Blame it on the Breastfeeding

As a mother I’ve got lots of advice from others, and breastfeeding is no exception. From the practical (wait and see what you need otherwise you will buy things you won’t need), to the profound (read your baby, not a book) to the downright painful (if you want to breastfeed use a nail-brush to toughen up your nipples). Yes, you read that right, and I ignored that nugget because I thought if I did it would most likely put me off breastfeeding altogether. A quick poll of the Can I Breastfeed in It UK members found plenty of gems that were actually land-mines on the breastfeeding journey.

1) Formula is the safe and healthy option, the benefits of breastfeeding in the developed world are far less.

It is true that formula is much better than it used to be, but lets face the bar was so low it would not take much to improve on it. Even today the manufacturers are struggling to put the same nutrients in the formula as there are in breast milk and in the way the baby needs them. Research has shown that even in affluent countries with progressive healthcare systems the use of formula is linked to a higher infant mortality than breastfed babies. I’ve regularly heard the comment ‘I bottle-fed mine and it didn’t cause any harm’. But then you probe a little further and they agree that little one had lots of little bouts of sickness which might have been prevented with the immunity provided by antibodies in breast milk. Also breastfeeding is now believed to help with allergies – a curiously western disease.


2) Babies go longer between feeds when on formula so not only do you get sleep they get more nutrition.

Formula fed babies don’t appear to get hungry quite so quickly, but this isn’t really a good thing. Current theoriesnewborn-220142_640s on the cause of cot death are linked to babies’ breathing patterns being interrupted during sleep. There is evidence that the artificially deep sleep caused by the hard to digest formula is a risk factor. Human milk changes all the time and has sleep
inducing ingredients to help baby sleep while mum gets a rush of oxytocin to calm and relax her. I can honestly say I get woken regularly, but I am back to sleep in a matter of minutes. I don’t have to make a bottle, fuss with colic relief or soothe either of us back to sleep. And my experience isn’t unique. Plus there are no arguments with hubby over whose turn it is while baby screams louder and louder. In fact sometimes I reckon I have boob in his mouth before he’s awake (my baby’s mouth, not my husband’s).

3) I’ve spent nine months tee total, watching what I eat and unable to take my usual medicines. I want my life back, and there is no way I am not wearing deodorant.

I for one am delighted to have my life changed forever, but you’d be surprised how much you can keep doing. Firstly, alcohol leaves your milk as quickly as it leaves your bloodstream. I’m not advocating heavy drinking or regular binges but if you’re safe to drive you are safe to nurse, and let’s face it, how often do you have the money or energy to go on an all-nighter in the early months. A recent advertising campaign about eating healthily while breastfeeding which seemed to suggest a burger goes straight from your lips to baby’s turns out to be indirectly sponsored by a leading formula manufacturer  and is misleading. While you need to eat an overall healthy diet, you can eat far greater variety than when pregnant, and for me at least baby quite literally sucked the fat out of me. I was eating guilt free desserts instead of calorie counting to lose the baby weight. As for medication, while many healthcare professionals are unsure and say no, most medical conditions are compatible with breastfeeding, you just need to get the right information and possibly be a bit flexible. Oh and deodorant is fine, if you can remember to put it on. You might struggle enough time to launder your clothes, shower or shave when you are a mother so let’s face it you need all the help you can get. That is nothing to do with breastfeeding, all mothers feel that way and I am told things get back to normal when the youngest leaves for university.

4) I want my partner to get the chance to bond with my baby.image1

Sometime this means exactly that, sometimes it means I want to share the chores. Firstly, you should see how my son interacts with his Uncle. No food has been passed between them (except for a little vomit but uncle was very apologetic) but they adore each other.  Here are 50 different ways Dad can bond with baby. Now because I feed my baby to sleep (including daytime naps) rather than risk waking him, hubby cooks, cleans and leaves us to snuggle. Plus there’s always ‘Oh honey, you need to spend time looking after your son so you can bond properly, so why don’t you change his nappy’. Yes, it does works.

5) I’m worried out feeding outside of the house.

I get this, it was really scary the first time, plus the actual mechanics of getting a tit out in public. All the media stories had me thinking that every trip would involve people making a scene andmeme-zombies-cell-phones just a load of unpleasantness. But we live in a generation of smart phones, tablets and a fear of making eye contact with strangers. People don’t notice or care.

But what about the practicalities of feeding a baby away from home? A boob doesn’t need to be sterilised, heated to the right temperature, cooled to the right temperature and thrown away after 2 hours if it isn’t completely drained. I don’t have to pre-measure the right amount of fluid or powder, or spend money on a pre-paid carton. No need to ask a surly waitress for a jug of water and hope she returns before the baby version of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. These points go double or triple for overnight trips.

6) It is so painful to breastfeed, it just seems so difficult you won’t last more than a week.

Yes, there were points when it was more painful than labour. I don’t care what those 50 shades books say I get no satisfaction from nipple pain, but there are ways around this. Breastfeeding is a learnt skill, for both you and baby and just as learning to ride a bike there are bumps and scrapes along the way. Sometimes the pain is more than just getting started and this is where breastfeeding support groups come in. A peer supporter or lactation consultant can check your latch, rule out tongue or lip tie, or suggest the right sized nipple shield. If you don’t have a La Leche League in your area there will be plenty of breastfeeding support groups. Most NHS trusts do at home support, but make sure you get specialist support as not all midwives and health visitors are equal.

7) You’ll get saggy boobs, in fact you need to get into an exercise regime as soon as you can or you’ll stay fat forever.

You can breastfeed and exercise, you may find your regime changes, not least of which because you need to be more careful of your joints, but I would power walk around the park and stop to cuddle and feed baby when we needed it. Susan O’Brien hit the news for drinking her own milk after getting lost in the wilderness but behind the headlines she is a personal trainer and was competing on a trailrun.

As for saggy boobs – Miranda Kerr’s continue to defy gravity so maybe breastfeeding isn’t as much of an influence as general lifestyle and good genes.

A post shared by Miranda (@mirandakerr) on

8) You can’t breastfeed with big boobs, small boobs, flat nipples, pale nipples.Perverted_thoughts_-)_(3067714590)

What? Your nipple colour defines your ability to breastfeed? People of every ethnicity and in every country on the planet breastfeed. Your cupsize has very little to do with your ability to nurse as this is based on the amount of fatty tissue between the milk glands. These glands barely change size from woman to woman. You may use different hold positions to help your baby latch depending on whether yours are more Gala or watermelon but this really is about finding what works for you.

9) When I expressed I produced a small amount of watery milk, no wonder baby was always hungry.

Human_Breastmilk_-_Foremilk_and_HindmilkYes, formula looks so creamy and nice, and your milk will look thin next to it. But that doesn’t mean formula is better, in fact all that fat is pretty difficult to digest.  Even the best breast pump is no match for your baby’s suction power which changes depending on whether the light foremilk or richer hindmilk is needed. There will be days when you have a bowling ball sized leech attached to your chest, but this won’t necessarily mean baby is unsatisfied. They could be building your supply for a growth spurt, or in need of some love.

10) Breastfeeding made my hair fall out and my skin became spot prone – I must have been deficient in some sort of nutrient and this would have affected my milk. You may not have noticed but when you were pregnant your everyday hair loss was reduced and your skin had a healthy glow – it wasn’t just all that sweat from an internal hot water bottle. Someone told me once this was evolution making you that little more attractive so your partner stayed invested during the relationship. The crazy mood swings, noxious gases being emitted from both ends of the digestive system, the inability to groom certain areas (if I could reach it I couldn’t see it, if I could see it I couldn’t reach it) are all outweighed by your thick and shiny hair. When your baby comes your hormones means your hair and skin goes back to their usual states, but of course human nature means you think it is worse than before. In fact, even during times of famine a mother’s milk has everything a baby needs.  Far better to get a new cut and facial, you deserve it, plus you want to look your best for all those mother and baby photos.


How Do You Breastfeed In It?

When Natalie Halman started Can I Breastfeed in it UK? She didn’t really think it would take off the way it did. It seemed a little niche to be that popular, and certainly the selection of nursing wear out there confirms this point of view. But the attention of the Facebook group is gaining is gathering momentum, at the rate of over a thousand followers a month. There are also selling and off topic spin off groups to cope with the ever expanding traffic it generated. To put this into context another Facebook group for a mail order organic gardening company has about half as many members.
So what unites the followers? Well, we breastfeed and we wear clothes. Although I have to admit the lack of decent clothing, constant dirtying and therefore washing of what few clothes I have, means I am more than happy to spend my home alone days in my underwear. Once I forgot and the postman got the shock of his life when I answered the door. I did apologise, but he ran so fast down the hill I don’t think he heard me.

Like most parts of motherhood, deciding what clothes to wear when breastfeeding is really governed by the practicalities of how you get it done. There are four basic styles of getting your tits out, the over the top: the pull up; one up, one down; and the peek-a-boo. Some women have a favourite, some use all four, and it can change depending on the circumstances. There is no right or wrong here, just what suits each person, but each has their own advantages and disadvantages.

The over the top method involves wearing something with a loose or otherwise accessible neckline, such as buttons or zips, so you pull the hem down or to the side to allow access to the breasts. Simple and easy, it doesn’t require special clothing but it can expose more flesh than people are comfortable with. If mums want to, they can wear a nursing cover, or even a muslin draped across the chest can combat this. You can tuck a handkerchief under the bra strap, or even buy a clip to keep it in place. For me these are just more things to remember, and you’ve heard of baby brain, right? If someone other than a mum feels uncomfortable with the skin on display, they can close their eyes, turn their head, take a long walk off a short pier.

The pull up involves you wearing a not-too-fitted top and pulling it up to release the boobs. (That sounds great doesn’t it – I’m imaging a James Bond villain’s plot to take over the world and shouting it aloud to an orchestra playing in the background. You know I don’t get out much.) Again it’s simple and easy, but not advisable if you are wearing a dress. And having just said goodbye to cover-alls and tents, I wanted to be able to pretend I had a waist. Even without the changes that happen to your body with pregnancy, many women’s bellies don’t see the light of day. The child will cover much of it and it is possible to use the muslins tucked into the bottom of the bra to make you feel more comfortable. A few entrepreneurial mums created belly covers that can be worn under normal clothes.

The one up one down, combines the over the top and pull up by having two layers of clothing, typically a vest and a lose top, but the options are as creative as the women who ear them. This is a very popular option, but while this addresses some of the issues with both, it creates new problems. Firstly is requires twice as many clothes as before, twice as much to wash when your milk leaks, or baby returns the milk to you, either before or after fully digesting it (sometimes ducking is not an option). And it still isn’t a good idea to do this in a dress. Plus I must offer respect to all those mothers out there who actually have the time and patience to not only find two rather than one items of clothing that are clean, but get them to match. In some cases, clever combinations of colours, textures and lengths can do wonders to flatter your figure.

Then there is the final option – the peek-a-boo. This is usually a specifically designed piece of nursing wear, but some of us who can be trusted with scissors and needles will adapt high street clothes by adding button holes or flaps through which – yes you guessed it . This is my preferred option, but the limitations are that you have a much reduced amount of styles to choose from. I remember buying a red and white striped top for dual purpose maternity and nursing while pregnant. I wasn’t particularly enthralled with it, but parted with my hard earned cash simply because it was neither white, black nor navy. It was promptly christened my ‘Where’s Wally’ top by two separate people, and thrown in the back of my wardrobe. Luckily, there are some retailers (such as Milk & Mummy) out there with the intention to change this drab vision of nursing wear! Hurrah!

Top left and bottom right pictures feature clothing from Milk & Mummy clothing (link to shop at bottom of post)
More and more these days the items can only be bought online and the issues of buying clothes without trying them on multiplies post partum. Few of us are standard sizes to begin with (and few shops seem to agree what these are anyway). Our followers range in size from 4’10’’ to 5’11’ and from a size 8 (on a bloated day) to a size 26 but add in the fact we may be losing our all over pregnancy weight, the stomach muscles might bounce back soon, and will our breasts please pick a size and stick with it? The ease of home delivery is often tempered by having to guess or order multiple sizes. Imagine one contributor’s disappointment after ordering six dresses only to find not one fitted and she had lost £24 in postage for unsuitable clothing. 

You might be surprised to learn that it is my son is a big influence on what clothes I wear. Some babies like to hold on to something on the neck line so over the top is no use. Others will refuse a cover or any spare material around the neckline in any way shape or form. As with most other aspects of motherhood, even the decision over what you get to dress yourself in is vetoed by that adorable little tyrant. My red and white stripped top returned from exile to see if it was any use when nursing, but the peek a boo slit was far too small. My son doesn’t want a mouthful off breast, he wants a big face full. ‘Where’s Wally?’ ‘In the way of my boobie, now get lost.’

For me the most frustrating part of buying tops and dresses online is the way so few retailers actually show how you are expected to feed in the clothing. Is it really that hard to show a few extra photos showing which flap you move or strap you untie? I am lucky enough to live close to several big shopping centres went into one designer store to get a feel of the dresses I saw online. The feeling I got was short fat and ugly.

This is why Can I Breastfeed in it UK is so successful. Advertisers pay ‘real people’ to sell their products, but here are thousands of us doing the hard work for them. The photographs don’t use clever lighting or airbrushing. I can see it looks good on someone a similar size to me, so chances are it will look good on me as well. Plus, us mums are good problem solvers and canny buyers. We can look to see if something can be adapted or a find a voucher to stretch our buying power. We want to breastfeed, we want to look our best doing it, and the pennies we are saving on formula need to go somewhere.

Are you signed up to the Can I Breastfeed In It? UK Facebook group? If not, join here

You can find some more ideas on Dressing to Impress over on Another Bun’s blog along with another chance to gain some extra entry points to our grand prize giveaway.
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Blog written by Gwen Atkinson


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The advice about nursing bras I wish I had whilst I was still pregnant…

So, you’re pregnant! Congratulations! Or maybe you’ve just had a baby! Either way, you are most probably hoping to feed your baby in the most natural way possible – with your breasts. You may have heard that taking formula into hospital is potentially setting yourself up to fail at breastfeeding (which it pretty much is but that’s another blog post for another time!), well on the other end of the spectrum, buying a comfortable nursing bra in advance could be considered setting yourself to WIN at breastfeeding.


From the birth of your baby, your boobs will be doing some pretty amazing stuff. At first they will be providing colostrum (aka liquid gold) to your newborn baby to give them that vital boost they need after they transition from your womb into the big wide world! At the colostrum stage, you probably won’t feel like you are providing much in the way of nutrients but chances are you are doing a grand job. If you are worried at this stage, please do seek help from a midwife or peer support worker. Your baby will need feeding for most of the time they spend awake so your boobs will basically need to be available 24/7 and very easily accessible (for your sake!). Then, once your milk comes in (usually around 3-5 days but can vary mother to mother), your boob size will be all over the place. For this reason, I recommend a ‘one size fits all’ sleep bra during this time. A definite hospital bag ‘must have’. Click here for link to bras on Amazon. UPDATE: Anita soft bras half price (without clips) here.

A diagram of correct latch to throw in for good measure
A diagram of correct latch to throw in for good measure

Once your milk comes in, feeding your baby can get much easier. This next 3 months will be an important time for both your boobs and your baby. This is because your baby will be placing an order with your areola for how exactly much milk they require. This is why babies can remain suckling at the nipple for long periods whilst seemingly not actually drinking anything – they are merely telling your boobs to get cracking with milk production. It’s amazing how it all works really! During this time, it’s really not worth investing in an expensive bra. If you’re not happy sticking with the sleep bra linked above, then check out the nursing bras in George or Primark – knowing you’ll likely be replacing them by the time your baby is 3 months old.

When you reach the third month of breastfeeding, your supply starts to settle down. You suddenly don’t get that ‘fullness’ feeling you may have experienced before. This leads to many women thinking that they are “running out of milk”. Couldn’t be further from the truth. If you have been letting your baby suckle away and put in that order for milk then at this point you will have just the right amount to accommodate your baby. This will however mean that pumping additionally to nursing will become very difficult! Your boobs will now be back to more or less how they were before you had a baby in terms of how empty you feel. Some women don’t even need breast pads after this time! This means it’s time to go out and treat yourself to some nice nursing bras! Treat yourself after keeping a mini-human alive all by yourself for 3 months!

Most importantly – MEASURE YOURSELF PROPERLY. Don’t get measured in any of the high street shops (there are some exceptions such as Bravissimo) – you’re best doing it yourself. Find out more here.

Some fab places to look for nursing bras are:

Nursing Bra – Shop – Good prices on branded bras.

Hot Milk – a bit pricey but some lovely bras

Figleaves – similar to Hot Milk.

There will be more specific nursing bra posts to follow as well as reviews! Please share this with any friends who are pregnant or in the early stages of breastfeeding 🙂