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Category: Pregnancy

Happy World Breastfeeding Week (and some thoughts)

Today is the last day of World Breastfeeding Week (on a Thursday, yes, that is odd?) but I never really considered writing a post in honour of it. I’ve read a lot over the last seven days and I always enjoy hearing about other people’s breastfeeding experiences but, really, I didn’t feel I had anything to add. Plus, I’ve already written about my feeding journey in various posts so I felt like I’ve said what I wanted to say.

I’m not breastfeeding now. I stopped when Gwenn was 40 weeks. I feel that was a mistake but there’s nothing I can do about it now. Having breastfed, I totally get why people rave about it. I honestly feel like I was never as complete as when I was breastfeeding and I will never feel as whole ever again. At the same time, having had a lot of problems with feeding and having used formula alongside the whole time, I totally get why a lot of women “give up” in the early stages. I don’t really like the phrase “give up” because it kind of suggests laziness which I would imagine is 100% not the case and that the ladies who can’t carry on cry a lot of tears over the decision.

If I were to have another baby, then I would intend to breastfeed again and I’d like to think it would go more smoothly because I know what to expect now.

And that is the purpose of this post.

Know what to expect.

I’m an honest person. I scarred a pregnant woman indefinitely at Center Parcs by saying “When I was in labour, at times if I’d been given the choice between being humanely killed or carrying on, I’d have gone with the former”. (Basically, NEVER EVER ask me what labour is like!)

So, my advice to anybody who is pregnant and wants to breastfeed or isn’t pregnant but thinks they would breastfeed if they had a baby is this:

Establishing breastfeeding is hard.

Most newborns will want to feed every two hours. So if you start feeding at, say, 12, and the baby feeds for maybe 45 minutes then you will have an hour and 15 minutes before the next feed. And this might go on for 24hrs for weeks. You might not even get an hour and 15 minutes between feeds. You might get more. But prepare yourself for the fact that, if you want to give it a real go, you are best off sitting on the sofa with no top on for at least a month. And it might hurt a bit at first. If it really hurts, the latch might be wrong, so ask for help, but even if the latch is correct, feeding constantly does nobody’s nipples any good and the best cure is to smother them in Derma Mum and go braless (which is such an amazing look when the father-in-law comes over).

If you want to breastfeed exclusively, then you can’t really be separated from your baby or your breast pump for very long. If you go out, then you might find yourself hand expressing in a toilet cubicle after leaking all over your top. If you plan to leave baby for a long time, then you’ll have to plan where you’re going to express in order to avoid painful boobs or worse, mastitis.

Breastfeeding, exclusively or not, involves a massive personal sacrifice.

But nobody wants to tell you this. The NHS wants breastfeeding rates to rise so, understandably, health professionals want to skirt around the gory details. Not all of them; I don’t want to generalise unfairly. I moved just before birth and my new HV said that she wished she had met me before I had Gwenn so she could have prepared me for how hard breastfeeding could be. I just thought it would be so easy because it’s natural and I have boobs so, you know, sorted. WRONG!

I don’t mean to put anyone off. Why would I? I loved breastfeeding (eventually) and the fact that we combination fed meant that I could get a break sometimes and Andrew could help out. I would combi feed again in the future; it worked for us. But, if you think that breastfeeding will look like that Aptimil advert – all white furniture, glossy hair, and serene smiles – you are probably going to be disappointed.

I am hugely pro-breastfeeding and I think that it’s worth enduring a bit of discomfort in the beginning in order to get things started. I largely suffered in silence but there are loads of places you can get help and my HV was always trying to get me to go a breastfeeding drop-in at my Sure Start.

At the same time, I don’t think there’s any shame in deciding that breast isn’t best for you. I felt genuinely devastated in the beginning when we used formula but now I look back and I’m not bothered. What seems like the end of the world at the time will seem fairly unimportant in five years from now.

I have spoken to lots of people who, like me, thought that because breastfeeding was “natural” then that equated with “easy”. For some people it is mega straightforward but for most, or at least most people I have asked, it is not.

So, I truly wish all the breastfeeding mamas a “Happy Breastfeeding Week”! We got there in the end!

Click on the button below to read more breastfeeding stories, via Zena’s Suitcase

 

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What to wear when breastfeeding

I am a great believer in learning from my mistakes. A lot of the ill advised decisions I have made over the years – and having to live with the consequences – have made pretty darn sure that I will never make the same error again in the future. I’m not sure if this is just something inherent in me, or if it’s the way I was raised. (I would go with the latter, taking as an example the time I was a teenager and my dad said to me: “Bethan. If you wanted to you could go out and get a tattoo on your forehead for all I care, just don’t complain to me about it when you regret it five years down the line!!!)

But having lived my life careering from one disaster to another, I’m starting to think that maybe it is even better to learn from someone else’s mistakes, and I like to think that’s where me and my blog come in!

Having got my pregnancy wardrobe totally wrong, and then my breastfeeding outfits, I have kind of become a bit of an expert; the Trinny and Susannah of the maternity and nursing world, if you will. If I can take any positives from it, it would be that “next time” I would totally know what not to do and also that in having got it so wrong, I can share some tips with you lovely lot.

I must admit, I didn’t really prepare my wardrobe much beforehand. I thought it would be silly to get a lot because you just don’t know what’s going to work and what will be a waste of money so all I got was a maxi skirt from Primark and a cream tunic top from H&M. When I was in Newcastle for my pre-baby hair appointment (which turned out to be a week before she was born, as she was early) I went into Bravissimo to get fitted for nursing bras but they didn’t have any appointments for ages and I was too hot and pregnant to hang around. So, I figured I would just wait to see how big my boobs got and I had some maternity sleep bra things which I thought would do in the meantime.

I don’t think a lack of preparedness was my main downfall though. To cut a very long and sad story short, the number one thing I got wrong during the early stages of breastfeeding was I made the mistake of caring what I looked like; life would’ve been A LOT easier if I hadn’t. I have mentioned before that it took a long time for breastfeeding and me (and Gwenn) to get along and because I was so absolutely devastated and felt as if my dream was slipping away from me, I felt like I needed to take control over at least one part of my life, and that part was my appearance. Even when Gwenn was days old, I was making sure I had a proper bra with matching knickers on, clean styled hair, actual clothes (as opposed to PJs), the whole shebang, just in case anybody who came over judged me for not having done so.

Because I didn’t have a lot of stuff that made it easy to breastfeed in and because I was obsessed with looking presentable, the outfits I wore usually resulted in me having to take off all my clothes when Gwenn was hungry, so I just didn’t go out of the house. It made for a very miserable summer and it is something I regret.

What follows is basically a list of what I would buy if I did it all over again. It is very personal to me, my shape and style, but hopefully you can take some ideas from it?

UNDERWEAR

After having done a lot of research, I can confirm that no nursing bras fit me. There are not many brands who go up to my size and even those that do are still no good because they are wireless. I bought two in the nine and a half months that I was feeding Gwenn: one in the closest size I could get to my actual measurements (trust me, next best thing is no good when you need a 36 JJ) and one which was supposed to be the right size but gave me no more support than a sleep bra. Consequently, I never wore them outside the house and if I wanted to feed her in public I would wear my normal bras and end up taking all of my clothes and said bra off. Not exactly discreet!

When Gwenn was almost six months, we went to the Lakes with my mam and step-dad and I had to think of something, because we were going to be out all day for 6 days in a row and getting naked was not going to be an option. This is when I had the plunge bra idea. These bras are so low cut that you can easily manhandle your boob out and squish the moulded cups down and out of the way. Admittedly, this is probably not advised in the manufacturer’s care instructions but you gotta do what you gotta do!

When I was road testing the idea, I went for the Wild at Heart bra from Bravissimo, which is based on a shape that comes in various prints. They also sell lots of plain moulded and plunge styles, if you wanted something more neutral.

Image from the Pinterest

I would one hundred million percent go down this route again. If I were in the house, I would wear a sleep bra; if I were outside, it would be a padded plunge. This is not for everyone, I do understand that, but I could cry when I think how different things might have been if I’d had the idea sooner.

(Another note on underwear: I always felt loads better if I had on kind-of-matching underwear. I bought a few pairs of dark blue knickers to go with my Wild at Heart bra for example, so I knew I looked pulled together underneath my clothes even if I look horrific on the outside!)

DRESSES

My wardrobe is predominantly dresses, but they can be a bit of an issue if breastfeeding. The first option is to go for something that buttons through.

This shirt dress is pretty amazing, and I’ve seen similar shapes on ASOS recently.

Image from the Pinterest

I bought this shirt dress about a year before Gwenn was born, and got loads of wear out of it.

Alternatively, you could wear something quite low cut and I found that a lot of maternity dresses tend to be already geared up to nursing in this way, so you only have to buy once, if you get what I mean. And obviously there are “proper” breastfeeding dresses but they were too expensive for me to consider. These Bibee dresses are lovely though.

SEPARATES

A top half and a bottom half are probably what most nursing mums go for. I never wear jeans or leggings, so for me it was always a skirt with something tucked in. Still a massive faff on but I personally found it easier to pull something up rather than button something down. “Next time” though I think I’d look for tops that didn’t have to be tucked in at all; crop teeshirts are everywhere, and not expensive at all and I already have loads of midi skirts so maybe these looks would work for me (minus the heels 😉 )?

GENERAL ADVICE

Make what you already have work: You’ll probably already have loads of stuff that will work for you and you don’t have to buy things that are specifically marketed as nursing clothes. Obviously it’s nice to treat yourself to newness but having a baby is expensive enough without buying a completely new wardrobe.

Explore charity shops: I love charity shops. I once got a Masai Company dress for £5 that was £85 in a department store the previous year. I have loads of vintage St Michael (I mean, does it get better than St. Michael?!?!) and I have been very lucky to find premium brands like Jaeger and Betty Barclay for pennies. Obviously it helps if, like me, you are happy to dress as an old lady 😉

Focus on other areas: If you feel like your clothing choices are being governed by boob accessibility and that you are wearing the same things over and over, why not focus on other areas? Maybe invest in a really nice blazer or a cashmere cardigan. Or buy some new shoes and a bag, neither of which are affected by fluctuating breast size (as far as I am aware).

Take care of yourself: I loved having my regular eyebrow and eyelash tint when Gwenn was little because a: I look much better for it but b: it’s nice to spend a bit of time being pampered, even if just for 15 minutes peace. If I had more money then I would have been going for facials and massages and all sorts.

Google like mad: These are some of my favourite breastfeeding fashion websites and blogs –

Scrapbookblog

Fox in Flats

Fresh Baby Gear

Pinterest is amazing too!

Don’t care too much: For me, and the majority of other women I know, it is important to look nice. Rightly or wrongly, a huge part of my self-esteem comes from how I look. But in the early days of no sleep and rest, constant feeding, sterilising, welcoming visitors etc etc, it really doesn’t matter if you have washed your hair or your jeans are clean. The biggest mistake I made was expecting too much of myself as a new mum and putting too much pressure on myself to look a certain way. Yes, I have just shared with you some tips on looking good while nursing, but ultimately your wellbeing and your baby’s health are what is priority.

So there you have it. Hardly an exhaustive list but just a few thoughts that popped into my head about breastfeeding fashion.

To find out more about all areas of nursing, click on the badge below and read more entries to The Breastfeeding Diaries on Zena’s Suitcase.

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