Tips to make breastfeeding a breeze
Don’t let nature shows and hippies fool you, breastfeeding can be challenging. For most of us, it doesn’t “just come naturally.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 75% of us start out in earnest – trying to give our baby the breast. But for whatever reason – going back to work, a baby that can’t master the latch, breasts that won’t produce enough milk – by the time our babies are six months old, approximately 60% of moms have given the job over to the bottle. Only 23% continue to breastfeed through the first year as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends.
Don’t get nervous. I’m not about to add more mom guilt to the healthy dose bestowed upon you the moment you realized you were pregnant. I just want to offer practical recommendations that can help you make an easier go of it. Here are my top essentials to prepare you for misadventures in nursing:
Silly name, awesome product. This is a pillow-like support that wraps around your waist, snaps on the side to hold in place, and is flat on top so that baby can lay down. It props your baby into the perfect position to easily reach your boobs without your arms aching from holding your baby up. You could do without it – if you have arms of steel. (By the way, this product is a thousand times better than the Boppy. I had both and the Boppy has nothing on the My Brestfriend.)
Pillow and Blanket for the Car
I kept a small throw pillow and baby blanket in the car. This came in handy several times when my screaming newborn forced me to pull into the nearest parking lot and nurse her NOW, NOW, NOW. I used the pillow to prop her up (because I was so addicted to the My Brestfriend that I hated to breastfeed without a cushion) and a blanket to give us some privacy.
I highly recommend that you record your favorite shows, shows you meant to watch but just didn’t have the time, or any show you’ve ever been vaguely interested in. Why? Because when you first start nursing your newborn, that little child of yours will take his or her sweet time, meaning about 45 minutes of nursing every two hours. That’s a lot of sitting time. Now, I’m not against cooing and staring blissfully at baby, but it’s also nice to catch a fun show and avoid bad daytime TV during those nursing sessions.
The same advice as the item above, except this applies to books and magazines that you’ve been meaning to catch up on. If you’re one of those lucky moms who can figure out how to successfully nurse using only one hand (I wasn’t), then you’ll be happy to have a magazine or book laying around when you want it.
Buy it at Costco. You’ll need a vast quantity, especially if you’re anxious mommy like myself always wanting to do whatever you can for your baby. It’s yummy, filling, low-fat, and can be microwaved in two minutes. More importantly, many say that it helps increase their breast milk supply. At six months, I started to worry that I wasn’t producing enough milk. I tried the Fenugreek tea that is also rumored to increase milk supply and it tasted awful. With my second child, I ate oatmeal instead. I’m not sure if it increased my milk supply, but doing something extra to keep my baby well fed was a mental soother.
Apples, bananas, granola bars, protein bars, etc. all make for good snacks to tear into while you’re nursing. I kept a granola bar and a cup of water on the table next to where I nursed so that every morning I could meet my needs too.
Cloth Diapers/Burping Cloths
I had a tidy little pile of cloths that I went through at an alarming rate. (Cutesy burp cloths are great, but cloth diapers work just as well if not better.) You will be shocked by how much spit-up and drool your baby can produce. Always having a cloth handy to wipe that liquidy beast “is a good thing” as Martha would say.
Yes, they really do make things easier. I tried using my regular bras, but scrunching them up to let my baby nurse, or to pump at work, put permanent creases in my molded cups. It was much better to buy nursing bras, especially the padded ones. You don’t have to worry about milk leaking through if you wear a padded bra and you don’t have to insert annoying nipple pads into your bras.
I purchased multiple nursing tank tops from Target and they were great for nursing during warm weather. They had a built-in shelf bra, strong straps, and an easy open and close panel. Their extra roominess in the belly area was an added, I-love-you-for-not-clinging-to-my-baby-weight bonus. In addition to those, I also was thankful for the long-sleeved, cotton henley tops I purchased to wear as pajamas during the cool weather months. This way, in the middle of the freezing-cold night I could just unbutton the top of my shirt and expose the minimal amount of skin.
Lanolin Nipple Cream
You don’t need much of this sticky balm – one tube will last you through five-plus pregnancies (Michelle Duggar is probably still using her original tube) – but it’s definitely a staple of savvy mamas. A tip that worked for me was to apply the cream to my nipples those last couple of weeks before giving birth to soften and prepare them for nursing. It’s also a lifesaver for healing breastfeeding battle wounds like cracked and sore nipples. Worst case scenario, if you don’t end up using it for nursing, it makes an excellent lip balm.
Mommy Gal Pals
More than any of the items I listed above, what will be most helpful to you during this time is the support of other breastfeeding moms. The La Leche League offers local breastfeeding support groups. You can also reach out to women who are going through the same stage you are through online communities like BabyCenter, Momtastic and Mamapedia. Find out if your hospital offers parent groups for new parents. Seek out a MOPS group. Chat with friendly neighbors and family members who have young children. They, unlike your mom, aunt or grandma, will actually remember the struggles of parenting a newborn for the first time.
Been-there-done-that mamas: Don’t sock away all that mom wisdom – please post it in comments below. What breastfeeding tips can you share?