As part of our mission to spotlight thought provoking topics and matters close to our heart, we caught up with blogger, mother and podcast host, Liv Purvis, on National Breastfeeding Week, to talk about her journey.
Was breastfeeding always your plan?
“Breastfeeding was definitely something I wanted to able to do when baby arrived! I honestly had no real idea about what to expect. We did an NCT class which gave a rough outline about the pros and cons of different feeding options, and I'm thankful I've been able to do what I had hoped for."
What do you wish you’d know before you embarked on the journey and do have any advice for anyone out there struggling or deciding on if it's right for them?
“I definitely wished I'd known that it's okay, and completely normal for it not to be this completely ethereal Mother Nature like experience from the word go. In my head I'd be sat in hospital and I'd whip a boob out and I'd be feeding and it would be wholesome and easy, but the first few weeks of breastfeeding were some of the most challenging I've experienced. Although we pushed through, I definitely want to remind anyone that it's okay if you don't and can't. Sometimes, not all the time, there can be a lot of hurdles, which after just giving birth, are a lot to manage. There are so many things that you don't realise can come with breastfeeding (we've ticked off trush, tongue tie, cracked nipples and mastitis), and although the support is out there, know that if it's causing too much stress for either you or your baby, it's okay to switch things up. As cliche as it sounds, fed really is best, and a happy mama means a happy baby. I think, like pregnancy and childbirth there's a lot of pressure around certain ways of doing things, and although I've been fortunate in that we've managed to make it work for us, know that it wasn't easy, and going in a different direction wouldn't have been defeat either.”
What have been your highs and lows during this time?
“I mean the high really has been this magical sense of connection with him that through our extended hospital stay after the birth we had this precious time together. Sometimes on slow, sleepy mornings, and often in the middle of the night, which although exhausting, felt really special. I already look back at those bleary eyed mornings and nights fondly (which is definitely the rose tinted power of hindsight - as I don't think I felt that romantic about it at the time)! In terms of lows, I think the day my 'milk came in' was one of the hardest emotionally. Nobody told me about the absolute wave of emotion that was going to knock me for six, but speaking to a midwife and realising how it was normal was such a comfort. I also think the lack of knowledge about breastfeeding and the challenges it can come with has been difficult; I had several difficult conversations with GP’s about thrush and mastitis which definitely felt like big wobbles and also forced me to really have to learn to advocate for myself and what I needed, which when you're a hormonal teary mess is quite difficult!”
You’ve taken to your audience for advice on occasion. Did you ever seek support from anywhere else too, and can you recommend any useful tips you’ve learnt along the way?
“Oh goodness yes! When we were in hospital we were offered the name of a lactation consultant to help with tongue tie and positioning and going to them was the best thing we could have done. We were lucky that our trust had a brilliant feeding team. I was in hospital for nine days after the birth so it meant I got to ask lots of questions and really try and iron out any creases. It was definitely a bit of a funny blessing in disguise! Whether that was about expressing, feeding times, what is normal and what isn't - having an ear is invaluable and I know most midwives will and should encourage you to always ask anything even after you've gone home. I know there's also lots of brilliant charities who offer advice lines, so never feel like you're alone if you need more support or want advice. It can get easier, and it doesn't have to be painful, I promise. Tips wise the things I personally found useful were frozen cabbage leaves for engorgement (except for when they warm up and start smelling really deeelicious) and trying to avoid over pumping when engorged (I learnt the hard way). There are other things, but it's *such* a personal journey, and everyone's supply, experience and baby is so different so I'm also mindful to take everything with a pinch of salt too. Also, doing it in public does get easier and less scary too! I couldn't imagine a time where I'd feel comfortable just whipping a breast out to feed anywhere. I've literally done it standing up on a train so the world is my oyster now! But like anything it takes a bit of muscle flexing, and you soon realise people are more concerned with what's going on with themselves (and likely their phones) than what you're doing. Someone said to me 'how many people have you ever seen breastfeeding in public?' And I could barely think of any, not because they don't exist, but because I'm never paying attention. That comforted me and made me realise what's most important is your own little baby and bubble, and nothing else.”
Are there any common myths you’d like to dispel about breastfeeding that you now know aren’t true?
“That it's okay if you don't find it easy. I felt a bit like I'd failed at the beginning when I felt like I was going through 'postpartum ailment bingo', but speaking to so many women and others who have breastfed, it's so normal for there to be bumps in the road. The chances are you won't look or feel like a flower-crown-endowed Beyoncé when you're feeding for the first time (but if you do, that's great)! It also doesn't have to be painful. And if it is, it doesn't have to stay that way. I think I rung Amazon dry of silver nipple cups, creams and ointments in the beginning because I genuinely worried I might lose a nipple (TMI? Possibly...) but it *did* get easier and shouldn't feel toe curling. I promise!”
Liv wears the Lauren Lace High Apex Triangle Bra in a UK10
Find Liv here.