Although breastfeeding is “natural,” it can also pose some pretty great challenges for new and established moms. If you are determined to give it a try (which I strongly suggest) here are a few items, ideas, and resources that I found helpful for my boobs, my baby, and my sanity!
1. Get Some Help Sooner than Later
Several of my friends had struggled with breastfeeding, and their experiences clued me into the absolute necessity of lactation consultants, breastfeeding support groups, and breastfeeding friends. While breastfeeding is “natural” many babies have to learn how to feed. They may not want to latch correctly, they may be lazy eaters, or they may have medical issues that complicate effective nursing. On the other hand, breastfeeding challenges often stem from mommy related issues-difficulty positioning, low milk supply, flat or inverted nipples, exhaustion from every 2 hour feeds, and the list goes on! Getting help early on can reduce a whole host of potential frustrations. While lactation consultants may not be able to “fix” every problem, they can offer the encouragement and support that every tired mom needs.
2. Invest in a Good Pump or Borrow One
-Although you many not want to start out with any bottles, pumping can give you the opportunity to go on a date with your husband, get to the gym, or even have a spa evening at home while your partner watches the baby. Most babies have established nursing after 4 weeks. Once they have figured it out, introducing a bottle with pumped breast milk is an option. Another benefit of pumping is that it allows your partner to have the special experience of feeding the baby. Although I nursed my daughter most of the time, my husband loved the opportunity to feed our daughter. If you aren’t interested in doing any bottles or in pumping…no worries…simply skip this section. I had to pump since my baby was a preemie.
-I decided to spend the money on the best Medela Pump that Buy Buy Baby carried. It was portable with a battery so that I could travel with it. It was worth the money! I’ve now loaned it to a friend who simply had to change out the tubing (for sanitary reasons of course). Since we spent some time in the NICU, I also used a hospital grade pump by Medela. These pumps have a different type of suction mechanism, and I actually felt that it was the best at getting the most milk. I ended up renting this pump from the NICU. I couldn’t travel easily with it (no battery and very bulky), but for women who feel like pumping “doesn’t work!” this might be a good option to try. It is pricy as well, but many insurance companies are now covering pump purchases and rentals. Make sure that you save your receipt to submit to insurance! If insurance won’t cover it, you can still count it as a non-reimbursed medical expense…this is a tax deduction! Supplies are a deduction too!
-If you feel like your pump all of the sudden doesn’t have good suction, check the tubing to make sure that it is pushed in completely. If that doesn’t solve the problem, next check the “membranes”. Not all pumps have these, but these small white flaps can get tiny tears from being frequently removed for washing. You can find replacements at most Targets and Walmarts.
-Label your breast milk with the date so that you know when you need to use it by. Check out this helpful table for info on breast milk storage. It comes as a magnet (which I kept in my freezer). Make sure NOT to store your milk on the fridge or freezer door. This won’t keep it cold enough.
3. Simplify Your Routine
-If you are pumping at night or giving bottles of pumped breast milk at night, consider keeping a cooler or mini fridge in your room. This will prevent you from having to run to the kitchen in the middle of the night.
-buy more than one set of pumping equipment so that you don’t have to wash it after every pumping
-Ask your partner to help you get your pumping equipment ready before bed
-Ask your partner to change the baby and hand him to you to breastfeed. This may give you a little extra shut-eye in the middle of the night.
-If you are doing any bottles, ask your partner to do one night-time feeding on a regular basis
4. Relieve Engorgement ASAP
Don’t let yourself get engorged, but if you do…try these tips.
-try taking a hot shower and angle the water toward your chest
-place warm compresses on your breasts
-massaging your breast before nursing or pumping
-place your infant skin to skin on your chest if you are having trouble getting a let-down of milk. This simple solution often does the trick.
5. Have Some Soothing Options for Sore Boobs-you will get sore at times!
–Hydrogel -these gel pads by Medela are awesome. Because they are a little pricy, you can cut them into smaller sections if you only need to cover a small area.
6. Make Sure You are Comfortable When Nursing
Ways to ensure comfort:
-Have someone help you get positioned early on as you are trying to get the hang of things.
-Make sure that baby is latched correctly so that you won’t be missing a nipple after the feeding-baby needs to have a wide open mouth and needs to latch deeply. You won’t gag her!
-Use a nipple shield if you have to.
-Consider a foot rest if you are sitting in an upright chair
-Buy the most comfy chair that you can find. Make sure that the back of the chair comes high enough for you to be able to lean back with your head supported.
-Find a cute nursing cover if you prefer some privacy
7. Wear the Right Clothes
-Nursing tank-these saved my life! You can wear a nursing tank under any loose shirt and then lift the shirt up or pull it down easily without your belly showing!
-Not too many nursing bras-If you are using nursing tanks, you won’t need too many nursing bras. Make sure to get at least one because you may want to wear a dress at some point.
-Nursing sleep wear-having comfortable nursing sleep wear makes middle of the night feedings much easier. Check out Motherhood Maternity for a pretty good selection.
8. Keep the Leaks to Yourself
Although I didn’t have trouble with leaking, many nursing moms do! Here are some suggestions from my friends who leaked.
Lilypadz– I purchased these and liked them, but didn’t end up really needing to use them. I have some friends who swear by them though!
Medela Disposable Nursing Pads-if you don’t want anything extra to wash
Dr. Brown’s Washable Nursing Pads-if you don’t mind throwing these in with the laundry
9. Keep Your Supply Up
-Nurse frequently or pump often! This is the best way to ensure a good supply.
-Fenugreek is a natural supplement that may increase milk supply. This comes as a pill, in lollipops, in drinks etc. Most local vitamin, nutrition, or drug stores will carry this. Talk with your lactation consultant about this option.
-Limit your caffeine
-Oatmeal may do the trick! Oats are thought to increase milk supply as well. By switching to oatmeal for your daily breakfast you may notice an increase in your supply.
-Throw some NUTS into your oatmeal! Nuts may also increase your supply.
10. Be Willing to Admit that Nursing Sucks at Times!
Although breastfeeding can be an amazing bonding experience with your infant, at times it down right SUCKS…literally! That’s why it’s so important to have a strong support system and to remember WHY you are breastfeeding your baby.
A. It is the best nutrition for your baby with a perfect mix of fats, fluids, carbohydrates, vitamins (minus vitamin D) and protein.
B. You are boosting your baby’s immune system with antibodies now and down the road!
C. You may be increasing your baby’s IQ
D. You are creating a special bonding experience for your baby
E. You may be decreasing your baby’s risk for SUIDS (sudden unexpected infant death syndrome or SIDS)
F. You may be decreasing your child’s risk for obesity later in life.
G. And the list goes on!!!!!
Although breastfeeding can be challenging at times, there are numerous ways to make it a successful experience. Breastfeeding was one of the hardest and best things that I have ever done. Give it a chance…even a fighting chance. If things don’t end up working out the way that you planned, know that you are still a great mother with your baby’s best interest in mind!
From The Mom in Me, MD