There’s nothing more frustrating than when your baby won’t feed and you know she’s hungry! She goes on, she goes off, she cries, she snuffles around and looks for the breast, she opens her mouth wide, latches on, sucks a few times, then pulls off, and cries again. Lots of mums call me with this scenario — crying themselves — believing their milk is ‘bad’, they don’t have enough, or there’s something wrong with their baby. Rarely is it any of these reasons.
I spend so much of my time working out ways to protect and prolong breastfeeding, I am sometimes kind of thrown when someone wants to know how to wean. But these mums need my help, too. Whether a baby is 6 weeks old, 6 months, 12 months, or a walking, talking toddler, I always suggest a slow weaning, both for the sake of your child and your boobs!
I sometimes find myself defending why I breastfeed, but when I think about it, maybe it’s because we boobie mummies are a minority in the western world, and a lot of people don’t really understand how the whole process works. There are also some doozies out there, and I love to counteract them with a few hard facts. Here are a few breastfeeding myths I’ve come across, and a few facts to throw back at ‘em:
If I don’t breastfeed, I’ll save my boobs from getting saggy
We’ve all been there. A long day with a toddler in a less-than-kid-friendly environment, and just when you really need to concentrate, ‘bang!’ the meltdown happens. This is exactly the situation when Ingrid Pullen, a Northern NSW mum to 22-month-old Tashi experienced when her partner, singer/songwriter Dallas James, went on stage for a blind audition on The Voice, which aired on TV on Thursday, May 8. She did what all mums of breastfed littlies would do — scooped her son into her lap and offered him her breast, which was gratefully accepted.
Whether your boobs resemble fried eggs, tennis balls, cantaloupes or watermelons, there's a breastfeeding technique for you! Nipples can be even more varied in size and shape — I've seen thick ones, pointy shaped, inverted, retracted, flat, pink or brown, areolas as big as saucers and ones like little bottle tops, ones that point down, out, up, sideways, or even one of each. Whatever the size or shape, your baby will learn to work with what is on offer! They are her mum's boobs, and they are just right for her.
The other day I saw a list of foods a breastfeeding mother ‘should’ avoid. The list was long, a whole page. Mums were passing it onto each other willy nilly and drastically adapting their diets in a quest to conjure up the perfect no-cry baby. No spinach, peas, cabbage or gassy foods, they might give baby wind (some mummies find this to be true, but not always so!). Caffeine and dairy, nope, can’t have those either: ‘Just a soy decaf latte please, I’m breastfeeding’.
I chat to heaps of mums who are in a routine of topping up their newborns with expressed breastmilk or formula after feeds. The reason these little ones are prescribed this extra milk varies hugely depending on the health professional they are working with. Sometimes babies are born a little early and don’t quite get it yet, are fussy and difficult to attach, uncoordinated suckers, haven’t regained their birth weight, or maybe have a condition like tongue-tie or poor muscle tone.
When I went back to the office after 12 months maternity leave my little 1-year-old breastfed bub spent the whole day away from me for the very first time. After picking up the older ones from school, we all got home, and together sat on the couch for a well-earned rest and a long, snuggly feed. I was too pooped to make dinner (leftovers and baked beans became the menu), but, hey, I guess that’s the life of a working mum. I’ve gone back to paid work after all three of my children and breastfed them throughout the process.
‘She’s such a good baby, she sleeps all the time’. If I ever hear this statement from the parent of a newborn, a big red flag goes up. It’s exhausting mothering a tiny bubba. Although I’d like the mummy to get as much rest as she can (sleep when baby sleeps!), as a breastfeeding counsellor, I WANT to hear that these little ones are being demanding, have wakeful, unsettled periods, that mum can barely fit in a shower, that they want to feed on and off for hours on end.
Although our boobs are pretty clever most of the time, sometimes they get us into a bit of strife when they form milk blisters called blebs, white spots, and blocked ducts that can turn nasty if quick treatment isn’t started. I thought I’d give you a bit of a rundown of these breast baddies and how to zap them away.