Nursing my babies has been a very rewarding experience for me with each of my children. I am lucky in that nursing has been relatively easy for me and my babies. After having nursed the first 2 to almost 1 year and still nursing number 3, I have some pretty good tips to offer those who are early in nursing or are looking for some tips before starting. Settle in…this is going to be a long one, but worth the read for those breastfeeding.
First congratulations and a big pat on the back for deciding to nurse. There have been few things as directly rewarding to me as a momma, knowing that I am the reason for their growth outside of the womb. Oh and that bond…nothing can compare to that cuddle and feeling when nursing. You can read many articles out there on the benefits for mom and baby…both physical and mental health. Nice work momma…you should feel proud.
No mom judgement or adverse feelings at all to those who chose not to nurse or cannot nurse! If you are looking for a breastfeeding vs formula debate, you won’t find it here. This is all about helping those who have made the choice to nurse…from one momma to another, here ya go!
1. Don’t get discouraged in the beginning and utilize resources.
The beginning can be tough. I would encourage you to check out some books on breastfeeding. These books cover things such as what is a good latch as well as different holding techniques. A whole post could be dedicated to this topic…but I will leave it to the experts. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding Made Simple
Most hospitals will offer you skin on skin time after delivery. Take advantage of this time and try to nurse. You will be surprised how most babies will automatically search for your breast and begin to latch on. Ask for the help of the labor and delivery nurses or midwifes as they have invaluable experience in helping new moms. Both baby 2 and 3 knew exactly what they were doing and latched on within the first 10min. This also could be in part due to me feeling a little more confident in what I was doing! With baby 1, it took a little more time and I sought out the help of those caring for me in the hospital. Again, read a good book on correct technique.
In the beginning, I was very mindful to try to nurse at least every 3 hours -in addition to whenever they were hungry. I did this to both promote milk supply (below) as well as try to establish a “schedule” early on. I will discuss my scheduling in later posts.
The beginning is hard. Especially if you or your baby are having problems. Don’t give up…give it at least 2 weeks. Seek out help and support. Email me if you need too!! You can do this!
2. Invest in only the essential nursing gear.
After having nursed 3 babies, there are only a few items I continue to use. I am only going to give you the list of things I used for all 3 -things I have found essential. I think I got a lot of extra gear going into my first baby, only to find I did not use a lot of it.
- Nursing pillow -I used the Boppy Pillow for all 3. I purchased different covers and found that the covers for the Boppy are available at a lot more places and in many different patterns. Couple of my favorite ones here.
- Nursing cover -there is only one nursing cover you should consider…Covered Goods. With baby number 3, I am nursing in public way more than I did with the other 2. The Covered Goods cover allows me to be much more discrete than the traditional style covers. And they are much cuter!! With the other covers, my back was always exposed, which made pulling up my shirt difficult. And it never failed, the baby would kick the edge of the cover and coming close to exposing me. The Covered Goods cover provides coverage all the way around the back and looks more like a wrap or scarf than a traditional cover.
- Nursing pads -I buy whichever are the cheapest at Target or on Amazon. No need to be fancy with these and I say go with whichever is cheapest. There are washable ones you can buy, but I found it to be much easier to use the disposable…especially in the begining when you may soak through a couple a day.
- Lanolin Ointment -I prefer the Medela Ointment . Of the ones I have tried, the Medela Ointment is the smoothest and easiest to apply. I found that some of the others -particularly the Lansinoh Ointment was a little more hard making it difficult to apply. *Note, this stuff can leave a grease stain on your clothing. Be sure to wear a nursing pad after applying.
3. You will need a pump.
Oh, pumping…the worst part of breastfeeding. Seriously. The. Worst. There is nothing great about pumping. I work part-time and have had to pump at work with all 3 babies. I am also slightly crazy about my milk supply (read below for full details on the disorder) and pump at home quite a bit too. Here are my must haves for pumping:
- Pump, duh. The only thing that has made my pumping slightly better than it could be is my pump. This is the only pump you should consider. The Medela Freestyle. It is expensive, but I would honestly pay double for it. You will use your pump almost daily and likely for more than one baby…in my opinion, it is worth the splurge. The best part about this pump, is it is chargable. I do not have to be connected to a plug-in when I pump. I have had to pump in some pretty awesome places (bathroom stall, church, car…you name it, I have probably pumped there) and trying to find a plug-in in some of those places would have been next to impossible.
- I do recommend replacing the soft breast sheilds that comes with the pump with a hard breast shield. I know it sounds opposite…that the soft ones would be more comfortable, but they tend to rub a little more and the hard shields do not have any seams.
- If you do plan to do most of your pumping at home, I do think the Medela Pump in Style is a good, cheaper alternative. Having used this pump a couple times, I can say there is not much difference in the pumping itself.
- I have found these pump cleansing wipes to be helpful when I do not have access to a sink.
- Bag for your pump: I did not find the bag that came with the pump to be very cute…in fact, it was pretty ugly. And since I despise pumping and have to haul the bag with me frequently, I was able to justify getting a cute bag to put it in! I found these cute and functional bags here, here and here. If you do not have the Freestyle pump, you are stuck to your bag…literally, because the pump is attached to the bag.
4. Nursing wear is not cute, but you need it.
You will need a couple good nursing bras and tanks. You will find that there are few very good looking nursing bras and tanks. Mine are all beige and pink…and not remotely close to anything my husband would enjoy seeing me in. Can you believe that Victorias Secret does not make a nursing bra?! That being said, when it comes to what I am going to wear for nursing (not shoes), I will choose comfort over cuteness.
- Nursing Tank – I have found sleeping in nursing tanks is more comfortable than the “sleep nursing bras” available as the sleep bras did not provide as much support as the tanks. I have tried tanks from Pea in the Pod, Motherhood and a couple off of Amazon, and my favorite are these from Target. They are fitted enough that, a lot of times, I am able to wear these under a top as a camisole and not have to wear a nursing bra.
- Pumping Bra – This is the only pumping bra you should get. This bra allows me to type while pumping at work or simply sit and read a magazine while pumping at home. As crazy as this thing looks, it really is something you need for pumping. It has 4 1/2 stars (almost 1K reviews) on Amazon!! That, in itself, should convince you that you need this bra.
- Nursing Bra – Remember I said there are few cute/sexy bras? Really though, when it comes to nursing bras, I care very little about sexy and a lot about comfort. These and these are my favorite and the closest thing I have found to cute nursing bras that are actually very comfortable too.
5. You may encounter nursing problems.
I hope you do not encounter any nursing problems, but odds are you will encounter at least one of these at some point. My advice is to try your hardest to continue to nurse through them as, like with most things, the problem will pass. It is okay and encouraged to nurse through these problems. Below are the most common nursing problems.
- Cracked and/or bleeding nipples -this is pretty common in the beginning. Use your lanolin ointment liberally in the beginning.
- Engorgement -also common in the beginning. I found pumping to help relieve some of the pain…but remember that pumping may increase your production (read about supply and demand below). Sometimes it can be hard for the baby to latch on when engorged. I found these nursing gel pads to be slightly helpful…but really only used them with the first baby and tended to pump more with the second 2 (read: I don’t find them essential).
- Plugged ducts -these have plagued me through all 3 babies. These will feel like hard painful lumps in your breast. I try to prevent them and treat them by massaging my breast when nursing or pumping. Specifically knead the painful lump while nursing your baby. You will feel the lump become smaller.
- Mastitis -crappy. I hope you do not get mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the breast tissue. It happens because bacteria in the baby’s mouth gets into your breast through small cracks in the nipple. I had it once with baby 2 and twice with baby 3. The first time I got it, I had no clue what was happening to me and thought I was going to have to go to the ER. It comes on quickly and you feel like you have an awful case of the flu. I got a fever and chills followed by a painful breast. The signature symptom is a red streak the infected breast/s. Your breast will likely feel warm. If you get mastitis, you will need to contact your doctor for antibiotics. If okay for you to take, ibuprofen or acetaminophen are helpful in reducing the pain/fever and relieving some of the pain.
6. You will need to be mindful of your milk supply.
Your milk production (for most people) follows the supply and demand curve. The more that is demanded of your breasts, the more they will supply. I have taken my milk supply very seriously and a little OCD (like most things in my life!). Extra pumping and keeping my supply high has allowed me to continue nursing as well as build a “stock pile” in my deep freeze. My tips are as follows:
- My most important key to keeping my supply up is pumping every night before bed. I usually started this around 8 weeks once the baby was sleeping through the night -and yes, all 3 of my babies were sleeping through the night at 8 weeks! See my baby and toddler sleep tips!. The reasoning behind this is it limits the number of hours between feeding or demand. If you last nursed at 8pm, pumping at 10 or 11pm prevents you from going longer until your next feeding. Again, all about that supply and demand.
- In the beginning, I would pump after my AM feeding. I am always my fullest in the morning having gone all night without nursing. After nursing and still feeling slightly full, I will pump off the remaining milk.
- Pump! May sound simple, but when away from your baby, you should be pumping as frequently as they are eating.
- Be wary of oral supplements designed to increase milk supply. Being a pharmacist, I am very hesitant to take any sort of herbal supplement as these are not regulated by the FDA and their claims are often not proven by clinical studies. Many can cause side effects and some are dangerous. I look for more natural ways to increase supply such as drinking lots of water and eating healthy. Check out the delicious bars that the ladies at Oatmama have developed. They are jam packed with healthy ingredients designed to increase milk supply. Best part, they are MSP free (will talk about MSPI in a future post) and taste amazing.
7. Follow guidelines on milk storage.
I printed out a chart on milk storage and kept it taped inside the kitchen cupboard where I stored my bottles for quick reference. I recommend freezing whatever quantity of bottle your baby usually takes. My babies all drank about 5oz (after age 6 weeks), so I usually freez 5oz of milk per bag. I have tried a couple different bags for milk storage and found the Lansinoh Breast Milk Bags to be the best. The reasoning is they hold up to 6oz and are even a little larger than that, so they are able to lay flat and freeze flat -making thawing a little easier.The following chart adapted from La Leche League International:
8. Breastfeed as long as you find it enjoyable.
With each pregnancy, I set a goal of nursing for 6 months. After 6 months, I would tell myself (and am currently telling myself) that I would continue to nurse as long as I found it enjoyable and was not too worn out. I nursed the first two to around 10 months and then was able to utilize my frozen supply of breastmilk to last them to 12 months and beyond. When to quit is a very personal decision. I quit when I felt I was done and my babies were done as well. You can also cut back to just nursing a couple times per day if you are not ready to quit completely. There is no guilt in quitting…there will be enough mom guilt to feel the rest of their lives, so try not to stress too much about this one!
9. Take care of yourself.
It will be beyond important for you to take care of yourself and stay healthy while trying to nurse. Like I mentioned earlier, be wary of what you are putting in your body as your baby may receive it too via your milk. I try to limit my caffeine as well as get plenty of water.In addition to taking care of your body, take care of your spirit as well. You are saving a lot of money by breastfeeding! Treat yourself…whether it is escaping for a pedi or massage or buying a new bag as a treat, you have earned it!!
10. Enjoy it.
There are few things as wonderful as snuggling with a sleepy baby and nursing them before bed. After a long day, it is my favorite to have some one on one time with my baby. As with all stages in their lives, this point in time is so short lived. Soak this wonderful time in. You got this, momma!
Best of luck and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions!! Do you have any nursing essentials or tips to share?