Clare @mumsymidwife 👶 Midwife & Blogger 🤰Talking all things pregnancy & parenting Mum to Isabelle Lover of coconut mushrooms & cherry bakewells 🍒
Remember the day you saw the two lines on your pregnancy test? From that point, everything was focused towards the big day when you gave birth. You probably read a million things about how to get through labour but only a few things about the period after you gave birth, the postnatal period.
I remember what it was like being a midwife before I had children – I was so naive and always thought that as the mum and baby left for home, the hardest part was over. I know, right!
Well, the early days are tough to say the least, and feeding your baby can be a massive area of anxiety and stress when you’re already sore and tired. As a midwife and mum of a little 4 year old, I have a bit more of a balanced perspective of what life is like, so I’ve pulled together some tips to help support you in feeding your baby from day 1.
From day 1 It’s all about survival
You’re sore, probably have stitches of some description and you’re bleeding akin to a Halloween prank. Whether you’ve decided to breastfeed or feed with a bottle (be that expressed milk or formula) it pays to be prepared. If you have the chance before the birth, I’d get a few things ready.
If you’re planning to breastfeed, make up a basket with things like:
Bottles of water for you to drink
Some snacks – you get VERY hungry when baby is on the breast
Muslin squares to wipe tiny mouths and any other spills (yes, they will be a little bit sick sometimes)
It’s a great idea to have a ‘V-pillow’ to help support the baby
If you’re going to bottle feed:
Ask your midwife whether you need to take your own milk supplies to the hospital or whether they provide them
You’ll need a steriliser to clean the bottles
You’ll need lots of muslin squares (they spit up a lot more than breastfed babies usually)
Make sure you’re familiar with the instructions to make up feeds before you reach for the tub at 3am
When it comes to actually feeding your baby…
Utilise the midwives and maternity support workers, as they will be able to help you with the practicalities of feeding
You’ll need to have your back supported, so sit in a good chair and get comfortable, then get your baby ready to go the breast
From experience, a well-charged iPad and lots of ‘on-demand’ telly is brilliant for the early days too as you’ll miss all your favourite programs with the ‘sleep, change, feed, repeat’ schedule
Night wakings are, unfortunately, going to be commonplace for a good while. Your baby needs regular feeding and there are lots of cues they display (like sucking their fist or making the little bird mouth) to give you hints that they’re getting hungry. Google feeding cues for pictures and a full list
Babies should have a feed roughly every 4-6 hours, but don’t feel you need to wake them if they’re well and gaining weight. However, if you’re reaching 7-8 hours, you might want to give them a nudge – changing their nappy is a good place to start
With night feeds grab support where you can – if you have a partner, they can share the feeds or change the baby’s nappy before handing to you to breastfeed. They can also grab you a drink and a snack, or sometimes just handing you the TV remote so you can catch up on TV is enough
Accept as much support as you can – you NEED time to recover. I always say that if you’d had major surgery, no one would expect you to be back to your normal self the same day, so why put pressure on yourself immediately after giving birth? I promise that no one will say you’re a bad mum or not coping. Breastfeeding is a skill, and one that neither you nor baby are born with – this skill is something that will develop over the first few weeks and one that demands time and patience. Although being worried about getting baby on the breast and having a good feed is absolutely normal, anxiety and rushing can make things harder.
Don’t feel too proud to ask for help. Keeping a baby fed and clean is a 24/7 job, and one that takes up every moment of your time
If you’re on your own and struggling, speak to your midwife or health visitor as there are ways you can access support that way, and if you do have a partner let them get used to all the tasks too
If you feel you need some extra support, there are breastfeeding counsellors, sometimes funded by the NHS. Weighing clinics can also have a stay and play to go and find someone to talk to
Don’t feel you have to do everything, there is no medal for being a mum (although I totally think there should be), so take each day as it comes and do what you need to have those moments of selfcare in amongst the baby whirlwind.
No matter what your feeding journey will be, it’s never going to be plain sailing. Ultimately, remember to be kind to yourself, be patient and finally ask for help if you need it.
Piccolo is here to support parents, through the highs and the lows, no matter how they choose to feed their little ones. Find out more about our formula milks here.