Of course, you know ‘breast is best’ but it’s not always easy. Three Club members tell us how they got on...
How did you plan to feed your baby?
Avril: Megan was 16 weeks premature and had to be tube-fed to begin with. My milk dried up under the stress, but this made me more determined to breastfeed Erin.
Melanie: I had my heart set on breastfeeding! I even paid for a breastfeeding course as my antenatal classes didn’t mention it.
Irene: I knew breast was best – and would help us bond. On the maternity ward the midwife showed us a video and gave us leaflets, so I felt quite confident.
What was it like in reality?
Avril: It was tough as I was exhausted. Erin wanted to feed constantly and screamed when I took her off the breast. After 48 hours, I was in tears, and so was Megan. My husband drove to Tesco and bought formula. I was afraid I’d be judged for bottle-feeding, but the midwives and health visitors were really sympathetic. They said even 24 hours of breastfeeding was a good start, and what mattered most was that I was happy.
Melanie: I found it very painful for eight weeks. Cormack wasn’t latching on well, was feeding every couple of hours and I was almost in tears every time. But I wanted to persevere. I couldn’t believe how little support there was in hospital, but my health visitor was brilliant. She helped me correct Cormack’s latch, and gave me nipple shields.
Irene: Jen-Mei found the breast straight away. Her birth was straightforward, and feeding went smoothly from the minute the midwife laid her on me. My nipples were quite sore at first, but I got through it, with vast quantities of nipple cream!
How do you feel about feeding in public?
Melanie: I breastfed Cormack everywhere. I draped a muslin over him and no one asked me to stop; in fact, I had several lovely comments.
Irene: I felt self-conscious. So I would avoid it where possible and take bottles – though I did feed Jen-Mei in the mother and baby room at Tesco!
When and why did you introduce bottles?
Melanie: My whole life revolved around breastfeeding. I started expressing at eight weeks so my partner Alex could feed Cormack, but I was still breastfeeding on demand every couple of hours. By five months, I was exhausted, so I weaned Cormack off the breast over the next month.
Irene: At three weeks, Jen-Mei wanted to feed 24/7. I couldn’t keep up. So at four weeks, I gave her some formula, which she took really well. I then started to top up her breastfeeds with formula if she still seemed hungry, but breastfeed in the evening.
Any advice for other mums?
Avril: Don’t feel guilty if breastfeeding doesn’t work. A happy mum makes for a happy baby – so don’t beat yourself up.
Melanie: Get lots of support. If necessary, phone a breastfeeding support line and go to your local breastfeeding group.
Irene: Definitely give it a go. It’s best for your baby’s health, and gives you a great bond with her too.
Official guidance on breastfeeding
Most breastfeeding advice (from the NHS, World Health Organisation, National Childbirth Trust and UNICEF) recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months, with breastfeeding alongside other foods recommended from six months to two years of age.
NHS guidance says: 'Almost all women are physically able to breastfeed. It's a skill that every woman needs to learn and practise before it becomes easy. It happens more quickly for some women than others, but nearly all women can produce the amount of milk their baby needs.'
Where to find breastfeeding support
Your midwife and health visitor can give you advice and support, but you can also get help from other new mums at breastfeeding drop-in centres and your husband or partner can get involved too - see how dads can support breastfeeding.
The NHS also has lots of great information on breastfeeding support.
Don’t forget, you should always consult your doctor or midwife if you suspect your baby isn't feeding well, or fails to gain weight.
Breastfeeding is best for your baby’s health – but it’s also convenient, as there’s no fiddling around making up feeds, and it’s free! - Melanie Phelps, mum to Cormack