Breastfeeding – there’s nothing quite like it. Looking down at your little bubba happily sucking away is one of the greatest feelings on earth.
But most of us breastfeeding mummas need to overcome a few major hurdles before we get to this blissful breastfeeding stage.
I’m five months in to breastfeeding my third right now and let me be the first to admit that it’s not as serene as the pictures suggest.
There are days where my daughter wriggles in pain as she sucks, moments where she nearly chokes from too much milk and nights when she gnaws at my poor nipples, so frustrated that the milk isn’t coming as quickly as she wants.
We’ve been through the breastfeeding ringer. Major supply issues (too much milk in my case), tummy troubles (Soy milk to the rescue!), mastitis (twice) and cluster feeds that last from sundown to sunset (UGH). And, through it all, I’ve spent hours and hours googling breastfeeding tips to try and determine what in the heck I’m doing wrong.
In my quest for knowledge I’ve come across A LOT of breastfeeding help and information which will hopefully save you mummas a bit of time googling these things! Here are just a few of the many concerns we mums have during our breastfeeding journeys and what the experts suggest we do.
Is baby getting enough milk?
Probably the MOST common concern for new mums – is baby is getting enough milk? Because it doesn’t seem like she is. You feed her and then 20 minutes later, she’s hungry again. What’s the deal with THAT?
That’s just how it is for some babies. And others will happily go three to four hours between each feed from the get go. If baby is putting on weight, peeing heaps and pooping as usual, then she’s most likely getting enough milk.
All three of my babies were/are fast, frequent feeders and you just kind of get used to having your boob out a lot. Have a look at this article which explains how to tell if baby is getting enough milk.
Is it supposed to hurt this much?
Breastfeeding does hurt. Your nipples can get sore and your breasts can ache when they are engorged, especially if you happen to sleep on them or if bub has a decent booby-free sleep stint. But it shouldn’t consistently hurt and it should get better after the first few weeks. If you are in constant pain when breastfeeding, it could be a problem with bub’s latch.
Best thing to do? Speak to a lactation consultant. The Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) runs the National Breastfeeding Helpline 1800 686 268 which operates 24/7 and is run by volunteer counsellors.
Is baby getting too much milk?
Babies have itty bitty tummies and breastmilk, though awesome, is also easily digested which means baby gets hungry a lot. It’s really hard to overfeed a breastfed baby and generally, if bubs is feeding heaps, it’s because he’s trying to up your milk supply, he’s going through a growth spurt or he’s simply in the need of some good ol’ fashion comfort, which he gets from the boob.
If your little one is stacking on the kilos, seems quite fussy and seems never full, then it’s worth giving a lactation consultant a buzz.
Is she fussy because of something I ate?
UGH. The “What did I eat that made her fussy” game. Probably my least favourite game ever. Why? Because you can never win. Could it be the chocolate I ate three days ago? Or the caffeine yesterday? Or the broccoli I had for dinner? Is there any actual way to tell other than not eating ANYTHING?
No. There’s not. You can drive yourself bananas trying to figure it out. Or you can eliminate the common culprits (dairy, garlic, onions, cabbage) and hope for the best. Only a small percentage of breastfed babies show signs of a food sensitivity and often this will go away as bub’s tummy matures.
But, if you are concerned (especially if baby’s poops are a little green or mucus-y), bring it up with your GP. They can check the poop and rule out any food intolerances.
Do I have an infection?
Possibly. One in four mums will experience some sort of infection after birth, which can affect breastfeeding. The most common is mastitis, which is kind of like the mum’s version of the man-flu, but it’s actually real and will literally put you close to your deathbed. It starts from a blocked milk duct and quickly escalates to flu-like symptoms, magnified by 200%.
If you experience pain in the breast and are feeling under the weather, see a GP stat for some antibiotics. Or call your local Dial-A-Doctor or House Call Doctor. They have a stash of antibiotics so you can start them straight away without having to wait for an appointment. And wave your white flag so someone else can help you with baby while you recover. Oh, and keep feeding bubba – the best way to unclog that duct is with bub’s powerful suck.
Are my boobs supposed to look like this?
Large, veiny and hard as rock? Or deflated, damaged and sagging like a wet sock? Both are normal. At the start of your breastfeeding trek, your breasts get super excited and turn into milk mountains, complete with lumps and veins everywhere.
Then, as everything settles with supply and demand, they take on a nice, rounded shape. Except when they’ve been drained. Then they look like sad little pancakes. Sometimes, if bub only wants one side, you will get one mountain and one pancake. Good times.
Should I supplement with formula?
You can if you want. Most mums produce enough breastmilk to feed baby without supplementing. But some don’t. And some babies do benefit from a bit of a formula top up.
Everyone has an opinion about this subject. The Australian Breastfeeding Association says breast is best but your in-laws may think that you should use formula. I recently had one child health nurse suggesting I try it and another one saying not to. Confusing, much?
If you wanna give formula a go and see if it helps baby sleep, then go for it. I tried it. Didn’t do bugger all for my baby, but, I’ve heard it does work for some babies. Despite supporting breastfeeding, the Australian Breastfeeding Association does offer some really useful information on formula feeding.
At the end of the day, you do you. End of story.
Did the wine I just drank make my baby drunk?
Wine’s back on the table once you have baby, right? Well, sort of. While the safest option is to avoid alcohol when breastfeeding, we are human after all. The Australian Breastfeeding Association says we can enjoy a wine or beer or whatever it is that you enjoy drinking but the key is to plan ahead.
If you are wanting more than one drink, then it’s a good idea to have expressed milk on hand for feed time. Or time your drinks with sleeps (easier said than done!).
Things to note are: alcohol will be in your breastmilk 30-60 minutes after your first drink. It takes approximately two hours for the average woman to get rid of the alcohol from one standard drink.
For peace of mind and to know when your breastmilk is free of alcohol, download the Feed Safe app.
Is it supposed to be this hard/time consuming/awkward?
Yes. Yes and Yes. Breastfeeding can be all these things. You’re basically a 24/7 milk bar for the first few weeks which means your boobs are always out, usually leaking and often sore. You may feel awkward trying to find a good position, guilty when baby is fussy at the breast and uncomfortable at the thought of having to feed in public.
It sucks. Pun intended. But it does get better. I promise. It took me around four weeks to get the whole supply and demand, position and latch, wine-time and boob-time schedule down pat with my first two kids. With this baby, it’s taken three looong months. But we got there in the end and we are finally feeding happily (most of the time).
So, to all the breastfeeding mummas out there, it’s perfectly normal to be worried about breastfeeding and to spend countless nights Googling weird questions. Check out these resources for more breastfeeding tips and support to get you through those daytime cluster feeds and all-night boobie sessions:
We’ve got some great articles about breastfeeding on Mum Central to check out too:
- What To Expect When You Start Breastfeeding
- This Is What Breastfeeding REALLY Looks Like
- Hello Massive Mum Boobs and 5 Other Unexpected Surprises About Breastfeeding!
- This is What Aussie Mums REALLY Think About Breastfeeding
Good luck! And may the breastfeeding gods be with you!