While I was pregnant, my husband and I took a breastfeeding class to gain knowledge about nursing. I definitely recommend taking such a class to get informed about the different types of milk that your body produces, what to expect and how to latch the baby on.
The truth is that breastfeeding for the first time is hard. I had a hard time latching my son on properly, and given the fact that he was such a big baby, he was always hungry! I felt frustrated and scared, and sometimes even needed to supplement him with formula so I could recover.
I definitely took advantage of the amazing nurses (most are trained in lactation consulting) in the hospital. They worked with me on latching and holding the baby all day. I did not want to leave the hospital without feeling secure enough that I was able to do this. A huge Thank You goes to my husband who listened and watched the nurses and Lactation Consultant when they worked with me. I was so overwhelmed that most of the info just disappeared from my mind again. At home it was my husband who kept cool and just popped the little one right back on my breast. Teamwork is key! (And thank you so much Husband!)
The first few weeks are tough because the baby’s belly is so tiny (size of a marble) and they get filled up very fast but at the same time need to refill shortly after – this is why you’ll be up all night (and day), feeding and rocking the little baby. Your body will work with the baby’s hunger/ feeding needs to establish a good routine. This means once you understand your baby’s nursing schedule, your body will adjust and produce what baby needs. In some cases you might over/underproduce, but there are many methods to help your body get on track.
The most important thing, in my opinion, is to master the latch. A wrong latch can lead to painfully sore nipples – and that will make breastfeeding unpleasant. In the worst case, it may lead to a clogged milk duct on the nipple – which then could cause milk to back up inside the breast and even lead to an infection called Mastitis. If you and your baby have both mastered the latch, breastfeeding becomes easier every day and at some point it will become a natural thing you do on a daily basis.
Here are some things that I found very useful throughout the year that I breastfed and pumped. You don’t need the entire list but it’s nice to have an overview of what’s out there that might come in handy:
- Nursing pillow: I personally love the Boppy Pillow. I use it for everything – to lie my son down, when I helped him learn to sit, for feeding, for myself to sleep on. You could even use it to sit on in the first few days after giving birth – it definitely helps with the pain.
- Breast pump and accessories: This is optional as I know many who never pumped. I have a medela breast pump which I was able to get through my insurance. I used it A LOT. When my son started sleeping through the night, I woke up to pump in order to keep my production on schedule. It’s important to know that most breast pumps are designed to be used by one person only unless they are hospital grade pumps. If you plan on using someone else’s pump, make sure to get new tubes as the used ones may be contaminated and can lead to infections. Here’s some information from the FDA. I would definitely advise to get a complete new set of pumping accessories and here’s a little tube cleaning tip: if your tubes are moist after each pumping session, remove the valves and keep the pump running. The air pumping through the tubes will dry out the moisture and prevent mold from growing.
- Nursing bra and Nursing pads: So convenient when nursing, definitely better than sports bras. I really like the ones from H&M and Medela. Nursing pads are freaking great, I never once leaked through my shirt!
- Hands free pumping bra: Save yourself the torture of pumping and holding the bottles for however long it takes to get through one session. Get a hands free pumping bra.
- Bottles: Even if you are exclusively breastfeeding, it’s a good idea to have a few bottles on hand – you never know if you may need to leave for a few hours and baby gets hungry while you’re gone. If you’re using a breast pump, you’ll need bottles anyways. We had a variety of bottles (Dr Brown’s, Avent, Medela) – my son liked a certain brand for a while and then liked another later.
- Storage bags: If you’re pumping extra and won’t be using it so soon, it’s safer to freeze your milk in storage bags. They are sterilized and can even be used to store baby food later on. If you notice you will not be using the frohen stash, you can always choose to donate your breast milk to someone in need rather than dumping it. Human Milk 4 Human Babies is where I donated about 1000 ozs of my overproduced breastmilk to a wonderful mother who couldn’t breastfeed her daughter.
- Lanolin, bacitracin, vaseline: All things nipples. Lanolin (I preferred Medela brand over Lansinoh because it was smoother) and Vasline are great to keep nipples moist when they are sore and cracked. Bacitracin is safe for breast feeding and good to have, especially if you get a lot of clogs and need to burst them open (ouch).
- Gel pads: Relieve your breasts, especially when engorged. Once your baby sleeps through the night or you plan on dropping some feeds, these pads (can be used cold and warm) will come in handy. Alternatives are cold cabbage leaves.
- Nipple shells: The lactation consultant at the hospital gave me these because my nipples were super sore. If you can’t walk around completely naked to “air your nipples out” then these shells are great for under your clothing.
- Nipple shields: I used these a few times when my nipples were very sore, cracked or even clogged. They help cover the nipple so you can still nurse your baby through the pain/ soreness and without causing further damages.
- Fenugreek, mother’s milk tea, lactation supplement: There are many kinds of supplements to help increase your milk supply. You can either try drops, such as Motherlove More Milk Plus or Herb Farm Mother’s Lactation, or you can get them as a drink/ tea – UpSpring Milkflow or Mother’s Milk Tea. Oatmeal (ate this almost every day) and Brewer’s Yeast (try beer instead) are said to help as well.
- Nursing cover: If you plan on breastfeeding on the go and prefer privacy.