I was fortunate enough to be able to breastfeed both of my daughters with no significant latching or supply issues. I realize how lucky we are and that there are many mothers that struggle with breastfeeding from day one.
The first two weeks (for me) were by far the most difficult for both babies as my nipples hurt (shooting pain every time they ate) on top of being sleep deprived. With my first, she nursed for four hours straight the first night we were home and destroyed the tissue. They hurt so bad that I cringed at even the idea of nursing her and tried to avoid feeding her the next day. 🙁 The pediatrician later told me that the baby doesn’t get much milk after 20 minutes, so feel free to let baby suckle on your finger for a short bit to give your boobs a break.
With my second, there were several times that I wanted to quit altogether and just switch to formula because she was a really lazy nurser (REALLY), especially at 1 AM when I just wanted to get back to sleep. She lost 10% of her body weight after birth and the on-call pediatrician (NOT our normal doc) totally freaked me out by telling me that once babies lose 10%, it’s hard to come back. I was frantic to get her to gain weight and contemplated quitting breastfeeding many times in order to get her on the fast track to weight gain. It’s really hard waiting for your milk supply to increase when your baby is hungry and fussy (like during those growth spurts). Side note: Bailey gained one whole pound within two days after that appointment, so take THAT Dr. Negativity!
Breastfeeding is highly dependent on many factors such as hydration, food intake, hormones, stress, and even your babe. There are some tools that make the process easier–especially in the beginning as you’re figuring it out and getting into the groove. Many of these items are HSA/FSA eligible too! Even with all of the tools in the world, sometimes you just need a little help or maybe it’s not in the cards. Whatever you decide on for your baby: you’re doing an amazing job!
- LatchPal – helps hold up your shirt so that it doesn’t keep falling down on baby’s face. It helps make nearly all of your shirts to be nursing friendly.
- Nursing camisoles – for wearing under other shirts, for lounging, or to wear to bed. They can be expensive but I’ve worn the same ones through my first and second children’s nursing journeys and I still use them frequently. They’re particularly great for wearing under button-up shirts or shirts that might be a bit too revealing (like when you bend forward and they gape wipe open)
- Nursing cover/scarf/car seat cover – the best nursing cover for out in public. It doubles as a car seat cover to keep strangers from creeping or touching your precious newborn as well as keeping the wind off of your little babe. I have the black and white stripe one and I would not recommend it for a nursing cover. Both of my girls were so intrigued by the contrast that they were too distracted to eat!
- Nipple shield – I used a nipple shield for a couple of weeks with my first just as a barrier to lessen the pain and let my nipples heal after that first awful night of cluster feeding. I quickly weaned her of it because I didn’t want to be dependent on it. I used it again with my second baby and it was harder to phase out because she was such a lazy nurser and doesn’t want to have to work hard to get latched (particularly when tired) so it has turned into a crutch.
- Silverette cups – they are worn as a nipple cover between feeding and by the power of silver, the cups promote healing of your sore, lacerated nipples quicker.
- Hakaa manual breast pump – this has been a game changer for increasing my milk supply and for boosting my freezer stash! It uses suction to express your milk, so no hand compressions needed, and it is portable and discreet. I have used it to collect the let down on the other breast while baby is feeding.
- Gel soothing pads – I went through 2 sets of these (each pair lasts several days) during the first week of nursing. They really help! They keep your nipple moist to promote healing, are soothing, and provide a barrier so that the broken skin doesn’t stick to your bra (from milk residue).
- Nursing bras – These are my favorite, they are all I’d ever wear. Your breast size will fluctuate greatly through pregnancy, early breastfeeding and supplemental breastfeeding (when baby starts solids) so I would not recommend getting expensive nursing bras.
- Postnatal + Lactation blend multivitamin – did you know that for many micronutrients, you actually need MORE than when you were pregnant? Lactation takes a huge toll on the body because not only is your body healing from pregnancy, but your body wants to provide all it can to your baby and will sacrifice your own reserves in order to do so. I really like this product because it also provides milk boosting herbs. It does contain fenugreek however, which can hinder milk supply in some moms.
- Milk Dust Protein Powder, Weight Loss and Lactation Support – similar to the aforementioned, you need MORE macronutrients when nursing than when you were pregnant. I really love this protein powder because it provides 14g of protein per serving, has spirulina and chlorella (super foods that are great for the gut), as well as a lactation support blend (fenugreek included, so be aware), AND a blend of herbs to help you beat the sugar cravings. It tastes like a vanilla-cinnamon treat!
- Reusable nursing pads – These are nice because you buy them once and are done! No need to worry about restocking when you run out of the disposables, just throw them in the wash and you’re good to go. You can continue to reuse them for each child that you have and nurse. 😀
- Hot/Cold breast gel packs – you can freeze (to relieve engorgement) or microwave (to help with let down or mastitis) these!
- Let There Be Milk! (tincture / capsules)- a really popular supplement that many mamas have had great success with. Note that it also contains fenugreek.
- Legendairy Milk supplements – the BEST organic lactation supplements and they don’t use fenugreek! There are so many different types, I tried a handful and loved them all though not all worked in significant ways for me. For example: Pump Princess helps to increase the fat content of your milk and Lechita helps the slacker boob to keep up. Their instagram account also provide a lot of useful information and breastfeeding/pumping support as well.
- Vitamin D Drops (post) – I actually wrote a post on this one because guess what: breast milk is NOT lacking in vitamin D–as long as mom is sufficient in it! Click the link to find out more about how to ensure that baby is getting his/her appropriate dose of daily D.
You might have noticed that I did not include a nipple balm or lanolin. I didn’t find these useful for the long-term, even though I did stock up on these with my first. They may be useful in the very beginning when your nipples are hurting and have not yet callused but otherwise they just stain your bras or nursing pads. Though to be fair, I have heard of some moms using them to help with their baby creating a better seal around their latch. My oldest didn’t have a seal/latch issue and with my second, she didn’t like the taste of the nipple balm and still leaked milk with the balm. Every baby really is different.
Written by a mama and lactation consultant. I refer to this website ALL OF THE TIME–even with baby #2. She has informative and supportive posts on all things nursing and even parenting such as: breastfeeding positions, growth spurts, mastitis, thrush, nursing to sleep, distracted eaters, lactational amenorrhea (the absence of a period while breastfeeding) and more.
Ina May Gaskin’s guide to breast feeding – I read this before my first was born and even though I wasn’t able to practically apply it at the time, I feel like it really empowered me with knowledge. I had NO idea what I was doing when my first was born and I wasn’t able to meet with a lactation consultation but thankfully my daughter was very easy and cooperative and I had a small knowledge bank to refer to for common latching concerns.
Other tidbits of info
Here are some other things that I have learned since I started breastfeeding that are hopefully helpful to you.
Duckbill valves for pumping: these work much better than the valves with a membrane. The membranes can get small tears which ruin their sealing ability. The duckbills valves are just one piece, so less parts to wash and no need to worry about seal issues with a faulty membrane, though they need to be changed out every so often as well.
The best breast pump for exclusive pumping mamas: Spectra. It’s a closed system so no need to worry about milk or moisture getting into the hoses and/or the motor getting moldy (yuck). Though, I have a Medela Pump-in-Style, which works fine for my infrequent use (make sure to take the face plate off of the Medela PIS to air out and prevent mold in the motor).
Sunflower lecithin – Lecithin helps with improving mastitis by unclogging milk ducts and increasing the fat content of breastmilk. From the Legendairy Milk website: lecithin is a “natural fat emulsifier that can help to reduce the ‘stickiness’ of the milk and deter fats from clumping together. It may also loosen existing fatty clogs and improve milk flow.”
Don’t overthink it. Focus on baby emptying the breast and peeing roughly each time s/he eats. I got so overly consumed with fore milk vs hind milk imbalances, the color of her poop, the fact that she only pooped once per 3-4 days and so on. They say that green poop indicates that baby is only getting fore milk but after changing and washing poopy cloth diapers: even the yellow poop turns green after it has been sitting. This just goes to show that I could easily freak myself out about her poop being one color, even though it was originally a different color. Just don’t overthink it! As long as baby is eating, gaining weight, and having some sort of bodily function: just let it be. Stressing yourself out is not going to change the end result nor is it beneficial. (On a side note, if you are a stress case like me, you should totally check out the Unf*ck Your Brain blog/podcast that discusses stress and how useless it is!)
What is one of the most important things that you learned or used while breastfeeding? Please share in the comments so other mamas can benefit from your experience!