy and more comfortable for me.
10. Co-sleeping is something that works for many people who are breastfeeding. It’s a personal choice but for me co-sleeping was a god-send. We all slept much better from day one. I learnt to feed my son lying on my side and him on his side in front of me. He would drift in to a peaceful sleep and he was always right there beside me if he needed to feed. We exclusively co-slept for 14 weeks and then he happily transitioned in to his crib. At this stage night feeds were not as frequent and getting up to feed him was no big deal. It is of course important to follow the guidelines for co-sleeping for your babies safety. Never co-sleep if you have drank alcohol, taken certain medications and perhaps you might invest in a bed rail. This is something that gave me a lot of peace of mind.
11. Try to forget about the numbers. Where formula feeding is quantified by certain Oz at certain times, breastfeeding is supply and demand. Do not compare yourself to a friend who is formula feeding as it is completely different. Feed when baby wants to feed. They know exactly what they are doing and they know what they need.
12. Feeding in public can be a bit daunting at first. This is because breastfeeding is still not the “norm” in Ireland. I have NEVER ever had a negative comment made to me though. In fact, quite the opposite. There are a lot of handy places to know about when you are out and about feeding your baby. For example Mothercare have a “mummy room” where you can comfortably feed your baby on a rocking chair and avail of their cool drinking water and baby changing facilities. The Jervis Shopping Centre also have a lovely baby changing area with seats and individual cubicles. Most cafes and restaurants also have comfortable seating and areas that are handy to know about when feeding. It’s all about feeling as comfortable and calm as possible for each mother. Stressing and being rigid and panicky only ever had a negative affect on my let-down which proved very stressful when my baby was hungry. Relax, remember you are doing the most natural thing in the world, and remember that most people are thinking “fair play”.
13. Have confidence in the fact that your baby is getting all that they need. This will happen naturally if you feed on demand night and day (the night feeds should calm down), baby has a good latch, and you are looking after yourself in terms of eating enough and drinking enough. Your body takes everything it needs from your body/diet to make milk that is perfect for your baby. Isn’t that amazing? If you are concerned about your baby and feel they may not be gaining weight then you can talk to your public health nurse, but I would nearly recommend a Lactation Consultant or a breastfeeding counsellor from Cuidiu first. They are specialists in the area and can give you their undivided attention on the matter. This also goes for the hospitals. While there are dedicated Lactation Specialists in the hospitals, and midwives to help encourage you, the support is not enough. I’d nearly expect that. Read up while you are pregnant, attend a Cuidiu Breastfeeding Support group while pregnant and familiarise yourself with the subject so that you can feel confident in your decision to breastfeed. A little bit of knowledge goes a long way. Own it!
14. Surround yourself with women who breastfeed. This can be as simple as attending one of the support groups I mentioned above. I attended the Cuidiu group every week for a long time. It is an excellent way to meet new friends, meet other breastfeeding mothers who are in exactly the same position, and most importantly to have a hot cup of coffee and a biscuit. It’s some “me time”, gets you out of the house, and you will get amazing support and advice from the breastfeeding counsellors who are available to you at each meeting. You can find your local group here, and remember you can attend whilst pregnant or at any stage of your breastfeeding journey be it a day, a week or a year (and beyond) in.
15. Nappies. This is the standard way that a hospital monitors and charts your babies digestion in the early days and first few weeks. A good amount of wet and dirty nappies each day usually points in the direction of everything being on point. However, remember that breastfed babies don’t necessarily soil their nappies as often as formula fed babies. A breastfed baby can go up to 10 days without a “dirty” nappy. They will have wet nappies regularly though. This has happened to us on several occasions and everything was absolutely fine.
And finally, the most important thing. If you hear any of the following comments – COMPLETELY IGNORE THEM. They might be coming from a good place, but they bear no help whatsoever. You know your baby. Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience and before you know it you will be doing it in your sleep (sometimes literally) and you will let all comments completely wash over you. Again, remember breastfeeding is not the norm yet. It’s a bottle-feeding culture and some friends and family will probably inadvertently try to turn you off the idea of breastfeeding. Be strong Mama, you are rocking it.
Are you feeding again? They couldn’t still be hungry?
A bottle would really give you a break.
Do you not think it’s important to let Daddy feed the baby to bond?
You are always holding that baby
Your baby is completely taking advantage. They are spoiled.
You have that baby ruined.
X was formula fed and they turned out just fine
NEVER let the baby in to your bed. Worst thing you can ever do.
You look wrecked. Are you still breastfeeding?
When are you going to stop breastfeeding?
How do you know the baby is getting enough? They seem hungry. Would you try a bottle of formula?
A bottle of formula at night will make your baby sleep through the night.
For specific questions, I highly recommend this book, and this website.
For more articles written by this Tracey you can find her blogging away at Love of Living or find her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You won’t be disappointed!