Breastfeeding is HARD.
It is the most exhausting yet REWARDING job you will ever have.
Unfortunately a lot of new mamas don't know what to expect when making the choice to breastfeed their baby. This can lead to tears of frustration, sore nipples, low milk supply & the decision to quit breastfeeding months before your goal.
Just because breastfeeding is natural, doesn't mean it comes naturally to mama or babe.
It is a learned skill, one that you should absolutely receive support with. Which leads me into my first tip:
- Seek professional help from a certified lactation consultant, or two, or three. Seriously, second and third opinions are OKAY. During those first weeks after birth, things are going to change and your first consult might have overlooked something. There are different methods and approaches that could be out there, waiting to make a world of difference in your breastfeeding journey.
I've been working on compiling this list since my first week of breastfeeding my son.
When I was preparing for my journey, I couldn't find a compiled list of all the resources I felt I needed.
So if it helps just one other mama, my efforts will be worth it.
Let's dive in....
Test your pump before baby comes.
Every manufacturer is different and you want to make sure you understand how to use it/if it is the right pump for you. You may end up needing it immediately after baby is born and you don't want to be trying to figure it out in the middle of the night, trying not to wake up your sweet babe, fumbling with parts and eventually knocking over the first 2 ounces you ever pump....
Take a course with your partner.
Make sure they are beside you taking in all the information and watching the videos. You don't realize how much brain power you will lose in those first few days and it will be incredibly helpful when your baby clamps down, but you can't remember how to unlatch them without stretching your nipple out like a balloon. (insert pinky finger on the side of their mouth and sweep upwards around their gums)
Invest in a non-toxic nipple cream.
Coconut oil is great to have on hand, but for ease of access it is great to have a couple small tubs of organic nipple cream that you can use immediately after each feeding. I used Earth Mama, but Motherlove is another good brand.
Drink all the water.
Have a cup beside your bed, on every end table, in your car, in your purse, in the diaper bag. Breastfeeding can dehydrate you and you want to be replenishing the stash that your sweet babe is currently sucking out of you.
Eat all the snacks.
When friends & family are coming over with the intention of helping you out, one of the best things they can do is bring/make healthy snacks for you while they are there. Fruit, nuts, seeds, granola, cheese & crackers are all wonderful things to munch on while feeding your babe. Sometimes it feels like you are starving after a breastfeeding session so making sure you have snacks on hand will make all the world of difference.
There are days when all your child wants to do is nurse round the clock. It’s normal! So grab your favorite drink, sit, relax, and enjoy the time bonding with your sweet babe. It goes SOO fast and you’ll wish you enjoyed the moments more! Take extra good care of your nipples during these times. Skin to skin can also offer the comfort they are craving.
More than likely, one of your breasts will produce less milk than the other. Don't stress, it is completely normal. You can try and "trick" it by using the milk supply tips below, but it will probably always just be a little behind the other one :)
Breastfeeding is a full time job.
Breastfeeding is a major commitment of time and energy. It's not something that you just casually do, especially in the beginning. You will receive well-intentioned comments from others to quit when things get tough. Look for encouragement, not an excuse to throw in the towel!
The biggest piece of information that I wish I had prior to starting breastfeeding was knowing how your milk supply is determined and how to keep it up. In simple terms - the more milk is extracted from your body, the more it will make. Try and pump immediately after each feeding, especially when first starting. You milk supply will begin to regulate around the 3 month mark, but you can always "trick" your body into making more by CONSISTENTLY removing milk throughout the day. You can find milk donations through local mom groups on Facebook.
Check for a Tongue Tie
This is a controversial topic BUT I am a big believer in doing your own research and choosing what is best for your baby SO that being said, there is a lot of information out there regarding this and my advice is that if you decide to go through with "clipping" a tongue tie...have your team ready for recovery. Without the help of our chiropractor, our son would have suffered through a long, painful recovery due to tension built up in his back. I recommend joining the Tongue Tie Babies Support Group and finding your specific state/local resources and recommended providers. It is CRUCIAL that you see a provider who knows what they are doing.
Also - even though it is still called a "clip", most places do this by laser and it's not a pretty sight. Both my husband and I had to watch our six week old receive the laser and it was horrific for us. If we have to do this again in the future, we won't go that route.
Try out different brands of breastfeeding and pumping bras before baby comes. Pick out comfy ones for lounging around the house, practical ones for days you will be solely pumping and a couple nice ones for nights out with your husband that will stop leaks.
Breastmilk is notorious for staining your favorite clothes. DON'T put your clothes in the dryer until you check for stains and make sure they are completely removed. Heat will lock in breastmilk stains like crazy. I use Branch Basics and so far, it has removed any stain I've come across, naturally.
The "brick" system is easy and space saving. We were able to bring our extra supply up to 300 ounces and we still have room in our freezer. General rule - milk stored in a bottom drawer freezer is good up to 6 months and milk stored in a deep freezer is good up to 12 months. Make sure you mark your "bricks" with the total ounces and the date they were pumped.
Document your journey.
Write down how you are feeling and take all the photos! Each journey is going to be different, even when you have multiple kids. Looking back, there will be moments that you forgot about and having a record will be something to savor for years to come.
Again, this is new for you AND baby. It might take some time for them to learn and those first few weeks are very important for them to practice. It's okay to say "no" when someone asks to hold the baby right away, especially if you feel like you need the extra time to bond & feed. Don't be afraid to spend all day in bed with baby - your body will respond to them being next to you, sending signals to produce milk.
Don't stop until you are ready.
Society tends to portray breastfeeding past a certain age as "bad" BUT did you know there are perks to breastfeeding past the age of one? (references)
- Breastmilk changes as your child grows in order to meet the needs of your child. In addition to a significant contribution of fat requirement, in the second year of life, just 15 ounces of breastmilk provides: 29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 36% of calcium requirements, 75% of vitamin A requirements, 76% of folate requirements, 94% of vitamin B12 requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements.
- Breastfeeding boosts your child’s immune system. At 1 year of age, baby’s immune system is only functioning at about 60% of adult level (Huggins 2007). Breastmilk has an abundance of antibodies which can keep our babies well even when everyone else around them seems to be sick. Breastfeeding toddlers between the ages of one and three have been found to have fewer illnesses, illnesses of shorter duration, and lower mortality rates.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of cancer. The longer you breastfeed, the greater reduction your risk for breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Researchers have found that women who breastfed a cumulative total ( months breastfeeding all their children) of 33 months had greater bone strength and size than women who breastfed for less than 12 months.
- Just because breastfeeding past one isn't common, doesn't mean it isn't NORMAL. The United States has put a stigma on breastfeeding past a certain age whereas in many countries, mothers have been breastfeeding their children to the age of 3 for centuries. "There is no upper limit to the duration of breastfeeding and no evidence of psychologic or developmental harm from breastfeeding into the third year of life or longer.” - American Academy of Pediatrics
- Breastfeeding moms tend to lose weight easier. While this was not an important factor in my decision making (your fat stores are crucial to your milk supply and development), it can be appealing to many mothers.
Organic Formula Options
Additional Pump Suggestions
(if you have a Health Savings Account, these are probably covered so you won't have to pay out of pocket)
- Haakaa Manual Breast Pump - I wish I would have had this on hand sooner. Great for catching let-down on the opposite side that you are feeding on OR at the end of a feeding. Also great to have when you are on the go.
- Elvie Curve Manual Wearable Breast Pump - If you want to pump, but not be tied to a cord/outlet, the Elvie is perfect for pumping around the house while doing dishes, laundry, etc. I've even gone on walks wearing this. It's manual so there is no additional noise!
- Momcozy Double Wearable Electric Breast Pump - This is my go to for date days with my husband. It is electric so you will need to charge it beforehand, but the settings are fantastic. You can set it to massage before pumping and there are even different modes so depending on your supply, you can adjust it to your needs.
Breastfeeding accessories that are actually useful
- Magnetic Me Pajamas - if you are going to invest in one piece of postpartum clothing, THIS IS IT. Their magnetic pajamas for mommas are perfect for skin to skin contact and breastfeeding. I have worn a pair every night since my son was born, no joke. These are clearly designed by parents who went through the same struggles.
- Breast Pads - you reach a new level of IDGAF when you become a mom BUT when you go out in public and it looks like a water balloon exploded across your chest, you are going to wish you had an extra set of breast pads in your purse. Purchasing a set of reusable ones allows you to save money and throw them in the wash at the end of every day. Keep a set in the nursery, by your pump, at your bedside and in your purse for those accidental leaks.
- LMNT Hydration Packets - throw these in your water for an extra level of hydration. The citrus lime was my favorite while pregnant/breastfeeding because it tastes exactly like a margarita. They are loaded with salty goodness so be sure to stir them up.
- MamaNatural (her week by week pregnancy book is AMAZING)
- AskDrSears (offers information on an alternate vaccine schedule as well)
Everyone's journey is going to be different.
& as much as we love our own moms, a LOT has changed since they breastfed you. So if you feel like the well-meaning advice you receive isn't right...trust your gut, follow your instincts and always do what is best for YOU and your baby.
Thanks for reading. I wish you all the best with your journey!
& if you are looking to celebrate a breastfeeding milestone with a photo session, I would love to meet you and your little one.
You're the best!