Being a 24/7 milk machine isn’t easy. It takes some serious commitment, energy and a whole host of sacrifices that you might not have anticipated for. It is, however, endlessly rewarding, bonding and extremely convenient.
So, how can we ease these difficulties, maximise the benefits and cherish the moments of the breastfeeding journey?
One handed snacks
Nursing is thirsty (and hungry) work, and increases your fluid and calorie requirements accordingly. Feeding times might end up being the only times you actually sit down, so it makes sense to multi task this time and use it for re-fuelling yourself, as well as your baby. As many a ravenous mother has learned the hard way, there is nothing more frustrating than wrappers, lids and general barriers to food when you only have one hand free to eat with. Make sure you have within grabbing distance some easy-access foods and a drink whenever you sit down to feed. Home-made oat-based biscuits, dried fruit and nuts are not only handy options, they also provide some of the key nutrients needed to help boost milk production.
Access all areas
Nothing is more stressful and likely to leave you in a panicked sweat than clothing that won’t undo fast or discreetly enough when a hungry, crying baby demands. Shelve anything with stubborn buttons and make zip up items your capsule wardrobe. The Milky Tee is a genius side zip t-shirt invention designed to be stylish and practical. It also has the advantage of only revealing just enough boob for feeding purposes, so nursing mums can feel confident even without a sling or cover (don’t even get me started on the stress of those!).
Nursing is sedentary business, so do whatever it takes to make yourself comfortable. A support product such as the Theraline Nursing Cushion can be moulded around your body and waist to provide a support for baby and you, leaving you with two free hands with which to eat, apply make up, knit.... whatever you fancy really!
Pamper those boobs
All that filling and draining, stretching and shrinking, can change the appearance of the skin around and especially under your breasts. Just when you thought all the stretching was over, eh? Daily massage with a nourishing moisturiser can help to prevent and lessen the appearance of stretch marks, so maybe reserve a bit of boob TLC time after every shower.
'I must, I must, I must improve my bust'
Grip each wrist with the opposite hand and create a frame, then push each hand outwards is short sharp movements (to the title beat). This works the muscles supporting the breasts to help resist (some) of the inevitable sagging. Repeat at least 20 times, every other day (or when you remember).
Night feeds can be tough, and it’s easy to feel resentful at being woken up, and at the toll it takes on your mind and body. There is little that can be done about this, but a bit of self-talk and reality checking goes a long way to not only making sleep deprivation survivable, but also - dare I say it - enjoyable. The fact is, your baby won’t be waking at night forever. One day, they’ll be teenagers and staying out until all hours, and instead of being woken to feed, you’ll be awake waiting for the key in the door when they’re safe back at home. The latter - I have heard - makes you long for the days of the former. This approach touches on the mindfulness technique of tuning out of negative thoughts (‘not again!’ ‘I’m so tired!’) and instead focusing on positive, energy-affirming observations of the present moment (eg. baby’s soft skin, little fingers gripping your hand). It might all sound a bit ‘zen’, but when you’ve fallen from the exhausted tree and hit every branch on the way down, anything’s worth a shot, right?
Cotton all the way
Sleep is enough of a challenge if you’re a breastfeeding mum, without uncomfortable boobs added to the equation. Wear a soft cotton sleep bra such as JoJo Maman BeBe’s which simply folds back rather than having lots of clips or hooks (not what you need at 2am). They also have a wide back and straps, so there’s no bits digging in. At a time when you’re probably more tuned in to even the slightest discomfort (remind me how thongs were ever comfortable again?) there is no nicer feeling in the world than a jersey bra, baggy t shirt and bed... even if only for a few short uninterrupted hours.