At only a couple months old, Arlo got his first taste of solid food….Red Velvet Cake!! It fell onto my nipple whilst breast feeding and before I could stop him, the little bugger had suckered it up!!! A taste sensation for the young baby, but panic for me. I’m sure Red Velvet Cake wasn’t allowed this early??! Why hadn’t they warm me about this in my Ante Natal classes? I had no idea that this could even be a potential danger whilst BF.
So I wanted to write my own guide to BF through my experience, things that they don’t tell you in the classes. Although nothing I have learnt would have affected my decision to give BF a good go, there are things I wished I had known before so I could mentally and physically prepare myself for what was about to hit me…….
****But before go on, I just want to say that I feel very lucky that I have been able to BF as I know it’s not physically possible for a lot of mothers, even though they have practically sold their soul through trying. I love Breast Feeding (now), but it was a very long, painful and emotional battle to begin with and I know how hard it can be. I think anyone that even tries it deserves a medal!! I am now one year on and still going…. initially I told myself 3 months, then 6, then 1 year…….now I cant stop…..actually beginning to worry he’s going to be a teenager before I can stop!!******
So let me start with an important point……
You will eat a lot of cake! Something about Breast Feeding makes you crave sugar, like you’ve never craved it before. I could’ve happily had cake for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Unfortunately this “healthy” diet makes you a bit plump around the edges, not pregnancy fat but actually fat fat! I kept telling myself that I needed to have the extra weight/ calories to feed another human?! Apparently you burn an extra 500 calories a day whilst BF, thats like 2 slices of cake. Totally justified. Then when you meet up with other mums, its an un written rule that there is ALWAYS cake involved. Some would believe that perhaps Arlo didn’t sleep for the first few months as he was high as a kite on sugar from all the cake I ate???! They eat what you eat (ps. having a very small whiskey in the hope that it might help your baby go to sleep unfortunately does not work).
This brings me onto the next point…..
You will get fat. None of this ” the baby weight just drops off you when you BF” malarky. That really didn’t happen for me. The fact of eating whole Chocolate Gateaus for breakfast and being chained to the sofa 24/7 feeding a milk monster, meant there was certainly no weight loss in the first few months. In fact, there is even a Katie/ cake shaped dent in the sofa now where I used to sit for hours. We created an “eating chain”, I would feed Arlo, Rich would feed me, and Rich….well he would feed himself. Bon appetite!
It’s a battle to begin with. I always thought, boom, pop out a sprog then attach them onto your boob. Not that easy. Some babies are total naturals and just know what to do somehow. However some babies are a lot more challenging. I remember this “moment” in the hospital when I realised any little shred of dignity I had was now gone; I looked down and I was totally naked, a Catheter in, I was hemorrhaging/ having a blood transfusion. I was milking myself on one side with Rich trying to get the couple drops of colostrum into a syringe. Then the midwife was on the other side, also milking me. I hadn’t look into a mirror since I had become a mother and certainly hadn’t brushed my teeth for at least 3 days. Lush. Then some visitors arrived… “Hiya!!!”
Try as I might little Arlo just wouldn’t take the boob. JUST TAKE IT GOD DAMMIT!!! I was that annoying person that rang the buzzer every half hour “my baby wont latch on”. Then they discovered he had a tongue tie. That snipped, and he still wasn’t having it. His blood sugar was low and he was shaking/ screaming, then he was jaundice etc etc. A week later and we were finally released from hospital, still not really having a BF baby. My milk was massively delayed due to a traumatic birth (aren’t they all traumatic??!) After visiting every breast feeding clinic under the sun and having countless professionals watching my “technique”, we finally cracked it. But I honestly think it was a good few weeks before he learnt to latch on properly. And probably 3 months before I actually started to enjoy it.
Milk Drunk. Is the best thing ever. Appreciate it as it doesn’t last forever.
It hurts SO much!!! They all go on about “Breast is Best” but no one tells you how bloody painful it is. There were points that I felt like my nipples were actually going to fall off (I asked my husband if he would still love me if I had no nipples, he said he would, this gave me the strength to carry on). There’s blood, there’s blisters, there’s lumps, there’s rocks, there’s milk spurting everywhere….and then there’s no milk at all. You’ve tried that purple cream that no one quite knows the name of, cabbage leaves, nipple shields, ice, salt water boob baths…..a nipple massage….but alas. Should’ve dipped the nipples in acid in preparation (someone told me this worked??). When Arlo used to latch on at the start I really had to hold back from wanting to throw him across the room. I found biting down on something helped. I just really could not see why people enjoyed this??? And although the pain does get better over time, it keeps coming back; cluster feeding, nipple twanging, using nipple as dummy, teething/ teeth, milk blisters, Rusty Pipe Syndrome (an actual thing, google it!!!), mastitis, blocked ducts……At one point Arlo was treated to Strawberry Milkshake as there was lots of blood in my milk ( apparently its fine for them to drink still).
It’s really awkward. When trying to figure out feeding positions I found I pretty much had to be topless at the start to try and manoeuvre him around. And at the start is when you get the most visitors, so this just ends up really awkward too. Friends boyfriends/ father-in-laws don’t quite know where to look??!! Plus the fact you cant really sit down after child birth (esp. after an episiotomy…..that goes wrong, ouch!) so trying to get into a feeding position whilst avoiding sitting on that area can be most difficult. But then you find “your position” and it starts to feel more natural. So next you have to master how to do it discreetly out and about. At the start the only way I could keep myself concealed was to create an actual tent with a muslin over my head and the baby. In hindsight this probably drew more attention to us.
Remember to put your nipple back in. With painful nipples, there is nothing better than just walking round the house O-Natural and getting some air on them. You must remember you have windows/ neighbours and that people do knock on your door. Even if you’ve managed to put a top on that day, remember to put your nipple back into the top before answering the door if you are interrupted half way through a feed. Postman of Exeter, I’m sorry.
Watch out for Hickies/ Love Bites. At the start the babies don’t know their noes from their toe, their elbow from their knee and their willy from their ear (if a boy baby). Unfortunately they might also confuse your nipple for other parts of your body and accidentally suction themselves onto it. Think the professional term for this is “Nipple Confusion”. And wow they have a strong suck! I had a lovely little love bite on my neck when Arlo was in his confused newborn state. Im sure people must have thought this was an odd stage of my life to be getting hickies. Who knew that this was something to be aware of.
You learn to do everything with a baby attached to your nipple. Then when they finally learn to attach to your nipple, they want to have it in their mouth CONSTANTLY. So you learn to do everything with them attached. This includes: making cups of tea, going to the toilet, opening the front door, phone calls with friends, cooking (pahaha who are you kidding…..unwrapping chocolate bars), cleaning (as if). You are really taking muti tasking to the next level! NB: This obviously gets harder as the baby gets bigger. You may even go through the phase of “the baby will only sleep with my nipple in his mouth”. If you can sleep through a little Piranha suckling away for the night then amazing, but I couldn’t master it. You try the “swap nipple for dummy really quickly” technique, but they always notice.
Then they will get more wriggly. At the start I could literally do anything with my baby attached to my boob (even the full make up routine at one point, feed from left boob, mascarra with right hand). Make the most of this. It gets harder. It begins with gentle “pawing” but then over the months moves onto kicking, pinching, thrashing, arching back, hair pulling, fingers in your mouth, playing with other nipple, watching other people whilst feeding, using nipple to help go for a poo, and how on earth has he learnt to blow raspberries on my nipples?? This also makes it harder to do discreetly in public as they like to whip the muslin off/ top up without a moments notice. I used to be able to eat a full dinner whilst he fed, now he thrashes around so much I cant even send a text message. If people are wondering why I have been “liking” so many things on Facebook recently, blame it on Arlos flailing arms.
It takes you to some interesting places. It’s a great tool to have as you can literally do it anywhere. But then on the flip-side, it does mean when your baby wants boob, you have to stop in your tracks and whip them out. This means feeding in some pretty interesting places. Some of mine include on the loo, on the beach, in the car, on a ski chair lift/ walking off ski chair lift (see photos), on a cliff, behind a tree, in a field, in a swimming pool, shop changing rooms and on a bus….
Again, this brings me onto the next point…..
Take a feeding backpack around the house with you. When you get struck down for a feed, you want to make sure you have everything with you. You could well be in for the long haul, especially in those early stages. So just carry a little back pack around the house with you, just to make sure you are ready. In your bag you will need……your phone, the TV remote, a TV, a bottle of water (wine), CAKE (obviously), tissues (emotions are still all over the place, WHY ARE YOU CRYING AT JEREMY KYLE???!!), book/ magazines, bank card (perfect time for internet shopping) and muslins (bound to be milk and puke). I always like to have lots of cushions within arms reach so you can prop yourself up and make a little BF den around you.
At some point you WILL spill that tea over the feeding baby. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a cup of tea go cold (actually when was the last time I had a hot cup of tea??!!) whilst you are confined to the couch with a feeding baby. So trying to ignore the feelings of “I’m such a bad mother”, you try to drink the HOT cup of tea over you milk guzzling baby. Even thought you’re so careful and it’s never happened before, one of those times you WILL accidentally pour tea over your baby. And even though your baby hasn’t even noticed and its only on their baby grow, you feel like such a bad mother:(
Milk in tea. If you are sleep deprived, and if you have expressed some milk and left it in the fridge, at some point you will really have to question yourself “what milk did I just use for my friends tea??”
You will attract animals. Have I ever told you the story about my friends BF cat??! Well lets just say, cats love milk and she found she had company every time she fed her baby. She once woke up, baby asleep, cat licking dried milk off her nipple………This also applied to my mums dog who would always settle herself on the feeding pillow next to Arlo. A bit odd but quite nice at the same time. So keep an eye on the animals and just make sure they know their boundaries. Remember, they were BF once too and nipple confusion is a serious condition.
Babies smell the milk. This is what everyone kept telling me. I wondered why Arlo would cry way more when he was with me. I thought he maybe just didn’t like me, but apparently they have this amazing sense of smell and they can smell your milk. So they just think of you as a milk cow, and want to graze whenever they are with you.
Milk squirts. I’ve never really had massively leaky boobs, but I do remember at the start they used to squirt sometimes. I managed to get Arlo a good one in the eye accidentally and also my husband one just for fun. But squirting is actually a good tool to have as milk can be used to cure medical conditions ( it’s good for everything apparently, people even sell it). I used it to help with Arlos conjunctivitis, my friends spots, my dry skin………FREE MILK FOR EVERYONE!!!!
Only get small windows of time to do things. At the start you really can be BF CONSTANTLY. Then eventually it mellows out and you can actually put clothes on and leave the house. But I found I only got 1 hour gaps to do things. For instance, I could go to the gym…..feed in the car park outside the gym, put him into the creche for an hour whilst I worked out (watched Loose Women whilst on Granny Bike). Then I would quickly retrieve my baby from Creche, mad dash to car, then feed again in car park.
Feeding to sleep. BF is going great, you’ve really got into it. Good thing to help get your little one get off to sleep. The midwife is happy, you’re happy, your baby is happy. Then it all changes (maybe around 6 months), and all of a sudden its a bad thing to feed your baby to sleep??! But you have no idea how else to get your baby to sleep. Little suckle on you, then a snooze, or if you’re brave, “THE TRANSFER” from boob to bed. Then when they wake in the night, a quick boob and they are back off to sleep, job done! I’m not sure why, but somehow you feel this pressure that this isn’t the right thing to be doing and your baby should learn how to self settle etc. BUT, i’ll let you in on a little secret, 1 year old and we still feed him to sleep at night. Oh well, sure he will grow out of it one day!
You don’t know how to comfort other than boob. Everyone told me to “feed on demand”. I had no idea which cry meant what, so basically anytime he cried I would feed him. At times, milk was practically coming out of his ears. It’s an amazing way to comfort your baby and to stop them crying so you can talk to your friend!! But it does mean that I didn’t really learn other ways to comfort him. It was all too easy to just stick my boob in his mouth. And because he got so used to that being the way I made him feel better, he would scream and scream until he got it. Nothing else would do. Still to this very day its my go-to method for comforting him. However this does concern me as I don’t want him to think that the whole way through his life he can have a suckle on a nipple anytime he’s feeling low!!!
Write off the first 6 months if you’re BF. You are literally their only source of food, which is a nice feeling to have that they NEED YOU. But it does mean you have to sacrifice yourself to them completely. You need to be on hand to feed them for the first 6 months. If they take a bottle AMAZING, you can have a break. If not, you are milk-on-tap.It is an amazing feeling though to know that your boobs alone have grown this little human.
Cluster Feeding. At no point did anyone at all mention the phrase “Cluster Feeding”. I had no idea why my baby between the hours of 5-12pm was behaving like he was at a “Drink The Bar Dry” party. After much googling, I discovered it was an actual thing! Babies Cluster Feed (meaning feed continuously) to try and increase your milk supply and set them up for the night. Or if they are having a “growth spurt” (term for anything wrong with a baby). This doesn’t help the nipple situation in the slightest. So most evenings you will need to be a feeding machine, get a good box set (remote control within reaching distance) and some good snacks and just roll with it.
Partners get out of night times. It is true that if you BF that your partner cant really help at night. After all, it would be very concerning if they had Moobs (man-boobs) with milk in??! But I do feel that this can be an easy cop out for the men a lot of the time. So even though you know its your choice to BF, you can’t help feeling angry and resentful towards them as they sleep peacefully whilst your baby is up for a feed for the 7th time that night. I would recommend a lot of loud huffing and puffing and mumbling stuff under your breath so THEY KNOW YOU’RE ANGRY.
Can only wear clothes you can BF in. So pretty much write off most of your wardrobe. None of those lovely little dress (have to lift the whole thing up to feed!!), tight tops, maxi dresses etc (jump suits are the worst!!) You need to wear something that has easy boob access and you don’t mind having milk puke on. Plus, you probs wont fit into any of your old clothes anyway as your boobs are so HUGE. So unless you can afford to buy a whole new BF collection, you end up wearing the same old feeding tops allllll the time. Also, feeding bras make you look like a granny. Just to warn you.
Expressing. If you’ve mastered this then it means you can have a break, yeeeeeey!!! But its SO hard to fit expressing into a routine of also feeding a milk hungry baby. It may take you a few days (weeks) to build up a supply in the freezer long enough to leave them for a day. Then you have to take into account that you will need to continue to express whilst you are away so your boobs don’t explode/ your supply doesn’t drop. This isn’t alway easy. If you use an electric pump, you will need a plug. These always seem to be in public places. And expressing machines aren’t the quietist of things. Only a couple days ago I had to hang out in the disabled toilet at Munich Airport for 30 mins, pumping and dumping my milk (seemed such a waste!!). It sounded like an aeroplane taking off in there, but it was a hell of a lot better than the middle of the departure lounge (see photo). Once I went on a night out (bed by 10). Whilst my friends were getting ready I was milking myself. I didn’t want to waste my milk so joked about taking it out in my handbag so I could take it back home with me. I was going to ask the bar man to put in in a bucket of ice for me to keep it fresh!!!!!!
Teeth. Then they get teeth. Enough said.
What you’re left with. Then you come to the end of your breast feeding journey and start to massivley reduce the feeds. Unfortunately your Pamala Anderson physique has been replaced with what can only be described as empty tea bags. Lopsided ones at that. Your boobs may never be the same again and your nipples are unrecognisable. But it’s so worth it, you feel like you’ve done the right thing, a small sacrifice to make for your baby. Although wish I had appreciated my boobs a lot more pre BF. If only I’d known!!!
What now?! Now I feel like I have turned into a total hippy and I never want to give up BF. Its so easy/ portable and I love the time it gives me to cuddle Arlo. I keep making excuses to keep going……. after his next injections…..after the next holiday (will need on the flight for air pressure)…….once he’s walking…..once he’s finished teething…….when he goes to University (hahahah only joking). But you know what, he likes it, I like it, I’m managing to juggle it around working, so I might just keep going for a bit:)