It can take time to establish breastfeeding, but there are many benefits – for you as well as your baby – if you manage to continue.
Catherine, 40, mum to Eleanor, 18 months, and William, 5 months, is thankful she managed to breastfeed both her children.
“What I love about breastfeeding is that it’s a lovely close thing to do with your child. It’s a special time and even though you’re tired, you know they need you. It’s lovely knowing they’re growing through what you’ve produced in your body and are able to give to them.
“I always wanted to breastfeed, even before I had babies, because of the health benefits for both the child and for the mum. The antibodies in the milk help to protect against infections like tummy bugs, and it helps mum to lose the baby weight much more quickly.
“Practically it’s easier too, because the milk is on tap, and it’s exactly the right temperature. You don’t have to worry about sterilising the bottles either,” says Catherine.
“That’s not to say it’s all plain sailing. With both my children I was in pain for a week or so as they were learning to latch on correctly. I’ll admit I was ready to give up and then suddenly it just became easier. So I’d advise anyone having problems to keep at it,” says Catherine.
“It’s very demanding on you too and can make you so tired – you’re on call 24 hours day and night – and, personally, I find I don’t have time to express milk, so the feeding is all down to me, whatever hour it is.
“Don’t use breastfeeding as a way of getting your baby to sleep; you need him to be able to get to sleep by himself or you’ll have to breastfeed every time he needs a nap, and that’s a real tie.
“I can’t complain, though, as I’ve been very lucky, because both Eleanor and William are good feeders and put on weight consistently. My daughter is actually allergic to cows’ milk – I did try her on formula when she was four months old and she had a terrible reaction. She came up with a rash all over and was very sick, so thank goodness I was able to breastfeed.
“She also suffers from eczema which, according to the doctor, would have been much worse if I hadn’t breastfed her – so I feel I definitely made the correct decision about her feeding. I plan to breastfeed William exclusively until I wean him at 6 months and then carry on breastfeeding three times a day until he’s a year old,” Catherine explains.
Learning to breastfeed with your baby
“My message to mums who are thinking of breastfeeding is that you need to learn to do it together with your child – you’re dependent on each other to make it work,” says Catherine,” Give it time to get it right and hang in there because it should come together eventually. And (my personal bugbear) don’t ever be embarrassed about feeding in public – it’s not a sexual thing and it’s perfectly natural to feed your baby, so just do it!”
Five steps to stress-free breastfeeding
Midwife Gail Johnson, from the Royal College of Midwives, has these top tips:
- Be led by your baby as he will feed as often as he needs to.
- Try to be relaxed when you’re feeding. Take your time as your baby will pick up on any anxiety.
- Don’t insist on a rigid routine, newborns aren’t used to one and need to be fed when they’re hungry.
- It will take time for you and your baby to get it right. Ask for help from your midwife.
- Breastfeeding gives your baby the best start in life – it helps to protect him from common infections, it’s quality time when you can bond with your baby and it will help your uterus return to normal more quickly.
“I feel like I’m always feeding”
“My 2 week old is continually feeding at the breast. I don’t feel as if I get a break at all but I don’t want him going hungry, so I am persevering as I’ve been advised as this is said to ease off over time.”
Linda, 32, mum to Jake, 2 weeks