They really don’t lie when they say that motherhood is hard. Hard is an understatement. Some of the most intensely difficult moments in a woman’s life are usually related to pregnancy and childbirth, but there are so many amazing parts that balance those tough parts out. For me it’s snuggling my little guy’s chubby cheeks, his smile in the morning, making him laugh, that yummy baby smell… Most unexpectedly, one of my favorite parts of being a mom has been breastfeeding my little one. My baby app tells me I’ve been nursing for almost 150 days, and I’m amazed at how far we’ve come together. It hasn’t always been a walk in the park—at the beginning it was difficult and painful and I was crying through so many feedings—but it’s finally at a point that I can truly and honestly say I enjoy it. While I’m not an expert in any way, a stubborn streak, my hugely supportive hubby, and a ton of internet research helped get me here. Below are a few essential items and tips that I’ve found helpful along the way…
These ladies are gold. When you’re in the hospital, take advantage of the amazing help and resource that LCs really, truly are. I didn’t have time to take any classes before I gave birth, and did almost no research into… anything, so I treated my postpartum hospital stay as breastfeeding boot camp. I asked the lactation consultant to come see me every day I was there. Although it was going well (B only lost 1% of his birth weight!), I still hadn’t quite gotten the hang of nursing, and B wasn’t quite there on his latch… it was a painful couple of days. But this little guy had a great sucking reflex from the get and I’m lucky that I had a great milk supply, so I didn’t want pain to stand in the way of breastfeeding.
You won’t need it forever, but a nursing pillow is a godsend when your baby is little and you’re still a breastfeeding noob. Trying to hold the weight of your little one in your arms while figuring out the right position to get a proper latch without a pillow is a recipe for strained wrists, very painful nipples and tears of frustration. This is the one my LC recommend, but I received this one as a gift (thank you to my bestie, Nicky!) and it worked out well.
Nursing tanks and bras
I can’t live without these because as much as I’d like to, I can’t spend all day at home wearing lounge pants and occasionally a shirt. Before I gave birth, I stocked up on a few basic nursing tanks and a couple of bras at Target. I still wear them often and have added a few more to my collection along with some pretty, lacy nursing bras because it feels good to look nice, even if you know they’ll have milk and/or spit up on them almost as soon as you put them on.
Fact: you will have sore and cracked nipples when you breastfeed, and you’ve got to take care of those suckers (no pun intended). You wouldn’t expect chapped lips to fix themselves without balm. Cracked nips are the same. I use Motherlove’s ointment and lanolin. Lanolin is my “big guns,” it’s sticky and will stain clothing but for really bad cracks, it’s the go-to. The Motherlove ointment is my everyday choice. The texture is great and you don’t have to worry about washing it off before breastfeeding. I had stayed away from lanolin after hearing some not great stuff about it, but my sister-in-law gave me a tube and it really does its job.
Leakage will happen, so prevent an uncomfortably soaked bra or tank and get yourself nursing pads. I recently bought reusable ones for around the house, but while I’m out I like Lansinoh’s disposable pads.
You’ll want to track feedings, sleep and wet/poopy diapers, especially in those first few days. We used Medela’s app for a while, but it kept having server issues and after a getting booted off and having to log back in right before a middle of the night session one too many times I gave up on it. Now I’m using Glow Baby and I love the functionality and the user interface makes my graphic designer heart happy. I’ve continued to track consistently, and the chart overview has helped me see patterns and made organizing my baby’s routine a bit easier.
The best advice I got on making sure you have a good milk supply? Stay ridiculously hydrated. Makes sense right? I have my trusty 32oz Camelbak with me at all times and make sure to refill it at least 3x a day. I also love the look of these gorgeous S’well stainless steel bottles if you want to splurge. (Bonus: your skin will love you!)
Shells, cold packs, etc.
There are a few things that I don’t use all the time, but are great to have in your breastfeeding arsenal. For days when I was really sore and really cracked, these “soothies” were a recommendation from my sister-in-law’s sister, and they’re lifesavers. I kept them in the fridge for extra relief. Along those same lines, hot/cold packs like these are great for pain in the general boob tissue or to help with engorgement or clogged ducts. These shells served two purposes for me: the intended function (keeping everything away from painful nipples) and collecting “overflow”. Sometimes you’ll have some serious leakage from the side you’re not nursing on (thank you, oversupply!) and it’s a shame to waste that milk, since it can sometimes be an ounce or more each time. They also sell a product (Milkies Milk-Savers) specifically made to collect the overflow if you find that it’s a common enough situation for you. Mine was significant, but eventually it balanced out and stopped being much.
Bibs & Small Towels
When you think of feeding babies, bibs are no-brainers. My sister-in-law recommended these Tommee Tippee bibs and I swear by them. The foam collar helps keep milk from dribbling into all those baby neck rolls. At first, breastfeeding can be pretty messy overall, especially when you’ve got oversupply, so I always kept a small towel or two on hand to keep everything contained.
Breast Pump & Accessories
Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, or some combination of the two, you’ll probably have to pump at some point. A good, double electric pump can be pretty pricey, but thankfully a lot of insurances will now cover them. I got the tried-and-true Medela Pump In Style Advance. Check with your plan and find out what your coverage is. What other things will you need for pumping? Well the top two for me are a hands-free bra, and these flanges. You should also have a bunch of bottles to pump into, depending on how often you’re pumping and whether you’re working on your freezer stash. I have the Medela bottles and my magic number has been 8. If you’re freezing, I also recommend freezer bags. I’ve tried Medela’s and Lansinoh’s and I prefer Lansinoh’s because they’re designed to freeze flat, which makes for easier, neater storage. I’ve also read that Nuk’s bags are great. I plan on giving them a try once I finish the Lansinoh pack I’m working through.
For Meals “On The Go”
If you plan on leaving the house for more than a few hours with your little, get yourself a nursing cover. There are a bunch of brands out there, but I love the cover I have by Bebe Au Lait. The cotton version does get quite warm, so I also have a muslin version, because #FloridaSummer. Now on the topic of breastfeeding in public, I won’t go all soap-box on you, but I think it’s perfectly acceptable. While I’m not quite a “whip-out-a-boob” girl*, I’ll happily feed B with my cover whether I’m at a restaurant or at the park. Baby’s gotta eat!
Good luck, ladies! I hope that these products help in your breastfeeding journey
*If you are, that’s great, too! You do you, girl!