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What I wish I'd known...

My breastfeeding journey has recently come to an end. My third child had a last feed over the Summer. I never thought I would breastfeed for as long, or that it would end in such a gentle, gradual way when my child decided and was ready to wean. What a nice way to say goodbye to a special time with my child.

My breastfeeding journey had speed bumps along the way! Sometimes I wish that I had breastfed my older children for longer, but I am happy that I tried, and fed them for as long as I did.

So, what I wish I'd known:

Just how amazing it is to be a mother. In my pregnancy, I think I would have been happy to have some idea of what was ahead. The love I feel for my children bowls me over. I have an extra frown line, but I have lots of new laughter lines. It has been lots of fun and we have all grown through the ups and downs along the way.

There is no such thing as a stupid question. Sometimes I thought things are going smoothly for everyone else. I can’t ask that question. Turns out there were lots of people to ask – the midwives in the hospital, my public health nurses (we had a few with a few house moves and all were very helpful), my local La Leche League Leader and my friends who had children. Everyone was so understanding.

It’s okay to ask whatever you need to ask. The Ask the Expert Lactation Consultants on www.breastfeeding.ie are wonderful for breastfeeding questions and I would have used the service if it was there when I was starting out.

New born babies feed often, and that is normal

You don’t need to read an Encyclopaedia to breastfeed, but a few things are handy to know beforehand. New born babies feed often, and that is normal. In the early days of feeding your baby at the breast, it can sometimes feel like baby is feeding very often. This is a normal feeding pattern.

A Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) once said to me count all the times in 24 hours that you have something to eat in 24 hours – count your meals, snacks, cups of tea, sips of water, everything – and yes! I did put something to my mouth 12 times in 24 hours. So for baby 12 times in 24 hours in the early days is perfectly normal. As time goes on your baby will feed less often but there will be some busy feeding days too, when your baby is growing.

Yellow poos are good!

I got a bit of a fright when I first saw that bright, yellow seedy poo, and when my public health nurse called I asked if it was okay. I was amused at how excited she was about this ‘lovely poo’. Yellow seedy poos and lots of wet nappies are a good way of knowing that your baby is getting enough.

Laid back breastfeeding positions can help

I used laid back nursing positions with my 3rd baby and it was so comfortable. I wish I had tried it with my first baby to help him latch. It is like the comfortable position you are in if you are lying back on a couch watching TV. I used a poof as a footstool and a few cushions around me for comfort.

When my third baby was born and the midwife laid him on me, I was in a semi-reclined laid back position and it really helped with that first feed.

It’s okay to ask for help

My friends and family that called, brought something I needed and asked how they could help, were life savers. With my first baby, at the start I’d say ‘ah no I’m grand thanks’.  I soon learned! By baby no. 3 it was ‘it would be great if you could bring some newborn nappies’ or ‘could you be a pet and put a wash on for me?’ That kind of practical help makes all the difference and means you can spend time with your baby. People are happy to help.

It’s okay to say no to visitors or ask them not to stay long, if you are tired and don’t feel up to it. And you don’t have to play pass the parcel with your baby! Everybody may want to hold your new baby but it’s okay to say something like - we’re getting to know each other at the moment, I’d love you to hold her when she’s a bit bigger.

You can go to a Breastfeeding Support Group with a bottle.

My first baby was born a few weeks early and had difficulty latching. I was expressing my milk and I felt I couldn’t go to the support group with my bottle of milk. It wasn’t until I had my third that I finally went to the support group, and I thought ‘why didn’t I go before now’ with my other children.

It was such a nice place to go to. A busy place, as gatherings of mums and babies are, but a great place to meet other mums, to get reassure that you are doing ok, and help, tips and support to help you overcome any challenges along the way.

It does get easier.

In the early day, breastfeeding can be tough. For some of my friends everything went smoothly from the start. For me the let-down you feel in the first few seconds of a feed was very uncomfortable. I used to count to ten, or twenty with gritted teeth until it was gone. The rest of the feed was comfortable so I knew it was okay. After 2 weeks I didn’t get that let down feeling anymore and that was a relief. I had said to myself ‘if I can get through the first fortnight’ so that was a relief. Then I thought ‘if I can get to the 6 week check!’

Having a newborn baby in the house is wonderful, but tiring, emotional and sometimes draining. I realised it does get easier over time and you get used to each other and I realised that ‘rest when the baby is sleeping’ is good advice even if your house is a mess.

Breastfeeding gets easier over time too. I was very shy about breastfeeding out and about at the start. I used to wish my baby would wake up for a feed before I left the car, so I didn’t have to do it in the shopping centre. After a while, I knew where the benches were where I could sit down to feed my baby before doing the grocery shopping, and if my baby needed to feed in the supermarket, I could manage that too. Breastfeeding was now really handy and convenient.

Details of breastfeeding support groups and answers to your breastfeeding questions are available on www.breastfeeding.ie