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Breastfeeding: free help and moneysaving tips

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Breastfeeding can be expensive if you buy the wrong tools and don't know where to go for advice. New mother Donna Ferguson gives her tips.


In a little over six months’ time, Kate Middleton’s breasts could be in the news again, though this time people will be talking about whether or not she will breastfeed her baby - especially in public.

The financial benefits of breastfeeding are enormous. The NHS constantly bangs on about the health benefits, and rightly so, but breastfeeding will also save you some serious cash. It costs around £500 and £1,000 to buy enough formula for your baby’s first year and that figure doesn’t include the cost of bottles, insulated bottle bags and the various sterilising paraphernalia you need.

Yet despite all these benefits, a recent report found that more than half of the mothers in the UK who started exclusively breastfeeding gave up after a week.

Why? Because breastfeeding can be really, really difficult. I am speaking from experience here. I had a baby in January and without the expert support I received (for free) at various moments of crisis and the fact that I had the right equipment (and I don’t mean the equipment nature endowed me with), I would have given up several times. Instead, 11 months in, I am still breastfeeding and it is wonderful.

So I don’t want to put anyone off. But, because it can be so difficult, breastfeeding isn’t always the cheaper option. Breastfeeding becomes expensive when you find it difficult or painful, as you get desperate to find a solution. I wasted a fair amount of money buying stuff that didn’t work or wasn’t right for me. And if I hadn’t known where to go for free advice, I might have spent a fortune on private ‘lactation consultants’ who give you the same advice you can get elsewhere for free.

Here’s my guide to where to get free breastfeeding help, the best accessories to buy and the cheapest places to buy them.

Where to go for free breastfeeding advice

There are three ways to get free help from experts on breastfeeding: in person, on the phone and on the web.

Free help in person

For me, help in person was vital. As well as getting help from my midwives and health visitor, I visited my local breastfeeding clinics once or twice a week for the first ten weeks. That’s how long it took me to get the hang of it, but I didn’t give up as long as the ‘breastfeeding experts’ - who are specially trained volunteers - didn’t give up on me. You’ll be glad to hear most new mums only need to make one or two visits, but you can go as often as you like and it’s always free.

As well as showing you how to get the baby to latch on in different positions, your local experts should also be able to recognise common problems the baby is having (such as tongue tie, thrush, colic and reflux), which would otherwise quite literally keep you awake all night.

You can find some local free breastfeeding clinics online using this breastfeeding centre locator but it’s also worth Googling ‘breastfeeding’ and the name of your borough, or asking your health visitor.

Free help over the phone

Sometimes you hit a moment of crisis when you are learning to breastfeed. In these situations, to get help quickly over the phone, you or your partner might find it useful to call a breastfeeding counsellor using the following helplines:

- the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0210 or 0300 100 0212 (free)

- the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers on 0300 330 5453 (free)

- La Leche League on 0845 120 2918 (local rate but ask the counsellor for her direct number and you can call it for free on most landline call packages).

I called them all and found the volunteer from La Leche League the most helpful.

Free help on the web

Finally, by far the best breastfeeding resource on the web is the American website Kellymom.com. There is no breastfeeding problem you could encounter that you won’t find a solution to and no question (however strange) you could ask that you won’t find a answer to on this site.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

The best stuff to buy if you’re breastfeeding

Don’t do what I did and waste money on stuff that doesn’t work or is unnecessary. Here’s my pick of the best stuff to buy - and where to get it cheapest:

What you need...

What to buy...

Price and where to buy it cheapest

Nursing bra

Specialist nursing brand Bravado makes extremely comfortable nursing bras. I like the body silk seamless bra best because you can insert your own breast pads.

£26.69 from Nursingbra-shop.co.uk

Nursing pillow for newborn

My Brest Friend - it clips around you, freeing up both your hands when you bend to pick up your baby, and has a back support, unlike most nursing pillows.

£34.99 from Amazon.co.uk

Nursing pillow for bigger baby

The Widgey Nursing Pillow is more comfortable when your baby gets older, and doubles as a backrest for them while they learn to sit up.

£20.99 from Play.com

Nursing nightclothes

If you don’t want to get cold at night, get a button-down nightshirt/pyjamas or this nursing nightie.

Around £20 from various clothes shops or the NCT website.

Nursing in public

Bebe au Lait nursing cover - the only scarf that allows you to easily see the baby’s latch while you are feeding.

£27.50 from John Lewis

Nursing vest

A nursing vest will save you buying expensive nursing tops - just wear a nursing vest with a normal jumper or cardigan on top, with no need to worry about exposing your tummy.

Two nursing vests for £20 from Very.co.uk

My final money saving tip is to try to get the nursing pillows secondhand or even free from your local Freecycle/Freegle list, then buy a new pillow cover.

Good luck and do please add any tips of your own using the comments box below!

More on family finance:

How to get divorced cheaply

Roosterbank, PKTMNY: pocket money goes online

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Child Benefit changes: what you need to know

The top 20 places for families to live

Foster parenting: a vocation or a way to make extra money?

How to claim your Tax Credits

How to have a baby on a budget!

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