I asked the mums in the Birth and Baby Academy Community for their feedback on expectations vs reality of breastfeeding was and here’s their comments:

“It never crossed my mind that I’d be feeding after 1. It wasn’t till I was doing it that I understood anything about longer-term/ongoing benefits. (I also didn’t dare hope we’d be this lucky.)”, Jenny

“I was lucky that breastfeeding itself was fairly easy – it was stopping that I struggled with. I was desperate to stop (I finally weaned her from the last feed at 15 months) but felt guilty and didn’t actually know how to…”, Louise

“It didn’t really occur to me that it might not come easily. Didn’t think we’d struggle as much as we did then didn’t think it would get easier but it did! Didn’t realise how tiring it could be. But also didn’t know how much we would both get out of it and how bonding it is for us even now at 15 months. Never thought I would still be breast feeding at this stage it hadn’t really crossed my mind. Wish I hadn’t been so against formula in the beginning as it was incredibly helpful and combination feeding worked so well for us. Wish I’d ditched the mummy guilt as however u feed your baby is amazing!! Still amazes me how brilliant our bodies are. Know I’ll miss feeding her and just at stage now of wondering about weaning off or cutting down and am feeling the guilt again!!” Laura

” I thought I had realistic expectations – they’d feed a lot, for different reasons, it wouldn’t feel uncomfortable. In reality I was sooo surprised at how much they fed and you began to realise the different reasons they feed and you instinctively use the breast in many ways. I found it uncomfortable and it took 12 weeks to establish. I thought it would take less. Nothing could’ve prepared me for massive, hot boobs when my milk came in!!” Louise

“No one prepares you for those brutal first months. The sheer savagery of it seems so typical that it never seems to cross the minds of health professionals that there’s anything actually wrong. It’s always assumed it’s mum’s technique that’s all wrong. You have to take control if you think it’s anything else. In our cause it was weeks of suffering from double thrush to blame. No one would have ever picked up on this so thankfully the Facebook groups saved my butt! Sure enough, as soon as the Dr saw baby’s mouth it was completely white and my boobs in tatters. It’s so frustrating that there’s not more you can do to prepare yourself. Once you’re there and in a new mum, post birth haze it’s hard enough just to get through each day.” Jenny

“I didn’t expect that despite baby having all visible signs that he was feeding well (latch etc) that he was actually in the small group of babies that can’t effectively transfer milk. I was surprised by the lack of paediatrician knowledge of breastfeeding and lactation. And I didn’t expect to be permanently attached to a breast pump as a result of this!” Bridget

“I managed to get cracked nipples in the first 24 hours with my first, the midwives said it was because I was fair skinned! I think with my first it felt like all the staff on the postnatal ward wanted me to feed differently and I felt very bossed around and also wasn’t prepared for how vulnerable I’d feel post birth with a tiny baby after a traumatic delivery. I felt like I lost control and I hated breastfeeding for the next 4 months. I found it tiring and felt like it wasn’t working. My baby didn’t put on weight until I stopped BFing, and I think I felt angry that it was all such an ordeal and so fruitless despite all the pain and exhaustion. In hindsight the birth trauma and BF issues were linked but I didn’t realise it at the time!” Jessica

” I had no idea how long a feed took for newborns. 60 to 90 minutes per feed every 2 to 3 hours I felt like I was doing nothing else. Of course the time taken reduces over time but when you see people feeding babies they are usually the slightly older ones who are done in 10 mins and again, no one tells you about it beforehand.” Claire

” I didn’t expect it to be so hard in the beginning. I didn’t have any pain but my wee early baby wouldn’t latch. I’m finding stoping so hard. 20 months in my wee one still loves his wee night feeds. I always said I didn’t want to be the one deciding to stop and baby should but that might need to happen which I’m sad about.” Margaret

“I didn’t expect to have a baby who couldn’t latch and feed effectively, didn’t expect to be so sore after a forcep delivery that I didn’t know how to find a good position to relax with my baby. I basically thought babies feed every three hours for 20 min 🤣.. Didn’t expect to express and mix feed nor did I expect how awful it can be when you think you are failing your baby and they may die in the middle of the night because they are not managing to feed and the midwives have scared you that if your baby doesnt put on weight in the next 24 hours they need to be hospitalised.. I didn’t expect to cry when we first gave formula but I also didn’t expect to see her dad feed her with a syringe and his finger with so much love and dedication and that was beautiful.. Neither did I expect that she would refuse the breast at 4 months old after nipple confusion and ongoing struggles with her latch but that 10 months later she would still be getting breastmilk as I’m exclusively pumping now! Basically I knew nothing!” Laeticia

“Expectations… I might try breastfeeding, certainly wasn’t going to fret if it didn’t work out. Reality… a very premature baby where the only thing I felt I could do for him was provide milk. So it become the absolute be all and end all and something I absolutely HAD to get right (by which I mean the pressure was from myself not anyone involved in his care.) Was still breastfeeding him at 2 until he weaned himself. Now feeding his 16 month old little brother and have begun training to be a breastfeeding peer supporter. Both journeys have had their challenges, in completely different ways, but it’s something I’m proud of.” Rachel

“The exquisite pain at the beginning that you don’t get told about – all you hear is that it’s “the most natural thing in the world” – it certainly doesn’t feel like it! I didn’t really know beforehand that your proper milk doesn’t come in for three days so you could potentially have a hangry baby on your hands. Only my sisters in law told me to start using nipple cream a few weeks before due date, think I would have really struggled with pain if I hadn’t started doing that. BUT despite all this, I loved it so much more than I ever thought I would.” Kim

“Wow it is tough work but so rewarding when you have established it. Phone your midwife. If it isn’t working phone your midwife again and again. I got a breastfeeding buddy as well. Allllll the nipple cream” Florence

“I never thought I wouldn’t be able to feed so being told I had inadequate breast tissue and unable to produce left me devasted. By the time i did managed to gain a milk supply I didn’t have the support and gave up.” Sarah

“Thinking back now the bit that sticks in my head about the first few weeks is how emotional i felt. I was prepared for long feds and lots of them so the frequency and duration didn’t surprise me; but struggling to get comfy due to forceps delivery, fighting to get Izzy to latch and being more exhausted than I thought was possible was not how I pictured it!  After the first week the physical pain reduced but the emotional pain ramped up as Izzy wasn’t gaining weight- then everything became about feeding, it totally dominated our lives especially when on the gruelling 3 hour feeding routine. I can absolutely see how without the right support I would not have continued BF at this point. To suddenly be having to top up and the threat of going back to hospital was hugely emotional – I felt like I was failing her. Every feed became a battle to get milk in her with all nappies being closely examined. I also didn’t expect to feel so emotional about introducing solids and the period of exclusively breastfeeding coming to an end. Longer term- I always wanted to BF past infancy and I’m pleased I have managed this but I guess I thought by now (15 months) it would only be 1 or 2 feeds a day but as I’m still feeding on demand it can be many many more than that! I also thought that sore nipples would only be at the start and not reappear from time to time.” Maggie

“That just because you’ve done it before, doesn’t mean it’s easy. I knew that my new baby would be learning and thought I would be easy on myself and giving her time to learn but reality is different. Each baby is different (ie smaller mouth) and second baby has meant less time for establishing feeding. Wish I’d taken more time in the first few weeks to work on a good latch.” Sara

“I read up a lot beforehand: blogs and general posts, so was ready for all sorts of physical discomfort. And may be because of these expectations and luck! didn’t find the physical side as bad as sisters describe here. However, what I wasn’t prepared for is the level of misinformation and contradicting information thrown at you when you seek help. ‘Breastfed babies don’t get colic’ by a mature lactation consultant at a baby latte clinic… (even nhs website say they do!) ‘Breastfed babies don’t get constipated’ (nurse at gp practice! They do if they have a food intolerance!)…He is hungry you need supplementing (no, you just need to let him feed as much as you can to stimulate more milk supply). It was other mums and people genuinely passionate about breastfeeding who encouraged me to trust myself and my baby, for which I am thoroughly grateful. Just because they should know, doesn’t mean they do is my takeaway! If it goes against your instinct, seek a second opinion.” Tanya

Thanks so much to the mums in the community group for sharing these with me and their gorgeous photos. These are so helpful for pregnant mums and I feel a really good reflection of what so many of us feel. If there’s anything you’d like to add or would like to comment on then do get in touch.

Much love, Tricia xxx

If you are pregnant and planning to breastfeed sign up for the Breastfeeding Bundle here. If you haven’t already done so, download the Resources Bundle here too to help you get started on your birth preparation.

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