It’s one of the biggest conversation topics among new mums, mainly because you spend so much time doing it…
A is for appetite
Newborn babies feed A LOT. At first you’ll feel like you’re in a relentless cycle of whipping your boob out and shoving it in their mouth and/or washing, sterilising and making up bottles. But it will settle in time, and you’ll probably be able to literally do it in your sleep.
B is for boobs or bottles or both
Ah, the big one. We could write a whole book about the zillions of pros and cons of every feeding method. It is a flipping minefield. The basics: Breastfeeding can be seriously tough at first, but becomes incredibly convenient after the first month or two. Bottle-feeding involves a lot more hauling stuff around, but means you can share the load with your partner. But it’s not just about practicality: there are a whole world of emotional and physical things to think about too.
C is for colostrum
Otherwise known as liquid gold. It’s the precious gunk that comes out of your boobs in the early days, before your more abundant milkier milk comes in. Many mums find themselves attempting to squeeze it into a syringe in hospital because their dozy baby is boob-resistant at first. Good times.
D is for dummies
Another minefield. Some mums swear by dummies from the start, some find they never need them and then secretly (or not so secretly) feel a bit smug about it when their friends then spend months trying to wean their toddlers off them. You can get Armani ones, you know. This world, eh?
E is for expressing
Otherwise known as pumping. You can get electric breast pumps (faster), manual breast pumps (quieter) and clever suction things that you can shove on one boob while feeding from the other (genius, if you can get the hang of it). Ignore anyone who likens you to a cow – or just focus on the fact that it must mean you have really great eyelashes. If you’re a mum who pumps, you’ll soon find yourself having to panic-eat fishfingers to make space in the freezer for your bulging supply. Excellent work!
F is for formula
There are a variety of brands, but it’s best to stick to one, since your baby’s gut is sensitive, particularly in the early days. Lazy/loaded mums can buy the pre-made stuff – particularly handy for holidays and days out.
G is for grandparents. And older people in general. Some of them have some funny views about the way you feed your baby, wanting you to cover up excessively in public, for instance, or shove rusks in the bottom of bottles to fill your baby up more (very bad idea). Nod, smile and instead speak to friends and professionals for more up to date insight.
H is for hands-free. We are always in awe of mums who stroll around without a care in the world while feeding their baby in a sling. Mainly because they must have really perky boobs.
I is for “I can’t do this!”. Most breastfeeding mums will have moments of feeling like this, especially in the early days. The best advice we’ve heard is that you should never quit on a bad day. See how you feel after a good night’s sleep (ha!).
J is for judging. An unfortunate side effect of there being more than one way to feed your baby. But if you’re a mum who’s formula-feeding reluctantly after not getting on with the boob, or a breastfeeding mum who’s carried on for much longer than expected (good for you!) and now feels a bit sheepish about it, you must remember that most, if not all, of the judging comes from only one person: you.
K is for kit. Bottle-feeding is definitely the more expensive option, especially when you start forking out for electric prep machines (one upstairs, one downstairs, anyone?), bottle warmers and ready-made formula, as well as the basics: powder, bottles and teats. But breast-feeding isn’t without its costs too, especially if you want to pump, and especially if you get sucked into buying dedicated nursing clothes. See O for more details.
L is for leaking. Not all mums leak, so if you don’t, it doesn’t mean you have a poor supply. For most of us, it eases up after the first few weeks, and the breast pads can be relegated to the back of the cupboard (although they’re pretty handy to have lying around for the 17 spilled cups of tea per week). We’d also recommend keeping some on hand for when your baby starts sleeping for bigger chunks of time (it happens, we promise!) as you might find yourself waking up with two damp swollen footballs bursting out of your bra.
M is for mastitis. Aaargh. We wouldn’t wish it on our worst enemy. It’s an inflammation of the boob that can cause flu-like symptoms and make you feel absolutely bloody rotten. Always see a doctor at the first signs because it can be – pun intended – nipped in the bud.
N is for Netflix. Or any other number of streaming services. Whichever way you’re feeding your baby, on-tap quality entertainment is an essential in the early days. We have no idea what people used to do without them – crosswords and the Emmerdale omnibus?
O is for one up, one down. Often shortened on mum forums to OUOD, this is the easiest way to dress if you’re breastfeeding: just wear a vest top you can pull down underneath a top you can pull up. Alternatively, vest tops you can pull up under low-cut/v-neck dresses you can pull down are also a winner. Basically, you don’t really need loads of special breastfeeding clothes, and can easily improvise with your existing wardrobe and a few cheapo basics.
P is for pain. A bit of pain and discomfort is to be expected in the early days of feeding, as you and your baby get to grips with each other, but if you’re experiencing pain that seems excessive, have a chat with your health visitor or a breastfeeding consultant, in case there are any underlying issues, such as a dodgy latch or tongue tie (see T).
Q is for quick. Feeding can take an age to start with, but as your baby grows, so does their capacity for guzzling milk at speed. It’s quite a relief when you can fill them up in five minutes at a bus stop and go on with your day – although part of you will have emoshe pangs for the early days of endless feeding, no matter how much you moaned about it at the time.
R is for reflux. Bottle and boob-fed babies can both suffer from reflux. In fact, it’s very common in general and is often described as “a laundry issue, not a medical issue”. A little bit is normal, but if it becomes a problem, you should speak to your doctor and rule out any allergies.
S is for support. Something you’ll need lots of, especially if you’re breastfeeding. There are fantastic NHS “baby cafes” dotted around the country, where you can get advice on all aspects of feeding, numerous free helplines, as well as private lactation consultants who will pop round in a crisis (for a fee, naturally).
T is for tongue tie. A common condition in babies which often goes undiagnosed, but can make their feeding journey very tricky, despite being easy to fix. Always ask for a second opinion if you feel it’s been passed by.
U is for U R amazing. You are, you know! However you’re feeding your precious offspring, it’s draining, anxiety-causing stuff and you’re doing a fantastic job at keeping them alive. They love U so much!
V is for vodka. The research around drinking alcohol while breastfeeding is ongoing, but generally a couple of drinks won’t do your baby any harm – professionals liken it to dropping a shot glass in an Olympic swimming pool. The bigger issue is around how safe you are to handle (and potentially sleep with) your baby when you’ve had a few drinks. “Pumping and dumping” is also a myth – you don’t need to throw away milk you make while drinking, it’s not contaminated. But if you’re away from your baby for an extended period of time, you might want to express for comfort.
W is for wind. Some people say that breastfed babies don’t get wind. This is a big old lie. All babies get windy, especially in the early weeks, and you’ll spend many hours rubbing their backs and googling “tiger in the tree hold” (give it a go, it’s pretty good). While technically the definition of “colic” is “excessive frequent crying”, it’s basically wind and the ensuing tummy pain that causes this – and it can be hellish. There are various potions, like Infacol and Gripe Water, that might ease the burps, but really the most successful cure is time: as your baby gets older and bigger, they’ll get way more efficient at digesting their milk.
X is for XXL. This is how big your boobs will feel – relative to how big they normally are, anyway – on day four or five, when your milk comes in. It can come as quite a shock if you’re normally a member of the itty bitty titty committee. Make sure you immortalise this moment on film before your baby guzzles the lot (and you can show it to your plastic surgeon in a couple of years, right?).
Y is for yoga. Or yoga-esque moves, anyway. As you learn your way around your baby, you’ll find yourself contorting into all sorts of strange positions to feed them. The cradle hold, the rugby hold, the koala hold, biological nurturing… yep, these all exist and they all work differently on different mums, depending on the shape of your body, the type of boobs you have (lovely ones, obvs) and the size of your baby. Remember, there’s no “wrong” way of doing it – you’ll soon find a technique that works for you.
Z is for Zzzzzz. Ahh, precious sleep. Remember that? While breastfed babies generally feed in the night more frequently (and for more weeks/months/years than their formula-fed buddies, because formula is harder to digest and so keeps babies fuller for longer), there’s evidence to suggest that boobing mums get better quality sleep – partly because they’re not getting out of bed to make up bottles, and partly because breastfeeding releases some clever hormones to aid sleep in both you and your baby. It’s all by the by though, since we know the truth: ALL mums long for more sleep!