The world is awash with breast feeding advice. I was advised that breast is best (although when your baby reaches six months you will need to give vitamins). I was advised to breast feed to help my child benefit from my immune system. The only two colds we have had so far have been at the same time but this could also be our proximity. I was advised it might help prevent eczema and indeed he did not have dry skin until weaning commenced.
I was advised not to use bottles before breastfeeding was established. I was advised in hospital to use a bottle and formula on Day 3 and never looked back. J was able to swap between bottle, dummy and breast allowing my husband to be involved and giving me a break. I was also advised to use bottles as otherwise I would never leave the house. It’s true I never would have got to my Christmas do without J taking a bottle.
I was advised that my nipples were not nipple shaped and to use nipple shields. Regardless of the shape of them (I can’t really comment – they look nipple shaped to me but I’m a first time mum so what would I know), nipple shields saved me from pain, particularly from cluster feeding.
I was advised that breastfeeding can be painful. I was lucky – I did not bleed from breastfeeding but maybe that was nipple shields saving me.
I was advised that babies cluster feed in the evening and overnight. I completely underestimated what this would be like as my husband spoon fed me another meal while J fed ferociously.
I was advised I would feel a wonderful bond as a result of breastfeeding. It’s true that feeding my child is something I could come to enjoy. No one advised me that I could also feel like screaming and running away if I was touched and demanded for one more second.
I was advised that I would be breastfeeding. Without my husband’s support we never would have cracked it. It was a team effort.
So yes, all those pieces of advice were great. But the most helpful for me and my husband? It came from my NCT breastfeeding session when the lady brought in for the session said ‘Breast feeding can be hard. Not for everyone, but for some it is and it takes work before it gets easier.’ It helped me set realistic expectations. It helped me not to feel as much of a failure when it was hard going. It helped me believe this was hard but would get better. Thank you Shelley Smith. We are still exclusively breastfeeding at 8 months. Knowing it was hard meant I felt able to ask for help (from the hospital, my health visitor, my husband), to not feel it was my fault. I was able to choose how to feed rather than being forced into a certain position. So this is the advice I would most like to pass on to any new mum who wants to breastfeed.