Having breastfed both my daughters (my youngest, for 21 months and my eldest, for 15 months), I know first-hand that breastfeeding is neither a walk in the park nor an insurmountable challenge. If you’ve decided to breastfeed your baby and are new to breastfeeding, here are some of the things you should know.
1. Arm yourself with knowledge
A lot of new mums spend a significant amount of time finding out about childbirth, although there’s really only one conclusion – the baby comes out! Instead, finding out as much as you can about breastfeeding beforehand will serve you well. You need knowledge and confidence because when baby arrives, you’ll be sleep deprived and will need to wade through the barrage of opinions and advice that gets thrown your way. If possible, take a class or course before baby comes so you are at least mentally prepared for breastfeeding.
2. Get a breastfeeding buddy – especially in the early weeks
For 99% of us, breastfeeding will not be easy in the early days. My cousin, who breastfed before and has had 4 children, kept me sane during the first few days before my milk came in. I wouldn’t have made it through the pain of mastitis in my first two weeks if it wasn’t for her. You will need someone you trust and can turn to when you’re unsure, and someone who can comfort and support you through the trials of breastfeeding.
3. Get expert breastfeeding support, right from the start
I remember breastfeeding my 10-week old firstborn for 3 hours straight one night – each time I tried to unlatch she would scream murder. I was so worried and rang a La Leche League breastfeeding helpline at 11pm. The lady who answered calmly told me that my baby was fine and was just going through a growth spurt. It helped to hear an expert voice of reason in my haze of sleep deprivation.
Depending on the country you are in, look out for available breastfeeding cafes locally, or find a lactation consultant or experienced midwife. There are breastfeeding networks you can join on Facebook as well. Even if you do not end up using these sources of support, it’s good to have them in hand, just in case.
4. It’s going to hurt
I was told by a midwife that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt if your latch is right. I wouldn’t say it’s a lie but the first couple of months your boobs and nipples are getting used to the whole experience. They will be tugged at, pulled and gnashed! Brace yourself for some form of pain and discomfort. Make nipple cream your new best friend.
5. Breastfeeding will take up a lot of all of your time
Mentally prepare yourself:
- To feel like a cow – you are the baby’s mobile source of food!
- To be spending most of your time within the cycle of feeding the baby: preparing to feed (especially so if you’re intending to pump and bottle-feed), burping and changing nappies or putting baby down after a feed
- If you plan to breastfeed fully without bottles, recognise that this means you can’t leave your baby for more than 2-3 hours in the first 6 months and 3-4 hours in the second 6 months
Set yourself up for a realistic scenario and manage your expectations. With my firstborn, I was surprised that breastfeeding her took up all my time, but with my second baby, I could get ready to watch an episode of my favourite TV series, armed with a cup of Milo and some lactation cookies during feeds. I breastfed both fully without bottles which meant I had a baby with me 24-7 for almost 2 years each.
6. You’ve heard this before and it’s true: Fed is Best
Everyone has a right to, and will have, an opinion. Most mums would have had a different experience from you. Remember that the whole point of breastfeeding is to get the baby fed. If it doesn’t work for you, then choose something that does. There are so many options: mix-feeding, formula, bottle-feeding, or purely breastfeeding. Just do what’s best for you and the baby.
7. The right equipment always helps.
The first thing I would get is a good breastfeeding bra – don’t skimp on this! Last thing you want to do is be fiddling with your clothes when you have a hungry baby. I also had two breastfeeding pillows – one for indoors and one for the outdoors (especially useful in cinemas!). I found a new sense of freedom when I could breastfeed when I was out and about/traveling – once I even fed my firstborn at the stairs of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Think through what you need and can afford to buy or borrow from a friend. Consider a breastfeeding apron, and perhaps a good pump if you plan to bottle feed. When you have the right gear, chances are you’ll enjoy the experience a lot more.
8. Don’t give up or substitute – too soon.
I am glad I persevered with breastfeeding despite having mastitis and recurring blocked ducts in the first two months. I remember taking painkillers beforehand and crying whilst breastfeeding because it was so painful. Somehow when I hit the 3 month mark, everything suddenly fell into place and breastfeeding became … a routine. So where possible, be patient and persevere. The important caveat here though, is of course, if your doctor tells you your baby is not getting enough milk.
9. Measure your baby, not your milk.
We live in the social media age where it’s hard not to get caught up with comparing your milk yield with another mum’s! We shouldn’t forget that the end objective of breastfeeding is your baby’s growth and even then, your baby’s growth is dependent on so many factors. Definitely monitor your baby’s growth but stop worrying about your yield. As long as your baby is getting enough, that’s all that matters.
10. You might enjoy breastfeeding and guess what, you might miss it!
I never thought I’d say this, but I miss breastfeeding. The effect of oxytocin during breastfeeding helps you bond with your baby and that memory and sense of ‘It’s just you and me, kiddo’ has stayed with me until now.
Below are some helpful links and books that helped me with breastfeeding. Good luck! Savour every breastfeeding moment you have, as the days are long but the years are short.
Some helpful resources on breastfeeding:
Growth charts for breastfed babies (but use with a good dose of common sense!): https://www.cdc.gov/growthcharts/who_charts.htm
Breastfeeding classes/workshops in the Klang Valley:
Good books on breastfeeding and routines to support breastfeeding:
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by La Leche League
The Nursing Mother’s Companion by Kathleen Huggins
Ina May’s Guide to Breastfeeding by Ina May Gaskin
Secrets Of The Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect and Communicate with your Baby by Melinda Blau
By Jessica Cheng
Jessica Cheng hails from Subang Jaya but is currently a full-time working mum manoeuvring the corporate world in London. She is a bubble tea addict who loves experiencing food and travel with the three Vs in her life: her husband and two little girls.