The truth about breastfeeding
Billed as the most natural thing in the world so why, asks Rebecca Howard Dennis, does breastfeeding often go - well - tits up? And what can be done to help?
Absolutely everyone, from the World Heath Organisation to the UK’s government and your very own midwife, will tell you a mother’s milk offers a baby the perfect nutritional start in life. What they won’t necessarily let slip is how tricky, stressful and downright frustrating that start can be – for both you and baby. Which is a pity, as the ‘Breast Is Best’ campaign is being heard loud and clear: recent figures show that 75 per cent of all expectant UK mothers want to breastfeed from birth, and a further four out of five new mums say they’re aware of the health benefits.
Unfortunately, of the 81 per cent of mums who start nursing their newborns, only 23 per cent are still exclusively breastfeeding at six weeks, a number that dwindles to just one per cent by six months. So why the drastic drop-out rate? According to a new survey by nursing brand Medela, it’s all down to a serious lack of support. Its results found that two thirds of new mums said they wished they’d received more breastfeeding advice while pregnant, and 70 per cent said they wished they’d been given a more realistic idea of what to expect.
And therein lies the (nipple) rub: while no one wants to dampen this renewed enthusiasm for breastfeeding, which fell to an all-time low back in the Seventies, there’s no doubt that a little management of expectations would go a long way towards keeping these willing new-mum recruits not only motivated to continue, but also braced for the inevitable challenges, that breastfeeding can bring.
Your cup runneth over
Changes in your breasts are often the first pregnancy ‘symptoms’. Tingling nipples, sore boobs, a network of veins appearing and a boost to your bra size are all normal side effects of the surge in baby-growing hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
Growing milk ducts and an increased blood supply to the boobs can make the first trimester in particular a pretty uncomfortable time. Tackle this with a stash of well-fitted maternity bras and wear them around the clock – even in bed.
Experts such as Rigby and Peller (rigbyandpeller.co.uk) recommend being measured around the ten-week mark and then again every two to three months, and swapping your pre-pregnancy underwires for a super-supportive soft cup instead. Most mums-to-be go up at least one cup size, and often a band size too because your rib cage will expand to accommodate your growing baby.
THE SIZE OF YOUR BOOBS AND HOW MUCH THEY GROW HAS NO BEARING ON HOW MUCH MILK YOU’LL PRODUCE. YOUR BODY KNOWS WHAT IT’S DOING, AND BIG IS NOT NECESSARILY BEST