Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Ten things I wish they’d told me about breastfeeding

Firstly, and for the record, I really don't like those articles or blogs that begin 'As the proud mother of a baby boy,' so I won't go there. Suffice to say that going through breastfeeding as a complete L-plated newbie, I'd read every manual, book and pamphlet there was to read and I attended as many 'breast is best' classes a reasonably sane girl can handle.

Following is what I didn't find in any of those forums or media, but rather discovered in real time, feeding my boy, usually at some objectionable hour of the night, when I used to be stumbling home from a trendy wine bar – back in the day. Anyway, I digress...

For all of you gals out there who can stand some home truths and insights into breastfeeding, or if you are simply right into reading about your boobies at the moment, here's what I now know:

Number One. Breastfeeding is a game of snakes and ladders – get used to it

One day they're perky and bolt upright and, the next, they're sideways with gallons of milk dispensing with abandon. These are the artists formerly known as your erogenous zones! Now because of these constantly shapeshifting conditions, each and every time you feed your baby may be different. So, here's an important safety tip: try not to take it personally if your bub rejects your boobs or gives you blisters. Just remember, these little cherubs grow fast, and for now, you are their lifeline!

Number Two. Embrace your inner milkmaid

In the very first weeks of your baby's life, you will spend more time with your bangers out than all your wild nights out with the girls put together. Now, your significant other will most likely not mind this one little bit – mine certainly didn't. You, however, will feel like the local milkmaid.

Number Three. From boobies to... well...

Now, apparently, after years of breastfeeding your once beautiful, sexy nipples will likely look like elongated teats. This, told to me by my sister-in-law with three kids! Sigh. I might as well put this early on the list so there are no surprises after you've breastfed five children. Look, on the upside you won't have to buy many scarves during winter.

Number Four. Is breast really best?

Well, of course it is but breastfeeding is not always possible for every new mum. So, beware: breastfeeding zealots do exist. You'll normally find them in the form of your local, friendly lactation consultant. Obviously, most lactation consultants espouse the adage that 'Breast is Best'. Why wouldn't they? That's their job. However, if you happen to find a consultant or nurse who can actually acknowledge that there are other ways to work it, dip them in platinum and place them in a luxuriously appointed, gilded cage – oh yeah, not before milking them for every single bit of advice and information you can. And yes, I wrote 'milk' deliberately.

Number Five. Top her up, love! Have you got the bottle for it?

You may find this hard to believe but there exists among us a scurrilous subculture of breastfeeding mums who (OMG) top their kids up with – I struggle to even say the word – formula! I mean, these women actually breastfeed and then supplement their baby's diet with the bottle! The culprits only admit to this scandalous behaviour in hushed tones and with guilt oozing from every pore. And yes, absolutely right, I'm one of them. Trust me , there's no need to feel bad at all, it's perfectly fine. Just like it's fine to feed exclusively from formula if that's your situation. It's your body and it's your baby. So, do what's right for you.

Number Six. Hitting the bottle (Mark I – Baby)

Following on from number five: formula is pretty amazing these days. It's got absolutely everything that your bub needs. My husband was brought up on it decades ago and only occasionally shows signs of well, we don't like to call them problems so much but... :)

Number Seven. Did I ask for your advice?

As you wander through the murky waters of the breastfeeding academy, I guarantee that the advice you receive from friends, family, and complete strangers will conflict with every other piece of superfluous information you've ever heard. Try what you will, but remember to use that nifty thing you got when baby was born, your motherly instinct!

Number Eight. When the going gets tough

Yes, it is possible to endure Olympic-level bouts of mastitis, cracked, blistered and bleeding nipples, under and over-supply, problems latching on etc etc etc ... and still come out at the other end breastfeeding your bambino. But it's no crime or shame if you eventually throw your hands in the air and scream 'enough is enough'! After all, a distressed mummy does not make a happy baby.

Number Nine. Hitting the bottle (Mark II - Mummy)

After a day of baby joy, you are entitled to a bucket glass of your favourite wine. Enjoy... you deserve it. Most of my new mum friends say it's an indispensible part of their routine. And don't I know it!

Number Ten. Take the pressure down

A warm shower or bath is a marvellous tear buster when the going gets tough - and combines well with or immediately preceding point number nine!

So tell me, what has been your experience of breastfeeding your baby that you never read in a book? Leave a comment and let me know.


  1. While I'm not planning on having any rugrats of my own running around soon, when I do I will use this as a reference! Love your advice and your humor. A great post for any new mom/mom-to-be to read. Can't wait to read the next chapter in this Mom's life! :)

  2. Sarah I wish I'd read this before I tried breastfeeding my first son (who is now four). Like you I read everything I could get my hands on to do with breastfeeding and attended a class, but no one tells you it might not work like magic first time!

    I agree with every single point and would like to add one of my own (from personal experience): avoid excessively garlic food because it will come back to haunt you at the next (and maybe more) feed.


  3. Well said Sarah. I was one of the few mums who found breastfeeding easy, enjoyable and had lots of share with my little man for 8 months. He decided to wean before I was there and of course I felt a combo of relief and sadness - esp a working mum who looked forward to feeds to bond with Zeke.

    Formula is MORE than fact us babies born in the 70s were raised on the stuff. Our mums were told that was best!

    And and the coffee and wine every day is a must-have "me time" for mummies on the feeding path!

    People can be so quick to judge a new mums choices. To hell with that I say!

  4. Thanks for your witty words of wisdom Sarah. Loved it! I have to agree with formula being fantastic. I had such a hard time breastfeeing my first child....I also read every book under the sun, saw a lactation consultant, went to my GP, called various 'breast is best' organisations and even spent a day with midwives, all in desperate attempts not to give up. My daughter had other ideas - she simply hated my boobs! When I finally succumbed to the bottle the whole world became a better place....happy mum definitely equals happy baby...and a great bonus with formula feeding is that you can turn to your own bottle without stopping at just one glass - a saviour at the end of a long day! To all those mums out there having a hard time with breastfeeding, don't feel bad about giving your baby formula and don't let anyone else make you feel bad about it either.

  5. Hey Sarah, How did you get sooooooooo wise soooo fast? As Mum of 2, my first was near impossible to feed. He couldn't stay on the boob without me holding the boob in his mouth until he was 8 months, but we went to 17months in the end!!!!!!!!!!!! My second could probably hang on if I walked about and didn't hold her! What I learnt is that bubs can be very different on the boob and that not all boobs can express!!!!!!!!!!! Xanthe

  6. Some of the risks of feeding babies formula include: increased incidence of insulin dependent diabetes, increased incidence of asthma, 5 x higher incidence of hospitalisation for gastric and respiritory infections during the preschool years,increased risk of adult obesity, increased incidence of certain childhood cancers, increased incidence of breast and ovarian cancer in women who have never breastfed.
    So the comment that formula has "absolutely everything that your baby needs" is inaccurate.

  7. I agree, firsttimemum.
    As one of the 1% of women who medically cannot breastfeed (I have Sheehans Syndrome, and dont produce the right hormones, so take 15 pills a day to produce prolactin and feed my Daughter) I find it scary that formula is occaisionally touted as "just as good" for babies.
    Developmentally babies fed artificial milk are more likely to need speech therapy, due to not developing the correct muscles to shape the different sounds
    Not to mention the melamine poisoning deaths recently!