Breastfeeding: A Midwife’s Perspective

Our final guest post comes from Harriet, an experienced midwife in the NHS. She has worked in a variety of settings, from hospitals to homes – she even had a little accidental cameo in One Born Every Minute. She’s also Mummy to 2 gorgeous pups, Lola and Nellie, as well as being a yogi.

As a midwife one of my favourite parts of my role is supporting and empowering women who want to breastfeed. This starts with conversations during pregnancy about breastfeeding, exploring the woman’s plans about feeding her baby, and I can help start the couple prepare for their breastfeeding journey. After birth, I love watching babies snuggle skin to skin, making their way to the breast, and looking up at their mum. Supporting mothers with that amazing first feed is so rewarding, empowering them to learn with their baby and begin their breastfeeding journey is one of the best parts of the job. Breastfeeding can also be challenging, and I try to prepare couples for the reality of a journey which is not always plain sailing, it is entirely normal to have wobbles, and moments of self-doubt, but there are so many victories and moments of pride to be found also. I always try and involve partners, sisters, grandparents, friends in breastfeeding conversations if they are visiting, because they are absolutely vital in supporting the mother on her journey once she is at home.

Top tips for a breastfeeding mum:

• Try to go to a breastfeeding group or class, with your birth partner too, so that they can learn how to support you with feeding. Team work makes the dream work!

• Get comfy, you may be there a while feeding! Keep hydrated, and it takes roughly 600kcals a day extra to breastfeed, so keep the snacks and meals coming.

• Ask your midwife to show you a few different positions to feed in, as this is helpful to alternate where the pressure on your nipple during sucking and helps drain all the breast.

• Responsive feeding is best- babies show signs they are hungry, like rooting for the breast, sucking hands, craning their neck to try and find the breast. Ideally do not use dummies, as this can mask these signs and lead to confusion between dummies and the nipple.

• You know that feeling when you’ve waited over an hour for your meal at a restaurant and you’re ready to go to a drive- through instead because you’re so over waiting? Babies cry as a last resort for a feed, so always try and start feeding before baby reaches this point. It is also a myth that you can cuddle or feed a breastfed baby too much, babies want to be close and held, this is entirely natural and they won’t become ‘spoilt’.

• Ask your midwife to show you how to hand express, in case when the milk comes in your breasts get engorged. Sometimes babies struggle to latch onto a bigger and swollen breast, so expressing a little milk off before feeding baby can help her to latch.

• Your baby will get all her food and drink from good breastfeeding, and like us, sometimes she will want a snack, or a quick drink, perhaps a comfort feed, or a big 3 course meal, so it is normal for feeds to vary in length.

• It is normal for breastfed babies to feed frequently in the early days, this is your baby’s way of ordering plenty of milk. Hormone levels are higher at night, so your baby is clever and is likely to feed more overnight, or cluster feed. Don’t worry, you’re doing a fabulous job, and naps in the day are really important to prepare for night feeds.

• Visual guides are helpful, like Youtube, ‘off to the best start’ and popping along to a breastfeeding group can be helpful and reassuring.

• Don’t compare your baby’s feeding pattern to a bottle fed baby- the milks have very different components and are digested very differently, so the two are not comparable. You are not starving your baby, just because she doesn’t sleep through the night like your neighbour’s baby.

• Key phrases to help remind you of good positioning are:

1. ‘Tummy to mummy’- have baby skin to skin ideally to aid bonding, let down and brain development. Keep baby’s tummy turned in towards you with her head, neck and body in a straight line.

2. ‘Nose-to-nipple’- line baby up so that her nose is opposite the nipple, this will stimulate her to open her mouth and take a wide latch of the areola (darker area around the nipple.)

3. ‘Angle of the dangle’- Our breasts are all different shapes, sizes and are all angled differently. It’s best to work with your body, and move baby accordingly to line up with you. Resist the temptation to move the breast towards baby, as this can cause problems with the latch (once you let go, the breast will move back to where it usually is!)

I would love to see more women breastfeed in the future, but I think a lot has to change in our society and healthcare for that to happen. Why do we as a society deem it normal to supplement with cows-milk and continue to drink it way into adulthood, but so many feel uncomfortable being around a mother breastfeeding her baby like nature intended? It’s sad to think that the UK has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, and a large part of that is to do with how we as a society view breastfeeding. We do not nurture or support new mums enough to breastfeed. Despite this, there are so many amazing groups, social media accounts and teaching tools available, and there is always someone to turn to for advice and reassurance. As professionals we can give a lot of support and advice, but we are not with women for long, and there is a lot more we could be doing as a society to increase breastfeeding.

So, the next time a friend mentions to you she is thinking of breastfeeding, but is worried what her friends might think, remember to give plenty of words of encouragement and perhaps you could invite her round for coffee with your other friend who’s breastfed for 6 months, so she can give some tips and explain she felt the same at first. When you’re next in line at a café and you see an awesome new mum breastfeeding in the corner, why not pop over with a glass of water and a slice of cake, and remind her she’s amazing and she’s welcome to feed her baby wherever you are. It’s part of a midwife’s job to start a mother and baby off on their breastfeeding journey, but it’s up to all of us to love those mothers and nurture them along the way. Who can you reach out to today to support on their breastfeeding journey?

Thank you, Harriet. What fantastic tips for mums-to-be and those who want to support new breastfeeders! How well they are supported can make or break a mum’s experience of feeding.

Who can you reach out to today to support on their breastfeeding journey?

Breastfeeding: Tongue Tie

Today we meet Natalie and she talks to us about how an undiagnosed tongue tie affected her breastfeeding journey. She also gives some great tips for newbies! Whilst being busy mummy, wife and teacher, Natalie also runs her own business: making beautiful bits for beautiful tots. You can find her on Instagram as @FinPin_Baby or on Etsy here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/FinPinBaby

My little man is Finlay. He is a cheeky and surprisingly well behaved 15 month old laddy who I managed to breast feed in some way until he was 6 months old. It was a massive struggle and I am now, looking back, incredibly proud that we even made it there.

The early days were quite challenging when it came to feeding Fin. He had an undiagnosed posterior tongue tie and feeds would last hours and he was still losing a LOT of weight. He dipped below his allotted 10% margin and I was bashed by midwives saying ‘you’re doing it wrong’ I was unsupported by some family members who told me ‘just give him a bottle’ and I felt like I was failing as a mum. Having had counselling it’s become apparent this is a massive part of my anxiety that developed postnatally. I felt I was failing my child. A helpful breastfeeding group suggested I look for a tie on about day 7, by this point we had already bowed to pressures and given Fin some formula to keep people off my back, and help him gain weight. I was sure, even as a first time mama, that he had one. All the doctors and midwives had missed it and lo and behold- when asked to check they confirmed it was there. He was booked for a snip a few days later. By this point combi feeding had become the norm and what Fin had developed a taste for. So we continued. I got my time with him on the boob each feed and he got a bottle thereafter to satiate his huge appetite. We kept this up for months and months before it petered off somewhat at about 4 months. We strung it out to 6 and finally he just stopped wanting me. It was bitter sweet that my little boy had decided he no longer needed mummy in that way.

Top tips. Well… number one. Trying to cover your baby with a modesty cover requires more skills than all of The Avengers assembled together. Do yourself and baby a favour, just go for it and ignore people. I found sitting facing the wall helped if I was on my own until baby latched OR if I was with a partner asking them to be a ‘human shield’ whilst I adjusted and got baby on. If you struggle to get baby latched google the ‘flipple’ technique. Always useful when you’re both getting aggravated. Also, if you want to use a dummy, do. I found my laddy liked Mam ones as they’re flatter and less obnoxious in the mouth. I still knew when he wanted a feed. As lots of other breast feeding mummies who use dummies do.

I think in terms of what I most enjoyed, it was 2 things. One, that it was incredible to bond with them when doing it. You really do feel a closeness that a bottle just can’t get you in my opinion, having done both ways. And two, it’s incredibly quick when baby is having an actual meltdown. I remember a rainy day last summer in Aviemore when he was having a frommy and I simply fed him whilst walking the streets and looking in shops. He was so content he fell asleep and we could pop him back in the buggy and continue on our way. We didn’t have to fuss on with bottles and formula and getting the temperature right and things.

I was always sure I wanted to breast feed in whatever way I could. I’m so glad I did and I feel much more confident going forward next time.

Thanks, Natalie, as ever!

Great support is really important when you’re starting breastfeeding. If you want to support your friend who has just had a baby and wants to breastfeed, supporting her with that is a great thing. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never breastfed, you can still tell her she is doing a great job. If you’d like tips on how you can do that, you can find some here from La Leche League: https://www.laleche.org.uk/supporting-a-breastfeeding-mother/#Ways

To find out more about tongue ties head over here: https://www.nct.org.uk/parenting/tongue-tie

Breastfeeding: Through the School Gates

Morning campers! Today Megan brings us her story of what society calls extended feeding. I hope you’ll really enjoy, as Megan’s breastfeeding journey spans 8 years and she brings fantastic insight.

“Would you be able to write something about extended breastfeeding to share with others and any tips you have for those just starting on their breastfeeding journey?”

“Er… ok I’ll give it a go.” and so I’m sat here now pondering what to write without coming across as one of those stereotypical hippy mummy who has a child hanging off her breast at every opportunity whilst staging a breast feed sit in at a swimming pool or the like.

Firstly I’ve never taken part in one of those.  The nearest I’ve come to a sit in is trapped under a sleepy breastfeeding little one on the sofa at home cursing myself for not having made sure the remote/drink/snacks were within arm reach.  Ah my first tip for the newly initiated – make sure you have provisions and entertainment within arm’s length or you’ll be sat twiddling your thumbs until the little one has finished their feed/woken up.

I don’t think I could be considered a hippy or a yummy mummy either.  More like slummy mummy trying to keep her wits about her!

So how did I end up in the position of feeding my children way past what is seen as the norm?  To be honest I’m not really sure, it kind of just happened.  One day I was feeding a tiny little baby and then in a blink of an eye a small child.

When you are first presented with a hungry baby squawking for milk, it seems odd to shove your breast into their mouth.  That sensation of them sucking is a weird one.  The best way I’ve found to explain it is to tell you to take hold of one of your fingers and tug whilst squeezing with your other hand.  Even this can’t really give you a true understanding of it.

I did not have a clue how to breast feed my first baby.  I didn’t know many others with a baby and certainly never watched to see how it was done.  Being typically British I had always averted my eyes if anyone had breastfed near me, so not surprising really that I was clueless about it. It didn’t come naturally to me either, took me a few attempts with the help of a midwife and my lovely Mum to get the hang of it.  Trust me once you’ve bared your legs and push a baby out of your body, someone grabbing your breast to hold it in place whilst attaching a baby for a feed is not embarrassing at all.  In fact anything these days that requires a close look at my body by a medical professional doesn’t faze me at all… but I’m going off on a tandem there.  Be good for another blog though – the joys of prolapses and small children in the bathroom with you…

One of the best bit of advice I was given by a friend was to make sure I was sat comfy with cushions behind my back to feed.  This stops you from slouching in a bad position when feeding.  The nose to nipple tip is also a great one to remember.  No not your nose, the baby’s nose as it prompts them to open their mouth wide to get a good latch.

One thing no one ever tells you about until afterwards is that it ruddy hurts when you first start breastfeeding.  Why?  Well your nipple isn’t use to feeding a little one.  Think of it like breaking in a new pair of shoes where they give you a blister at first, but then over time they become really comfortable.  It can take a few weeks for breastfeeding not to hurt, and this is often why breast feeders give up as they think it’s not going to end.  You need to be persistent about taking baby off and repositioning them if feeding is really painful, as it may be they have a poor latch.  It is worth seeking advice too in case baby has a tongue tie which can be another reason why breastfeeding is so difficult.

You’re probably sat there thinking I’m one of those know it all type who fed all her children with great ease.  Actually you would be wrong.  The baby I most struggled to feed wasn’t my first, it was my last.  In some respect that was harder as everyone assumed that because you’ve done it before, you should be a pro at it.  In fact if my last has been my first, I probably would have been one of those who decided to give up breastfeeding sooner than planned because of how difficult and painful it was in the first few months.

Then one day all of a sudden it clicks and you feed without pain.  Baby is content and so are you.  I found it quite relaxing just sitting and feeding my baby.  It never fails to leave me in awe how much comfort breast feeding can bring to a little one who one minute could be screaming and crying, and in the next happily feeding.

No one tells you about how hungry breast feeding can make you.  Some lucky mummies don’t pile on the pounds either whilst breastfeeding regardless of how many biscuits they scoff in a short space of time.  I found as did a number of my friends that on about day 3 or 4 the hunger kicks in as your milk arrives.  Make sure you have plenty of food on standby for this day as you will eat like you have never eaten before!

Just as you get to grips with breastfeeding, teething starts and this results in your little one adjusting their latch.  Occasionally they may bite your nipple and this hurts lots.  My advice is to remove little one from breast and say “No biting!” in a firm voice.  They soon learn that if they bite they don’t get to feed.

I’ve had the little ones that turn to be nosy whilst stretching your nipple as far as it will go as they don’t want to stop feeding.  I’ve had the twiddlers too that poke, prod and twiddle whilst feeding.  Some folk get round this by wearing jewellery that they can fiddle with instead.  I’ve also had one that liked to turn self upside down whilst feeding.  No two child is alike in how they feed which is why it is difficult to say what the best way of breastfeeding is.

Getting back to the focus of this blog post my breastfeeding journey with each of my children has lasted for different lengths of time.  My first ended at 2 years and 1 month after gradually reducing feeds and combined feeding with formula/cow milk.  I ended it as needed to have an operation and was told I wouldn’t be able to feed due to the medication.  Have since found out that I probably could have, had I been given better information.  My second ended around 18 months as lost interest as was a very active child and wanted to be getting on with exploring the world rather than feeding.  My youngest has only recently stopped showing an interest in having milk regularly at nearly 4 and a half years of age but still occasionally snuggles up for a quick feed.  He is the taboo one, the one that society recoils at the idea of breastfeeding for so long.

“You’ll be feeding through the school gates!” “More Titty please Mummy!” said in the voice of a comedy sketch character. “But, but doesn’t it hurt?  The teeth?!”  These are just some of the comments I’ve heard over the years.  The truth is that we as a society have lost our perspective of what is normal.  They aren’t called milk teeth for no reason.  Children lose the natural ability to breastfeed once they start getting adult teeth.  Did you know that breast milk adapts specifically for each feeder, providing them with the essential vitamins and immunity needed?  Breastfeeding a child isn’t just about providing nutrition, it is also about providing comfort and security.  It is also full of health benefits for the mummy too, as it reduces the risk of a number of health conditions such as breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.

Breastfeeding past 6 months shouldn’t be seen as this weird concept, it is totally natural.  I’m lucky in that I have mostly a supportive network of people behind me.  I have also over the years been able to develop my knowledge of breastfeeding and the benefits of it thanks to reading articles and taking part in discussions about it.

It shouldn’t really be called extended breastfeeding either as its natural term feeding.  Don’t you roll your eyes at me, go and look it up if you don’t believe me.

At the end of the day what is important to remember is that it is totally up to the mother and her child to make the decision about their breastfeeding journey, no one else whether that be for a few days, a couple of weeks, 6 months, a year or longer.

Thank you, Megan. Let’s start using that term: natural term feeding.

If you want to read more about the benefits of breastfeeding, you can here: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/benefits-breastfeeding/

If you want to find out about good latch, you can here: https://www.babycentre.co.uk/x553877/how-will-i-know-if-my-baby-is-latched-on-correctly

But remember, you can always speak to your health visitor or GP and they will be able to signpost you to breastfeeding support in your area.

Breastfeeding: Bonding after Hyperemesis

Today’s guest post is written by Laura. She is mum to 2 and has suffered incredibly with hyperemesis (extreme nausea and vomiting) throughout both pregnancies until both babies were born. Laura was on hand to help me (via WhatsApp) during those long night feeds in the first few months. Enjoy!

So it’s World Breastfeeding Week and I’ve been asked by the lovely Olivia to do a guest blog for it.

I’m a mum to Luca (4) and Maximus (2), both individuals in their own right. Luca is my lovely little autistic superstar and Maximus is just bat shit crazy but I love them all the same. Depending on when you ask me.

Breastfeeding? I mean it’s what they were built for right? What I hate about the whole thing is how much other people care about how someone else chooses to feed their baby. Yes, breastfeeding is best scientifically (don’t argue this as you won’t win) but we are fortunate enough to live in a developed world where there are extremely good “alternatives” available which will nourish your baby as they grow up.

I hate how much pressure is put on mothers from BOTH sides. Sometimes the hospitals are too busy to help with establishing breastfeeding so they turn to formula. Sometimes, midwives are too pushy to a new, overwhelmed mum who has just had the worst labour experience possible and here she is having a knitted boob thrown in her face and told to syringe her milk.

I was lucky that breastfeeding came naturally to my boys and myself. I had very little issues. My supply was good and they were consistent. My main reason for breastfeeding? Laziness and it’s cheap. I mean who wants to be paying £10+ a week for formula that I have to make up myself. No thanks. Luca started having issues around weaning age. He wasn’t interested in feeding from me anymore and I ended up with mastitis 3 times. After the 4th time I decided it was time to switch him to formula. He was eating a great weaning diet and went down to 2 bottles a day so it actually worked in perfectly. Maximus I fed until he was almost a year. He did have the odd bottle of formula here and there but I was really proud of my journey with him. He transitioned onto cows milk around a year and our journey was over. Low and behold, he now has a dairy intolerance which means I have to spend about £63744 extra a week on dairy free snacks. Thanks kid.

Breastfeeding wasn’t important to me, before the boys were born. It definitely wasn’t the be all and end all. I always said I would give it a go and stick at it for at least 6 weeks. The first 6 weeks are definitely the hardest. All the cluster feeding. The cracked and bleeding nipples. The feeling that all you’ve done all night is feed feed feed. There were times I wanted to give up but I didn’t. I don’t know why I didn’t. Maybe it was just the convenience of it all. I also never had any issues feeding in public and always felt confident to do so.

My pregnancies, on the other hand, aren’t great. I suffer from Hyperemesis Gravidarum and it robs me of any joy in the early and later stages. Breastfeeding was the best thing that could have happened to me. It allowed me to bond with the babies I fought so hard to keep healthy. I didn’t bond as well as I should have pregnant because of all the issues but it was all forgotten when I was lying there feeding my babies and watching their milk drunk smiles turn into dreams.

I always said I’d never feed past a year. That’s a personal preference. I just didn’t want that for my boys. I wanted them to be independent and not rely on me for that sort of comfort. I find it difficult to watch someone sit and breastfeed their toddlers. I don’t know why. I can’t explain it but if that’s what works for them that’s what works for them. I guess I just couldn’t imagine having Luca sitting on my lap having a causal drink of milk from my boobs.

I am in no way a breastfeeding nazi. I had 2 very good experiences and I’m glad I had the opportunity to breastfeed. I was always on hand to support my other friends who had babies later on my experiences and give them the reassurance that it’s ok if your baby wants to feed every 30 minutes. That it’s ok to sit and cry when you are feeding because you are so exhausted. I was also on hand to support anyone who was having issues with formula. I had the best of both worlds at some point or another and I always believe that fed is best. No matter where it comes from.

Although don’t give them whisky. It’s apparently frowned upon.

A big thank you to Laura for sharing her story with us. Hyperemesis can be incredibly trialling and isolating. You can find out about support here: https://www.pregnancysicknesssupport.org.uk/help/women-suffering/hyperemesis-gravidarum/

Laura has her own witty blog, which you can find over at: https://thesecretchocolatehobnob.wordpress.com/

Breastfeeding: A Preemie Mum’s Determination

Today’s guest story comes from Danielle, who had her son early at 34 weeks. He weighed just 3lbs 4oz. Because of the various demands of having a child prematurely, only 5% of babies leave the hospital being breastfed. What Danielle has achieved is certainly no mean feat!

Joseph is 5 weeks old and I have been establishing breast feeding with him from day 1. This worked slightly differently for us, as Joseph was born 6 weeks early so spent the first 2 weeks in an incubator. He was fed through a nasal gastric tube. However, from day 1 I began expressing which at first was only very tiny amounts in a syringe. It meant that Joseph could have tastes of my milk in his mouth and on his lips.

Once my milk had come through I practised Joseph on the breast for the first time at 6 days old. Joseph was showing all the right signs and even tried a small suckle. This was huge steps for a prem baby. By this point my milk was coming in fast and I was fortunate to be able to use the breast pump at the hospital on special care baby unit (scbu) I stored my breast milk in the freezer there. It was then that all of Joseph’s feeds given through his tube were my expressed milk.

The biggest hurdle for me has been establishing breast feeding with him. It was difficult to be with Joseph all the time when his feeds were due as I was hospitalised myself for some of the time and then relying on lifts from family to get to the hospital. I would have loved to have been there trying to breast feed him all the time if I could. The staff knew how I felt and had a family room available for me to stay in over night so I could have a really good go at establishing his feeding. This was very up and down as Joseph was struggling to latch on. I preserved as much as I could but didn’t want him going hungry. I was then advised to try a bottle with him to see how he would take to the teats again with my milk. Over the 2 nights I stayed to establish feeding I received a number of mixed messages and options from the nurses and doctors which left me very confused as what feeding method I should go ahead with my baby – the main concern being nipple confusion. However the answer to all my problems came about when I was shown a nipple sheild, Joseph latched on and took to this straight away.

After the huge relief of being able to establish breast feeding I felt a huge sense of relief and am really proud of what we have both achieved. I enjoy the close bond me and Joseph have whilst he’s feeding and I tell him how I proud I am of the little fighter he is. Joseph is weighed once a week now and knowing that he is putting on weight well is reassuring. He managed to come home at 20 days old when originally we got told it would be 6-7 weeks before he would leave hospital. I believe this is partly down to all the goodness breast milk offers that has made him so strong.

Before Joseph was born I never really thought much about breast feeding. When friends and family asked me how I was going to feed him I would say that I was going to try at the breast but if it didn’t work it’s not meant to be. I used to be quite reserved about my body and thought I would be nervous about breast feeding him in front of others. However I soon overcame that once having him and believe it is just a natural thing. When you are in labour, your dignity goes out the window, so breastfeeding is nothing compared to this.

My top tip for new mums would be to do what is best for you and your baby. There are so many professionals out there, who all have conflicting opinions. At the end of the day any breast milk your baby is getting is better than none.

Thank you, Danielle and Joseph, for sharing your breastfeeding story with us. How incredibly rewarding it has been for you to fight on and achieve what you have!

Clearly, encouragement from professionals who want to support you is important when you are trying to establish feeding. If you need to speak to someone, ask your midwife or health visitor about getting a breastfeeding support worker to come to you, or see if you can attend a support group local to you.

Association of Breastfeeding Mothers: https://abm.me.uk/find-a-local-breastfeeding-support-group/

Breastfeeding: What I wish I knew

For some reason I have always struggled to write about breastfeeding. It’s been the one thing I am most proud of in my life, and yet I can’t bring myself to share words in a way which is helpful and not upsetting to those who didn’t breastfeed (whether though choice or science).

But, it’s World Breastfeeding Week, from 1st August through to the 7th; a week to celebrate all that breastfeeding is, and all that it can give mothers and children now, and for their whole lives. And so, all this week I will be hosting guest mummies on A New Mum’s Mission, all who will be sharing their own stories, in a celebration of breastfeeding. I hope you’ll see that breastfeeding looks very different for each family, each child. I hope you’ll see that breastfeeding is something worth celebrating.

What I wish I knew before…

It seemed only right that the first post of the week was from me and, as I still can’t quite put into words how I really, truly, deeply feel about breastfeeding, I thought I’d give a brief account of what I wish I had known before.

1. It can hurt in the beginning.

I’m not sure why, but I had the idea that it wouldn’t hurt at all. Perhaps because of everything I’d read which talked of how natural breastfeeding is. I also read a lot saying that it only hurt if their was something wrong with the baby’s latch. The truth is, however that for some people it hurts even with a good latch… and for some people it doesn’t hurt.

Why was I surprised that it hurt? If something is going to suck on to one of the most sensitive parts of your body for hours of the day, your body is going to have to get used to it.

2. Lanolin is amazing.

You can buy lanolin as Lansinoh in the Uk at most supermarket pharmacies. It is AMAZING. I put off buying it for a week or so after my daughter was born, but I wish I’d heard of it and then bought it as soon as possible.

It is incredibly soothing, and you can put it on and not have to wipe it off for baby to feed. On a side note it is also incredible for other issues. Eg. I had really dry lips and lost my lip balm. Problem solved! Nipple cream is worth the pennies.

3. The hunger is real.

I have never known hunger like that of my early breastfeeding months. Top tip from my friend Gemma is to have snacks in every room, just in case. I thought she was being a bit over the top, but oh my goodness she turned out to be so right!

The release in hormones during breastfeeding can make you extremely sleepy, hungry and thirsty too. It’s why I will always return to a little cafe nearby my parents’ where, upon clearing our plates away, the waitress offered me a glass of water because she saw I was breastfeeding.

It happens differently for everyone, of course, but for me the 2am feed was the killer. If I didn’t eat something between 2 and 4 o’clock in the morning, I would wake up at 7am ravenous to the point of being barely able to stand. And so, I would bring a single pack of Belvita Breakfast Cereal Biscuits to bed with me. Then, around 2am I’d eat all 4 of those little biscuits whilst I fed my daughter. It was an extra 400 calories that would see me through the early morning cluster feeding without eating my own arm.

4. Be patient.

It can take 5 days for milk to come in. And in the meantime the baby’s tummy is only the size of a marble. It only needs the tiniest amount of colostrum, and will need topping up regularly with more colostrum.

We painstakingly hand expressed colostrum onto a teaspoon because we weren’t sure of the latch (again, because I thought it was wrong due to the pain, when actually the latch was perfect). I remember telling the midwife on day 1 that we had managed to get 50ml of colostrum and she was thrilled (if not also amazed). I see now, without the new mummy exhaustion, that it was perfectly normal for her to only need such small amounts. It was only from day 4/5 when her stomach was enlarging to that of an apricot that she would need more than colostrum… and that’s when my milk came in.

5. What you pump isn’t what baby gets.

In that first fortnight I recall being quite distressed that I wasn’t able to express very much. It really worried me that she wasn’t getting enough when was on the boob, because you can’t see what’s going in like you can with a bottle.

However, I now know that your baby is far more effective and efficient at sucking milk from your breast than any machine. The amount you are able to express is not necessarily an indicator of how much milk your baby is drinking.

So there you have it. 5 things I wish I had known before I started breastfeeding. None of these pieces of knowledge would have prevented me from breastfeeding. It would have merely given me reassurance in those early days.

Finally, the one thing I wish I had known before I started, the one thing which really matters…

Breastfeeding is hard work, a sacrifice, but it will fill you with infinite joy and pleasure as you see your child physically grow and develop and you know that you did that. Your body did that.