When it comes to breastfeeding, no matter how many baby books you read or how many people you talk to, there isn’t much that can prepare you for it. And as something that’s meant to be one of the most natural things in the world, it can actually be really stressful.
So what is breastfeeding really like and what happens when that just doesn’t…happen? We spoke to three mums of Instagram – who all share the title of “SpokesMums” for Philips Avent, a leading brand for feeding and baby care products.
Amanda Morley, Kali Shaw and Karley Jenkins all recently welcomed a newborn into their lives. They told us all about their breastfeeding journeys, from what they didn’t expect to what advice they’d give to mums-to-be.
Amanda Morley (@life.with.hudson)
"Hudson was exclusively breastfed for the first week but despite him latching correctly, he just wasn't getting enough milk. He also didn’t put on enough weight between two of our maternal health and midwife visits. I started pumping so I could see the amount of breast milk Hudson was getting and topping up with formula. He took a bottle with no issues but he did seem to like the breast, so I let him try to feed for comfort between bottles thinking it could only help stimulate the breast milk production and I enjoyed the bonding too.
"Pumping and bottles is a lot of work and it feels like you are always doing one or the other. It's disheartening when you are not getting a lot of milk for your effort. I changed to Philips Avent's Double Comfort Pump about three weeks into my pumping journey and being a double pump, it cut the time in half and it was really comfortable. The sound of the pump was less aggressive than the one I was using previously and Huddy obviously found it soothing. I’m not going to lie, I did turn it on next to him if he was having trouble napping.
"I was getting one to two of his six bottles a day from pumping, so at three months I decided we had tried long enough and stopped. Hudson was happy to take a bottle of breast milk or formula but he struggled with tummy pain and reflux. Initially I was being led by him and didn’t keep to a routine and this was OK until I realised he was mistaking tummy pain for hunger and was overeating. It took a few days to dial it back, but we got there.
"My advice to new mums would be don’t put pressure on yourself. I see lots of mamas with an abundant supply and it's hard not to let that affect me, but having a happy healthy baby is the more important thing and that means having a happy and healthy mama!"
Kali Shaw (@kms_313)
"They never tell you how hard breastfeeding is and how people will judge you and make you feel so terrible if you don't do it. I got very sick of hearing 'breast is best'. Yes, I understand breast milk is wonderful but sometimes it doesn't work out for whatever reason and my child will not go hungry as formula is a good substitute.
"I set myself the goal of six weeks to express so I knew he had the best start, but I also knew switching to formula wasn't the end of the world. Once I stopped expressing and introduced formula, I felt much better about myself and Will is still thriving. I've found it's also easier with formula when we go shopping or travel because there is always a microwave somewhere to heat up the water.
"My advice to new mums would be do what works for you! If you are going to bottle feed, don't buy heaps of the one kind of bottle because your bub may not like certain types and brands. It can become expensive trying different ones until you find what works. If you want to breastfeed but struggle with the pain, I found nipple shields (see Philips Avent's here) did help a little bit so give them a go. Breastfeeding is hard work and it's not for everyone so don't feel like a failure if you don't do it!"
Karley Jenkins (@karleyfriez)
"So far, my breastfeeding journey has been really positive. I’m a very lucky mama with a baby who’s a very good feeder and has been gaining a healthy weight. I was nervous though, thinking, would I be able to do it? How would I get the confidence to feed in public? I’d heard so many negative stories during my pregnancy about the struggle and high expectations of breastfeeding.
"While not all advice suited me and my journey, I took everything I was told and read on board. I tried not to put too much pressure on myself. I’m grateful for my loving husband who helps me so much, whether it be propping up pillows or getting me a drink. I’ve also got a very supportive family and friendship group who help a lot!
"During the ‘Golden Hour’ when Daisy was very first born, the midwife showed me how to hold her when nursing and attempt to get her to latch and suck which she did instantly. Over an hour later she was still suckling away. I was blown away that not only was I holding my baby girl, but I had started my breastfeeding journey. Even though she was only minutes old, she knew to search for the nipple and how to suck, it was amazing.
"Once my milk came in I struggled with engorged breasts for about a week or so but it felt like so much longer. The Philips Avent Gel Thermopads saved me and gave me much needed relief. They're so soothing straight out of the freezer and a massive help when warm with release and milk flow. I carried around a thermo with boiling water so I could quickly pop the thermopad disks in for a few minutes to warm up, then placed them in my bra before feeding. Honestly, I would’ve been in so much pain without them.
"My advice to new mums would be get correctly fitted for maternity bras so you're comfortable. Invest in some nursing friendly clothes and PJs as well! There is so much else you're dealing with, you don’t want to struggle stretching out a top or lifting up your entire shirt to expose your belly while trying to feed."
Whether you’ve opened a 24-hour milk bar or bottles are your best friend, this episode is all about the battle of the boob. Holly Wainwright and Christie Hayes unpack it in the Year One podcast for new mums:
Now for an expert's opinion on 'The Battle Of The Boob'...
Philips Avent Ambassador Liz Wilkes, midwife since 1995 and expert clinician with private practice experience for the last 13 years has some advice on exactly how to survive 'The Battle Of The Boob'.
"Breastfeeding is one of those things that can take a while to become easy. Where breastfeeding is a challenge it is important to seek our professional advice," Wilkes told Mamamia. "Women are able to access Medicare rebated midwifery care for up to six weeks and your GP may also be a source of support if they are current in breastfeeding education."
However, Wilkes has a few practice tips that may be useful in surviving a night of challenge before you can get help:
- Expressing is another option. If baby cannot attach or you are having difficulty with sore nipples, expressing and bottle-feeding breast milk is one way of surviving a short - and even a longer - crisis. Use a quality pump from a trusted brand and access resources to make sure you are using it appropriately.
- Comfort is important. Use pain relief where you need to and make sure that you have a supply of breast pads and breast shells. Sometimes having a time without a bra will actually ease the pain - so try a few things.
- The Australian Breastfeeding Association and Parenting Health-line can be an over-the-phone resource when things are really tough. Perseverance is sometime needed, but there is help at hand so trying to think day by day and focusing on other aspects may also just take the pressure off a little.
Philips Avent supports parents and their babies through every step of their first 1000 days of the parenthood journey by specialising in all things feeding from birth to toddler weaning. They have an extensive range of products that support new and expectant mums every baby step of the way, from breast pumps to bottle warmers and sterilisers and a whole lot more. View their full range here.
What was your breastfeeding journey like? Tell us in the comments below.
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