I’ve only been breastfeeding for four short months but it has already been a pretty tough journey. It has, however, been made that much easier with some brilliant breastfeeding advice given by everyone from friends and family to midwives, maternity support workers, and lactation consultants.
My Breastfeeding Struggles
Breastfeeding advice comes in many forms and doesn’t always need a struggle or drama to be relevant. For me though, the best advice has come when I’ve really been struggling. So far my breastfeeding journey has involved:
- A poorly newborn who couldn’t latch due to breathing issues
- Late supply
- A seven day hospital stay
- Low supply
- Seven weeks of boob thrush
- Cracked and bleeding nipples
- Milk Blisters
- Two rounds of mastitis caused by blocked ducts
It might surprise you to hear that despite all of that I have still had a wonderful breastfeeding experience so far, but it hasn’t been easy. It also means, as you might be able to imagine, that I have had to seek out plenty of great breastfeeding advice to get me through it!
The Best Breastfeeding Advice I’ve Been Given So Far
Being a new mum is tough enough, and breastfeeding is not always plain sailing. I’m hoping that these five pieces of breastfeeding advice will help you as much as they helped (and still help) me.
1. It’s Breastfeeding, Not Nipple Feeding
This was one of the first pieces of advice I was given on my breastfeeding course with the NCT! Before getting pregnant I knew I wanted to breastfeed but hadn’t even considered the mechanics of it.
Like a lot of new mums, my brain focused entirely on the nipple part of the whole equation, as that’s where the milk comes out! However, it made so much sense when I was told that it’s called breastfeeding for a reason.
Your baby needs to have enough of your breast in their mouth to help massage the milk down and stimulate good milk production. I very quickly learned that nipple feeding is a sure fire way to end up with very sore, cracked and bleeding nipples!
2. You and Your Baby Are Both Still Learning
Before I gave birth I felt super prepared and just assumed that the breastfeeding would come naturally. I had heard all the great stories about babies latching straight on, and seen adorable videos of minute old babies shuffling their way up towards the nipple.
What I hadn’t appreciated was that breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally to everyone or every baby and so when things didn’t go to plan for us I was understandably confused and upset.
The best piece of breastfeeding advice I got at that point was to cut myself some slack and remember that me and my baby were both still learning how to do this.
Giving yourself and your baby time to learn and getting help and support to do so is the best possible thing you can do when starting out on your breastfeeding journey.
3. Regular removal of milk is the best way to increase supply
Before giving birth I had bookmarked a whole list of things that told me they’d increase my milk supply! Everything from cookies to smoothies was being advertised to help me produce enough milk to feed my baby.
Now, I’m not saying that these things don’t work! They may well do and I don’t have enough knowledge either way. What I do know though is that the best possible way to increase your supply is to empty your boobs regularly, whether through direct feeding, pumping or a mixture of both.
What’s more, I have a big problem with the narrative that a new mum won’t be able to produce enough milk. Low supply is an issue for many but making women scared about it just to sell some products makes me very uncomfy. A solution should be offered when a genuine problem is diagnosed!
4. Trust your instincts
One of the most common things I hear in Breastfeeding support groups is new mums saying they were “told it would hurt” so they just assumed that the pain they were experiencing was normal, despite their instincts that told them otherwise.
I was guilty of ignoring my instincts and assuming the pain I was experiencing was just down to a bad latch, where infact I had really nasty thrush.
I wish I had trusted my instincts and listened to the people who told me to do so. I was so worried about coming across as though I was complaining, or god forbid that I was failing, that I let myself get into a situation that almost destroyed my breastfeeding journey!
5. Breasts aren’t bottles. Breastfeeding is about so much more than food
I genuinely can’t count the number of times that I have been told my baby feeds too much, or for too long.
“You should only feed every three to four hours” is the most common piece of advice I’ve been given (sorry mum!) and it is also one of the most frustrating because guidelines and clinical advice has changed over the years.
We have a much better understanding of how breastfeeding works nowadays and I’m annoyed that I spent so much time worrying about how much my baby fed at the start.
For instance, we know much more about cluster feeding and how it increases milk supply, and we are so much more accepting of the fact that babies use breastfeeding for comfort as well as nutrition.
Another one that I get all the time is, “careful not to let him use you as a dummy!” which is equally annoying. If my baby wants to come to me for comfort, or when he’s feeling unwell or stressed then he absolutely can do! As his mother I’m here to provide comfort in any way I can, and my boobs are the quickest way to do that.
In short, boobs aren’t bottles and they shouldn’t be used as though they are. When I was told that it made so much sense! A bottle is used purely to provide breast milk or formula for nutritional purposes, but boobs do so much more.
So there you have the best pieces of breastfeeding advice that I’ve been given so far. I hope they help you in your breastfeeding journey and feel free to leave any advice that you have in the comments!