Breastfeeding Dos and Don’ts (from a non-expert)

Breastfeeding Dos and Don'ts

I have spent almost two of the last four and half years breastfeeding. This fact actually surprises me when I think about it. If someone had told me when I was first pregnant that I would breastfeed a baby beyond twelve months, I probably wouldn’t have believed them.

I’m a mum who has experienced both exclusive breastfeeding and bottle feeding. I briefly attempted and swiftly failed to properly establish breastfeeding with the buck. I won’t get into it too much but, in a nutshell, I feel that I was under-prepared (my fault) and under-supported (the system’s fault). Perhaps if one or other of us had been at the races, it would have worked out. I moved on, it wasn’t a big deal and my son was a contented little lad. He thrived on formula and slept like a drunken student so I didn’t complain.

When my second came along, I decided to have a proper shot at it and, to my surprise, I succeeded. Not only that, I actually enjoyed it and saw the benefits immediately. When I say benefits, I’m selfishly talking about how easy life was when I didn’t have to get out of bed to make bottles in the dead of night; when I didn’t have to faff around with with sterilisers and their components; when I didn’t have to use my brain to count scoops of formula; when I didn’t have to awkwardly ask surly waitresses for teapots of boiling water in busy cafes; when I didn’t have to collapse crying to the floor after accidentally reboiling the kettle of almost-cooled water. That kind of thing. The benefits to the baby were a bonus.

YOUR BABY. YOUR BOOBS. YOUR CHOICE. 

This post is not intended to persuade people to breastfeed or to pontificate about the benefits of breast over bottle. There’s a whole lot of that on the internet already. And in the hospitals, and the antenatal clinics, and the GP surgeries and the mother-baby groups. Frankly, I have very little interest in how women choose to feed their babies. It’s a personal choice. In fact, I’ve always been wary of writing a post on breastfeeding because it can be a contentious and divisive issue. There’s often judgement and guilt and disappointment and all sorts of negative stuff that really we can all do without. Motherhood is hard enough.

I guess what I would like to do is offer a little friendly, honest advice to mothers who have decided that they would like to try breastfeeding, in an attempt to better prepare them for the difficult but oh-so-rewarding business of feeding babies ‘on draught’, as my father likes to call it.

BASIC SURVIVAL TIPS FOR THE BREASTFEEDING MUM 

So here’s a little list of dos and don’ts from a NON-EXPERT; a mum who has muddled through the sleepless nights, the cluster feeds, the growth spurts and the bovine business of pumping in pub toilets… and emerged relatively unscathed.

DO prepare. Read the books and the online articles. Read the pamphlet the midwives and medical professionals give you at every single appointment. (I was given nine copies of the same pamphlet on my first pregnancy. NINE. Yes, I counted.) Get to grips with the science and the business of supply and demand. It’s not quantum physics but there’s more to it than the nine hospital pamphlets would have you believe. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League International has the answer to pretty much every breastfeeding question you can think of.

DON’T be deterred in your decision to breastfeed by any of the following: people for whom breast-feeding didn’t work; people who think breast-feeding is a bit gross; relatives who may find it hard to look you in the eye for the duration of a feed; strangers you meet in Costa who think your baby will surely starve without formula; neighbours who consider breastfeeding mothers to be loose women and exhibitionists looking for any excuse to show a bit of flesh.

DO use breastfeeding as an excuse to sit under your baby for days and weeks on end, if you can afford the luxury. Milk it, so to speak. Line up some box-sets and succumb to feeding-on-demand. If you have older kids to look after, hand over the Netflix remote. There’s not much else you can do for now.

DO expect to walk around your house topless in an exhausted haze for the first couple of weeks with a newborn.

DON’T forget to put your boob(s) back in when answering the door to the postman, pizza delivery guy, etc.

Discreet feeding can be easily mastered by most

DON’T expect it to be easy and painless. The majority of my friends breastfed their babies and I know of only one who experienced no nipple pain whatsoever. There’s a learning curve for both you and baby and getting the latch just right can be tricky. There may be chafing. There may be clamping. There may bleeding. There will probably be crying. But it’s short-lived. Take it one feed at a time and usually after the first week or two, you’ll both have found your rhythm.

DO seek support and guidance from proper medical professionals and people qualified in the field. Speak to a lactation consultant or a breastfeeding counsellor early on if you’re having problems. With the right help and advice, most of the early challenges can be easily overcome. Visit a breastfeeding support group where you’ll find other crying, sleep-deprived mothers, at least one of whom will almost certainly be having a crappier time than you. That’s always good, right? Check out Breastfeeding.ie,  KellyMomLa Leche League or Cuidiú for all sorts of advice and tips.

DO learn to how to recognise the signs of mastitis and nipple thrush.

DON’T despair if you get either.  They are painful and nasty and altogether bloody unfair when all you are trying to do is feed your baby the way the NINE PAMPHLETS instructed you to, but you will come out the other side and feel quite hardcore and bad-ass for surviving against the odds. And if you don’t, that’s OK too!

Breastfeeding
Not actual breastfeeding footage.

DO invest in some products that will help you through the early days. Multi-mam compresses are a godsend. Cut them in half to make them go twice as far – they’re pricey. Populate your old Gaviscon stations with tubes of Lansinoh ointment. You can also use your own milk to help heal cracked and sore nipples. In fact it has so many uses, you’ll be blown away. Get ready to squirt it in baby’s gunky eyes, on nappy rashes, baby acne and more besides. And if that sounds icky, you’re going to need to properly harden up.

DON’T expect to lose the four stone you gained in pregnancy by using breastfeeding to counter your doughnut habit. It doesn’t work like that. You might be able to eat marginally more but breastfeeding won’t make you skinny. I know. I believed it too. A strongly-worded letter to the global breast-feeding marketing people is long overdue.

DO feed your baby wherever and whenever you need to. In public. In private. In the Tesco queue. In a bar. On a ferris wheel. ANYWHERE! It’s your right. Breastfeeding mothers are protected by law and you cannot be asked to stop feeding your baby in a public place. In the very early days when you’re finding your feet, you might find that you’re contorting yourself and your leaking mammaries into all sorts of unflattering positions and you may prefer not to attempt it in front of the neighbour’s fourteen year old son. For me, once I had nailed feeding discreetly, I didn’t give location – or the neighbour’s son – a second thought.

Breastfeeding in public
Nothing to see here, lads.

DON’T spend a fortune on breastfeeding apparel, unless of course you want to and have loads of cash, in which case knock yourself out. A shirt over a similarly coloured vest works fine. Pull the outer top up and the vest down underneath. Nobody needs to see your nipples and nobody gets hurt.

DO enjoy the period for which your breasts are full and round and perky. It won’t last.

breastfeeding full


Do you have any more to add to the list? Is there any other sage advice out there from boobing mamas? We’d love to hear it in the comments below! 🙂


I’m linking this post with some of these…

An honest list of dos and don'ts for breastfeeding mothers by someone not even remotely qualified to give breastfeeding advice.

 

 

My Petit CanardPink Pear BearMy Random Musings3 Little ButtonsMummascribblesReflections From MeCuddle FairyMummuddlingthroughDiary of an imperfect mumDear Bear and BeanyYou Baby Me MummyethannevelynThe PramshedKeep Calm and Carry On Linking SundayPost Comment Love

56 comments on “Breastfeeding Dos and Don’ts (from a non-expert)

  1. Excellent tips here. Yes to learning the signs of nipple thrush! That was the cause of most of my breastfeeding pain. If only I knew it existed before, I could have saved myself weeks of pain! I agree about the painless thing. That’s a load of rubbish. Of course it’s going to hurt a bit, even if the latch is perfect most of us aren’t used to someone sucking on our nipples for 18 hours a day! #BlogCrush
    Kelly recently posted…Breastfeeding—the 6 month update

  2. For me breastfeeding was the lazy option so perfect for me. I did it for ages with my first and not so long on my second. I never felt any emotional connection to it. It was the reaction from family members, who had not done it themselves, that was hardest for me, not the reaction of strangers. I felt odd, to them. But, ultimately I wish it wasn’t used as a stick to beat women with, either way. But then I wish that about so many things.

  3. Hi Sinead, I breastfed both of mine and had very little support. My parents questioned my sanity because my Mum never managed to breast feed us and the system here seems more in favour of formula. I managed it only with stubborn determination and a Dutch Dr who was encouraging.

    A post like this would have been so helpful back then, but alas internet was not a thing and I am not a big fan of self-help books (I find they make things far moe difficult than they need to be).

    Not forgetting to put boobs away before answering the door is sound advice indeed. As is enjoying (and milking) breastfeeding. My favourite feed was in the middle of the night when the world was asleep. Just me, baby and the soft tickling touch of their little fingers.

    #PoCoLo
    Debbie recently posted…The Only Way Was Up

    1. I’m adamant that I’ll be blogging in a judgement-free zone! That’s the last thing any new parent needs! Glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, so very hard, epecially with a toddler. Peppa the crack pig! Haha! Yup, we’d be lost in this house without her. Hope it all works out for you.

  4. Mastitis. Three or four times with each I think. And no, boobs never the same again, but hubby still finds them useful – ha ha. Ultimately just got to go with ever works for you and your baby. These are great tips to help mummies – thanks so much for sharing them with #kcacols and hope to see you again next time.

  5. There are some great tips here! I think a lot of new mums aren’t warned about how painful breastfeeding can be at the beginning and so they quit because they think it isn’t normal. I had dreadful pain (8 weeks with first child, 3 weeks with second child). It’s a shame this isn’t talked about more #blogcrush
    Lucy At Home recently posted…BlogCrush #01: Fri 17th February

  6. So so true. I’m currently feeding my second who I’m pleased to say was born to feed and I didn’t get pain but was much harder with my first. I have to say out of everything I am loving the perky boobs!!! They were so small after I stopped with my first. Fab post xx #marvmondays

  7. Great tips! Lansinoh was crucial in helping me persist in breastfeeding too. And I must admit I was upset when I didn’t lose as much weight as I thought I would with breastfeeding. Thanks for sharing with #bigpinklink

  8. It’s funny because I expected breastfeeding to be so natural that it would just be easy. Whip out the boobs and the rest will fall into place….wrong. I’m really glad I stuck with it, but you aren’t kidding when you say don’t expect it to be painless. (Because it’s not. In the beginning anyway.) Lansinoh was a God send. I also love that nursing was an excuse to eat those extra calories, lol. Awesome post!

    #anythinggoes
    WebMDiva recently posted…Parenting and Why It’s Not For The Faint of Heart

  9. Loved this post Sinead. I read it at about 3am in the height of a cluster feeding frenzy, so I could totally relate. I truly believe that people need to hear the truth (good and not so good) about BF so that they can have realistic expectations.
    Tip: Since having my second I have discovered the HAKAA breast pump which is just fabulous. It’s small, portable, simple device that works on suction. There are no wires, tubes or torturing sounds and it only costs about €20. I use it to relieve engorgment or to collect milk from the non-feeding breast whilst feeding (often get >2oz per session without any effort – a handy way of building up a store of milk).

  10. These tips are great! I am so glad you have written this post. This will help so many new mums. I too bf both of my kids. Though Ethan was a combi – formula & breast from Day 2 as he had jaundice. I still stuck with bf until he was 2.5 yo. Evelyn was BF for 6 mths, then combi as my nipples have crackled and bleed so badly! Lansinoh was a life saver for me then and I continued to bf Evelyn up to 20 mths.

    Thank you so much for linking up with us on #FabFridayPost x
    Su {Ethan & Evelyn} recently posted…#VicksTricks Challenge

  11. This is a fab post..full of so much advice. I fed my first son for 10months and I’m currently 4 months into feeding my second. Feeding is so difficult at the start and, like you said, rarely dies it go as smoothly as all the leaflets and midwives would have you believe.xx #pocolo

  12. Such good advice here, it bought back so many memories of my days breastfeeding. I’m glad that I no longer have to wear breast pads to bed! Thanks so much for linking up at #fortheloveofBLOG. Claire x

  13. Such a fab post and as usually so well written in that tongue in cheek, yet serious tone of yours that I so enjoy reading. Such a useful list for all breastfeeding mums and mums to be that may be thinking about breastfeeding. I so wish I had read a post like this the first time round. I’d love to share it as part of my breastfeeding series if you’d be interested? Fab post, thanks for sharing it on #MarvMondays. Emily

  14. Slept like a drunken student …I am in hysterics, with my son I tried breastfeeding but was so ill land on so many meds I didn’t keep it up, I am hoping when I brave having my next I can give it a better try, with more understanding, more support…fantastically supportive, informed post. Thank you for linking to #stayclassymama x

  15. Great, honest post! I breast fed and bottle fed too so I also have some experience. I think everyone should definitely do what’s right for them.

    Thanks for sharing your experience and advice!

    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes
    Janet @ AWM recently posted…Teaching ESOL

  16. Don’t forget to put them away LOLOLOL As a mom who has breastfed 4 boys for a total of almost4 years, I still need this reminer. Little Lou is just 11 months old and i still forget sometimes, especially if sucked into netflix or blogging and he falls asleep. Great post 🙂 #kcacols

  17. The pain was the thing that surprised me. I’d been told over and over, “if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong”, which made me worry endlessly that we were doing it wrong. But the reality is that it just is uncomfortable (and I would say painful) for the first few weeks – it’s a new sensation and your body isn’t used to it, it’s not surprising when you think about it. I’d also add to not stress about the supply. I worried and worried that my son wasn’t getting enough milk because he was on the lower end of the percentiles and fed very regularly. I started topping him up with formula after feeds as I was so worried, only to then see lots of it all come back up when he was sick. I feel awful about that now, and I wish I hadn’t put myself through all of that worry for no reason. Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove
    Katy – Hot Pink Wellingtons recently posted…Living Arrows 9/52

    1. Such a good point re the supply. There’s a real tendency to doubt that baby isn’t getting enough and then panic ensues. We’re all just doing our best aren’t we and even then, we seem to find something to feel guilty about. Motherhood ain’t easy. That’s for sure!

  18. Thank you for writing this. I had an elective CS and tried to BF but at 8 weeks started bottle feeding but always wondered if I did the right thing. I mean my daughter thrived on it but I wondered if I should have persevered etc. This is such a balanced and helpful post – Thanks so much for linking up to #dreamteam hope to see you next time 🙂 x
    Bridie By The Sea recently posted…Spring Time with the Baby Jogger

    1. So glad you liked the post, Bridget. We can just add feeding to the list of things to constantly question ourselves about as parents, eh? Thanks so much for choosing the post as a featured post on #DreamTeam! Yay.

  19. I breastfed both my girls and the first time I definitely struggled with it. I didn’t have a great supply and was constantly told that she needed to put more weight on. In the end at 6 weeks old, I did dual feeding with formula and it made life so much better for me and Alice. I followed the same pattern with my youngest too. I think you have to follow your own path with it and not judge others. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove
    Laura – Dear Bear and Beany recently posted…Our 2017 Bucket List…February Update!

  20. I really wish I had read something like this before I had my son. I tried breastfeeding him and ended up moving him on to formula, it sounds like my experience was similar to yours. When I had my daughter I wanted to give breastfeeding a go again and ended up feeding her till she was 13 months old. I think if I’d been more prepared for the reality of breastfeeding, things might have been different with my son. The main thing I wish I’d known was how much newborns feed. And that even though breastfeeding is natural that doesn’t mean it will come naturally! It can take some time to ‘get’ it. x #KCACOLS

  21. Brilliant tips. It’s a blumin rollercoaster breastfeeding! Didn’t work with first but worked a dream with second! I think the hardest thing for most is overcoming breastfeeding in public. It takes a lot of confidence to do this.
    #SharingTheBlogLove

  22. Fab post 🙂 i wish i had persisted with my 3rd but i stopped after going in tablets i couldnt breast feed with when i was admitted to hospital! Thank you for linking up with #KCACOLS xx

  23. The only thing I worried and will worry about is feeding in public, not because I care what people thing, but because I’m whipping out 40H boobs, I would love to know discreet feeding for the top heavy because I honestly just did not feel comfortable doing that. And more feeding positions for top heavy women, I used to have to pile up around six pillows to be able to support all the extra arms and legs and only successfully did it rugby ball style. I wish I had known about all the support to feed when my daughter was a baby, then I wouldn’t have listened to the nursery nurse that told me I was doing a crap job and starving her! #sharingthebloglove
    Kat recently posted…What Can My Blog Offer You?

    1. Grrrrrr. I’m so mat at that nursery nurse. And that kind of thing seems to be so common too. It’s terrible really because our instinct is to trust the medical professional! If only more of them were more supportive and knowledgeable and used their powers for good! As for feeding with 40H, I get where you’re coming from. So much harder.

  24. It is interesting to read your perspective about breastfeeding. I did breastfeed both of my daughters. The first one until she was 8 months and the second one until she was 18 months. Each experience was different and I suffered a lot at the beginning with both. It took time to get things done properly but once my girls and I got to know each other better, it all worked pretty well and since then was a pleasure. It is not easy at all but it is lovely once you manage to do it. It is a beautiful moment. Thanks so much for sharing this at #KCACOLS, 🙂 x
    A Moment With Franca recently posted…Thinking Of Redecorating The Girls’ Room

  25. Recently, a friend who is getting ready to have a baby asked me for some advice on successful breastfeeding. I feel wholly unqualified to talk about such a subject and yet, I did successfully nurse my first baby for 18 months so I guess that somewhat qualifies me to share something on it. First off, let me just say that although I am a very strong believer in breastfeeding, I am not one who believes all women can always breastfeed. I’ve been close to a few moms who have wanted so badly to breastfeed and been unable to, despite months of effort, pumping, working with a lactation consultant, and so on. Seeing this first-hand makes me instead say that I believe most women can usually breastfeed.

    My advice to my friend was to go into it prepared to stick it out. Give it at least three weeks and see how things go. Attend the breastfeeding class, read up on it, find a local La Leche League chapter for support, if you need it. And, if you can have a lactation consultant help you at the hospital when you are first getting started, I think that would be one of the best things you can do.

    Cheers then.
    Gwyneth Clover recently posted…Health and beauty benefits of mushrooms

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