It’s never too early to start thinking about how you’re going to feed your baby. I had decided early in my first pregnancy that I would do my best to breastfeed as much as I could, for as long as I could, but I made the conscious decision not to stress too much about it. I do believe that, nutritionally, “breast is best”, but I also feel that enjoying the early days with your baby is crucial – and if this is going to be difficult because of breastfeeding, then you need to look at other options so that your parenting experience is as stress-free as it can be. I highly recommend the NHS, whose nurses and consultants are a life-line to so many sleep-deprived new mums, trying to work out what’s best for them and for their little ones.
As it turned out, I got lucky – I didn’t find breast feeding impossibly difficult, and while I wouldn’t say that it was always easy, it was something I was happy to do for each of my girls. Having researched it quite a bit beforehand, and spoken to (in fact, grilled!) many of my “mummy” friends, I think that I had realistic expectations about what breast-feeding would entail. I didn’t go into it thinking that it was going to be all flowing white cotton and soft lighting! So when I – inevitably – suffered from mastitis and was plagued with sore, cracked nipples (because doesn’t everyone who breastfeeds get struck down at some point or another?), I didn’t panic. Likewise, I knew that with each of the babies it would take time to develop our routine, to find the best position, to work out what sort of feeder they were.
What I really love about breast-feeding is the ease it gives you – no worrying about preparing or warming bottles, no getting caught out on the go, it’s free! – and knowing that it’s packed full of all the essential nutrients, antibodies and enzymes which your growing baby needs. Also, I love how amazing the human body is that the milk actually adapts to meet the baby’s changing needs.
The hardest thing of all when you’re breastfeeding is often to remember to be kind to yourself. You are feeding another human – with just your body! It’s quite amazing when you think about it. But this little miracle can take its toll. So be sure to have plenty of nutrient-rich snacks on hand, and eat whenever you’re hungry. Now is not the time to start thinking about dropping any baby weight. It’s healthy to stay fit as having a new baby is a marathon but you need extra calories, and extra energy. Nuts, dried fruit, granola, avocados, dips… stock up, so that you have all the extra essential fatty acids and omega oils which your body needs.
Snacks aside, your main meals of the day – as many of them as you need! – should, wherever possible, comprise fresh, seasonal produce, of as many colours as you can fit on your plate! Thus, without having to put too much thought into it, you’ll be giving yourself a variety of vitamins and minerals at their optimum nutritional value. This is the basis of The Pure Package’s Mum & Baby Programme which I launched during my first pregnancy.
“The Pure package is a bit of a luxury but I wanted to make sure my baby had all the nutrients he needs. I’m on the ‘Mum & Baby’ plan so it ensures a balanced diet for new mums who are breastfeeding” – Kimberley Walsh
For what it’s worth, this would be my advice to anyone thinking about, or struggling with breastfeeding. (And this knowledge has been hard-earned from about 4 years of feeding babes from my own body!!)
- Firstly, make cabbage leaves your friend. Keep a large cabbage in the fridge, and whenever you’re uncomfortable, snap off a leave and place it in your bra, over your breast – for instant, blissful relief. (Just don’t forget to take it out – they get a bit stinky after a few hours!)
- Secondly – experiment with different feeding positions, and do your best to find a comfortable lying-down one. This will mean that you can take the chance to relax when you’re feeding (if you’re lucky enough to be somewhere where you can lie down) – and, crucially, you and baby can snuggle up together during the night feed.
- Thirdly – have faith in your body. It knows what it’s doing (even if you feel like you don’t), and it knows how to heal. When those cracked nipples become too much to bear and you feel like you will never be better – you will.
- Fourthly – Your body can always do with a little help, however, so invest in the best nipple cream you can buy. I loved Lansinoh HPA Lanolin cream which, with the cabbage leaves, I kept on hand at all times.
- Fifthly (is that a word??) – some flexibility can be a good thing. Because of my busy life – and frankly I knew I would need the occasional break from breastfeeding – I introduced each of the kids to the bottle early on. I was told by a wise nurse that if you don’t do this within the first few weeks, it can be almost impossible to introduce it later. So with that in mind, each of my girls learned to use a bottle when they were a couple of weeks old, and I learned to use a pump machine! Yes, I felt somewhat bovine doing it – really, there’s just nothing as un-sexy as being hooked up to a milking machine, is there?? – but oh! the freedom it gave me!
- Finally – try not to panic. If you’re absolutely determined to breast-feed, but it just doesn’t seem to be working for you, there are plenty of sources for help, guidance and advice. (Again, the NHS should be your first port of call.)
Whatever you decide to do, remember to enjoy this special time. Breast or bottle feeding provides many cherished moments so make the most of it – especially as your baby will be on to solids in no time which come with its own, um, joys…!