Whether you're nursing your first baby or your fifth, breastfeeding is nearly impossible to perfect. Here, we’ll sort the facts from the fiction and share a few of our top tips, including what to pack in your nappy bag to help with breastfeeding when you're out and about.
Separating fact from fiction
Many of the mothers you meet will want to share advice that's been passed on to them, but how do you know what's wisdom and what's just an old wives' tale? Here are some examples of common myths you might come across.
Angry mums produce sour milk
There's no connection at all between getting angry and your milk turning bad; if your baby gets fussy when you're upset about something, they've probably just picked up on how you're feeling. In fact, nursing releases feel-good hormones that help to calm you and your baby so, if you're angry, sad, or otherwise upset, nothing will cheer you up like breastfeeding and having a cuddle together.
Breastfeeding mums can't dye their hair
There's no danger of contaminating your breastmilk if you dye your hair, as only a very small amount of the chemicals in hair dye make it into your bloodstream through your scalp, according to the NHS. However, if you are still concerned, you can try natural, semi-permanent dyes (like henna) or go for highlights instead.
Mums with inverted nipples can't breastfeed
Women come in all shapes and sizes, and the thought of any new mum thinking they're not good enough for their baby is heart-breaking. It's true that some nipples are easier to latch onto than others, but it's not impossible to breastfeed with inverted nipples. Your milk is fine and there are certain accessories you can buy to help your baby out if they need it.
Breastfeeding is natural, healthy, and a wonderful way to bond with your baby — but it's certainly not easy! Remember:
- Don't do it alone: Look for mum-and-baby groups and meet-ups if you haven't already; they can offer invaluable support if you're struggling. Plus, being around other people who are breastfeeding can improve your confidence and technique. Your partner can play their part, too, even during night-feeding: they can always get up and bring the baby to you to save you the trip.
- Look after yourself: Breastfeeding can be hard on your body, so remember to take the time to relax, bathe, and look after your skin. Gently massage your milk or some lanolin oil on your nipples to stop them getting dry and cracked, and make sure to drink plenty of water. Breastfeeding is thirsty work!
- Be prepared: If you're a first-time mum, you might be surprised by how many items you can store in a nappy bag (hint: it's a lot). Alongside your nappies and changing mat, remember to bring baby wipes, as they can be used to wipe yourself down before nursing. Pack plenty of water to stay hydrated, a nursing cover if you use one and, if you're worried about leaking excess milk, you can bring a top to change into or breast pads that can be popped into your bra.
- Don't let it get you down: Breastfeeding takes a lot of time and effort and can be tricky to get the hang of but, if you stick with it, the results can be amazing. Having said that, you know what's best for you and your baby and bottle-feeding is sometimes the most suitable option. Speak to your health visitor if you're thinking about stopping breastfeeding to find a solution that works for you.
Breastfeeding isn't easy. It's a learning curve for you and your baby and it might take you a while to get over the awkwardness but, once you do, it can feel like the most natural thing in the world.
Here, we'll sort the facts from the fiction when it comes to breastfeeding.