Whether you're a new mom or you're doing it again breastfeeding can be and often is challenging but it's also a really cool and rewarding experience. I wanted to share with you what I like to call, Breastfeeding Basics, to help you on this journey you're about to embark on. I'm not going to sugar coat it for you...breastfeeding is hard! My hope is this article helps answer some questions and maybe give you a few tips & tricks your an use along the way. I'll also give you a few resources I used that were really helpful over the last two years.
Deciding to breastfeed your child is a big commitment and I commend you for embarking on this journey. It isn't for everyone; some women choose to not breastfeed and some can't and that's ok! I'm here to support you no matter what you decide or are forced to choose. This participial article however will be focused only on breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding Basics: Tools of the Trade
- My Brest Friend is literally your best friend! Especially in the early days...probably first 3 months. This thing saved my life! I tried to use a Boppy but that pillow is not for breastfeeding. Propping up a baby sure but not breastfeeding. I couldn't make it work. The thing to remember when using any assistance while feeding is to bring baby to the breast. Don't haunch over to feed your little one. Your back will thank me!
- Having a breastfeeding station is another life saver. I recommend setting up one in any room you might nurse in; or have a basketwith a handle like the one shown. I went this route because it was cost effective and I had a small apartment. If I had an upstairs situation I'd have one upstairs and one downstairs. Here's what you want in each station:
- Nipple Balm is a must have! Trust me, when your nipples feel like they might fall off you're going to want to lather them up. I loved the Honest brand because it was safe to use while feeding. You're own breastmilk is perfect though if your nipples start to crack or bleed. They will heal right up! I like the balm more for prevention.
- When breastfeeding you have to stay hydrated so a water bottle like this Hydro Flask is a must have. I didn't have this particular one when I was a new mom but I have it now and I love it! It comes in different colors and sizes. The best part, it's sturdy and keeps my water cold!
- Burp cloths are a good idea to keep handy or even a receiving blanket. That way when you go to burp your little one you don't end up with a mess! If you're going the organic route you might want to try these Burt's Bees Burp Cloths. They're really cute and get great reviews! I unfortunately didn't have as cute of ones but if there's a baby #2 you can bet I'll be getting these for sure!
- Muslin cloths are great to have around if you have guest coming by and maybe you're shy or they are uncomfortable. I preferred to not cover at all and only used this method a few times but it was nice to have a muslin close by just in case and they are super breathable which was nice on warmer days. Plus if you have a big mess after a burp some time and your burp cloth isn't enough it's nice to have one of these within arms reach. I loved the aden + anais silky soft swaddle 3 pack , pebble shibori" target="_blank">aden & anais because they are so soft but you can get any muslin of your choosing.
- Snacks! You are going to want easy to eat snacks. Things ideally you can eat one handed. Think granola bars, PB&J bars or sandwiches cut in half, nuts and pre-cut fruit. Really as long as you can eat it with one hand that's what you want. If you don't have time to prepare snacks that's where granola bars and other bar like snacks come in really handy.
Breastfeeding Basics: Tips, Tricks & Basic Info
- The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) & World Health Organization (WHO) recommend breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months. This means no additional foods except for vitamin D. Babies should continue to nurse with the addition of solids, if the family chooses, until age 1 and beyond. Really, as long as it's wanted by both mama and baby keep on nursing!
- Take it one feed at a time! I wasn't kidding when I said that breastfeeding is hard! Much harder than I expected. I didn't have any issues with latch or supply or any other common hurdles and it was still hard. There were many days I wanted to give up but I just kept remembering something I had read in my research..."Never quit on a bad day!" I think that saved my breastfeeding journey more than a dozen times...easy.
- It hurts at first. Keep ice packs in the freezer, keep your nipple balm handy and you will get through it. If you end up with warm spots on your breast you may have a clogged duct. Try to nurse from that breast as much as you can and massage it. If it doesn't get better you risk mastitis. That will be hot, red in the area and you could have a fever. You again can try nursing like crazy. Letting your breast hang while nursing can help too but don't wait too long before speaking to your medical provider. If you end up on antibiotics just take a good probiotic while on it.
- Don't wait until it's too late to introduce a bottle. I don't mean you have to bottle feed. I simply mean get your little one used to a bottle. I'd say if your supply is good and nursing is going well at around 4-5 weeks you can try a bottle of pumped milk. Go slow and do it when baby is already well fed. You want it to be enjoyable for baby not stressful. The reason I recommend this is I was so afraid of nipple confusion I waited too long and my son never took a bottle. I also didn't do it during the calmest of times. Don't do what I did! Now, if you know you never want your little one to take a bottle then skip this but in case you might I'd give it a try. Having Daddy or someone else who can help is a game changer I'm sure!
- Don't start pumping until the 4-5 week mark and don't pump a lot. If you have to start pumping a lot because of work or whatever reason just know you will increase your supply. Not necessarily a bad thing but can cause oversupply which can be hard for your baby if you have a strong let down. The only good news of an oversupply is you can get a nice stash going if your baby takes a bottle. Your supply won't regulate until closer to 6 months so just keep that in mind.
- Keep disposable or reusable nipple pads on you at all times until at least 6 months. your boobs leak a lot! Get whatever brand fits your needs best. I preferred the convenience of disposable ones but many people opt for reusable.
- Invest in nursing bras or nursing tanks/tops. In the beginning you may just be topless. It's definitely more convenient especially during cluster feeds! Hah but not everyone is up for that. Target has some great nursing bras and tanks and they are really comfortable! More and more companies are popping up though making really cute tops and dresses perfect for nursing. I highly recommend getting a few if you will be out a lot. They are worth every penny and you can always pass them on or sell them once you're done!
- If you are really engorged and baby is having a hard time latching I'd recommend hadn't expressing a little milk into a burp cloth or muslin blanket. This will soften the nipple and surrounding area for your little one to latch onto.
- If you have a fast let down and it chokes your baby let down into a burp cloth or muslin and then offer to baby as it slows. The last thing we want is a angry baby at the breast! It's no fun!
- In the beginning you will get super engorged! It's ok just hand express some if it's in between feedings. Just enough to be comfortable. You want your body to learn how much milk you need. That's why I recommend not pumping for at least 4-5 weeks even though it can take up to 6 months for your body to even out your supply.
- Surround yourself with those who support you and lift you up! Especially if you have a goal of nursing to a year or beyond. If you don't have a good support network or even if you do reach out to your local La Leche League group and invest in The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding! I loved that book and it helped me on more than one occasion.
- I'm here for you! That's right, whether you're in San Diego or surrounding city or you're across the country I'm here to support you! I know the struggles and I nursed my son for just shy of 2 years! We're currently weaning and he turns 2 in 19 days. I want you to reach your goal for breastfeeding if you have one. I'll do all I can to support and lift you up! And, I'll also support you if you decide, on a good day, that you're done! It's your body, your family and you have to do what is best for you. My job is to offer you non-judgemental support and that's just what you'll get!
If you need me during your breastfeeding journey or have questions before you start please comment below or go to the Contact Us page for more ways to reach me!
Happy Breastfeeding Mamas!