Breastfeeding: the sequel

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Love this by Amen Photography

I have blogged before about the mad journey that is breastfeeding and the wondrousness of boobies (here is the first instalment). Since then I have enjoyed the consequences of breastfeeding (read: saggymcsaggerson babylons) and I have produced a second Bebe, that I have also been feeding with my boobs. Even writing it like that reminds me how mind-boggling it is to nourish a human bean with something produced by my very own breasts. Crazy. (Obviously growing the bean in the first place is pretty stupenduous, but this part you can actually see with your own eyes!)

As I alluded to in the first post written last year, I am entirely mindful that this is a very sensitive subject. Plenty of new mamas don’t breastfeed, either out of choice or because it’s not physically possible, or for many reasons they start and then have to stop, or have to modify what they are doing to suit their babe. No one journey is the same and whatever happens, having a happy, fed bebe is all that matters.  

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Pure happiness right there

As I said last time, this is just me talking about my journey.  I’m lucky / unlucky / weird / blessed / happy to have the chance to breastfeed again. However, I must say that living this a second time, it has been decidedly harder than the first time. Strange, as you would think boobs get used to it (they certainly look like they do) and as a second time mum, most likely I am already equipped, mentally and wardrobiley, for the job. Turns out not really.  Well, for me at least, the difference I think is down to (i) the bebe and (ii) the circumstances.  I consider these differences a bit below and then I will introduce you to my favourite breastfeeding clothing, in particular The B Shirt.

The Bebette journey is not the same

The bebe part: No pregnancy is the same, “they” say (the older wiser types) and the same goes for all that follows. This Bebette that we have, this little ray of light, is a petite lady who doesn’t gobble like her big brother. She is delicate. It’s more like she’s taking afternoon tea, or a small glass of champagne, than glugging a gallon of milk; I can almost see her little finger up in the air. Bebette can’t easily cope with the fast flow of milk that I have. She wants a skinny pizza with a side of dust, not the Super Mega menu with XL stuffed crust and extra deep-fried cake, and a beer or 10….

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The problem is that boobie milk systems need some sort of regulation – if Bebe is fussy, you end up with your boobs getting very confused about all this nibbling and they lose track of how much milk to actually make.  This, in my case, led to a bout of (very painful) mastitis (more on this below).  It has also resulted in the washing machine going into overdrive with milk-sodden clothing.  Poor Boddler has had the shock of his life a couple of times when he has come to inspect “Sista mulk” and been sprayed in the face himself. Luckily he has goggles.

After the double whammy hospital adventure we enjoyed last month, I’ve also spent a lot of time pumping this time round. Jeez, the hospital pump is hard.  Massive shout out to all the mamas out there that have had to pump, whether to encourage their milk production, or because their babe is hospitalised at birth or afterwards, or because their babe simply won’t latch. It is harrowing.  But massive cheers to the NHS for providing nourishment for hospital mamas, this really makes a huge difference.  Also, whilst pumping is hard, it is a little intriguing to see how much milk you are making – as a mildly competitive person, I kept challenging myself in hospital to make more and more, gallons of milk, feed my Bebette until she rolls out of hospital…. FYI I lost, but it was a good challenge.

As a side note, any newish breast feeders reading should be aware of the symptoms of mastitis (NHS link here).  When it happened to me, it escalated quickly, my boob felt bruised and sore in the morning, it was a bit red, then more disconcerting was the crazy headache and flu-like symptoms I developed that afternoon: I got fever and the shivers and ended up calling 111 the next morning, a Sunday (again!) and was able to get a prescription for antibiotics very rapidly for later that day. Hot showers, continuous feeding if you can, and massaging helps, but as soon as you feel fluey or sick, you need to get medical help asap, as it can be very painful.  *Shout out to my GP mama friends that helped me (and continue to help) with sound advice through these struggles.  Legends.*

The ease with which you can breastfeed may also be influenced by the circumstances, like whether you already have a child running around, and the time of year: last time I was breastfeeding it was spring – summer; I had little vests I could pull down, and limited additional clothing required in the warm weather (yes, yes, U.K. warm so you still needed a second layer…). I also had the time to sit down and wasn’t likely to get a ball lobbed at my head whilst I was feeding.  Shocker! Back then, Boddler was so greedy I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a hand in pulling my top down to get to the food himself. There was almost no spillage or regurgitation. The whole feeding process was quite straight-forward and manageable, except for the odd leak and the teeth *panic face*.

Bebette is quite a different kettle of fish. She likes the warmth and comfort of my boobie area but is less bothered about the actual milk. She also feels more delicate, has a sensitive stomach and needs to be carefully positioned for her feeds.  This is in contrast to Boddler who was like a magnet to the nipple. Bebette needs a compass and guide dog and tends to fall asleep whilst feeding.

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Like my maternity wear this time round, I was armed with a bit more knowledge of what was required for nursing a babe. However when I went through my box of neatly organised maternity clothes (read: pile of clothes shoved in a corner that I wasn’t expecting to see for a loooong time) I couldn’t really find any good feeding tops in there. Just a lot of vests and the odd mamalicious or seraphine number. I had a couple of big shirts but, I confess, I hate ironing. So I am not wearing those.

the B shirt

A good feeding top requires stretchiness and also must be a material that can be scrunched up (or down) without being too thick, and without preventing bebe from breathing or making her get too hot. This time round I also have a decidedly more flabby tummy, and it certainly looks more traumatised with my new tiger stripes second time round. I am acutely aware when I try to cobble together my own feeding clothes (ie two tops on top of each other, one pulled down and one pulled up) there is a very high chance of embarrassing flab-flashing.  I am already getting my boob out, I don’t particularly want to extend the nudiness any further.

So, there’s a legit need for something new – where can I find a good breastfeeding top? After lots of googling in the middle of the night I found my answer.  Say bonjour to The B Shirt. The B Shirt is a breastfeeding dream – it keeps your tummy covered whilst you discretely locate your milkers and latch your bebe on. The B Shirt is stretchy and warm, long enough to cover you and your bottom, and it washes well. And it can deal with frequent washing too. But best of all, the B Shirt does good things.  It supports women that are struggling – more on this below.

The top comes in three basic colours; white, grey and black. No garish flower patterns or bold horizontal stripes that make you feel even more ginormous over here.  The boobie “flap” opens upwards discretely, without a full-on untangling or déshabille exercise, revealing two neat little boobie holes, so you won’t be flashing side boob either. It’s not rocket science and yet it is genuinely so hard to find anything even close to suitable for the job. This has been my saviour.

I particularly like the B Shirt because: (a) a couple of real mamas, who themselves have breast fed and supported numerous other mamas with breastfeeding, set up the business not only to help nursing mamas generally;  but also to raise awareness, funds and provide tops and support to breastfeeding mamas out there who are statistically less likely to continue to breastfeed. According to their research, a major reason women stop breastfeeding is embarrassment. Isn’t that sad?

81% of new mothers start off breastfeeding when their babies are born, however when their babies are just 6 weeks old only 36% are still breastfeeding. This means that the UK has some of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world.

Breast milk with all its magic properties is sitting in boobies, ready to go, like a cup of fresh water in the desert, or (more relatable) a delicious steaming pot of coffee on a grey Monday morning, and yet it’s not being served because the barista is embarrassed about the cups he is serving it in. Meanwhile there’s a ginormous advert for Starbucks, with a cup that runneth over, right outside. You get the point.

Money from the sales of the B Shirt and donations will go towards getting those mamas in need the right clothing to do this important job, without feeling embarrassed.  I concur that this top has reduced my embarrassment levels, which are all the higher when there’s also a toddler running around and therefore the possibility of large scale accidental flashing, and much more rushed boob-accessing. A comfortable, affordable top that does good beyond helping you on your breastfeeding journey – pretty epic. (b) it’s called the “B” Shirt – the logo is boobs – it’s like we were destined to be together! And (c) the ladies that came up with this beauty are located in Totnes, which is a magical place in Devon I happen to know thanks to my musical sister and her man who are very happily located there. Side note: it is glorious and definitely worth a visit. (d) they also sell reusable bamboo breast pads which are great.  Another winner, comfortable and environmentally friendly.  Boom.

The one thing missing at the moment with the B Shirt is sleeves, although I expect sleeves are in the pipeline along with more colours.  I also don’t think the lace trim is particularly necessary, but equally it adds something to remind you where the flap is – tired mamas need all the help we can get!  The only good feeding top I’ve found with sleeves is a Seraphine bamboo top, which is super soft, but I can’t find the link to that now, and as far as I’m aware Seraphine doesn’t boast the same mission and aims as the B Shirt so I would rather spend my money with the Totnes ladies.

I’m teaming my B shirt with the Bravado Seamless Nursing Bra, available from John Lewis.  It’s a bestseller and I can see why – super comfy, supportive, and easy to get up and down. Also very easy to wash.  Feeding bras have caused me as much angst as the tops, but this bra has done the job and even comes with conversion kit so when you are done feeding you can continue to wear this.  Unlikely, for my fried eggs, but I appreciate the opportunity.

So, that’s me done on breastfeeding take 2 (so far) and what I’m wearing.  I hope this is helpful and good luck you wonder mamas!

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I leave you with this thought of the day.  Really orange carrots.

 

Boobies, Breasticlés, Amazeboobs

WARNING: This post contains graphic boobie-related content.  If you don’t have boobs, I suggest you don’t read this.  You may be traumatised.

As someone* once said:

“I don’t care about amazeballs, what about these amazeBOOBS?!”

*probably

As this week is apparently world breastfeeding week it seems opportune to celebrate the wondrous balls that are higher up, the boobies.  I have always been amazed by boobs and I’ve never really had any of my own to speak of. Having Bébé FF allowed me to grow a pair.  Literally.

Before I launch in, on a serious note I just want to say I know breastfeeding is a very  sensitive and sometimes controversial topic. I can only speak from my own experience on this. I understand that every woman is different, every baby is different and each new family’s circumstances and birth experiences are different. All of those differences mean that every single woman has a different boob-related experience when they have a baby. The main thing is ensuring your baby is fed. How you do it is your concern only.  You made a baby, you deserve a freaking gold medal.  Nuff said.

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So. Let’s talk about boobies.  If you didn’t already know, the effect of having a baby on your boobs can yield some quite extreme and often hilarious(ish) consequences.  I’m still using mine, but I have heard that things get worse, not better.  Quelle surprise.  This is really a post for the prospective and new mommas that have no clue what is around the corner, or have just recently shared some of the joys of being a milking machine.

As I said at the start, this is a very personal experience so I can only share what happened to me.  BébéFF is extremely gourmand and as a result had located my nipple and started suckling before I even had chance to get my eyes back in focus after the minor trauma of getting him out.  Pretty sure I was shouting ” Help! I  can’t actually see anything! Have I had a baby?!” whilst he got down to business.  I was lucky that he was a hungry baby.

I was also lucky to have a wonderful midwife who took the time to show me the ropes.  I explained to her that I probably wouldn’t be able to breastfeed given my boobs are so small.  She clarified to me that apparently “that is not a thing“.  Accompanied by a withering look. Fair.  In fact, small boobies really come into their own for this job.  You have just got to get set up.

Side note: There is nothing more bizarre than having a random lady grab your new baby and your boob and try to connect the two, but I have to tell you, it worked.  A few attempts at bouncing my boob against his unsuspecting mouth and he was latched.  If you can get a midwife to give you some tuition, do it.  The sooner you can get bébé on that boobie the better.

I was also very lucky to get home to a quiet, calm house quickly, and be waited on hand and foot.  I fully appreciate this is not always possible, and certainly not when you are on bébé number 2+.  Quick tip from our NCT classes: have a sports-capped bottle of water in every room.  Once you sit down to feed, you are not gonna be able to move, and you will only have one hand free, at best.  You will never know such thirst.  It’s like bébé is drinking directement from you.

The next thing to note is that in the first days postpartum you will be repeatedly asked if “your milk has come in“.  No, you’re not being asked if Monty the Milkman has been to visit (heaven knows you need the milk, but do milkmen even still exist?!).  In fact, after a few days (3-5 usually) of violent suckling of the magical creamy colostrum you have produced, actual milk will start to fill your boobs. You will know when it happens. Believe me. I’ve mentioned “the Pamela” effect before.  My babylons got so big I genuinely couldn’t put my arms down by my sides.  It was funny for 5 minutes.  Then I needed my arms back.

Unfortunately, I had to decline offers to be in the new Baywatch movie due to the rest of my body being used in Scream 9.

Another thing to note is that just because you are producing milk, you don’t actually need to drink milk.  Can you believe that? Yes, a health visitor genuinely took her time to explain that one to me. Brilliant.  Good job I’m here to tell you all this, eh?!

What you do need to do is drink plenty of liquids and you will likely find you are super hungry.  This is where the cake comes in particularly useful.  I was told to eat plenty. So I did. Don’t have to tell me twice! But seriously, it probably helps you to make the good milky stuff.  500 calories extra is just a rough indicator.  I aimed for about 2 million extra and pretty much nailed it.

Be sure to get yourself measured once you are established, as the boobies are in their element and will require a new range of boulder-holders.  When the assistant announced my new measurements, I had to hold myself back from asking them to announce it over the tannoy.  I almost got a T-shirt made.  They eventually neutralise but I was astonished by the sheer volume of material in some of my bras.  Epic.

I’m sorry to say that you will likely be bitterly disappointed with the range of nursing clothing that is available.  In part this is because you actually don’t need special clothes with hidden pockets and access areas.  You just need bigger tops and ideally button-up or zip-up top layers, with a vest top underneath.  I know, it’s annoying to hear, I’m not usually one to shy away from any opportunity to buy clothes you “need”, but like the maternity ranges available around here, you will mostly spend your time (and money) being disappointed by the poor quality “specially-designed” products, and resort to areas of your existing wardrobe you forgot you had.  So buy a load of vest tops and some comfy tees in a couple of sizes up from your normal size.  Gap, H&M and Toppers are always reliable.

(By the way, one of the most ridiculous things about maternity shopping is that most of the maternity ranges aren’t available to try in store.  The one time you really blumming need to try the clothes on and you can’t.  Seriously. What is that about?)

Some things you need to become familiar with if you are planning to breastfeed:

  • nursing bras – think soft, non-wired, clippy and probably the ugliest bras you will ever own.  I can recommend John Lewis for comfortable bras (satin crop tops are amaze) but if you have babylons the size of watermelons you probably need to just invest in two hammocks.
  • breast pads – equally exciting as other types of female pads.  You need these to prevent your boobs leaking.  Yes, your boobs may leak.  Like a tap. You can get the Lanisoh ones, but if you go through hundreds of these as you may well do at the start, look out for Boots mega boxes and similar supermarket versions. They are all have different levels of packaging, softness and stickyness on the back.
  • nipple creamLanisoh Lanolin. Buy two tubes of it immediately. Apply it every time bébé goes anywhere near your nipples.
  • breast pump – a contraption used to extract milk from ze boobies when you want to increase your supply / build up a freezer stock / escape for a mad night on the town (more likely to a yoga class or for a bit more sleep, but we can dream).  These come in “manual” or “electric”.  Both will make you feel a bit like a farmyard animal. Manuals are smaller, lighter, portable and cheaper.  Electrics are more efficient, more pricey but don’t require an impromptu forearm workout.  If you are planning to pump more than very occasionally, I recommend the electric variety.  You get used to the terrible repetitive buzzing noise fairly quickly.
  • bottles and pouches and freezing milk solutions.  I only discovered this later on, thanks to my lovely NCT friend, but the Tommee Tippee Express and Go pouches are excellent. Highly recommend.

 

Now I said the consequences of breastfeeding can be hilarious.  Well, I never thought I would be saying this, but I want this blog to be frank.  So when your boobs squirt milk all over your bébé, couch, and often an unsuspecting family member (or worse) you have got to laugh.  This really does happen.  I’ve lost count of the number of times BébéFF started squirming around under my various protective layers, and as I pulled him out I could see why.  Milk everywhere.  When bébé pulls off your boob, your boob won’t just stop what it’s doing.  Be warned. Always have a muslin to hand for those awkward moments.  It’s funny and a bit embarrassing.

I haven’t really mentioned breastfeeding in public, that’s another of those mummy milestones and slightly controversial topics I don’t feel ready to face today.  Suffice to say, my own view is you get on and feed your bébé wherever the heck you need to.  If you are in a place you are legally entitled to be (i.e. a public place) then you are legally entitled to feed  your bébé there too.  Pretty sure that is the law.

I shall finish with this thought of the day.

When crumbs fall down your top (which happens often) technically they have been boobie trapped.

You are welcome. ❤