Eating – Breastfeeding is hungry work – you are the primary food source for a growing child! Everyone will tell you to eat a healthy, balanced diet which, while rather a no-brainer, may seem more difficult than you at first imagined. With a newborn, food preparation needs to be quick and easy, and you’ll soon find that the minute your dinner is ready, baby wants food too. Until you’ve mastered eating one-handed, try to keep a box of snacks on hand – nuts, dried fruit and cereal bars are reasonably healthy ways to up your calories, but don’t feel guilty about cake and chocolate too. Most breastfeeding mums find themselves ravenous for the first few months so don’t deprive yourself. Once you’ve got breastfeeding established, you’ll find it easier to find some balance.
Education – Talk to people about breastfeeding before your baby arrives. Find out what is normal, what to expect and where your local breastfeeding support can be found. Make sure that your partner and family are well informed about breastfeeding too.
Electric breastpumps – If you choose to express milk regularly, you may want to look at buying an electric pump. At a cost of Â£60-250, it isn’t an essential, and many pumping mums are very happy expressing manually or using a hand pump, but if you’re thinking of buying one, Which? Magazine reckon the Medela Swing breastpump and Medela Mini Electric Pump are both good all round buys. NB. It is not recommended that you buy second hand pumps unless they are closed system or hospital grade pumps designed for use by more than one baby.
Emotions – Breastfeeding, like pregnancy and birth (and parenting in general) can be an emotional rollercoaster. Mums describe every emotion from euphoria to despair, but just because it’s normal doesn’t mean you don’t need support. Establishing breastfeeding, growth spurts and weaning can be difficult times so make sure you have help when you need it.
Employment Law – As a breastfeeding mother, you are protected under the same health and safety legislation as you were when you were pregnant. Your employer has an obligation to risk assess your job and ensure that it does not put you or your baby at risk. Breastfeeding mums should also have a suitable place to rest, and pump. Make sure you have informed your employer in writing of your intention to continue breastfeeding when you return to work, if this is the case.
Engorgement – Most mums will feel engorged (heavy, warm, uncomfortably “full” feeling breasts) at the beginning while their milk supply regulates. Make sure you breastfeed regularly to prevent it becoming a problem. The traditional cabbage leave remedy is surprisingly effective (although you will stink…!) and you can find more information about dealing with engorged breasts here. If your baby struggles to latch on an overfull breast, hand expressing a little milk first can help.
Epsom Salts – If you are suffering with mastitis or a plugged duct, you may find bathing the affected breast in warm water with Epsom salts helps calm the inflammation. Rinse off before feeding!
Equipment – The only essential equipment for breastfeeding is a baby and a boob. Depending on your situation and your budget, you may want to treat yourself to a nursing pillow, some nipple cream, a breastpump or some attractive nursing clothing. Alternatively, you may feel you’re better off with chocolate cake and a killer pair of shoes 😉
Establishing breastfeeding – The common consensus seems to be that it takes about 6 weeks to establish breastfeeding. Your milk supply has to adjust, and you and baby need to learn what to do, ironing out issues with latch and positioning. For the best possible start, try to have plenty of skin-to-skin contact and feed your baby in the first hour after birth, breastfeeding as often as they need. The WHO recommends not using bottles, teats or pacifiers which can cause “nipple confusion”.
Etiquette – A whole other post…. but suffice it to say, there are no rules about where, when, why or how it is acceptable for you to breastfeed your baby. However, if you are feeding an older baby or toddler, it is definitely not polite for them to bite, hit or do gymnastics while nursing. Equally, they may feel it is not polite for you to read a book, play on your mobile or eat!
Evening Dresses – breastfeeding babies are very portable and you may find yourself needing some special occasion clothing. Make the most of the extra cleavage and treat yourself to some breastfeeding-friendly evening dresses.
Exclusive Breastfeeding (EBF on the baby forums) – This means that a baby receives only breast milk (no additional food or drink, not even water). The WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of a child’s life:
Exercise – There is an excellent article on breastfeeding and exercise at KellyMom. Basically, it’s fine to exercise when you’re breastfeeding, which is good news as exercise is a great mood enhancer! Make sure you have a decent sports bra if you’re planning anything strenuous, and don’t overdo it too early on.
Expressing – pumping milk for later use in bottles or cups. This is a way of giving breastmilk when mum isn’t there, and can help if you go back to work before you finish breastfeeding. You can express by hand, or use manual or electric pumps. Here are some tips for pumping and expressing that I wish I had while I was still breastfeeding.
“Extreme” Breastfeeding – sensational media term for breastfeeding in line with WHO guidelines.