Breastfeeding looks so easy. Women just whip their boobs out, plonk the baby on and bish, bash, bosh, they're feeding that baby and sustaining life. So easy, so natural and so commonplace. If you did an NCT course, chances are you attended some sort of breastfeeding workshop, where you would have been told how to get the perfect latch, positions to feed in and - if you were really lucky - how babies can crawl up the chest, root for the boob and help themselves to that first babyccino just minutes after the birth. Well, all of that might be a bit misleading because breastfeeding is a FUCKING NIGHTMARE to get the hang of.
I desperately wanted to feed Frank but nothing had prepared me for just how difficult it would be. Getting him to latch properly was one thing, feeding him regularly enough was another, and dealing with engorged, leaky, aching tits was something else. I persevered, because I'm stubborn as hell, and learnt a lot along the way, including:
1 You need to feed every 3 hours in the beginning, regardless of whether or not the baby seems hungry. I didn't know this so was just feeding on demand when Frank was born, until the community midwife came to visit on day 3 and spotted his jaundice. She sent us to A&E to get him checked, which resulted in us being admitted back onto the ward I'd left only a couple of days earlier to combine phototherapy with feeding every 20 minutes through the night to get his bilirubin levels down. If I'd known about the 3 hours thing, that needn't have happened. I felt awful that I'd let him down so badly so quickly. Mum fail #1.
2 It's all about supply and demand. The more you feed, the more milk your body will produce because it's responding to your baby's needs. As a result, my night in the hospital, feeding every 20 minutes, meant my boobs swelled up like bowling balls and I looked like I'd had a really bad boob job.
TOP TIP - if you're planning to express, start early when your supply is strongest to help keep it plentiful. Pump it, bag it, freeze it.
BEST BUY! Medela Swing Breast Pump with Calma Teat, £89.99 at John Lewis
3 Watch out for days 3 and 4! This is when your milk 'comes in' and changes from colostrum to regular breastmilk. The physical change will probably go unnoticed, but your hyped up hormones might mean you're particularly emotional around this time and the baby blues might get to you.
4 Massage away mastitis. If you start experiencing painful, lumpy boobs and flu-like symptoms, you might have mastitis. I definitely had it - I remember sitting in my fleecy dressing gown (oh yeah, sexy as) waving a hairdryer over my boobs and feeling like shit. I sent Paolo off down Ridley Road market to buy cabbage leaves to help and he came back with a selection of varieties like it was some sort of Masterchef skills challenge, I shoved them all in my bra and they did nothing. What does help is firm massage to help drain away the excess milk and clear the blockage. Someone recommended taking a hot shower and running a wide-tooth comb over the skin to encourage drainage. A hot compress can bring relief, as can paracetamol. Your GP can prescribe antibiotics, too, so it's well worth getting yourself an appointment if you can.
5 Nipple shields are a thing. Not to be confused with nipple tassels (very different), these odd-looking teats can be placed over your own to protect against cracking and bleeding. If your baby has struggled to perfect the latch and your nipples have become sore, split and - quite frankly - painful and disgusting, then these can be really helpful. I wore some for a while in the beginning then ditched them once we'd found our stride.
BEST BUY! Boots Maternity Silicone Nipple Shields, £4.49