Oh breastfeeding, how I love/hate you! I really do feel grateful that breast feeding has been relatively easy for me, my boobs, and my babies. I mean I did have one fairly terrible bout with mastitis and it’s certainly not the most comfortable thing I’ve ever done, especially in those first few weeks. But, I’m happy to report that I was able to breastfeed Maxwell for 14 months and well, Mila is only 3 months in (our water birth story here), but so far, so good. I teamed up with Medela to share my tips for breastfeeding your babe and keeping your sanity.
1. Breastfeeding is hard work: Yes, it’s natural, blah blah. But, it takes a great deal of dedication, patience, and there is a learning curve for you and your baby. Before baby came along, I had not thought about the fact that your boobs need the baby as much as the baby needs your boobs. Even if you get the chance to have a little you time, the girls make it very clear that baby is hungry about 3 hours later. (This is why everyone needs a pump!)
2. Learn to breastfeed laying on your side: Because then you can rest your head and fall asleep. This is still my favorite breastfeeding position!
3. You need the right supplies: In theory, you only need a boob. And I say a boob (as in one) because yes, one of my boobs dried up about 6 months into breastfeeding Maxwell, and I continued to supplement his diet with breast milk with only one boob! But, that’s clearly not ideal. Although, they tell me it’s normal to have one breast that produces more than the other one. But back to my tip, here’s what you need to comfortably breast feed and pump. I promise you will want some relief at some point. An electronic breast pump will be your breast (pun intended) friend. And boob pads, you need lots of those.
Here are my must have breastfeeding supplies:
- Water bottle: Because breast feeding makes you (or at least me) instantly crazy thirsty! I’m still using this one I made at a craft party I hosted back when Max was a baby.
- Boppy pillow: This is the only nursing pillow I have ever used, but I’m sure any “C” shaped pillow will work! And you’ll need a fun cover too, here’s a cute gender neutral one.
- Nursing bras and/or tanks: These are greatness, and I wear one almost every day. I have a few of these sleeping bras, that I don’t just use to sleep in!
- Boob pads: I like to have disposable ones and washable ones one hand. You don’t want to be without a nursing pads in those first few months!
- Breast pump: Every mama needs one! At some point you will want to leave your baby for more than 3 hours, and while you can leave baby with formula your boobs will need relief. It’s also nice to be able to leave breast milk for you baby. Breast pump to the rescue.
- MyMedela App for your phone: This is great for helping you keep track of nursing, pumping, diapers, and sleep schedule.
Here’s what I love for pumping:
- Medela Freestyle Breast Pump: PSA: Check with your insurance provider, they are required to supply women with a breast pump for free. I used the Freestyle Medela pump for Maxwell and have started it using it all over again for Amelia. It’s a double electric pump and comes with a bag and everything you need to pump. I love that I can move around freely and it’s relatively small to travel with this pump. Oh and if you are going back to work full time, consider buying a pump to leave at work.
- Pump and Save Bags: These bags attach to your pump so that you can pump directly into the pump and save bag. This is how I pump breast milk most often so that it can directly go into the freezer and not get anymore bottles dirty.
- Quick Clean Bag: Usually I just use warm, soapy water to clean my pump parts, but every 4th or so use I like to give it a good clean in one of these bags. You just place a little water in the bag with your pump parts and microwave for 2-3 minutes (depending on your microwave).
- Medela Bottles: Most pumps come with 2 Medela bottles. I love these since they attach directly to the pump.
- Bottle Nipples: Just an FYI that there are specific bottle nipples depending on how many months old your baby is. The difference is the size of the whole in the nipple which determines the amount of milk it allows into babies mouth. Here are 0-3 month nipples and 4-12 month nipples.)
- Sharpie Marker: To write the date on your pump and save bags.
- Hands free pumping bra: Make yourself one as soon as you start pumping! Don’t do it before since you don’t know how large your boobs will get and where you will need to cut the holes. Use any old sport’s bra and cut 2 small holes to hold the breast shields in place and allow you to pump and not hold them on your own boobs. This is life changing!
4. You need the right supplies for traveling: In addition to your regular breastfeeding goodies (your pump!), you might need a few more things if you are traveling. At some point in babies first year, you’ll need/want to go somewhere with or without your baby. And if you’re still breastfeeding, you’ll need a few things to make it easier. Max and I went on multiple plane and car trips in his first year of life, and I learned the ins and outs of breastfeeding on the go and what you need to make it as easy as possible.
- Bottle cooler: You don’t want to lose any liquid gold. I use the one that came with my Medela Freestyle Pump.
- Freezer in your hotel room: Not all hotel rooms have a fridge and freezer. Ask before booking since that will help determine what you will need to bring. If I was traveling without my baby, I occasionally had to dump my milk down the drain versus trying to keep it frozen and brining it back home via airplane. (Tips for traveling with a baby via airplane here.)
- Bottle cleaner: depending on how long you are going to be gone, I would occasionally bring a bottle cleaner with me in my suitcase or buy one at the store.
5. Breast milk storage: So you have started pumping and have a supply of breastmilk in the freezer, yay! Now, how to organize it? First tip, lay your pump and save packs flat vs. standing them up to freeze! This will make them easier to stack. Here’s what I’ve been doing, I stack them in this container and place the oldest ones in front. The container sits on the top shelf of my freezer to ensure that the milk stays as cold as possible. And if you are planning to pump when you go back to work, I heard great things about this book: Work. Pump. Repeat.
6. Common Issues: Mastitis, clogged ducts, low supply, sore nipples, thrush, inverted nipples, painful letdown, etc… Likely one or more of these things will happen to you. Do what you can to prevent these issues, but don’t freak out if one of these happens. I’ve personally dealt with mastitis, low supply in one boob, and sore nipples! Ask for help from your doctor or even consider a lactation consultant to help you and your baby with latch positioning.
7. Join a group online or in person or both: Breastfeeding is a lot of work. And it helps to have a tribe or a group of people to ask questions. There are lots of local groups to support breastfeeding and La Leche League has groups all over the place.
8. Mentally Prepare: Be flexible and patient. And try not to beat yourself up about any aspect of breastfeeding. Plans are just that…. plans. And plans change. If for whatever reason you can’t breastfeed, but wanted to, it’s ok. Or you have to stop earlier. It’s ok. Or decide to exclusively pump and bottle feed. It’s ok.
9. Nutrition: If you’re breastfeeding, it’s totally normal to feel extra hungry! I’ve been told breastfeeding mamas need 300-500 more calories per day. So, stock up on some nutritious, easy to reach for snacks like granola bars, dried fruit, or my fave chocolate covered nuts! You need the extra calories to feed the baby.
I’d love to hear more tips and tricks or must have breastfeeding supplies…
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Medela through their partnership with POPSUGAR. While I was compensated by POPSUGAR to write a post about Medela all opinions are my own.