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Breastfeeding

Impact of breastfeeding upon the mother

The issues that the women raised with regard to the impact of breastfeeding upon them fell neatly into the categories of health, figure, exercise, diet, medications and social life.

Health
By far the most common topic related to their health discussed by the women we spoke to was the effect of breastfeeding on their fertility (for information see Resources). The overwhelming impression was of a great deal of variation in their understanding of what was happening and in the advice that they received. Many women were aware of the contraceptive effect of exclusive, unrestricted breastfeeding, both day and night, for comfort as well as nutrition. However, most women said that they would not rely upon the contraceptive effect of breastfeeding as they knew of women who had become pregnant while breastfeeding, some without even having a menstrual period.

 

She knew that if she was breastfeeding continuously she would not get pregnant. She was told that...

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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Yes, there is actually if you're continuously breastfeeding you won't get pregnant because, especially back home where we come from, mums they breastfeed until two years so then they wouldn't get pregnant, as long as you're breastfeeding continuously that is a contraceptive. Well, that's what my parents or my auntie's and everyone will think, there is, maybe some people medically or professionals they probably think, 'No it's not', but I even personally think so, it is, because one whole year of my baby's life I didn't fall pregnant I was just on breastfeeding, the pill that this powerful one the breastfeeding pill that's all and my, one of my sister's she was breastfeeding her child for two years she wasn't taking no pill, she wasn't doing, using anything to be honest, she didn't fall pregnant, so I think in our culture, in our generation or in people from back home they use that as a, breastfeeding as a contraception definitely, yeah, definitely.

So when did you start the contraceptive pill?

Oh I started it quite late to be honest.

I mean, after this baby.

Oh yeah.

Are you on it again now?

Yes I'm on it again now because I'm not breastfeeding, because of work I'm not breastfeeding continuously and that, I am, I'll be honest with you I'm trying to, not trying not yet, but in summer I will start weaning him off, slowly, so it helps me when I'm coming to work and like a few hours he's not having it, so for that reason, yeah.

Did you notice when you started the contraceptive pill did it affect your milk supply?

Do you know actually I did ask them, I did ask the nurse before I start and one of them she said, 'No it shouldn't effect your breastmilk supply'. It probably, because I did ask will it dry up or anything like that but I did have, because I don't want to stop feeding now until he, you know, he's proper off, I want him to come off it, I don't want to force him to come off it because I, you know, if he, if there's milk there why should I waste it? And no they said it should be fine and so, hopefully it should be okay, definitely, hopefully, no I haven't and I think that when he starts asking if there's enough milk for him, enough milk.

Many women enjoyed a long time without periods (nine to twelve months and more) while others noticed that their periods returned about the time that they introduced solid foods to their baby. A few women said that their periods returned quite quickly (in four to six weeks) but one said that she did not think that she was fertile.

 

Her periods returned early after her son's birth but she has not conceived. She gets irritable...

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Age at interview: 38
Sex: Female
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Is that a problem for you this constant feeding?

Occasionally I'll notice, roughly about, about once a month in time with the monthly cycle I get to find it, I find it a nuisance so, sort of adding insult to injury that with, when he was born I was feeding so much was that my periods came back when he was four weeks old, and I was furious to say the least, I'd had eight months off with my daughter and they just came back straightaway, I've no idea why and I found it.

He was exclusively breastfed on demand?

He was breastfeeding yeah and they came back straightway at four weeks, and I was absolutely furious, I thought this is not part of the deal, you know? [Laughs].

What does that say to you?

I was not impressed so, at all, I don't know why it was I thought about it, I thought, 'Has there been a time when he's not really breastfed much one day' but he hadn't gone long, he went four hours once and then that was it I just thought, 'Well that can't be long enough' but no they just came straight back, but then they came straight back after my ectopic pregnancy it was only two days and they came back, and at first when they came back when he was born I didn't realise I just thought well I've obviously been overdoing it and it's just that after the caesarean it just started bleeding again. But then it was four weeks later and it was four weeks later and so obviously, that was that and so I was not amused [laughs] to say the least, it's not supposed to happen.

So you would not rely on breastfeeding as a contraceptive?

Well we'd, we were talking about whether we wanted to have another child or not and so on and we said, 'Well we're not going to prevent it and we'll see what happens' and sixteen months later nothing's happened, so it's obviously doing, it's obviously working as a contraceptive I wouldn't say anyone should rely on it but it obviously is working, because nothing has happened but then maybe it's not working I don't know yet and it's just some other reason, but no I wouldn't rely on it, but no in sixteen months and he's still breastfeeding and nothing's happened so.

Many women used oral contraception while breastfeeding and most of these used the mini pill (progestogen or progestin only) because it enabled them to continue breastfeeding, although one woman found it unsatisfactory because it made her put on a lot of weight. Of those women who used the combined pill (progesterone plus oestrogen) most were aware that it affected the quantity and quality of their milk supply and was not compatible with breastfeeding.

 

She started taking the pill that is compatible with breastfeeding when her baby was three weeks...

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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Can you tell me are you practising any form of contraception?

Yeah.

Yeah, what are you doing?

I'm back on the Pill but I have gone on to the Noriday Pill I think it's called just because it's a progesterone only Pill, which means that the normal Pill can interfere with your breastfeeding and so I have asked for advice on contraception and this is one they obviously said you know if you are going to have sexual intercourse before this, use a condom because you, you are most fertile for three weeks after having a baby and basically I left it and you start taking the Pill three weeks after having a baby and then you don't stop taking it if you get what I mean there's no breaks or gaps, which you normally have, that's the only one they've said to me to take, it's just because it won't interfere with breastfeeding and I didn't want anything that was, you know, stop or interfere with it, I wanted to make sure that it would still flow for her and that wasn't going to affect her, I suppose, but yeah, that's the one we've gone for.

Were you aware at the time of making this decision about the contraceptive effects of exclusive breastfeeding?

Yes, but, I wouldn't go [laughs] for that so many women have done that and got pregnant straight away and I ain't having that [laughs] I'd rather, it's like using a condom and the Pill I suppose before but I'm with my same, the same partner and obviously know he's not got anything. But no I wouldn't, I wouldn't go via breastfeeding alone, that's something I wouldn't, I just wouldn't trust it, it's an old wife's tale, isn't it? You know I have enough not enough problems having her it was quite traumatic having her and I don't want another baby, I want her to be old enough to explain to me what's wrong with her and so she can be involved with baby rather than having one nine months after having her, if you get what I mean it's not fair on her because I wouldn't have got to know her, she would be a jealous little baby, and it's not fair in my eyes so no, contraception [laughs], don't trust the boobies by themselves [laughs].
 

Several women wanted to become pregnant and were concerned about not being able to become pregnant while they were breastfeeding and some were also concerned about the effect of breastfeeding upon a new pregnancy.

 

She wondered if she could become pregnant while breastfeeding and, if she did, what effect...

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Age at interview: 37
Sex: Female
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Do you remember when you began menstruating again?

Yes, not for a while, it was certainly after six months that I had a period and, so yes, no I didn't see anything for a while which is another bonus [laughs] definitely because I have bad periods so, I wasn't in any rush to get those back again, so, yes.

Did you know you were cycling again? Did you have any idea?

No I've never been very in tune, I've never really known when I was ovulating or anything like that so no it was just when it happened it was a bit of a shock actually, it was coming back from our first holiday, we'd just crossed the Channel [laughs] on the train and yes, and I realised that I was having a period, so yes that was a bit of a shock, but that was the first time.

Anything else?

There was something came into my head as well I'm just trying to think what it was. I suppose there was this issue about whether you could become pregnant again while you were breastfeeding and we've been of the opinion that we, we wanted to, we were not going to use any contraception again, we wanted to have another baby, though, you know, as we weren't bothered how close behind Michael the next baby might come, and we certainly wouldn't have trusted breastfeeding to be a contraceptive in itself even in the early months when he was just breastfeeding all the time. We were warned beforehand and, you know, we were asked, you know, right around the time of birth, one of the first questions that we were asked by the midwife and health visitor, what would be your choice of contraception. So I think that was responsible, to be asking those questions, but for us it wasn't an issue at that time but yeah there are a lot of conflicting messages that go about that even if you a colleague of my husband's at work has had a hidden pregnancy for four months very, she's expecting, she was very well on with her pregnancy by the time that anybody knew about it and she hadn't had a period at all and was breastfeeding, you know, her little one, quite happily so it certainly can happen, we've got a close experience of personal friends who've had it happen so it's not a protection that we had thought it would be.

There was actually one other thing that I was thinking of, the fact that I am pregnant again and it's been interesting as far as breastfeeding's concerned because I've had conflicting advice from, two people with backgrounds in, in health as well and, you know, what, concerns that, and I think both concerns are justified. One that, perhaps if you're breastfeeding it can promote contractions, you know, so that, one was worried about because I had a bit of a rocky start to the pregnancy, whether it might encourage a miscarriage if there was any chance of it happening at all. But then another one saying to me, 'Well actually maybe you've got the bigger risk is that actually your milk might dry up because the other hormones are just going to flood your body because of the pregnancy'. So, neither of which, thankfully, seem to have, you know, come to pass but the end result was well, we're so close to him being twelve months old, he's not on many feeds a day now, let's just push on through, and certainly my midwife said that in her experience, the women that have become pregnant again while they were breastfeeding have generally carried on, so I think again if you become pregnant again then don't let that immediately make you panic and sort of think, 'Right I'm going to have to get the baby off'. I mean in my case it will be nice once Michael reaches twelve months. It gives me a good six months before the next baby arrives.

Other health issues that were raised included the effect of breastfeeding on calcium levels and osteoporosis. [Editor's note' Breastfeeding can actually decrease a woman's risk of developing osteoporosis.] A few women talked about wanting to breastfeed partly because of its protective effect against breast and ovarian cancer. A few women mentioned having difficulty thinking clearly while they were breastfeeding, the drain on their physical resources and tiredness but some countered this comment by saying that they were tired because they were a mother not because they were breastfeeding (see 'Breastfeeding an older baby'). One of the men who spoke to us said that it was important to look after the mother too, as she is often focused on the baby and forgets to take care of herself. One woman talked about pain caused by her own poor positioning for breastfeeding.

 

Pain in her hands, wrists and pelvis was due to poor positioning. Feeding twins was a physical...

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Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
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I was feeding in the bed and I used to feed them cross-legged and I started to get problems like SPD pains in my pelvis.

SPD?

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction I think it's called, pain in the, in the middle of the pelvis which some people suffer a lot during pregnancy and I hadn't suffered at all but I think we've, the relaxin hormone that's still in your body and continues when you're breastfeeding and, with quite a lot of, probably pelvis strain from a pregnancy with twins I found when I was trying to feed them cross-legged I was getting quite a lot of pain, and my cushions often ran away with me, I had a big, long beanbag cushion which I used to wrap around myself and about six pillows propping me up in every direction and I would feed like that and it, it worked well for a month or so but then I began to get quite painful wrists and arms, and quite painful pelvis and I was really looking for any alternative that I could, I could try and get to feed them comfortably, I'd actually suffered quite a lot of wrist and hand pain when I was feeding my first child and I'd had to get quite a lot of physio on my wrists and hands to try and relieve the pain but the key problem was that I was never really supporting my wrists and arms very well, I didn't use cushions effectively enough.

We were talking about your brain and the affects that breastfeeding has on that.

Yeah, yeah. I think when you have a young baby you're very tired anyway, you're losing sleep in the daytime and there's a lot of new stresses and strains to get used to, and the thing I hadn't appreciated was that breastfeeding is another physical strain and it takes a lot out of you that you, you maybe don't realise, certainly with my first child as he got bigger, in the last month or two before he was weaned onto solid food, the amount of milk he was taking from me got bigger and bigger and I became more and more addled, I was physically tired but also, you know, slightly deranged, slightly non-focussed, not able to...

Thinking through cotton wool? [Laughs].

...Yes not able to make sense whatsoever, thinking in a complete fuzz, and I think I realised in the end that it was the breastfeeding that was making me feel like that because his sleep had actually improved by then, and it was, it was the breastfeeding that was keeping me feeling fuzzy. And I guess you just have to live through it, but it helps to recognise it, it helps to know that that's going to happen because I think I was puzzled that I felt so exhausted and I didn't really know why. 

Has it happened this time?

This time I do feel exhausted and I think that's because I'm feeding two, two at a time, and I was warned by the health visitor that feeding twins exclusively myself would be a physical drain, much more than feeding one. So this time I was more prepared for it I think and so it bothers me slightly less, plus the lack of sleep is less of a worry, when you're used to getting up at six in the morning with a toddler then, waking with the babies at six in the morning doesn't feel like anything. So usually I only have one night feed because six in the morning, it doesn't feel like a night feed any more whereas with my first child that felt like it's still the middle of the night.       

Figure, exercise and diet
Several women talked about their figure (including changes in weight and shape), exercising and dieting. For some, breastfeeding helped them to lose the weight that they had put on during pregnancy. For others it did not. Some said that they were not back to their former shape but that they were happy with their new figure. Some said that breastfeeding helped their stomach go down quickly after giving birth and some said that their breasts increased in size and stayed that way. Some women were keen to get back to moderate exercising, including walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates. Some said that it was hard to fit exercise into their day, especially when their baby was young. A few talked about getting their body back. The few who talked about dieting said that they waited until their baby had weaned.

 

Breastfeeding did not change her figure too much but it changed the way that she thought about...

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Age at interview: 26
Sex: Female
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I think it, breastfeeding's not changed my figure too much. It's changed the way I look at my figure, I'm not that bothered any more, I'm probably about a stone and a half heavier than I used to be, I used to be very thin and now I'm quite conscious that I don't want to follow these diets that I used to follow, that I've got to have a nutritionally balanced diet, for Grace's sake as well as mine. But I'm quite comfortable with that, it's almost like my body now does what it's meant to do. Breasts are designed to breastfeed babies and that's exactly what my body's now doing. Occasionally, Grace went through this phase of having a night time booby and a daytime booby, and one would swell up like during the day and one would be really small, and they'd be quite lopsided, and I just kind of laugh at it [laughs] it's not worth getting upset about, in fact I quite like it, I used to think it was, it was quite sweet that Grace had decided which one she'd feed on during the day and which one she'd feed on during the night, and that was the result [laughs]. But I miss sometimes having nice matching underwear, because I've got breastfeeding bras on. You can have matching underwear if you want it's just not as easy to breastfeed because you can get bras that clip down and they are, they are nice to have, they're not essential and you can make them yourself, but they are if you can afford to splash out on one or two, and they are nice. 

 

Breastfeeding was physically demanding and she was keen to begin exercising again to maintain her...

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Age at interview: 35
Sex: Female
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I suppose I was, have always been quite active, you know, going to the gym and doing exercise, and, in pregnancy and in childbirth and then just those few weeks after giving birth, for me I just feel really unfit, I really do, and I feel I'm not strong enough to, do the holding and perhaps it's because I have a toddler as well, so breastfeeding lying down was, is a life saver for me, and in fact even during the day I often lie down to feed my baby because it just is more, less stressful on my body and perhaps as I get fitter I will feel more comfortable feeding sitting again, and [laughs] even cooking and feeding at the same time, as you surprise yourself you have to do, but there is something about fitness and I think more support should be given to women getting fit after childbirth because it's a very physically demanding job, being a mother.

So when did you start exercising again after the birth of the baby?

Right, well for my first baby [laughs], it was probably six months before I started, doing my workouts, I have my own routines that I do at home. With this time it was much easier with my c-section, perhaps I was more confident having had one before, the situation in which I decided to have a c-section was totally different as well, because the baby was healthy and I am exercising already. I started about six weeks, and in fact I found the six week period when you can't drive, you're supposed to be not driving, very long and I went and begged the GP to have a letter to be able to drive and asked him about exercising and he was very cautious which is normal possibly but I went back to swimming and now I'm doing my normal exercise routines that I was doing and as a result I feel better in myself, I feel like I'm getting stronger and I think everybody benefits around me because of that, and reclaiming my body as well is quite important, so although I enjoy the breastfeeding which is an act of giving, I enjoy as well reclaiming my body after a childbirth, by getting stronger again and getting back into shape. That's very important for me and I think it's a balance that I enjoyed last time I was really unfit for a long time, this time I'm fitter and I'm much, I feel much better in myself because of that, because when I exercise I feel I'm doing something for myself, and when I feed I'm doing something for my baby and there is a good balance there so that's very important for me.

Most women said that they noticed a big increase in their appetite while they were breastfeeding and some developed a sweet tooth. It was one time when they could eat anything without putting on extra weight. A mother of twins said that she was ravenous, ate big meals, snacked between meals and had an extra bowl of breakfast cereal before going to bed. Many said that they were thirsty and drank a lot more water. One woman said that she often felt hungry about ten minutes after a breastfeed. Another said that she noticed an increase in her milk supply if she ate, for example a pizza, before going to bed.

 

Breastfeeding made her sleepy and relaxed. She did not lose weight but waited to diet until her...

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Age at interview: 31
Sex: Female
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Tell me a little bit more about the impact of breastfeeding on you, you said it makes you sleepy and relaxed, what else does it do for you?

Really close to my baby, I really like the experience, it is a really bonding experience, and it is really, to think that you're their sole, provider is, it's fulfilling I suppose in a way, especially when they're only on breastfeeds, only ever been breastfed and they're not on any solids and you know that they're totally reliant on you for everything, at first it can be overwhelming when you're just getting used to it all, and it can be, you want to escape it, when you're, the other side of it when you're, they're weaning and their starting to go mixed foods and you look at it slightly differently. I think it is a positive experience, yeah sometimes you think, 'Oh I wish I could just get my body back and not have to wear the breastfeeding bras and, pads and, have a big chest' [laughs] all these kind of things but, the pros outweigh all of that, it's nice, that my favourite time of the night is the end of the day giving him his last feed and, him being all full up and satisfied and sound asleep that's nice, and I don't like it if he doesn't take a full feed because I feel that something's amiss and I find that really a positive yeah.

What about your figure? Has breastfeeding had any impact on your figure?

I think to begin with, once with both children there's, I think it helps, it does help everything, go back, like if your stomach muscles sooner than if you didn't breastfeed, but I think for me I will, didn't lose the weight with my daughter until I stopped breastfeeding, until I don't know if it was because it gave me a bigger appetite, or because I didn't go into a really strict diet, because I don't want to diet while I'm breastfeeding, I don't want to.

Why?

You're always told not to diet, not to cut your intake of food, not to do any faddy diets because it can affect the quality of your milk, and some of the diets are just, I've done in the past have been drinks, you know, food replacements and I wouldn't want to do that while I'm, I wouldn't want to take anything that I'm not a hundred percent sure it wouldn't be healthy for my son, so I don't know, I think I've just put him first and just made sure I've been eating healthily. So I think that's probably, has delayed me getting my figure back, I know for other people they get their figure back quicker because they're breastfeeding, but I definitely didn't with my daughter, and I don't expect to with my son either, I seem to retain the weight round my middle and my chest until I've finished breastfeeding. I do find that hard and that's the only reason why I would be tempted to give up sooner, so that I could give up and then get on a really strict diet, but it's too selfish I wouldn't do that, because that, have to carry on and I dare say I could be stricter with what I eat, but I find I have an appetite when I'm feeding as well so it's, it is difficult.

So you eat more?

I think I could starve, for me to lose weight I have to really starve myself and really exercise hard, I don't lose weight by just eating three meals a day I don't, I have to have no bread for breakfast and lunch, you know really be hungry is the only way I lose weight and exercise hard. I just, I can't do that when I'm feeding I just feels it's, that's more important just now it's such a short time, but I have to keep telling myself that, I don't always think that, every now and then I, like with going back to work I panic about that because I'm not going to get into any of my work clothes but.
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Most of the women said that they ensured that they had healthy food while pregnant and breastfeeding because they realised that what they ate went through to their baby. For some this meant no changes in their diet at all while for others it meant avoiding or reducing things like spicy foods, fast foods, snack bars, caffeine (in tea, coffee and coke), alcohol and anything that appeared to make their baby windy (onions and garlic) and increasing things like fish, chicken, cereals, fruit and vegetables. One woman from an Indian background talked about a strict diet during the early days of breastfeeding that included a special nut mixture to build up the milk supply (see 'Cultural aspects of breastfeeding'). One woman made 'fennel water' which she drank to prevent colic. Another woman removed all dairy products from her diet because she suspected that her son was dairy intolerant (see 'Dealing with difficult times')*1 while others avoided peanuts. While some women avoided alcoholic drinks altogether others said that they enjoyed one or two glasses as a way of relaxing. One woman, who wished to have a few glasses of wine at a party, talked about expressing breastmilk to feed to her baby later that night.

Medications

Most women did not take any medicines while pregnant or breastfeeding because they did not want their baby to “get anything”. Several said that they made a point of telling their health professionals (for example doctor and dentist) that they were breastfeeding. One woman asked her doctors to find another medicine when the one that they wanted her to take precluded breastfeeding (see 'When extra care is needed for mother or baby'). However, the medicines taken by those who did use them covered a broad range including painkillers (such as narcotic analgesics like morphine and pethidine following caesarean section and non-narcotic analgesics such as paracetamol for sore nipples and breasts); antibiotics (for infections such as mastitis and thrush); galactagogue's for increasing milk supply (such as metoclopramide and domperidone*2); prescription medicines (such as appropriate antihypertensive's, anticoagulant's, antidepressant's and methadone); oral contraceptives; multi-vitamin and omega oil preparations; homeopathic remedies and herbal supplements; and recreational drugs such alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and street drugs. A few women used medications to increase their milk supply (see 'Monitoring baby's growth' and 'When extra care is needed for mother and/or baby').

Information on medications and breastfeeding can be obtained from LactMed – an online Drugs and Lactation Database geared to health professionals and lactating mothers. A resource that is part of the US National Library of Medicine (see Resources section).

 

She was sent home from the hospital with a “goody bag” of painkillers and was confused about what...

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Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
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I came home from the hospital with this big, like a goody bag of painkillers [laughs] and, each one had directions on the packet, take so many within so many hours and, I left the hospital late morning and I'd already taken some painkillers that they were handing to me, so I had to phone them up and say, 'What have I had today already?' and I didn't know could you take this with this? And could you, you know, and I said to my husband, 'I can't do it, I can't do it, I can't work it out' I just couldn't, my brain just would not work and he said, 'Well look you take this one, you take this one' and I said, 'You do it'.

Yeah so I said to my husband, 'Please you do it I can't cope with this, you do it' and he made a little chart on the computer and filled in right you can have this at this time and this at that time [laughs], and because I don't even remember how many different painkillers I had but they didn't really seem important either I was just so focussed on, I have to feed my baby. Other people can change his nappy, change his clothes, wash him, do whatever, I must feed my baby and I was just very single minded about it.

 

Her baby's weight gain slowed so she gave her top ups of expressed milk and infant formula. She...

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Age at interview: 28
Sex: Female
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I went to the clinic on and off for about five to six weeks, what happened was that I eventually got the latch right but I had a couple of other hiccoughs along the way, and one was that I developed mastitis a couple of times and I suspect that was because I hadn't got the latch quite right, and that was a bit of a, again that kind of took my confidence away because once I thought I had my latch right then something else happened and, you know, I have these horrible painful red sore breasts and I had to take antibiotics and I felt dreadful and, you know, I just needed to go back and get a bit more emotional support I think if nothing else, but that sorted itself out. However I think after about, when she was about eight weeks old I noticed that she wasn't really putting on weight quite as well as she ought to have been. She'd dipped down quite badly in those first two weeks which I assume was because I was breastfeeding her so badly but then she'd started to pick up again but she never quite followed a centile, she started sort of crossing over centiles going downwards, and that was very worrying. When I went to the breastfeeding clinic they were, they were very good about sort of talking me through what exactly I was doing, you know, sort of routine-wise how many feeds she was getting a day and at that stage she was getting about eight feeds a day but she still didn't seem to be getting enough milk at each time, so they suggested a sort of variety of strategies to increase my breastmilk production. So what I first did was I started expressing at the end of each feed so that I'd have a bit of extra breast stimulation so I would feed her, express, and then give her whatever expressed milk I had at the end of each feed so she was having sort of a double feed if you like. And I did that for about two or three weeks and it was very time-consuming and quite draining because, you know, it's bad enough I think feeding every three hours through the night but when you also have to be up and expressing and then giving her the bottle and sterilising the bottles and so on and so forth it got, very tiring. Then what happened was at, but that still didn't really seem to be working and again I started getting quite upset because I thought, you know, 'What more can I do?' so I started topping her up with formula, I'd breastfeed her and then give her a bottle of formula, and she'd have sort of between say two and four ounces after a breastfeed and then at the same time I started taking some Domperidone which is what the breastfeeding clinic recommended, to increase my breastmilk production. And the Domperidone's actually an anti-nausea drug but it has the side, the side effect of increasing lactation, so I was taking one tablet three times a day for about two weeks. And it did actually increase my breastmilk production so that I was getting more each time I expressed at the end of a breastfeed and you know so there I was, I went back to breastfeeding, expressing and giving her the expressed milk, and that would seem to settle her actually. Once my breastmilk production had gone up a bit her own growth picked up a bit and she went back onto the centile that she was born on and has followed that ever since, so that's what I've continued doing, she's down to six feeds a day but I breastfeed her and top her off with expressed milk at the end of each feed, and it sounds a bit of a bother but it's worked now for the last two months and she's incredibly settled and is happy with her six feeds a day and she sleeps through the night and I just don't want to rock the boat so I think I'm just going to just continue doing that until it's time to wean her.

Are you still taking the Domperidone?

No I stopped taking the Domperidone after about two weeks, but I really do think it had an effect, I noticed it myself, I mean I could see the effect i
 

She did not want to take methadone or Prozac while she was breastfeeding and preferred to use...

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Age at interview: 34
Sex: Female
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Yeah I did but in a way I still have the legacy of my record because it means that, I can't ask for help any more [laughs], in the way that I used to and for like, for example, I haven't gone onto, back onto, antidepressant's. But I was on antidepressant's and they said, “Oh if you don't take them you're going to relapse”, right?, “If you don't, if you don't take them for over six months, if you” because I stopped taking them and they said, “Oh if you don't then you're going to relapse” and I ended up, getting involved in this other culture of self-medicating, using, you know, street drugs and dealt with my depression that way.

Was this after [daughter] was born?

No this, this was like, this was like years ago.

Oh back.

So I don't know how I started talking about that, what were we talking about?

Antidepressant's, you said.

Oh that's right, so I haven't gone back on them because I'm breastfeeding I don't want her to be a Prozac junkie. So, and also when I was pregnant I was on a methadone script for twenty ml, and there, you know, they have a, it's a very low dose anyway in there.

So when did you start that, when in your pregnancy? Do you remember?

That would've been about five months.

And did you have that right through?

No because what I did is that I used it in the same way that I used all my other drugs. So I'd like stockpile it and then when emotionally I couldn't take it any more [laughs] I'd, I'd use it to help me, and then what would happen is to, then I'd sort of came, you know, I'd come out of that, spin out of that one and go, “Oh God what the hell's going on here?” and then you'd go, “Oh right, right, well ah” even though, even though the line is that you are, that you, that you take twenties, you take a script of twenty ml a day and then when you give birth, you wean through the breastmilk, so you can carry on taking the twenty ml and the baby's still not going to withdraw because they're getting the breastmilk. They're not going to withdraw anyway from twenty ml, twenty ml's peanuts, it's buttons. But I felt at that time I want to withdraw while I'm pregnant rather than do all that, so because I wasn't really using it at that much I was just, you know, I'm, a very emotional person so the whole hormone, drug, physical, inhabiting your body, energy work it's all fucking the same, and it's just, it was a case of taking nine months to wean from one area to another.

So by the time you got to the birth you were off everything?

By the time I got to the birth I was off everything, I was off everything and I would be, get back in the environment where I was taking and using before and I wouldn't be using. So I'd be going on a long walk and I wouldn't be taking any Speed. I was pure, my own endorphins from having swum however many lengths, gone to yoga, you know, that week or whatever. It was just, I'm telling you God, this is happening, the reality of it was the physical body and the organism, physically, the dialogue between the two physical bodies got through that weaning process and that is why I'm in crisis now partly because we're still weaning and I need help to wean. And I can't, I can't, you see because I think [daughter] naturally, is naturally weaning herself now we've got to night time and morning, and if she asks me in the day then I say, “No” an

Social Life
Many people said that their social life changed when they had a baby. Some took the baby with them wherever they went while others went out for short bursts between breastfeeds. Several said that they didn't want to go out anymore in the way that they had before but preferred to be there for their baby (see 'Changing family relationships with a breastfed baby'). Some said that their social life went on hold but that it wasn't for very long. Some said that they kept in touch with family and friends via email and text messages. Some said that they made new friends who had babies much the same age at a variety of community groups. One woman was keen to get her son, who was well over a year old, onto a bottle so that she could go out shopping or have a girls' night out without him.

 

She could have gone out for a few hours at a time while her daughter slept but she didn't want to...

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Age at interview: 26
Sex: Female
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Okay. What about going out at night? When did you start? Were you able to ever do that? How did you manage it? 

[Daughter] was quite predictable at night after a couple of months so I always had the opportunity, she would leave maybe four and a half hours in between she would be very fussy and things around seven o'clock, seven to maybe nine o'clock but after that she would settle down and be down for maybe you know four, four and a half hours and so I could always guarantee that I could have left her for that time and gone out, and I know that a lot of people had said that breastfeeding was tying in that way but for me I could have always done that and I had that opportunity for a long time and never ever used it, I never wanted to leave her I never it just didn't cross my mind to leave her when I did get invited out I knew that this was a time when [daughter] needed me and, I'd hate the thought of her waking up and me not being there and not only that but, how long was it going to last for and realistically it's over now and it wasn't a very long time and in the grand scale of how long [daughter]'s going to be with me that was just nothing at all and so staying in just didn't you know just didn't matter at all. I also, I mean I went out a lot with her at night so I would feed her put her down in you know in the pushchair keep her right next to me at any point when she woke up I could feed her I could go out have a couple of glasses of white wine we could go to a restaurant we could you know socialise with friends still go round to friends' houses and I would always take her with me and that way she could feed whenever she wanted to and she always knew that I was there and now I think that's been a hundred per cent positive because she knows that I would never ever leave her and even I've spent one night away from her and on that night she asked for me when I would have normally been there but she was never upset because you know I asked my sister who was looking after her you know if she ever asked for me tell her, 'Mummy will be back very soon mummy's thinking of you mummy loves you' the things that I would have told her had I been there and so, it was just reassuring for her and she knew that I would you know I was always coming back so she just got on and did it.

 
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Having a baby brought about lifestyle changes and the social life that he and his wife gave up...

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Age at interview: 29
Sex: Male
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What about going out together as a couple?

Going out together as a couple? People do that? I didn't know. Basically when you're a new parent you just don't go out [laughs] basically, you have to accept that you, when you become a new parent you have to accept there's going to be lifestyle changes, and you have to accept that [laughs], you know, you going to realise that going out becomes a rumour that you hear people do but you never actually experience yourself very often. Realistically you do get people that turn round and say, 'Oh I've gone on to bottle feeding because I want to go out, I want to have a life, I want to have a career, I want to do this, I want to do that, okay. And you didn't consider all this, before you fell pregnant. Which in fairness a lot of people don't but it just goes through your head it's, a bit of an incredulous thing, I mean to be honest, when I had my first child which was a very long time ago, it was about, it was ten years ago, I have to admit I considered, and I wasn't the most responsible person at the time, I considered what might, the impact the child was going to have on my life and I knew I wouldn't be going out, I knew I wouldn't be doing bits and pieces, but you've just got to get over it, just get on with what you've got to do, you know what I mean? But with, I mean the added emphasis is that, you know, when you're breastfeeding the rumour is, apparently, you can't go out, you can't, you can't go out because you're breastfeeding a child so, it's feeding every two hours, you can't come back, you can't do this, you can't do that. If you express the milk off, the person you leave him with knows what they're doing, and you're not leaving him for stupid amounts of time, then it is possible that you can do that, you don't have to put them on bottles, you can express your own milk off which will help just as much. Or store it, freeze it, store it, use it when you need it. You know, there's no reason why you can't go out, I mean there's other aspects as well obviously, you know, whether you get childcare, whether you get someone you can trust? You know, make sure the child carer isn't an axe murderer, you know, you do get things like that, but you have to accept that you won't get time to go out and do bits and pieces that you want because yes the baby will be attached to you but if I'm honest, if someone was trading said, 'Right you can either go out, go out on the town, get hammered, or go out and have a brilliant time, or have what's best for your child' the child wins, total percent, you know, I'm not going to thing but, if, but I can, but when the baby, you gradually accept that is also, you know, most people live for eighty odd years, so you're spending the first like six months of your life, or six months out of your life looking after a child, or a year out of your life, looking after that child, well okay then well you've got another seventy-nine years to kind of do what you want with, you know? And also remembering that this is the child that you kind of, you want to give it the best start in life, you know, you want it to turn out brilliant, you want him to turn out the best he can be, because, you know, basically it's, that's just what it should be, this is, that's the focus should be. If it means giving up your social life for six months do it, you know, forget it, just get over it and just go for it, because it's either going to be that or you're going to get, or you bottle feed it, you don't get as attached, because if I'm honest, if you're putting your social life above your child now, then you're going to, chances are you're going to do it over and over and over again. I mean, that means when you're, you are eighty, he's going to be the one putting you in a home, he ain't going to care which one he puts you in, unless you're building up now to make sure he puts, you know, you got to, it builds a social re

*Footnote 1: It is recommended that exclusion of a whole food group from your diet be done in consultation with a dietician.

*Footnote 2: Domperidone is normally used in the treatment of Parkinson's Disease and has the side effect of increasing lactation in a breastfeeding woman. It should only be taken on the advice and under the supervision of a health professional.

Last reviewed November 2018.
Last updated September 2015

 

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