Everybody needs a bosom for a pillow, but what happens if yours is more like a king-size bed? By Isabel Mohan
When I first told people I was pregnant, many of them quipped that the baby definitely wouldn’t go hungry, as if he was somehow going to be consuming my actual boob flesh rather than my presumably regulation milk.
I knew vaguely that breastfeeding was theoretically harder with big boobs, although wasn’t really sure why. That first day in hospital, though, it felt impossible. The videos they’d showed us at NCT in which a newborn instinctively latched on to its mum within minutes of being thrust into the world were surely pure CGI. If I could barely see my nipples, how on earth was my dozy 6lb baby going to find them?
The first few times I fed him, it involved a midwife and/or my husband holding him in position, while I held my boob in place and cried.
Now, nine months later, I’m still breastfeeding Raphael, no entourage required, and I think I’ve learned a thing or two.
The “rugby hold” isn’t your only option
Articles about breastfeeding with big boobs are always obsessed with the rugby hold, where you sort of wrap your baby around the side of your body. This is the first position both the hospital midwives and the breastfeeding counselors at the (brilliant) NHS baby cafe suggested for my heaving bazookas, so clearly it works for some busty women, but it categorically didn’t work for me. Mind you, I’ve always hated rugby.
After hours of trial and error, I found that the best position for us involved me lying almost completely flat, with Raphael positioned right on top of my boobs, which I think has something to do with gravity and nipple position. Brilliantly, it also meant that, even when he was tiny, I could doze through those nightfeeds knowing it was physically impossible for him to get squished.
Not so brilliantly, it made feeding out and about quite challenging at first, since you can’t just lie down on the floor everywhere, because people think you’re staging some kind of protest. I remember feeling so envious of a petite friend who could effortlessly feed her baby while strolling around the house when I needed cushions, back support, and ideally a bed, but definitely a sofa. But don’t panic – as the baby gets bigger and stronger, it really does get SO much easier.
Sorry, but there’s no discreet way of doing this
A friend of mine with above average boobs (in both size and quality, obvs) says she didn’t feel completely comfortable breastfeeding in public until her baby daughter was three or four months old, because by then her head was sufficiently big to obscure her boobs.
Nine months in, I’m still waiting for that day. If you’ve got big tits but you’re keen to breastfeed, you absolutely can’t be shy about it. For those first few months, your baby might as well be a jazzy nipple ring for all the flesh its tiny, tiny head covers. Sure, you can faff around with muslins and scarves and those cumbersome bibs if you like, or you could just embrace it.
Warning: when your baby gets to about five months, and feeding might actually have started to feel a little less exposing, he or she will start to randomly pull away from you to admire passing people, dogs, leaves, etc. Hello everybody, here are some boobs!
… But it might actually hurt less
There might be one upside to all this – I’m not sure there’s actual scientific research to back this up, so have some anecdotal evidence instead: bigger boobs are often less sensitive than smaller boobs – something to do with nerves being stretched, maybe? – which means the excruciating pain that many women complain of during the early days of feeding might pass you by. For me, feeding felt awkward at first, but it rarely actually hurt.
Expressing is a fine art
Women with small, pert boobs seem to be able to pump hands-free. Sadly, that’s not the case around these parts, where getting the pump into the right position is a complex exercise which can all go wrong with one nip slip.
Bonus fact: If you’ve got big nipples as well as big boobs (mine are freakishly small, in case you’re interested), it turns out that most of the leading breast pump brands sell nozzles in different sizes to accommodate your abundant areolae.
Nursing bra sizing is all over the place
I totally freaked out when, mid-pregnancy, I first researched nursing bras – even the big boob brands didn’t seem to go above an H cup, and I was already rocking a JJ. What the hell was I supposed to do, get my mum to knit one?
All that panic was for nothing – it turns out nursing bras are sized totally differently to normal bras and, when I took myself to a local big boob emporium at 36 weeks, I found plenty that fit, with space to grow, in sizes I wouldn’t have thought to try. Hot Milk and Royce are my brands of choice, but they’re by no means the only ones available.