I’m going to talk about breastfeeding in this post, and this is for two reasons. Firstly, due to a story in the news about a mum that was asked to cover up when feeding her child on a plane.
Now, I can kind of see both sides of this story. Why should the mum cover up? Breastfeeding is natural. You wouldn’t ask someone to cover up if they were giving the baby a bottle. How would you feel if you were out eating and someone asked you to cover your head? Would you like it? Just because you disagree with it doesn’t mean it has to be censored.
However, it does depend on how the mum was breastfeeding the child. I can understand being asked to cover up if she’d whipped both baps out! But really, that’s the only time a mum should be asked to be a bit more discrete.
Can You Be Discreet And Breastfeed?
Saying that, it is not always possible to be discreet. When I was new to breastfeeding, I tried to spend the first few weeks at home because I literally did need to get my whole boob out to feed. I would be so nervous when out in public when it came time to feed. What if someone made a comment? What if they were rude? Will people stare at me? Will I be asked to leave?
Also, it was so tricky trying to find the best outfit to breastfeed in. Luckily, there are designated baby feeding rooms in my local town centre, where you can sit and pull a curtain across for privacy. When I didn’t have that option, Daz would dance around me with muslin, trying to keep me covered until I had Baby J latched on.
Once Daz was back at work, I was on my own with breastfeeding in public. I would see other mums breastfeeding with ease and confidence and would be so jealous! I managed with muslins for a while, but then I discovered a breastfeeding cover. It was a bit like an apron and covered you up while feeding. Perfect. For a while anyway. Eventually, Baby J was big enough to decide that he no longer liked being covered and would try and pull the cover away. Fine, let’s try without. And actually, it was absolutely fine.
We’d both gained so much confidence with feeding that we both found it easier. Except for when Baby J decided that he would like to see what was going on and would whip his head around, leaving me exposed and shooting milk everywhere. Glamorous, right?
Ending Our Breastfeeding Journey
And the second reason for talking about breastfeeding; The ending of our breastfeeding journey. I was both very sad and relieved about ending our journey.
It made me sad because I loved the connection and bond it gave me with my son. But equally, I just wanted my body back! I was pregnant for 86 weeks (okay, 42 weeks, but it felt longer!) I breastfed for over one year. It works out at 97 weeks that my body was used for! I don’t mind at all, but I think we were both ready to stop.
I never had a set time for how long I would breastfeed; it was always just ‘for as long as I can’. I always thought I would stop if I ever got mastitis (awful, painful boobs with flu-like symptoms that you need antibiotics to clear up), but I got that once and carried on feeding. Then I always said that once Baby J gets to 6 months and starts on solid food, I’ll stop, but it was just easier to carry on. Then I said once he gets teeth, I’ll stop. Well, that didn’t happen.
One of the reasons that we have breastfed for so long was due to Baby J not taking a bottle. No matter how hard we tried, he just would. Not. Take. A. Bottle!! There was screaming, crying and tantrums. Baby J wasn’t too happy either. (Yes, sis, you did warn me, I know!!)
What’s extra annoying about Baby J not taking a bottle is the fact that me and Daz spent hours trying to find a steriliser. We went back and forth between shops before deciding on one. And now, it’s just collecting dust. So yeah, that was a big fun waste of time.
How We Stopped
Once Baby J was just nearing one and stopped waking up so much in the night, we decided to cut down the feeds gradually. Baby J was on three meals and about 27,000 snacks a day, so I was confident he was getting enough food! We cut out the lunch feed first as we were usually out and about and busy. Plus, Baby J was too nosy to feed for long.
We cut the breakfast feed soon after, probably because we were running late to a group and didn’t have time!
The bedtime feed was the last one to go. I thought this would be the most difficult one to stop, but actually, Baby J must have been ready as there was no fuss from him.
Problems With Breastfeeding
Now, I realise that I have been very fortunate with my breastfeeding journey. I never had to worry about supply issues, cluster feeding (where baby will be latched in you for hours or they have a lot of short feeds in a short space of time). Baby J didn’t have a tongue tie, and Daz and my family were supportive. I have heard stories and have friends that haven’t had such an easy ride.
Some have really wanted to breastfeed but not been able to, have been told by family members just to give the baby a bottle or given the baby a bottle, and the baby has gotten a bottle preference.
The only time that I would suggest to a mum to give up breastfeeding is if it’s affecting her mental health. Breastfeeding can be so difficult, and some mums can put so much pressure on themselves.
Now, I’m not saying to give up straight away, as you do need to work at it and get over the challenging part before it gets easier, but if it does negatively affect you, then do not feel guilty about giving formula.
At the end of the day, being well and looking after your little one well is more important than trying to persevere with breastfeeding.
I think if I had any hints or advice for mums thinking of breastfeeding, they would be:
- Get breast pads, unless you like having two wet patches on your top. Your boobs will leak. Baby cries/you’re making lunch/watching tv/having a shower – it’s just going to happen
- Yes, baby will likely want to feed for 26 hours a day.
- If you have just fed baby and they start crying, they probably want to feed again. Yes, again.
- Always make sure that you have a snack, drink, remote control, fully charged phone and empty bladder before you start feeding.
- That crazy tingling feeling that you get in your boobs when feeding is normal. It’s called the let down.
- The boob fixes everything. Honestly, they are magic. I probably wouldn’t try using them on your boss though…
- Be prepared for sore, dry, cracked, sore, bleeding, sore nipples for the first few months. My saviour during this time was Lansinoh and nipple shields.
- Breastfeeding is hard for the first few months but after you get the hang of it, it really is the most magical experience. It makes you feel like superwoman, feeding your precious little one and watching their chunky little legs getting bigger, and the double chin grow, knowing that you did that. And some days you will feel like a milking cow. It swings and roundabouts.
- Breast pads – I would leak terribly from the other boob when I was feeding so I definitely recommend getting some. You can get reusable ones if you don’t like the idea of disposable.
- Lansinoh cream – This stuff is absolutely incredible. It saved my nipples when I was breastfeeding and it doesn’t need to be wiped off before you feed your little one. Bonus!
- Good Quality nursing bras – I had ones from Primark to begin with. Which were okay for a little while but I started to find them uncomfortable. Also, you’re going to need 2 at the very, very least. Even with breast pads, milk gets everywhere so you’re going to need to wash them all the time.
- Nipple Shields – Until your nips start to get used to feeding your little one, you will have very sore nipples. Even with no teeth, you’ll feel like little Piranhas are attacking your boobs rather than your little one. You may end up with cuts or splits. Ouch! Although nipple shields won’t stop the pain completely, it will definitely help.
- A comfy feeding pillow – Maybe even more than one. Settling down to feed Baby J downstairs only to realise that I left the pillow upstairs happened more than once. You think you’ll be okay to just use your cushion from the sofa but like I said….milk gets everywhere!
- Suitable feeding clothes – You don’t have to buy expensive ones! I found that wraparound tops or wearing a vest top with a t-shirt or jumper over the top did the job well – one goes up, the other does down and you’re still covered.
You need to do what you feel is suitable for you and your family. We stopped feeding at age one because it felt like the right time for us. You may decide to stop before then or carry on past the age of one.
Whether you breastfeed long-term, short term or bottle-feed your baby, it’s nobody else’s damn business. At the end of the day, it’s your baby and your (and your partner’s) decision, no one else’s. And anyway, who asked their opinion?
I’ve never bought into the whole thing of breast is best. As long as your baby is getting what they need, what does it matter if it’s boob or formula? And why should it matter to anyone else? It shouldn’t and if it does, tell them to politely
fuck off go away.
You got this, mama. You’re doing a fantastic job.
If you have any breastfeeding questions, check out the NHS Breastfeeding and support page or call National Breastfeeding Helpline – 0300 100 0212.