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Reflecting on breastfeeding after NCT

Reflecting on breastfeeding after NCT

I’ve read numerous articles and blog posts about breastfeeding and I can’t help thinking that it will be harder than labour.

Labour has a start and end point and one way or another I will get through it – at 32 weeks pregnant I don’t have a choice. But breastfeeding can start straight after birth, hours, or even days later and if you decide to formula feed, it may not start at all. Breastfeeding ends at some unknown point in the future when either mum or baby has had enough.

People talk about problems with latching, baby not getting enough food, painful breasts, sore nipples and mastitis, not to mention the inability to move while baby feeds for sometimes hours on end. I’ve heard breastfeeding counsellors referred to as hippies, or worse, Nazis and these are the people who are supposed to help new mums and their babies work it out.

All of these things sound pretty scary and I can forgive anyone for thinking that it’s easier to go straight to the bottle and save yourself the bother.

But, I want to breastfeed my baby.

So, how do I shut out the noise from other people’s difficult experiences and concentrate on doing everything I can to make breastfeeding work for me and the Pea? Well, I think I’ve found the answer in our NCT breastfeeding counsellor.

 

NCT breastfeeding session

We attended our dedicated breastfeeding class last week. I had reservations, particularly after reading a blog written by Jules at Pondering Parenthood where she reflected on her own, less than satisfying experience. In fact it’s her post that inspired me to write about our own NCT breastfeeding session.

We sipped tea, served in china cups and saucers, and nibbled on slices of gluten free chocolate cake, while Rosemary told us everything we need to know about feeding our babies (at least, as much as you can be told before said babies arrive). Rosemary has been a breastfeeding counsellor for 40 years. She’s also trained as a midwife and she has a reputation in South Manchester for putting broken women back together again.

One of the first things she said is that,

A happy mum is more important than a breastfeeding mum.

I warmed to her pretty much straight away. It’s advice I’ve heard before but it was reassuring to hear it come from the mouth of a breastfeeding counsellor. Here she was telling us that it means more to feel comfortable feeding our babies than it does for us to breastfeed. After all, a happy mum should equal a happy baby.

Of course a breastfeeding counsellor is going to advocate for breastfeeding. Something would be amiss if they didn’t. Nevertheless I felt that our session was balanced. We talked about formula feeding and at no point were we given the impression that we would not be doing the best for our babies if we chose to bottle feed. We talked about expressing, and we talked about factors that can make breastfeeding more stressful. We weren’t given scare stories about harming breastfeeding by using a teat too soon and our questions were answered with facts and experience to help us make informed decisions. The only thing that was missing was a set of knitted breasts

 

Thoughts on why breastfeeding is so difficult

Rosemary gave us statistics of how many women are physically unable to breastfeed. I can’t remember the numbers she quoted but I believe it to be in the region of 2-5%. I have not conducted any sort of research in to the reliability of the data but everything I’ve read suggests that a lot more women have difficulties and make the decision not to continue.

Over the past 100 years society has made breastfeeding much more difficult than it should be. Regardless of whether you are for or against breastfeeding it’s impossible to argue against the fact that it is the way nature intended us to feed our babies. So, if the statistics are correct and the vast majority of women are physically able to breastfeed, there must be other factors at play that are causing us so much trouble.

Talking to several very close friends is enough for me to understand that breastfeeding is not easy. Some have persevered until they have found a way to make it work and others have decided to formula feed instead. Both groups have content, happy babies.

Rosemary was adamant that breastfeeding should not be painful and that pain is a key indicator that baby is not latching properly. Lots of people may scoff and site their own experiences in opposition to this and the popularity of Lansinoh cream suggests that sore and cracked nipples are hard to avoid altogether, but I think it’s fair to say that the friends who persevered found it much easier when they had established a proper latch.

It sounds straightforward but my understanding is that a baby can feed without having mastered a proper, painless latch so I can’t help wondering if that is where the problems begin. When Rosemary completed her midwifery course there was only an hour dedicated to breastfeeding. She was asked to run the session due to her experience as a breastfeeding counsellor and of having her own children. Training may well have changed over the years, but I suspect midwives have even less time to spend with new mums when the aim nowadays is to get them home as soon as possible. If baby is getting milk, does that mean that hospitals can tick the box to say that breastfeeding is established regardless of whether the latch is right? And, if that’s what happens is that why so many mums have trouble?

Idealistic as it may be, it sounds like breastfeeding would be easier if there were more people like Rosemary. People with the time to watch babies feed, identify and correct the problems in the early days, before the pain becomes unbearable and mum finds herself dreading the next feed. I suspect this is what happened in the old days where new mothers were supported more closely by, and perhaps even lived with, close and extended family members with experience of breastfeeding themselves – in short, someone to show them how to do it.

 

Reflecting on breastfeeding

I could have hugged Rosemary when she said that it was OK to drink alcohol whilst breastfeeding; apparently it has less effect on baby than caffeine – so I’ll be sipping Prosecco while the sun shines and Pea feeds contentedly! *ignores anyone who dares to say otherwise*

Seriously though, I came away from the course feeling a lot calmer. Rosemary explained that it takes about 6 weeks to properly get the hang of breastfeeding and I’m hoping that having a goal in mind will help me to persevere. I know there are lots of people with different views and experiences, and believe me when I say that I have read a lot of them. I am not naïve to the fact it could be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

But, for now, I am not going to read anything else. I’ll save your breastfeeding stories for the times when I need extra words of comfort as I embark on the journey myself. The strength in Rosemary’s belief that most problems with breastfeeding can be resolved, the confidence with which she expressed it, and the fact that she has helped one of my friends, made me promise to myself that I will call her on her claims at the first sign of any difficulties with feeding Pea – after all, she aims to see mums as soon as possible, ideally in time for the very next feed.

I have no idea how I’m going to get on with breastfeeding and I cannot account for the tiredness and hormones that I’ll experience after labour. If my sense of calm is dispelled by reality when Pea arrives, at least I know that there is support available and I trust hubby to encourage me to access it.

In the meantime I love this list of reasons to be proud of breastfeeding. Whether I manage one feed or two years worth, I will have done something good for Pea. When it comes down to it, that’s what really matters.

Reflecting on breastfeeding after NCT

 

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Becci Johnson

Hi, I’m an almost 6 ft, thirty-something living in Manchester. Writer, blogger & first time mum.

  • MummyB

    Fantastic piece on breastfeeding and I think reflects a lot of what mums to be probably feel. It’s certainly not easy to begin with but as a breastfeeding mum I can honestly say sticking with it was the best thing I ever did. I’ve never regretted it. It did stop being painful and it did become so comfortable for both of us. Often the longest time I get to rest and pause is when I am sat feeding my baby! It’s good to know you’ve found a breastfeeding counsellor who you would feel comfortable to go to for advice. I found that so helpful in the early days. Good luck to you and pea!

    8th June 2016 at 5:20 pm Reply
  • Ellen

    I adore this – Rosemary sounds amazing and I imagine if more people had support like that they may be able to continue breastfeeding. I am extremely fortunate and am in the camp (which seems quite small) of people who had no real problem with feeding. I obviously had sore nipples in the first few days but once my milk came in that seemed to stop. We didn’t always get the latch exactly right but it wasn’t that painful and was probably more laziness on my part. Once I started trying to get it right any discomfort was gone and I’ve never had mastitis or anything (so far, but 6 and a half months in I feel very lucky!!!). We had lots of cluster feeding and feeding for comfort but that never worried me too much, I went along with it (thats when my smart phone and netflix came into their own!!). I hope you have an easy experience too but I think with that support and with lots of prior knowledge you are in a great position. #fortheloveofBLOG

    11th June 2016 at 1:03 pm Reply
  • Single Mum Speaks

    This is a lovely reflection on breastfeeding. I’m still breastfeeding my son, who turns two next month and is showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. It was difficult in the early weeks-up to about two months or so, I would say-as he was feeding constantly and I was quite sore, but it really does get easier as you go on. We have had the occasional issue with blocked ducts, but nothing insurmountable, and I’m really glad I kept going. Best of luck in your own breastfeeding “journey”! #fortheloveofBLOG

    11th June 2016 at 7:35 pm Reply
  • jade

    What a beautifully written sensitive post, I wish I had gone to a class such as this, or known about their existence! I totally support what Rosemary said happiness is most important for mummy, no guilt no pressure just positivity whatever you choose. I was so looking forwards to breastfeeding but thanks to my little man having my sense of direction I had a rather nasty birth and ended up with a high level episiotomy and a broken coccyx so was so tired and pained I couldn’t keep up breast feeding..I beat myself up my HV was insensitive…but my nan was very much an angel and just cuddled me and said boob or bottle all he knows is you love him..so I wish you a positive birth..if you have a tricky one don’t worry we are built to be fighters just go with it and I hope breastfeeding is a lovely experience for you #fortheloveofblog

    11th June 2016 at 9:12 pm Reply
  • laughing mum

    I’m glad your feeling a lot happier with your decision. i didn’t breast feed either of my girls (for various reasons), but I understand completely the benefits of doing so, and I was fortunate I wasn’t pressured by anyone to do it. You sound as if your ready and prepared and I hope you have a great breast feeding experience. #fartglitter

    13th June 2016 at 9:35 am Reply
  • Fran Back With A Bump

    Great post and there needs to be more positive advice and support rather than “you MUST breastfeed ad are a failure if you don’t”. I expressed for 3 weeks with my baby as she was in special care and ended up getting stressed out by it all. Like Rosemary said, a happy mum is important! #fartglitter

    13th June 2016 at 9:56 am Reply
  • the frenchie mummy

    thanks for sharing your experience. It’s really down to the mum I think. Everyone is different #FartGlitter

    13th June 2016 at 10:03 am Reply
  • Rhyming with Wine

    What no knitted boob?? Hahaha. I think you have found the key to breastfeeding here lovely which I believe is “Support”. I think everyone’s experience is different and in a lot of cases the first few weeks can be tricky, but with the right advice, support and balanced encouragement it can be a wonderful part of motherhood for those that want to do it. You have exactly the right attitude and it’s great that you’re going into it prepared and informed.

    Thanks for linking up with #fartglitter x

    13th June 2016 at 9:02 pm Reply
  • blabbermama

    I am a breastfeeding mum and I’m loving your attitude towards it all. I went into it with research, commitment but also a laid back attitude that if it didn’t work so be it, it worked, we had our struggles with too much milk, risk of mastitis and using nipple shields for 8 weeks but here we are nearly 8 months later and it’s an unbelievable and indescribable bond- I will cry about when it finally finishes. I wish you well for when bubba comes- but just know if it doesn’t work out- so be it, that’s life and your baby will thrive in any instance.

    13th June 2016 at 9:12 pm Reply
  • Crummy Mummy

    I adore breastfeeding – I breastfed my first for 21 months and am still feeding my second who is now 19 months. Hopefully you’ll find it easy like I did and love it too! I’ve never abstained from alcohol either by the way! #fartglitter

    13th June 2016 at 10:01 pm Reply
  • Mrs Lighty

    Great post. Your breastfeeding teachers sounds exactly like ours was; she was the only one who told me that it was ok to formula feed, as I cried on her shoulder during a home visit. For me, although I could breastfeed, it affected my mental health to the point where I couldn’t pick my newborn up. I hope you have a fantastic breastfeeding journey, it’s fascinating and amazing and I admire anyone that gives it a shot 🙂 Sorry this comment is so late but just catching up on last week’s #fartglitter reading; that’s something that breastfeeding facilitates, blog reading, ha!!

    20th June 2016 at 8:57 am Reply

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