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My biggest pet peeve is ……..

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(C) MilkChic

This week I am using the Britmums Blogging Prompt as inspiration – who can resist a chance to rant about their pet peeve after all?

My pet peeve is a bit of an odd one. Since breastfeeding my daughter, and starting MilkChic, I have developed a pathological hatred of “fake” detailing on clothing.

You know the ones. They phrase it so carefully:

  • Button placket detail
  • Fixed wrap front
  • Cape styling

What they mean is:

  • Might have worked for breastfeeding, but we couldn’t be bothered to add the buttonholes and slight bodice overlap that would have made that possible for you.
  • Loved the look of that breastfeeding-friendly wrap dress, but thought it would be better if we sewed that pesky wrap down and removed the practicality before selling it to you.
  • Looks like it has wide armholes for sleeve feeding and a loose fit. Actually has armholes so tight they cut off your circulation and a cute looking overlay.

They will tell you these are cost saving exercises, but I know the truth.

They are specifically designed to frustrate mums trying to find breastfeeding-friendly clothing online. That’s you and me. Especially me, as hopefully some of you use MilkChic to find clothes that work for breastfeeding, and I’ve already screamed and shouted enough for all of us.

It’s enough to drive you to tea and cake!

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A-Z of Breastfeeding

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Cake – tasty food with a high concentration of calories – excellent for sustaining breastfeeding (as part of a balanced diet…). Best combined with tea and supportive friends.

Chocolatesee also cake…

Calories – Breastfeeding naturally uses up to 500 calories a day.

Clothes – clothes for breastfeeding need, above all to be accessible. There is nothing more likely to make you feel flustered than trying to undo layers of clothing one-handed while your baby screams! There are some good nursing clothes available but, once you know what to look for, it is just as easy to find high street fashion that works for breastfeeding and you’ll have a lot more choice.

Cluster Feeding – a term used for feeds spaced very close together. This often happens in the evenings and can mean your baby is gearing up to sleeping longer at night (yay!). It is also common for newborns, who need very regular feeding, and during growth spurts. Cluster feeding can feel tiring but it is normal and will pass. Read Kellymom for reassurance and make sure you are prepared with dinner you can eat one-handed and a good book or TV remote for those “glued to the sofa” hours.

Colostrum – The first milk you produce, which is thick, yellow and sticky. It is perfectly formulated for a newborn baby – easy to digest, high in nutrition and full of antibodies. Read more about the amazing properties of colustrum at La Leche League.

Combination Feeding – Feeding your baby breastmilk at some feeds and formula at others. While some studies suggest this does reduce the benefits of breastfeeding, many mums find this a successful solution particularly if they find it difficult to pump and have to return to work before baby weans, and some “mixed feed” long term.If you plan to combination feed, wait until your baby is at least 6 weeks as it can interfere with your body’s ability to manage milk production.

Comfort Feeding – suckling not primarily for nutrition. While breastfeeding is a great source of nutrition, it is also a great comfort when a child is ill, unsure, tired or grumpy. Ignore anyone who suggests that comforting your child is bad – they have the wrong idea of what parenting is about! Suckling without really eating also serves to increase milk supply so if your little suddenly starts comfort feeding more than usual and there have been no other changes which may be unsettling them, they may be building up to a growth spurt.

Confidence – Something that successful breastfeeding gives you in spades. When you look at your baby, remember that every ounce came from you – impressive, aren’t you?! If confidence is an issue for you and a fear of breastfeeding in public is preventing you from getting out and about, fake it until you make it. You’ll be amazed how supportive most people are.

Covers – There are huge debates on the merits of breastfeeding covers. Some people like them because they are concerned about feeding in public and a cover makes them feel safe. Others hate them because their very existence suggests that breastfeeding should be covered and feeling they need to cover up while latching can make breastfeeding much harder than it should be for a new mum. In a nutshell… they are not a necessity, but they are also not a crime (although the way they are marketed can be). I prefer to just wear breastfeeding friendly clothing rather than buy something special.

Covering up – Breastfeeding mums are legally protected wherever and whenever they choose to feed in public. Covering up, or not covering up while feeding is a personal preference. As is watching someone else breastfeed. But if you don’t want to watch, it’s your job to leave the area. Move on, avert your eyes etc. etc. etc.

Cracked nipples – A lot of breastfeeding mums do suffer from cracked nipples at the start. Theoretically, with a good latch there should be no problems unless you have thrush or similar. But most of us aren’t perfect and until you’ve got it right, a good nipple cream can be a godsend. I used Lansinoh, which I found effective but there are lots of others – pick one that doesn’t need to be washed off before feeds. Kellymom offers some good tips for healing cracked nipples.

Crimes of breastfeeding – the things other people feel they have to right to tell you off for.

Criticism – see above. New mums seem to under a constant barrage of criticism for all of their parenting choices, breastfeeding included. Please try to avoid doing this to other mums. If you come under fire yourself, here are some readymade responses that work.

Cropped tops – Tops that you can wear over a nursing vest for lift up style breastfeeding. Easy access clothing that also allows you to cover up if you want to.

Cues – Signals that a baby wants to breastfeed. There are lots of early signs that a baby wants to feed that you will become aware of long before they start to cry. These can include rooting (a reflex present in young babies where they automatically turn towards the breast and make sucking motions with their mouth, or stick their tongue in and out), fussing, sucking their hands, opening and shutting mouth and lip-smacking, fidgeting and squirming, hitting you on the arm or chest.

See the full A-Z of Breastfeeding so far, and feel free to add your own in the comments!

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Fashion Issues: Breastfeeding Tops for a September Wedding

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Where can a new mum with a 5 week old baby find a breastfeeding friendly top to wear to a posh wedding?

The brief:

  • A top to go with trousers
  • Breastfeeding friendly – something with easy access, and potential for covering up if uncomfortable
  • Budget – “the cheaper the better”. If your little one is only 5 weeks old, chances are you are not going to stay this shape for long, so even if you have money to spare, cheap and cheerful often does the job.
  • Needs to flatter a bigger bust and probably a post-birth “mummy tummy”

What to look for:

There are lots of lovely tops in the shops – glamorous smock styles are perfect for lift-up style feeds and camouflage a mummy tummy beautifully. If you’re big busted, they can look tent-like and may even resemble maternity clothes. There is nothing more likely to dent your confidence at a posh do than still looking pregnant, however normal and natural it is.

Always choose a flattering top over a “wow” top. Find something that works and feels good, then accessorise. If you’re feeling sleep deprived and lacklustre, picking colours that reflect the light onto your skin can give you a lift.

The most flattering shapes for bigger busts are empire line and wrap styles. Empire line tops are fitted under the bust so give some definition to your figure and avoid the tent look while skimming your stomach. Wrap styles give great access and often have added stretch, so are great for defining curves. Avoid wrap tops that are too short or tight over the belly, as it can make them unflattering.

Here are some of my favourites:

Peacocks, Traffic People, Vero Moda, Ted Baker
Tops which work for breastfeeding – keep it simple and accessorise.
  1. At the top end of the price range, this Warehouse Honey comb detail blouse (£50) is really special and will look great accessorised with a cuff bangle. The wide sleeves should allow a sleeve feed.
  2. This Velvet Odora Top (£33.62) is extremely flattering and the stretch wrap style gives excellent feeding access. Don’t be scared of the simplicity – use toning accessories for a chic, understated look.
  3. South Ballet Wrap Jersey Top (£18) – another simple option which is longer at the back and has a lovely bow detail. Bright accessories contrast well with the bright white. 
  4. Traffic People Summer Heat Wrap Top (£36) – A gorgeous print top with exquisite detailing. The wrap style and elasticated underbust should work for a pull down style feed, but check the sizing charts to make sure you order a size that fits your boobs!
  5. BORATO Batwing Cowl Neck Top (£39) – A great, strong colour and a forgiving style. This top should work for either a pull down style feed or a sleeve feed.
  6. Star by Julien Macdonald Green & Yellow Wrap Tunic (£42) – The print and balloon sleeves give a strong look and breastfeeding access is great. The style is fitted, so buy a size bigger to avoid emphasising a mummy tummy.
  7. Episode V neck wrap top (£50) – The wrap style and stretch fabric give great access for breastfeeding.
  8. Peacocks by Design Cold Shoulder Top (£30) – Simple but glam, this Forties style top is available in cream or a black print. The fabric doesn’t stretch, but the fit is loose enough to still give feeding access. 
  9. Vero Moda Kimono Sleeve Top (£35) – Another very simple option, but the kimono sleeves make it look special. the wrap style should allow a pull down style feed.

As long as it isn’t uncomfortable when feeding, a 5 week old will still let you wear your favourite jewellery without grabbing, twisting and breaking it. Make the most of it, as those days are numbered!

Finally, remember that whatever everyone else is wearing, and however good they look, you already have the most fabulous, eyecatching accessory known to man…. No amount of designer clobber will ever compete with a gorgeous 5 week old baby. Bask in the reflected glow and enjoy!

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My Breastfeeding Journey: Finding My Style

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In honour of Breastfeeding Awareness Week (19th-25th June 2011), I am sharing my breastfeeding journey so far. I would love to hear your stories too. Please share your breastfeeding related posts in the comments feed.
Once you got past the first couple of months people talk about things falling into place and this was certainly the case for me. I was very lucky and the small one slept a good 7 hours a night from about 7 weeks old, so I was less sleep-deprived than a lot of my friends.
I was finding the daily routine of nappies, naps and nursing more manageable, and I was loving watching my daughter develop day by day.
Breastfeeding was well-established and by this time, I had recovered from a bout of mastitis with antibiotics and heavy application of warming/cooling packs. I even got through the cracked nipples thanks to Lansinoh and the much-maligned nipple shields (I do understand why nipple shields aren’t recommended, but if they give you a short term solution to stopping feeding entirely, they can’t be all bad!). What’s more, I had finally stopped waking up in puddles of milk…
But for me, this partial return to normality sparked complete panic. I had morphed into a mumsy, stained nursing t-shirt wearing frump. All of the time I had been staying at home, completely focused on my baby it didn’t seem to matter, but suddenly I was talking about going to baby groups and meeting new people or worse, seeing people who knew the pre-baby me, and I had a real crisis of confidence.
Everyone seemed to be coping better than me. I knew from people I spoke to at the baby weigh-ins that it wasn’t really the case, but I felt useless, unable even to lift my daughter properly because of SPD.
Breastfeeding was my saviour. It was the one thing that I had planned that I was actually managing to do. And I was doing it well. As the weeks went on, most of the mums I had met stopped breastfeeding, but we continued, and it gave me a huge sense of achievement, not least when I realised that some of them actually envied me.
It did have it’s downsides. As more of my mummy friends converted to formula, many started extreme diet and exercise programmes to lose the baby weight. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable dieting, but as a marathon runner, I felt very jealous of those who were starting to tone up and fit into their old clothes again.
I was the antithesis of yummy-mummy – my boobs had ballooned and I no longer fitted my maternity clothes, let alone anything else. I lived in boring nursing t-shirts.
Nothing I liked seemed to work for breastfeeding, but I had to wear something so I just bought whatever fitted. Shopping was difficult and joyless and I ended up focusing on practicality rather than style. I felt like I had a stranger’s body dressed in someone else’s clothes. For someone who uses clothes as body armour, it was a massive issue and affected every aspect of my life.
For me, mastitis was minor compared to my fashion and body issues. Feeling comfortable in my own skin again gave me the confidence to continue breastfeeding and I am convinced that discovering that I could feed through the sleeves of a certain H&M batwing jumper dress was the turning point in my breastfeeding journey!
It took me a long time to find my breastfeeding style, but it has given me real confidence to feed wherever and whenever I need to. As a result of my frustrations, I set up MilkChic, a directory of breastfeeding-friendly high street clothes and was overwhelmed by the number of people who told me they felt exactly the same way.
Lots of fuss is made over the physical hurdles to breastfeeding, but the practical and emotional issues are ignored. Once you are past the first couple of months, the mechanics of breastfeeding get easier but social pressures and other issues can get harder to deal with. Only a mum can know what works for her and her lifestyle and it is vitally important that all mums are supported to find their comfort zone if longer term breastfeeding rates are going to improve.

The other posts in this series are My Breastfeeding Journey: Pregnancy ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Breastfeeding a Newborn ; Crimes of Breastfeeding

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My Breastfeeding Journey: Breastfeeding a Newborn

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In honour of Breastfeeding Awareness Week (19th-25th June 2011), I am sharing my breastfeeding journey so far. I would love to hear your stories too. Please share your breastfeeding related posts in the comments feed.

Samuel

Photo: Raphael Goetter

I first fed my daughter in the recovery room after a c-section. I was still pretty dazed after my planned natural birth fell apart and utterly in awe of the tiny baby in my arms.

The midwife was old school and comfortingly practical, helping me to get my nipple into the small one’s mouth so she could feed. There was no checking of latches or anything else I had been told about at that stage, and I suspect the latch was horrendous, but it felt natural and amazing and didn’t hurt. I think the fact that my first experience of breastfeeding was positive made a massive impact over the next few days

I was in hospital for 3 days after the birth. Honestly, I don’t know how I would have coped if I had been fit to go straight home. The birth left me exhausted and at one stage, I was so tired that I nearly fell off the bed trying to feed. I was very lucky to have the support of midwives and nurses as I got to know my baby and learned how to feed her successfully.

My start to breastfeeding was overwhelmingly positive, but that’s not to say I found it easy. I needed help getting a good latch – newborns’ mouths are very tiny so it is much harder with a small baby. My daughter used to fall asleep within minutes of being on the breast and I had to stroke her cheek and undress her to keep her awake. Without the advice of the medical staff, I would have assumed she had finished feeding instead of encouraging her to feed for longer. None of these were big issues, but they seemed huge at the time and without access to immediate support, I would definitely have struggled.

I first breastfed publicly in hospital. It wasn’t a conscious choice – I had visitors, I couldn’t move from the bed, and the small one needed feeding, so I did it. I was too sleep deprived to worry about anyone else’s misplaced sensitivities. It was only at this point that it occurred to me that I was going to need different clothes if I wanted to be able to breastfeed without getting completely undressed each time. While I didn’t feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding I did feel uncomfortable with my body, which had lost the confidence of pregnancy and felt flabby and bloated. My mum had found me some lovely pyjamas with a wrap top which gave me good access and hid my tummy, but I still felt a little exposed. Having said that, if I’d worn the large t-shirt I would have probably chosen otherwise, I would have had to flash my knickers to feed, so it could have been worse!

Going home was a big step and I felt very nervous. Having only ever fed in bed or a high armchair in hospital, I encountered new issues. Our sofa made it difficult for me to stand up after a feed and I needed cushions at my back, under the small one and under my elbows just to make breastfeeding possible. Often, by the time I had found the energy to stand up, she needed feeding again, so I spent days glued to the sofa. I was constantly starving but had no time to make myself meals, supplementing leftovers from the night before’s dinner with terrifying amounts of chocolate and cake.

With hindsight, being physically unable to do much was a good thing. For many of my friends, the pressure to get out of the house to visit people or “do things” was immense and they did not get the opportunity to recuperate or to spend time getting to know their babies’ cues. By the time I was out and about, I was confident in my ability to recognise hungry from tired or uncomfortable which meant that usually when I offered milk, she was content to feed.

Most of the information you receive about breastfeeding is about benefits. There is very little about the reality. It is hard to know what is normal. Nearly every mum I know had a hiccup at some stage – mastitis, cracked nipples, pain while feeding, slow letdown, fast letdown, uncomfortable letdown, engorgement… When you hear about all these problems it sounds daunting, but no one has all of these issues. If you have access to support, they are just blips. Without it, they can be insurmountable. The best support is immediate, practical, non-judgmental and ideally face-to-face. It doesn’t necessarily come from “experts” – other mums are a great resource.

As a first time mum, it is hard to imagine how much life changes. Just being a new mum is overwhelming and you don’t have time to read all those books that you thought would be so helpful during pregnancy. For reliable information in bite-sized, readable chunks at any time of day or night, I find Kellymom brilliant.

My tips:

  • Your first feed doesn’t need to be perfect. I am grateful that my midwife prioritised the psychological benefits of success over technique. Knowing that I had already done it once made the next few feeds less overwhelming and I was more receptive to support.

  • Don’t believe people who tell you that “you’ll know what to do when the baby arrives”. It’s a lie that can leave you feeling inadequate. You don’t magically know how to drive a car just because there’s one parked outside. Breastfeeding is no different.

  • Supportive friends can make all the difference to your first feeds in public. If no-one makes a big deal of it the first time you do it, you have more confidence the second time. If you don’t feel sure of your close friends, go to a breastfeeding group where you know you’ll get a 100% positive response.

  • Be selfish. Your needs and your baby’s needs are more important than anything else in the first few weeks. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Establishing breastfeeding takes time and energy and it may be the only task you can manage at first.

  • If it doesn’t feel right, ask for help. There is no one size fits all breastfeeding technique and you may have to try a lot of things before you find your comfort zone.

  • Remember that even if you knew everything in the world about how to breastfeed, your baby would still be a novice. Give yourselves a break and take a day at a time.

The other posts in this series are My Breastfeeding Journey: Pregnancy ; My Breastfeeding Journey: Finding My Style ; Crimes of Breastfeeding

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