“Since having Louisa I actually rode faster at the World Championships than I did in London when I won four gold medals.” Kiddicare ambassador and Britain’s most decorated female Paralympian, Sarah Storey visited our Merry Hill store to tell her breastfeeding story.
Sarah’s daughter Louisa was delivered by emergency Caesarian in June 201. It didn’t take little Louisa long to figure out the business of breastfeeding. “As soon as the midwives gave Louisa to me in the operating theatre she knew exactly what she wanted and worked hard to get the colostrum out. She fed on and off for the first three hours after she was born. It was amazing to be guided by her, even though she was so tiny.”
“She was born in the middle of a heatwave last summer so she needed to feed more often. That really helped establish breastfeeding for us. My milk came in at about six days and it was a shock because it seemed to be enough for triplets. She was so thirsty and as she was constantly feeding it stimulated the milk supply even more.”
Sarah’s breastfeeding must-have
“Medela has some fantastic milk collecting shells – I looked like I’d had breast enlargement with the help of these! They allowed me to collect milk that came out on one side while I was feeding on the other. I was able to store that milk so when we moved on to express milk in bottles while I was training I already had a supply in the fridge and freezer. I’d really recommend them.”
Introducing the bottle
“It was after about four weeks that we introduced a bottle. I have to be honest, she’s never really loved the idea – if it’s a choice between a bottle and me she’ll always go for me. We’re still very much a breastfeeding duo. I think the closeness and comfort that comes from breastfeeding has helped make our relationship so successful.”
Worrying about milk supply
“When she got to four weeks she had her first little growth spurt. She’d sometimes feed then pull off and get cross with me – I could see milk squirting in her face and think ‘what’s the problem’? Some mums may think they haven’t got enough milk but the maternity ward said their brains want more but their tiny tummies can’t keep up. So when she was getting cross with me, I’d calm her down and when her tummy had emptied a bit she was able to take more milk on. That was key to getting through the growth spurts or what some people call the fourth trimester.”
“Louisa was very interested in the idea of food from about five months. We gave her food to play with – bananas are great for tactile messy play. At six months we really got going with baby-led weaning. Why? Because it allows the baby to remain in control. If they want more they’ll eat more. We’d offer her food and also offer the breast at every meal.”
“She’s got a great chair – the Summer Seat 3-in-1. She can play in it but also use it as a travel highchair. We travel all over the world with it and it’s allowed us to keep everything normal for her with our busy lives. Kiddicare has some amazing all-in-one coveralls so we’d let Louisa play with food and smear it around her face. It was completely up to her what she touched and put near her mouth but she probably didn’t eat anything til six months. You know when babies start grabbing food from your plate that they’re interested.”
Juggling training with breastfeeding
“I got back into training six weeks after Louisa was born. It was interesting to see that my training worked around her rather than the other way! As far as my cycling career goes I’ve been really lucky that my body has produced the milk she’s needed while being able to continue training really hard. In April I went to the World Championships for the first time since having Louisa and actually rode faster than I did in London when I won four gold medals. I’m constantly amazed by the human body – it does things that we don’t always believe it will! To be walking around feeding Louisa after having just won a gold medal was just one of the most surreal things. I intend to let her lead the way – natural term breastfeeding I guess you can call it.”
But once we’d got breastfeeding nailed the flexibility of it was just great. I’ve breastfed Louisa on a hike walking up a hill – good training!”
Ever encountered any issues with breastfeeding in public?
“When I’m feeding Louisa I often look on Twitter to see what’s going on in the world. When it comes to breastfeeding we’re a lot better off in the UK than the US, although there are still women in the UK being told they can’t breastfeed in a pub or Sports Direct. The law is on your side – a baby needs to feed when a baby needs to feed. Be confident, small minded people will always be small minded.”
For mums just starting their breastfeeding journey, any tips for discreet breastfeeding or making it easier when you’re on the go?
“I like the nursing tops that split down the middle with a bit of coverage so you can get your boob out in the middle. Louisa was never one to be covered with a shawl or a wrap – she’d just chuck it off and expose me to the maximum – her ideal would be me completely naked! Our lives are always so on-the-go that I’d often find myself feeding Louisa while I’m walking around. It’s all about finding your own way but there’s absolutely no way you should ever feel you have to go to the toilet to feed your baby.”
How did you express and go between bottle and boob?
“I used an electric pump that plugs into the wall and does it for you. I also did some hand expressing as well and used the bags that you can store in the freezer so I’d have a supply. I did look at donating the milk but there were too many requirements I couldn’t fulfill because of the medication I was taking for my asthma.”
“To get Louisa to go from bottle to boob I had to be nowhere near her so she couldn’t smell me. And even then she’d only take sips but sometimes she’d surprise us and take the whole 5oz down in one. My mum, dad and Barney really persevered with it. If I tried she’d just pull up my shirt even when she was tiny.”
Any recommended nutrition?
“Fenugreek is really good for encouraging milk production. So too are oats – so have porridge in the morning! My mum made me thousands of flapjacks in the first few months. I probably carried an extra 6kg of weight when I was first feeding. It’s important because the extra fat on your body produces the milk. I remember when I first put on my skinsuit after having Louisa and thinking ‘oh my gosh it doesn’t fit’, but that’s not the point. The extra weight on me was making sure there was enough milk for Louisa.”