Start as You Mean to Go On: The Essentials for Your Breastfeeding Journey

Educate

Thank you Christchurch hospital for offering free breastfeeding classes. Eight-months pregnant and totally focused on labour, it didn’t occur to me that breast feeding might be a skill I needed to learn. Surely it would come naturally?

Thanks for warning me that yes, it might be a bit painful at first: that’s normal; for teaching me the basics of latching, before my brain was fogged by post-labour’s hormonal exhaustion; for encouraging my partner (now husband), and showing him how important his backup role would be – thanks to his endless toast making, shoulder rubbing, pillow positioning… I made it through those first tough weeks and into the bottle- and steriliser-free ease that awaits breastfeeding mums.

Prepare

A good, well-designed breastfeeding wardrobe is your friend.  The strawberries on my breastfeeding bra always made me smile, even at four in the morning.  For those first family visits and forays out and about, I so appreciated having tees and jumpers with an opening latch for feeding keeping me warm and my wobbly tum under wraps.

The early days of breastfeeding are a fiddle anyway: if your wardrobe is sorted, you have one less thing to think about.  Have a browse around latchwear.co.nz for well-priced breastfeeding tops and dresses in lovely fabrics.

Nourish

Think you’re hungry when pregnant? You ain’t seen nothin yet kiddo. “I am ravenous,” was my mantra and rich carrot cake became my friend. Porridge with butter and honey… delicious! I drank gallons of chicken stock, which is loaded with micronutrients and surprisingly revitalising, as well as nettle tea and Floradix for iron. Fenugreek tea is also useful if, like me, you have supply issues.

Protect

Thanks to my midwife, I stocked up on 100% lanolin Lansinoh nipple cream before labour and started applying it from the get-go. This is possibly why I didn’t have many problems with cracked nipples, any problems I did have were caused by issues with latching. I wouldn’t recommend using any other cream, as your baby will no doubt ingest a bit.

My midwife also advised me to massage my boobs regularly to prevent any blocked ducts which can lead to hard, red lumps and then onto mastitis.  If red lumps do develop, the priority is to feed often and from every position to empty all the milk out.  After that massage your breasts with a hot flannel to try and move any blockages. If you feel feverish then get thee to a doctor sharpish as mastitis can escalate quickly.

Pumping Revolution

Phew! You’ve made it through the first weeks, you’ve got this breastfeeding malarky nailed.  It’s around this time that you might invest in a pump to give yourself a wee bit of freedom.  A word of warning, for some women (myself included) the milk just won’t flow for a pump. It might be worth hiring one from your midwife to check how things work for you.  Some babies just don’t like the bottle either, or worse they get too used to the bottle and turn the nipple down. It’s called nipple confusion. Your midwife or health visitor will explain more.

For me, one of the biggest obstacles to pumping was how time consuming it was. I just didn’t have a spare fifteen minutes to sit and pump on top of actually feeding my baby. Luckily, there’s been a revolution since my breastfeeding days: enter Rumina’s genius Hands-Free Pump&Nurse tank tops and bras meaning you can get on with everyday life, be that reading to your toddler or taking a work conference call, while pumping milk.  Freemie have also designed clever pumps and collection cups which again mean you can pump under your clothes wherever you are.

A Quick Note to End

However breastfeeding works out for you, the most important thing is to be realistic. For some it is a dream from day one.  For many it is not.  It can hurt at first, and it is definitely a skill for mum and baby to learn.

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