Breastfeeding: What they don’t tell you

Breastfeeding is such a controversial topic. You will only just have announced your pregnancy and everyone will already be interested in whether you’re going breast or bottle. Never has it been so acceptable to be this interested in a woman’s mammary glands!

I know many women (in the UK) who were given the impression that breastfeeding should be such a natural, automatic, easy act that they felt such a failure when it didn’t work for them. (It’s quite different in France, but that’s a whole other blog post.)

Newborn baby trying to latch on the breast l Breastfeeding:What they don't tell you l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

Trying to get our youngest, C, to latch on when she was newborn

I breastfed our two daughters for 11 months each, and whilst on the whole these were great experiences, they did have their ups and downs. So, having had some difficulties myself, I decided to write this blog post for all new mums/pregnant women to prepare you for what no one seems to want to tell you about breastfeeding:

Breastfeeding: the unspoken facts

  • It is highly unlikely that your newborn baby will latch on immediately. Don’t beat yourself up about this. You’re both new to the game and you will learn together. However research shows that many babies will attempt to latch on within the first hour or two, which is why uninterrupted skin to skin time is so important if you’re planning to breastfeed.
Newborn baby latched on to mum l Breastfeeding: What they don't tell you l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

After some skin-on-skin time I managed to get C latched on and feeding

  • You probably won’t get the latch right for a while. I’m sure you’ve read about how to get your baby to latch on, but in practice it can be harder. If in doubt ask. A midwife. A health visitor. A breastfeeding counsellor. Someone from NCT. Or La Leche League. A friend/family member/neighbour who has breastfed their own babies.
  • It may well hurt to breastfeed your baby. It is normal to experience some pain for the first couple of minutes of nursing, but this should abate shortly after let-down, and shouldn’t go on longer than the first few weeks. If you have any doubt about whether the pain is normal, don’t hesitate to seek help from a specialist (see advice and links below). Positioning and attachment is the most common cause of sore nipples and often just requires some small adjustments.
  • Let-down may hurt. It can range from tingling to feeling quite painful. But it doesn’t last long so do try and relax as this will relieve some of the discomfort. If you have done hypnobirthing this is a great time to think back to your exercises.
2 month old baby breastfeeding l Breastfeeding: what they don't tell you l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

Our eldest, L, breastfeeding, aged 2 months

  • Your baby may become agitated while breastfeeding. Maybe your let-down is too slow. Perhaps your milk doesn’t come fast enough/is too fast. It could be that your baby has allergies and your diet is causing them to flare up. A baby who is feeding well should put on weight fairly consistently (even a small amount), they should also be fairly happy after a feed, sleep relatively well and be producing plenty of wet and dirty nappies. If in doubt arrange to see your midwife/health visitor/breastfeeding specialist.
  • There is a possibility you may get mastitis (an inflammation of the breast tissue), which is no fun and requires antibiotics. Not everyone gets it (I didn’t) but it can be very painful and make you feel really ill. It’s worth learning how to avoid it and keeping a look-out for early symptoms if you do breastfeed.
  • The most important fact of them all – you are a good mum whether you breastfeed or not. I always remember my mum (former NCT breastfeeding counsellor and mum/breastfeeder of 5 children) telling me that it’s better to give a bottle happily than the breast against your will. Do not beat yourself up about it if it’s not working for you. If you do want to persevere don’t hesitate to contact the associations below.

Breastfeeding: is it worth it?

After all those (fairly negative) facts, is it really worth breastfeeding your baby?

  • Breastfeeding will make your uterus get back to its former size and shape quicker than not breastfeeding.
  • Nursing your baby will often help you lose weight as it uses up a fair amount of calories. I often joke about wishing I could go back on the breastfeeding diet – both times I dropped to less than my pre-pregnancy weight within 2 months of giving birth!
  • It is the easy route with regards to practicality – you will always have the milk you need, at the right temperature, literally on tap.
  • It is by far the cheaper option. Formula milk costs a ridiculous amount, not to mention the need for bottles, teats and sterilising kit (although not essential, as I have previously explained).
  • Breast milk has numerous health and immunity benefits for your baby, whilst breastfeeding has been proven to reduce certain women’s cancers for you, the mum.
  • It is a beautiful time for you to spend with your baby – just going through my old photos for this blog post has brought a smile to my face.
10 month old baby breastfeeding l Breastfeeding: what they don't tell you

Our youngest, C, aged 10 months, breastfeeding

My message to you, new mum and to you, pregnant woman

  • If you’re not sure about breastfeeding – give it a whirl. If you like it and it works for you, then enjoy. If you can’t breastfeed/don’t like it, just those first few days of colostrum will give your baby’s immune system a massive boost, then move on to formula or mixed feeding.
  • If you’d like to try breastfeeding but are nervous or worried about the pain – try it out. My eldest, L, was a natural, she latched on and fed no problems. I had no cracked nipples, no pain, no blocked milk ducts, just really lovely close moments of breastfeeding pleasure. So you just don’t know until you try.
  • If you really don’t want to breastfeed – tell the medical professionals. Tell friends and family. Ask everyone to respect your decision. Because it is your decision. And a happy mum is a good mum.

Breastfeeding is a beautiful, incredible, like-no-other, frustrating, upsetting, wonderful experience. Don’t suffer in silence. Ask for help. But always think about you. If you are happy and healthy it will help your baby to be happy and healthy too. And that’s all that counts really.

Breastfeeding 8 month old on holiday l Breastfeeding: what they don't tell you l l French and English Parenting and Lifestyle Ramblings

Breastfeeding an 8 month old C on holiday – I’m all about the easy life!

If you are considering breastfeeding, or are currently breastfeeding and experiencing any problems or difficulties then don’t hesitate to contact one or several of the following (whichever one(s) you feel most comfortable with):

How did you find feeding your baby? Did you breastfeed happily? Was it a struggle? Did you know you were never going to breastfeed? I’d love to hear your experiences.


24 Responses

  1. Great post!!! I am so glad you wrote something like this and I can only wish I had read it before my son was born!! I went through some problems that you mentioned ( I am a real advocate for more breastfeeding support here in the UK, so many people I know gave up within a few days because they didn’t get the support they needed. I couldn’t get my baby to latch for nearly a week and this caused a lot of problems- his weight loss and mastitis infections for me (ouch) and he didn’t get the colostrum so now has allergies (might not be due to this but it’s a possibility) and the first 2 weeks of his life I was on antibiotics for the 2 mastitis infections I got! I could go on, but I won’t here! My son is now nearly 16 months and the breastfeeding is going so so well due to perseverance! I just wanted to say how much I LOVE this post! Thank you for sharing! (and P.S I would love to know how it is different in France?)
    susan @happyhealthymumma recently posted…Healthy Brownies! (aka. sweet potato brownies)My Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience. It’s such a shame that so many women give up because it was harder than they had expected, and that they don’t get the necessary support. I will read your post now. France is so different as they are not really pro-breastfeeding, but that’s a whole other blog post!

  2. Jenny says:

    Great post Sophie. I would absolutely agree that breastfeeding is a learned skill for both mum and baby, which takes time and sometimes quite a lot of perseverence, both in terms of accessing the right support and also taking each feed at a time.

    By far my most challenging breastfeeding experience was with my third baby. I knew what I was doing but she didn’t (!) and it took a long time to get to a point where feeds were comfortable and a ridiculously long time for her to regain her birth weight.

    For anyone suffering or finding it challenging please ask for help (and keep asking until you find the right person) from someone experienced in supporting breastfeeding mothers. There may not be a magic solution but having support and a listening ear as you work through the issues is invaluable.

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I think you’re right that support and a listening ear can be the best things, and to make yourself realise you’re not the only mum having problems with it.

  3. AMAZING post!! I breastfed Elsie and I was incredibly lucky because I was one of those ver rare mums who didn’t experience any problems whatsoever. (I’ve put this down to hypnobirthing!)

    It was effortless for me and Elsie (something which I did not expect and know is rare!) and I thoroughly enjoyed it. However saying that, I’m well aware this isn’t normally the case. This advice is brilliant and will help so many new mums. Like you, I would always say to anyone, if you fancy it, give it a shot but if it’s not working or you’re not enjoying it, move to bottle and do not beat yourself up over it. The important thing is to be a happy Mum. I’m going to share it across my networks now. Well done lovely x
    Katie / Pouting In Heels recently posted…Today I am pissed off because…My Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Thanks lovely, I was lucky with L in that she fed really well and easily, but it was more of a struggle with C. Which just goes to show it changes from one baby to another! x

  4. Rachel Loynes says:

    Just to comment on your fact that breastfeeding aids in resuming your pre-pregnancy body. I gave birth via emergency c-section, and formula fed from day 2 due to excessive pain. I was back in my pre-pregnancy clothes in about 3 weeks, and, same as you, experienced further weight loss, so you may credit breastfeeding, as many seem to, but my experience would tend to say this part is different for each person (knowing breastfeeders who are struggling with losing weight 5 months in) and isn’t necessarily to do with how baby is fed x

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      That’s very interesting, I’ve certainly not come across any formula-feeders who have lost that weight so quickly without dieting. I call it the breastfeeding diet because I used to be able to eat so much when breastfeeding, then both times when I stopped the weight crept back on very quickly 🙁 So for me it definitely was the breastfeeding that kept me slim 😉

  5. Eve says:

    I breastfed for almost 6 months and for the first 6 weeks i thought it would quit everyday! The pain! At the beginning she would never open her mouth big enough for a good latch so i saw my nipples moulding into weird shapes (the lipstick one was quite spectacular!) It eventually got much better as she grew bigger and we’ve never developped any major issue but i remember the stress of the early weeks as you’re the sole food provider, the stress when she’s not putting a lot of weight, the never-endings feeds, everybody around you assuming that everytime the baby cries it must be because she’s hungry… ggrrrr!! I too lost all my pregnancy weight (and more) within 6 weeks of giving birth, which was great but i honestly think it was due to being stressed, shell shocked and not eating much 🙂 After 6 weeks it became pain-free, feeds were quicker and i enjoyed it a lot. The conveniency! Travelling was so easy.
    It is true what they say: this time passes so fast and you don’t get it back. I’m getting broody again and one of the things i’m set on doing for sure when i have #2 is to enjoy this special time right from the beginning. It also made me in awe of what our bodies do, i remember telling friends that my boobs were connected to my brain, they didn’t *really* get it…

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I’m so glad that your experience worked out well in the end, I really feel that nobody warns us of how hard it can be to breastfeed and then it can come as such a massive shock if it doesn’t go smoothly. I loved the conveniency too 🙂

  6. MuMuGB says:

    Ah, the joy of breastfeeding. I think that you are right, it is important to get help, because it isn’t as easy as it looks.
    I also think that it is high time to tell all mums to stop feeling guilty. After all, we are all doing the best we can.
    MuMuGB recently posted…10 Things Not To Say To A French Expat In LondonMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Funnily enough the guilt thing is very much British – when I as in France I didn’t know one single mum who bottle fed who felt guilty for not breastfeeding….

  7. Kohl Mama says:

    I’ve turned into somewhat of a breastfeeding obsessive. But that’s only because I didn’t know where the support was with my eldest and stopped after a couple of weeks but I’m successfully feeding my 8 month old daughter. I’m now training to be a peer supporter and if I can help just one mother, it’s been worth it. This post would have been so timely when I was heartbroken at having to stop!Thanks for a lovely post.
    Kohl Mama recently posted…Review – Pop Up Mums EventsMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I’m so glad to hear that it’s a useful post for those who may need it. Although sad to hear that you had problems the first time round and didn’t find the help you needed. Enjoy every moment this time round as time flies by!

  8. Emma T says:

    Great post. And so important for new mums to have the information, because so often, the information you’re given in pregnancy is all positive and doesn’t really cover the issues.

    I had an em cs, then although the hospital breastfeeding expert said N was latching well, he just wouldn’t suck. Luckily I was able to hand express the colostrum, but even though the hospital midwives tried to help with the breastfeeding it didn’t happen while I was in there.

    At home I continued to try but he just wasn’t sucking still and by that point I’d had to get him formula which he had no problem drinking, little sod! I tried expressing but didn’t have much luck with that either – not getting much milk out even once my milk came in. I think it had got to the point then, that everything else was going so well, and he was having formula really well, that I was happy to go with what he’d effectively chosen to do.

    The majority of our NCT group breastfed, but out of 6, 5 had to get support and get the breast feeding counsellor out to them, or go to baby cafe. I was stuck at home unable to drive so couldn’t get to baby cafe until it was too late. I expected my midwife/HV checks to push the breastfeeding but they didn’t. I’d also been expecting to be marched off to the pumping room but wasn’t.

    I think if I’d had all the information shoved in front of my nose and in the hospital I would probably have tried for longer, but I’m not really one for asking for help.

    Do I feel guilty? Not really as N has thrived. I wish I’d had the breastfeeding diet as I’ve definitely struggled with losing weight. I do think babies should be checked for more at birth if they’re not breastfeeding. It turned out (we found out 2.5yrs later) that N was tongue tied, so if they’d checked it when we had problems, that might have helped us with breastfeeding.
    Emma T recently posted…Swimming confidence and bathtime nightmareMy Profile

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      I’m so sorry that your breastfeeding journey was such a tough one. I think in the UK there is just not the necessary staff to make the necessary checks, which is such a shame. Hopefully if we all speak out and look out for each other then mums in the future will have easier breastfeeding paths.

  9. Laura G says:

    I so enjoy everything you write but really appreciated this post. You have such a refreshing attitude. It was a French friend who essentially helped me get over the guilt of not breastfeeding because she was so utterly flummoxed as to why I felt guilty. Breastfeeding is great and should clearly be encouraged but we need a more balanced approach to it. Thank you!

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      Thank you so much for such a lovely comment, I’m really pleased that my post struck a chord with you. It’s very much an anglo-saxon thing this guilt over not breastfeeding and pressurising mums to do it. Whilst I’m very pro breastfeeding it isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. I’m glad you had the support you needed.

  10. Anna Maria says:


    Great post! I breastfed my first for 21 months and my second for 8 months. Two very different experiences that i would like to share to make other moms think things over. My first, we had tons of starting problems nobody had prepared me about and i had lots of bad advice also at the hospital, like that my milk is not enough and i should supplement at the third day post labor which was of course worse advice ever. Anyhow, after lots and lots of work we both got a new start at bf at 1 month and a half and went till 21 to my childs insistance who would not give it up no matter what i tried. He stoped with some gentle guidance at 21 months…i remember searching the net asking my bf guidance about methods to stop but none worked. Now i know why…because my second came to remind me of that. Second baby i was a confident experienced mommy, gave birth latched him on right away and the first night i coslept with him even if nurses telling me i will teach him wrong, like you teach something a one day old…i did not listen to anyone than myself my instict and my experience, and we had an excellent start right off a happy baby a happy mommy. Until about six seven months people arround me started this anti-bf talk i had forgotten all about that. That i should stop bf so i dont get the same “trouble” as with first who would not stop, and because i got a skin infection using antibiotics i stoped one day to the next. What i now know, it is not natural it does not feel right to bottle feed a baby so young. I am not judging moms who do, i just say this for me,bcomparing my experiences. You miss out on a lot, and in terms of practicalities, bottle feeding is, complicating and requires work. My advice would be to go with your instict, to go with what your baby asks, baby lives on instict so his needs are best met if you listen to him/her. I would say if people around you tell you all this nonsense about bf, you should ask them to stop or if they dont, tell them what you do with your breasts is your business. They wont be around if you feel sad you stoped, if you cant calm a fussy baby at 3 am like you used to, when he gets a cold you cant help with your body, they wont be there. Society i think has been brainwashed on womens bodies. Like they should be young firm for ever breasts should be sexual objects…no breasts are for baby nutrition that is what they are made for. Of course they are sexual but when you have a baby of course you can and should use them to feed your child and people stop all this judging. Also think about how cows make milk for their babies not human ones. You are the best option your child has…if a woman choses not to bf ok i hear that that if one decides to bf support her or at least just let her be at one with her child. Quite a long post i can go on forever…but i stop her. My best to all mommies and babies,

  11. Franglaise Mummy says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience here. I think there is a lot to be said for supporting other mums in their choices, whether it’s breastfeeding or bottle feeding, however long each one is for.

  12. Lady_Luck says:

    Good post. Just having had my first baby 5 weeks ago, I am baffled as to why no midwife, health professional or other person gave me the REAL lowdown on breastfeeding – warts and all. One is led to believe it is something easy or automatic, and do not tell you of the dangers of bottle feeding too soon (my baby was slightly jaundiced in hospital, so after my emerg C-section, and without any real milk in, I panicked and bottle fed him almost right from the start). In 2015, I am amazed people do not arm women with all the facts, and more so before it is too late.

    • Franglaise Mummy says:

      It’s such a shame that we are not told exactly what can happen – armed with the facts we can make informed decisions. I’m sorry you had such a hard experience.

  13. Dan says:

    There are a couple of key facts that we weren’t made aware of regarding breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, and it makes me really quite angry when I look back at how one sided the information we were given was, especially when it was sold to us as impartial. Those key facts are: 1) breastfed babies are more likely to lose weight in the first few days and 2) breastfed babies are more likely to develop jaundice. Those are crucial, key facts, and to not make those facts clear up front is grossly negligent in my opinion.

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