In collaboration with Philips Avent.

Breastfeeding as a new mum can be such an alien world and second time around with a three and a half year gap between my babies it felt very much the same.  New research from Pregnancy+ and Philips Avent reveals that over half (54%) of experienced mums state they are still learning something new every day, which I can very much relate to.  You completely forget about the sleep deprived nights, cluster feeding, the soreness, milk stained clothes and leaky boobs.  Although, believe me when I say that it all comes back to you, but I was worried second time around about how the experience would differ from my first, which thankfully had been positive, despite some of the emotional and physical challenges that I’d face along the way.

Even before I was pregnant, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed any future babies that I may have been blessed with.   It was just a natural instinct for me and of course I was swayed by all of the benefits for mama and baby, especially the close bond it could create.  When I was pregnant, I’d found a breastfeeding class hosted by Le Leche League that was full of other new mums who were all looking to get an comprehensive insight and support into this new world that we were all about to enter.  Once I was clued up, I was even more determined that breastfeeding was the route I wanted to take, but knew it wasn’t necessarily going to be easy.

After giving birth to both my babies I was asked how I was going to feed them.  When I told the midwives that I was going to breastfeed they were incredibly helpful with getting baby to latch on and really attentive to make sure things were going well with feeding.  We stayed in over night both times and I was so grateful that we wasn’t sent home straight away so that I had the support of the midwives on hand.  This was even more important after a poor start because both babies showed no particular interest in breastfeeding at first.  I was quite worried that maybe I was doing it all wrong, so to have the experience of the professionals around was amazing and they taught me how to establish a good latch and gave me the confidence that I needed as a new mum.  They made sure that baby was feeding well before we went home and to have that time before entering the big wide world with these tiny humans was invaluable.

I absolutely love breastfeeding, but I wanted both my babies to take a bottle of expressed milk as well, to allow me to have a little freedom and I thought it was important to let Alfie have that bonding time too – plus, maybe lend a hand on some of the night feeds.  However, Alfie sleeps like a log (a tornado couldn’t wake him up) and 2 babies down the line it hasn’t happened!  Since I’m exclusively breastfeeding, to avoid nipple confusion I’d been advised not to introduce the bottle until 3 weeks, which I stuck to first time around with Aiden, but with Amelie I started slightly earlier and she’s taken to it so well.  We had a decent start with Aiden on the bottle, but it eventually fizzled out, so this time around I’ve felt more determined to make things work. 

Things can get incredibly overwhelming as a mum and as a new mum of two, I knew that juggling two small child’s needs was going to be a challenging learning curve.  This made it even more important for me to make giving expressed milk a positive experience so once in a while I could take some time to take care of my own needs.  To some this may sound selfish, but self care as a mum is essential, especially in those early sleep deprived periods when your emotions can be so fragile.  Of course, taking a little ‘me time’ doesn’t happen very often these days, but when it does I always feel more lifted and balanced, which expressing has helped me achieve. 

When Philips Avent asked me to join their Philips Virtual Mummy Mentors programme to provide advice to help new mums navigate their journey into parenthood, I jumped at the chance to share my own personal experiences. After being asked a few questions about feeding, I thought I’d share my own experiences as this can often be challenging for many mums.

Getting into Expressing

Expressing can feel weird at first, especially in the early days when you’re not used to it. I think the key is to having an efficient breast pump – this time around I’ve been using the Avent Easy Comfort Single Electric Breast Pump.  It’s been so easy to use and comfortable in helping me getting Amelie to take the bottle, building a freezer stash of milk and boosting my supply. 

One of the features that I’ve been impressed with so far is that unlike with my previous breast pump you don’t have to lean forward to get a decent flow of milk.  This is such a game changer for me as I’ve been suffering with tension across the back of my neck from all the breastfeeding and obviously carrying a baby for 9-months can take its toll too.

Introducing the bottle

Initially we struggled with introducing the bottle, which despite my eagerness was expected.  Amelie struggled at first to get the hang of the teat on the bottle and ended up spitting a lot of the milk out. We never forced the bottle on her, just took her lead.  Better success came when Alfie fed her, which worked really well, especially in those early days when it was all new.  Now after consistently giving her one bottle a day she bottle feeds from anyone.  I’m so proud of her!

When is the best time to express?

I’ve found that it can take a little while to figure out when’s the best time to express and for us it seems to be after Amelie’s early morning feed and in the evening when she tends to have her bottle.  I try to give her one bottle a day and the before bedtime feed seems to work well for us and she settles really well before drifting off, so I’ve tried to make this part of her regular evening routine.  Also,  if we’re out all day, sometimes I do take a bottle of expressed milk with us too and on these occasions I need to express when we get home. 

Boosting my supply

Since I’m keen to build up a stash of breast milk in the freezer to save for a rainy day I’ve been looking at other ways to build up my supply in addition to expressing.  Things I’ve tried so far are lactation cookies, which are full of essential ingredients that help milk production like oats, brewers yeast and flax seeds.  Additionally, I’ve been drinking a herbal tea that is also full of ingredients to help boost milk supply such as fenugreek.

So that’s pretty much my breastfeeding journey and how I’ve incorporated the bottle into our routine and so far it’s working well for us. I’m so happy that Amelie is able to take the bottle, not only so that Alfie can help feed her, but it gives me a little freedom or even the opportunity to grabbing some time to myself every now and then.  As a mum, self care doesn’t happen all that often and I know how essential it is to support my emotional wellbeing to enable me to be the best mum that I can to my babies.  

I’d love to hear about your breastfeeding journeys in the comments below.  Did you express and introduce the bottle at all? How did it go?

*This post was commissioned by Philips Avent as part of their Virtual Mummy Mentors Programme, but all opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the brands that allow me to do what I love, bringing you wellness content and recipes to help you find your version of balance.