Called this feeding part 1 as obviously Jess is still fully breastfeeding (apart from the lick of ice cream she had last week. And the raspberry coulis. And the wild strawberry..... etc etc). As time goes on things will get more varied so feeding part 2 will probably appear at some point!
Also, very little of this will be news to mothers but maybe for mothers to be or mothers to be to be it may be of some help or interest.
Breastfeeding has really blown me away. I was expecting it to be good but embarrassing and demanding. It has been beyond good and the embarrassment or any feeling that it is an embuggerance at all has just melted away. You find yourself in an odd head space where getting your boobs out seems like completely normal behaviour.
I should perhaps point out that I am a massive advocate of breastfeeding for the benefits it has for bonding with your child and the benefits to yours and their health, this probably extends to me being excessively anti formula feeding but to be honest I cannot see that there are many reasons you would formula feed your child.
When Jess was born one of the first things she did (after peeing on me) was latch on and I loved the fact that she (in common with all babies) had the inbuilt desire and ability to do that. Unfortunately my milk didn't actually come on properly so we were back in hospital when she was four days old with a jaundiced, dehydrated and skinny baby and an exhausted and upset me. I was gutted that her first proper feed came from a bottle of cow and gate and that she was so knackered she zonked out immediately post feed for her first proper sleep since we were initially discharged. The feeling that I couldn't provide for her what she so clearly needed and what I was designed to give was devastating. On top of that the smell of formula made me want to heave, I was terrified that I wouldn't be able to breastfeed and I was being milked like a cow with an electric breast pump.
Four days later we were discharged fully breastfeeding with a much less tangerine Jess. My ever fantastic partner was his usual practical self and had brought a couple of cartons of formula in case of emergencies despite me whinging that I didn't want them (although it was good to know they were tucked away in the cupboard and even better that there they have stayed!)
Since then the intensely physical relationship that has developed with Jess through breastfeeding has been bizarre and fascinating. At the beginning it used to have me in fits of giggles as it does tickle and the hormone boost just put me in pink cloud land, I've gotten over this, thank god, but it still makes me feel happy and calm and generally that all is good with the world. The letdown thing is a weird one too, the only way I can describe it is that if feels as if your nipple is being clamped from the inside, can occasionally be painful if you're full to brimming but it's not unpleasant pain (thanks to the oxytocin I imagine) that only lasts for a few seconds and you do get used to it. The supply and demand thing is also an interesting one. When I have a full supply is dictated by Jess so now she is five months and sleeping through the night I wake up with a good breakfast for her but that's the only time I'm ever busting at the seams as it were!
I was also led to believe that if you are breastfeeding your child they will be feeding every two or three hours day and night for up to an hour at a time. You are made to feel that formula fed babies get it down quicker and are more regimented. I would say in my experience that this doesn't hold true which leads me to the earth shattering conclusion that all mothers and babies are.... different!! Jess started to sleep longer through the night very quickly and now will do a good twelve to thirteen hours most nights. During the day she has what she wants when she wants and seems to be a very efficient feeder getting what she needs quickly. This is probably tied in with milk flow too and my milk flow seems to be quite heavy or fast or whatever adjective you wish to employ! Needless to say I have got the cat in the face when in full force.... I was also told that breastfed babies poo very regularly and when she was little (er) this was the case but now I have to deal with one big one every three or four days again leading me to think that you can't generalise about these things.
The great thing about breastfeeding is that you can do it anywhere and you don't need any specialist equipment apart from some muslin squares and nipple pads. I really couldn't be arsed with faffing around making up bottles of formula and sterilising bits and bobs. The only thing I can really say is I have had a little difficulty finding nipple pads I really like. These are essential as when your baby is sucking on one boob you get let down from both. The letdown in the spare boob can be mostly stopped by pressing on it but that can be tricky so breastpads are needed! And they do leak when full and if there is one thing I hate it's wandering around with damp clothes.
So, I have tried bravado reusable breast pads, lansinoh disposable breast pads and lilypadz.
The bravado ones just don't work for me, they aren't waterproof so the milk just went straight though and out to my clothes, took a little longer than it might have but still no good. I would still maybe recommend them when not completely breastfeeding and I may get back to you all on that!
Lansinoh disposables are great, very rarely leak, very discreet and I can use one pair during the day and a fresh pair at night. However I hate that they are disposable, that they have some sort of absorbent gel in them and that they are all individually wrapped. However I wouldn't be without them. They are also better than the french ones I have seen which have a fake nipple on them to show through your clothes. Freaky!
LilyPadz..... My god, I wanted these to work so much! They are basically plasticy, sticky, flexible dome things that you stick over your nipple and they work by supplying the pressure needed to prevent let down. I have used them and being able to ponce about without a bra on was luxurious but they just didn't work that well. I couldn't feel them when they were on which was great and they stick brilliantly but didn't, for me, stop let down completely so you'd wind up with a small reservoir of milk behind them, or they'd just leak. Also they got covered in cat hair really quickly which kind of grossed me out a bit! Might work better if you don't have a cat and have a more controlled milk flow / aren't feeding 100%.
Would also recommend mothercare (despite hating their directors political views) for their extensive range of bras, sleeping bras and vests. My sister particularly recommends the post pregnancy nursing vest for it's wobbly bits taming properties.
I haven't covered mastitis or cracked nipples as I have had neither. I do realise this makes me very lucky and if I hadn't had such an easy time of it I might feel differently but I still believe that it is worth perservering. I was recommended lansinoh nipple balm for cracked nipples which I got just in case and found that it really helped my lips which were cracked to buggery after the gas and air!
Anyway in the near future we will beginning weaning Jess and I'm hoping to do baby led weaning which will be fun! I will let you all know how we get on.