My first time around breastfeeding with Leilani was rough. We went through weeks of trying to get a good latch to nurse, she would end up screaming because she was so mad, I’d feed her a bottle and then have to pump and by the time that was all done and the bottles were cleaned up, she’d want to eat again and the process would start all over again. I can’t tell you how many times we both ended up in tears before I finally decided to just exclusively pump. I was judged, made fun of, etc. but guess what? It worked. Because my daughter still got all the amazing benefits of breastmilk and we didn’t have the stress/anxiety anymore. I exclusively pumped for just over 11 months and Leilani had breastmilk for over 14 months and I donated 2,200 oz.
During my second pregnancy, I vowed to try everything I possibly could to be able to nurse this time around. While we were in the hospital, I met with the lactation consultant several times and tried to figure this out. It was really hard. I’ve had people tell me how easy it is and I’m here to tell you that they’re wrong, or abnormal. (I mean that in the nicest way possible). The first few weeks is hell. You have dry, cracked nipples and pain. Lots of pain. And a baby that is always on the boob.
There were a lot of things that I discovered while I was exclusively pumping for Leilani that I was super excited to know about going into having Landon. I want to pass along my experiences so that on the hardest day when you want to give up, you can look at this and reassure yourself that you CAN do it! Here are some things that will help!
Helpful Breastfeeding/Nursing Items
A good Nursing Bra – this is important because your boobs are so much more accessible and trust me, when your baby is SCREAMING at you that he/she is hungry, you’ll want to get them food ASAP!
A Nursing Tank – I didn’t find any that actually fit me when I was pumping with Leilani and it wasn’t really ‘necessary’. But with nursing, you’ll want to learn the Two Shirt Method so you can feed in public without showing off your gut, especially if it’s super pasty like mine. If you are more comfortable it will just be easier. My favorite nursing tanks have been the Bamboobies Nursing Tank by Bamboobies and the UC Mama Tank by Undercover Mama (product review to follow).
Nursing Pads – In the beginning I used disposable nursing pads by Lansinoh because they get soaked and you have to change them often (to avoid infections/etc.). I tried to do the reusable ones and ended up soaking through a few shirts. After my milk was more regulated, I switched to reusable pads by Bamboobies and haven’t had any problems since.
Receiving Blankets/Burp Rags/Bibs – Have plenty of these. Especially if your kid is a dribbler. As in, he’s at the boob and milk leaks out of his mouth all the time. Or if you have a kid that pops off to look at you and you end up spraying them in the eye. (Trust me, it has happened!) I learned to always have something between my son and my boob. I also use it to distract his hand. When we are out and about, a bib works the easiest but I always use a blanket or burp rag at home.
Nursing Cover – (if you desire) There are so many awesome covers that look like scarves now! I have yet to try one but a friend of mine likes hers. My favorite is the Hooter Hider because they have the rigid neckline so you can see what you are doing.
Pump – Check with your insurance to see if you are covered for one and do your research before you just pick the ‘most popular’ breast pump. I chose the Ameda Purely Yours Ultra through my insurance and then got another one so I could leave 1 at home and 1 at work. The best part is that it has a closed system. A closed system pump has a barrier between the milk collection kit and the pump mechanism to prevent contamination by bacteria/mold/viruses/etc. This was super important to me. There are also several different sized flanges and backup parts are easily accessible at Target, Buy Buy Baby, Babies R Us and so on.
Pumping Bag/Cooler – If you are going back to work or going to be away from your baby for any amount of time, you’ll want a nice carrying bag and cooler (along with ice packs). The Ameda Purely Yours Ultra came with all of it and I love it! When I was pumping for Leilani I just used a Vera Bradley tote and it worked perfectly!
Storage Bags – My favorite storage bags are the Lansinoh bags. I fill them up to 6 oz (the max amount), squeeze out the air, label and lay flat in the freezer. Once there are 10 bags frozen, put them in an expandable bottom Ziploc bag and stack from newest to oldest. You should be able to fit exactly 10 – 6 oz. bags of frozen breastmilk in each bag. Then label the outer part of the bag with dates and store in a deep freezer for up to a year. Make sure you do your research on how long breastmilk is good for. My favorite website to go to is kellymom.com for reference.
Extra bottles – If you are exclusively pumping, you’re going to need a lot of bottles. But even if you are just pumping at work, depending on how long you are away from baby, you’re going to want extras. I’d say 6-10 bottles if you plan on washing dishes every single day. You can get the bottles with the cooler and ice packs all in one.
Pumping Bra – This is a game changer ladies! If you are just pumping 1 side, you may not need this. But if you are pumping both sides at once, a pumping bra can do a few things for you. It can make you hands free so that you can do things while you pump. For example, I am currently pumping while I type this. Also, you don’t lose suction, so you pump for less time and get more milk! My absolute favorite is the Simple Wishes D Lite pumping bra.
How to Keep Your Supply Up
Drink plenty of water! – It sounds weird, but the more hydrated you are the better. I don’t know about you, but nursing/pumping always makes me super thirsty anyway.
Oatmeal – I’ve heard that this boosts your milk supply. I haven’t seen any direct effects on my milk supply but try it! There are a lot of people that swear by it.
Fenugreek – This is a natural supplement that supposedly increases milk supply. I have not taken it myself, but have heard great things. Make sure to do your research so you feel 100% comfortable before taking it.
How do Deal with the Pains
Unfortunately, pain is inevitable. Whether it be in those first few weeks when you’ve always got a baby on the boob, or later on and you develop something terrible like thrush or mastitis. Here are some things that will help you with the pain along the way and hopefully prevent those yucky things.
Cabbage Leaves – Whenever I had a lot of pain or felt engorged, putting cold cabbage leaves right in my bra (you look like a mermaid, it’s fun) really helped. I don’t know why it works, but it works. Especially when they are really cold!
Hot/Cold Compress – For cold, you can always use a bag of frozen peas. I did it. It worked. But then I invested in some of these Lansinoh Therapearl 3 in 1 hot or cold therapy and really liked them. They can be warmed in the microwave or frozen and they fit right over your pump flanges if you need some relief while pumping. Sometimes the heat can help with letdowns if you feel engorged as well.
Nipple Cream/Butter – A lot of people kept telling me to get Lanolin for my nipples. This did nothing for me. I didn’t find relief until I tried the Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter. You can thank me later.
Nipple Shield – I had a hard time in the beginning of nursing and it felt like my son was chewing my nipples raw. And really, he was. So I got a nipple shield from my lactation consultant and for about 4 or 5 weeks, most feedings were done with the shield. We found out that my son had a pretty bad tongue tie and that is why nursing was SO painful for me. His latch was terrible, so this helped until he got his frenulum clipped.
Comfort Gel Pads – These Ameda Comfort Gel Pads were amazing the first few weeks. If one side was too sore to feed from (or so chewed up it was bleeding), I would put one of these bad boys on and just keep feeding from the other side for a few feedings and they helped with the pain so much. Ask your lactation consultant for some, mine gave me 2 pairs and I could hug her for it!
Carrier/Ring Sling – A ring sling is super easy to lay baby in and nurse. My favorite is the Beachfront Baby ring sling. It is lightweight and easy to use and you can use it while in the shower/lake/pool. You can read my full review here. I finally just mastered feeding my son in our Lilebaby carrier! My friend literally walked up to me and asked, “What’s he doing in there? Sleeping?” And when I told her he was nursing she said, “Huh, I would have never known that!” Woohoo! (I’m very proud of myself for this).
Nursing App – I have a Medela app that I can track everything from breastfeeding (which side, how long) to pumping (which side, how long, how much output) to diaper changes and more. I have recently found out that Lansinoh has one that actually connects to their pump via bluetooth! I think that is amazing and would totally try the Lansinoh pump just because of that aspect! For me it’s all about knowing which boob my kiddo ate from last and I can see about how long it takes me to pump and when my highest output is.
Pillow – I use a regular pillow to breastfeed, it was the easiest for me. But some people prefer the Boppy pillow. It also works, but I don’t find it a necessity. I did try the new Ergo Natural Curve Nusing Pillow and it just wasn’t for me. Maybe I’ll try it again now that he’s a bit bigger, but I never felt like I could get the right angle with it.
In the beginning, your milk may not come in right away. It is OK to supplement with formula. Don’t be upset with yourself if this happens. In the end, all that matters is that your baby is getting fed. With my first I had to pump to get my milk to come in. When it does come in, you’ll be engorged and it will hurt. Pump for relief if you need it!!! Some people will tell you not to because you will train your body to make more milk than you need. I did it for comfort, I didn’t do it for long and I would get a ton of milk out in a matter of minutes. This is how I started my freezer stash. If you have to go back to work, having a freezer stash will help so much with the anxiety and stress of ‘what if I don’t make enough when I go back’.
Speaking of, stress really doesn’t help your milk supply, so try to relax (especially with pumping). And I always have lots of pictures of my baby with me so that I can see him while I’m pumping. It helps with letdown and production. Our doctor had us wait 4 weeks before we introduced a bottle. It was really hard for me because I wanted my husband to help, but I didn’t want him to get too used to a bottle too early on. We had to try a bazillion (ok maybe I’m exaggerating a tad) different bottles before we finally found one that he would drink out of. I never had this problem with my daughter, as she would literally take ANY bottle. We found that the Lansinoh mOmma bottles worked the best.
When I was exclusively pumping, I swear I was either pumping or washing dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher so between my husband and I, someone was always washing. Having an extra set of flanges has helped me a ton. I only have to wash once a day now. The other secret, and I SO wish someone would have shared this with me sooner than I found out, is that when you’re done pumping, keep your flanges in the refrigerator between pumping sessions and you don’t have to wash them out every single time!
I also keep a receiving blanket in my pump bag for several different reasons. I smell it…yep, I smell it because it smells like babies! And then I lay it across my lap folded up, right under my pump bottles. I can’t tell you how many times I look like I peed my pants because the bottles overflowed while I wasn’t paying attention and soaked my pants. I also use it to wipe off any drips after I take the flanges off.
Here is what my pump bag looks like. I also use a cooler that I received from signing up for Enfamil Family Beginnings to store my pump bottles and flanges.