photos by Ban Avenue Photography
You're probably just as shocked to read the title of this post as I am to be writing on the subject. This is a far cry from the normal shoe sales & Amazon finds I usually ramble about but I've gotten quite a few requests for a post with my experiences breastfeeding, so here we are! I want to preface by saying that I am FAR from an expert on the topic- I simply know what has and hasn't worked for us. I breastfed Bear for 15 months and while Boone is only 6 weeks old, he's a great little eater so far and I'm praying it stays that way. I may be a bit all over the place in this post so please bear with me and if I leave anything out, feel free to email me with questions! I want this blog to be a place where other moms, and women in general, can come and feel supported. I wish I'd had that when Bear was a newborn, so I'd love to provide it to anyone else in those early tough stages of motherhood.
THINGS YOU'LL NEED:
As you're preparing to have your baby, it can be overwhelming as far as what you'll need in your hospital bag and at home. It's definitely better to be over-prepared, but there are a few breastfeeding items that we've loved and I highly recommend:
1. Boppy Pillow- There are a lot of nursing pillows out there but I used a Boppy with Bear and am using the same one (different cover) with Boone. I have 3 covers and any time Boone spits up or blows out on one, I just toss it in the wash and use a different cover. We also use the Boppy to prop Baby up and family members love it for holding Baby in the hospital. Bear calls it his "security pillow" and requests it anytime he wants to sit and hold Boone. It makes it much easier for Boone to rest safely in his lap.
2. Lanolin- I used this stuff like crack the first couple months of Bear's life. TMI, for sure, but your nipples will take a beating those first few weeks. Fight through the pain because believe me, it does get better! A little goes a long way, so I think I only ended up using two tubes of Lanolin, but it also works wonders on your lips if you have dry lips like me. I thought I would need it again with Boone so I loaded up and honestly, I haven't needed it or used it at all. I didn't realize that even 5 years later, my body would still be nice and broken in from Baby #1.
3. Nursing bras- I have several different ones but my favorite is this one from Target. It's super comfortable (since it's wireless) and has an overall great fit, especially for the price!
*There are some other items you may want but aren't necessary, like I had nursing pads the first month or so of breastfeeding Bear that were a big help as my milk supply was adjusting.
FIRST FEW DAYS:
Let's start from the very beginning (this is going to be a long post!). You will have plenty of help from the nurses in the hospital with securing latch, position, etc. A few minutes after your baby is born, you will already be told to start breastfeeding! That was a surprise for me the first go-round; I didn't realize we'd jump right into things. I was really nervous about it but the nurses helped me so much; don't hesitate to ask them any questions or voice concerns you have. They are obviously saints that love to help! You will be required to track feedings while you're in the hospital and your baby should be eating every 2 hours or more. It will take a few days for your milk to come in so at first the baby will be getting only colostrum. Believe me, you will know when your milk comes in. If you're like me, you'll go from B cups to triple D's in a 24 hour span. Free boob job? Nope, just playing cow for the next 15 months before they turn into sad little deflated balloons. (so worth it, don't let me scare you!)
YOU DO YOU:
One thing you have to keep in mind is that babies ALL nurse differently and at their own pace. I was so concerned with Bear in the beginning because I thought he had to nurse for the same length of time on both sides. Sometimes he'd fall asleep or nurse twice as long on the right- I was constantly worried if we were "doing things right". You guys, there is no right way. There's simply your baby's way! Boone will go to town on one side and fill up, so I just have to remember which side he nursed on last and feed him on the other side when he's hungry again. We don't stick to a feeding schedule, especially not in the beginning, and this has worked for us. A lot of experts would tell you otherwise, that you should start feeding your baby every 3 hours and no more frequently as this helps them sleep through the night sooner. I'm sure this is true and if you're a schedule person, by all means do what works best for you. For us, it helps my milk supply to nurse often and on demand, and we co-sleep so while I don't love waking up all through the night, it's not that big of a deal. Even with nursing on demand, Bear was already sleeping a 6 hour stretch at night without feeding by 1 month. Boone wakes up more frequently, every 3 hours usually, but eats and goes right back to sleep.
THINGS TO DO:
1. Get a lactation consultant. When Bear was about 8 weeks old, I was losing sleep over breastfeeding. He had reflux pretty bad and would projectile vomit once every few days which scared me to death. I wasn't sure if he was getting enough milk and desperately needed reassurance. Zach encouraged me to call a lactation specialist (in fact I think he's the one who did end up calling her) and when she showed up at our door, she looked like she was about to bust out laughing. I was standing there holding a very chunky baby Bear and she said, "Is this the baby you're concerned isn't getting enough?". Long story short, she was worth every penny of the $95 we paid her. She stayed at our house about two hours, watched me nurse and gave me tips, and helped me set up my breast pump that I had been afraid to even get out of the box. I was missing parts for it (I borrowed it from my SIL) and she happened to have those and helped me get it up and running. She was a miracle worker and for any new breastfeeding moms, I HIGHLY recommend getting a consultant to come to your home in the first few weeks after you give birth. Even if nursing is going well, this will give you great peace of mind and confidence.
2. Eat often. Another thing I wasn't prepared for the first time around was just how starving I would feel all the time. Breastfeeding hunger knocks pregnancy cravings out of the water! Your baby is taking so much from you and you have to up your calorie intake to keep a good milk supply. I'm not one for snacking normally, but I snack frequently while breastfeeding on things like cereal that's high in fiber, granola bars, and even milkshakes. Milkshakes are not healthy, I realize, but I love them and they're a great way to get in calories and I just sip on one while I'm nursing so it's easy. Smoothies fall into this category as well- I don't love them but I do try and drink them since I can also get fruits and veggies in this way. My favorite drink on the go is a Starbuck's Pink Drink- it's a secret menu item but your barista will know what it is! The Pink Drink is said to be great for building milk supply and is really refreshing; it consists of Strawberry Acai Refresher, coconut milk, passion iced tea, soy milk, vanilla syrup and blackberries.
3. Experiment with different positions. Once your milk supply comes in, you'll be surprised to find that things may change up a lot with your "flow". Some women have a really fast letdown, and nurse best lying on their back with their baby literally on top of them so that gravity can slow down the milk flow. A "football hold" is also really good for sore nipples and establishing a good latch. Sometimes with Bear, when he was really fussy, I'd have to walk around the house and carry him, nursing. Don't be afraid to try new positions and find what works best for your baby- sometimes the standard cross-cradle doesn't work well. I will say cross-cradle is what I've done 95% of the time with both my boys and it's worked well for us, even though I do have a fast letdown. In the first few weeks, try rotating positions often to help with sore nipples since baby’s latch will hit different parts of the breast depending on the angle.
4. Burp well. This may sound like an obvious tip, but it's an important one. If you don't want your precious breast milk regurgitated all over your couch, you have to make sure and frequently burp your baby. I do it like so: Nurse Boone (did this with Bear, too) and then lay him flat in my lap or on a surface for 2-3 minutes. I don't immediately hold him up or press his stomach against anything if it can be helped as this is the best way to get milk right back up. Once he's laid flat for a couple minutes, I gently pick him up (fast motions will make milk come up) and put his head over my shoulder with his stomach pressed against me. I lightly pat his back and almost always get two back to back burps with a few minutes. This helps him keep his milk down and eases his tummy- you want to help ease any gas pains as much as possible.
WHEN TO PUMP:
I get this question a lot and honestly, there is no correct answer. Every mom has a different schedule, work situation, and opinion on this. If you're going back to work after 6 or 8 weeks and want to keep breastfeeding, you will want to start stocking up as soon as you can, probably around 2-3 weeks will be time to start pumping. I would recommend not starting any earlier than this, if possible, just to make sure your baby obtains a good latch and you don't acquire any nipple confusion (if you start using bottles right away). I'm one of the lucky ones who doesn't have to pump, and I waited until around 8 weeks (when that saint of a lactation consultant came and saved me) to start pumping. Even then, I didn't do it often because Bear did not like taking a bottle. I mostly kept my milk in the freezer and we used it to mix with his rice cereal and oatmeal when he started solids. It was nice to have in case of emergencies, though, if I went out to dinner or something with girlfriends. I liked knowing that Zach at least had something there to feed Bear if need be. I intend to get the pump out around the same time this go-round. I have this breast pump and haven't tried it yet but also had a Medela before and it worked great.
*Several mamas have asked on Instagram about over-producing and if pumping would help that and I'm sure it would provide some relief. Again I'm not an expert and while I produce well, my babies have both eaten a ton so I never really get engorged. The times that I have, I do take the opportunity to pump because my letdown is so strong that if I'm that full it's harder for Baby to eat.
WHEN TO WEAN:
This is also different for each and every case, so I can't give an exact answer but only tell what worked for us. By 14 months, Bear was only nursing once at night right before bed (sleeping through the night) and once in the morning. It was more of a comfort thing than anything- he was eating plenty of solids and didn't really need it. We took a trip to Hawaii to visit family when Bear was 15 months and the time change was 5 hours different, which threw off our schedule and Bear was exhausted by bedtime. He would crash without nursing, and I stopped the morning feeds as well during that trip. It just worked out for us and he had no issues at all, which I know isn't the case for everyone. Most of my friends who have had a harder time weaning said it took weeks but they just knew when their baby was pretty much done breastfeeding. I think it's often harder for mamas to let go of that bond, so don't quit before you or your baby are ready! It will work out when it's supposed to and you don't have to go cold turkey like us- ease out of it by cutting out a night or morning feeding, then gradually any others.
IT WON'T BE EASY:
No-one likes to hear this, but know going into breastfeeding that it won't be easy in the beginning. There will be struggles, you'll question yourself and the process at times, and you may even decide to throw in the towel. And you know what, that's okay. Don't let anyone make you feel like a failure or less of a mother if it doesn't work out- you are NOT! Loving your baby means doing what's best for them and you; a fed baby is a happy baby. Breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone and while I want to encourage anyone who wants to successfully breastfeed to do so, I will also be the first person to say that it's not for everyone. Once you get over that initial hump of establishing a good latch and maintaining your milk supply, it does get easier! I am also so much more confident this time around and I didn't expect that at all- with Bear I was too nervous to ever breastfeed in public. I would go sit in the car or even in a public restroom (yes, I'd sit on the toilet just to nurse...fun times) because I felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of people. I've already nursed in restaurants with Boone a handful of times using my nursing cover and I don't know why I didn't do it with Bear! There's nothing at all to be ashamed of and moms who are feeding their baby shouldn't be succumbed to a dirty bathroom stall.
I could keep talking about this all day as I'm in the throws of breastfeeding with a 6 week old baby, but hopefully I've covered some of the most important points. I just want to emphasize that whether you breastfeed or use formula, loving your baby is what really matters. To all of you mamas out there and mamas-to-be, you got this! You were made to be that baby's Mommy and it's the best job in the world. Now go drink a milkshake and grab some magazines- there are lots of snuggles on the couch in your future. And no matter how difficult and exhausting these days may seem at the time, they will be some of the best and most fleeting of your life. Soak up every milky minute.