May 31, 2013

things I couldn't live without: breastfeeding edition

Breastfeeding is an amazing, wonderful experience and it's really difficult at the same time. I love having that time with Alden, knowing that my body is providing him with all the nutrition he needs and I know I will be sad when he's ready to wean, but it's hard at the beginning and it definitely takes time to adjust and get comfortable with the whole process (especially if you're a first time breastfeeder).

I will have to write some more posts about my experiences breastfeeding, but for now we're just going to talk about all the stuff you'll want to have around to begin breastfeeding in comfort. :)

Here's my list of breastfeeding essentials:

1. Medela breast pump: I could not live without my Medela pump. I didn't use it at all for the first 6 weeks but now I use it at least three times a day and sometimes more. I would absolutely recommend spending the extra money to get a hospital-grade double electric pump (Medela and Ameda are the two most recommended brands by my lactation consultants). The double pump will cut your pumping time in half, at least, which may not seem that important but when you're pumping 3 or 4 (or more) times a day, especially if you're at work, saving 10 or 15 minutes at each session can really help you keep your sanity (and productivity) intact. Even though I had my electric pump when Alden was born, we had ordered new tubing for it and it was out of stock until he was about 6 weeks old. This meant that when my milk came in and I was dealing with engorgement, Nick went out and grabbed me a single, manual pump (also by Medela) to use in the interim. It was a lifesaver when we were still learning our rhythm and I had to deal with very full breasts that he couldn't latch to without me pumping a little beforehand. Now, I never really use the manual pump but it's nice to know that we have it in case there's an extended power outage or my electric pump breaks.

2. Extra set (or two) of shields, valves, membranes, bottles: Get as many accessories as you have the storage space and money to buy. I was lucky enough to get a LOT of bottles from someone on Craigslist but have still ended up buying more. I also have two sets of shields and four extra sets of valves and membranes. We're actually talking about buying another set of shields so that the rotation is even easier. Having extras around will help when/if you go back to work and will also reduce the amount of dishes/sanitizing you have to do every day.

3. Button up pajama sets: Since Alden was due in February, I knew I'd want something comfortable but warm to lounge around in after coming home from the hospital. I also wanted something cute to wear in  the hospital for all those photos :) I landed on a couple of pairs of good quality, comfortable pajama sets. For me, they absolutely had to be button up fronts because I knew that it would make those early days of breastfeeding worlds easier (and I was right!). I actually asked for a couple pairs for Christmas and ended up with two really adorable prints that I still wear now. Just make sure you get a size that will fit both your post-pregnancy belly and your newly engorged breasts. I wore mine (alternating, of course, for laundry purposes) for almost three weeks and was so grateful that I had something comfortable that was easy to nurse in and that provided good "coverage" in the days when family was staying at our house.

4. Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter: This stuff is amazing. It's completely natural and organic, smells like chocolate (it's the cocoa butter) and it saved me some tears from ridiculously sore nipples. One of the things I love about this product is that, since it's all natural, you don't have to worry about your baby ingesting it. Lanolin (what's most often recommended) should be cleaned off of the breast before each feeding so that baby doesn't ingest any of it while sucking. My lactation consultant recommended not applying the nipple butter within an hour of your next nursing session(I just put it on as soon as he was done eating and let my skin absorb it) for two reasons: so the baby doesn't end up "eating" a lot of it and so that the smell of the nipple butter doesn't mask the natural smell of your breasts and milk. Newborns especially are incredibly attuned to the smell of their mother's milk and need this to successfully create a breastfeeding relationship. It is definitely a little pricey (compared to some lanolins) but I buy mine from a local shop and chalk up the extra expense to helping local businesses thrive :)

5. Boppy nursing pillow: This pillow is different than the Boppy you're probably familiar with. It's relatively new and Boppy made it specifically for nursing. It has a firm side and a soft side, is much thicker than the newborn Boppy, and has a strap that allows you to tighten it around you. I didn't have this pillow to begin with because 1) it didn't exist yet and 2) I thought the original Boppy pillow would be great for nursing. I found that when I was nursing in our glider, the original Boppy was great but when I was finally comfortable enough to want to nurse sitting in bed, on the couch, or even on the floor, the original Boppy pillow wasn't thick enough to give me the support I needed. Enter the Boppy nursing pillow- hallelujah! It's much thicker so it provides support even when you're just sitting cross-legged on the floor and the firm side is amazing for keeping the baby at just the right angle for a feeding. I rarely use it now because we've gotten so much more comfortable nursing in whatever position we happen to be in but at the beginning, it was a lifesaver!

6. Nursing bras: Obviously, you gotta have nursing bras. Unless, of course, you don't wear bras...if so, you're all set :) I have three regular nursing bras, two sports bra-type ones and two sleep bras. I don't ever wear the sleep ones anymore because I'm more comfortable sleeping without a bra at all and I don't have any leaking issues at night that would require me to wear nursing pads. I also don't really wear the sports bras because I haven't really started working out regularly yet and they're not particularly comfortable for just regular wear (to me). All of my bras are from Motherhood Maternity because I waited a long time to buy them and we have a store in Athens, so essentially convenience. I have two that I really like from there and one that I can't stand. It really just depends on what's comfortable for you and how the bra fits. 

7. Nursing tanks: I love these! I'm getting ready to go buy more since I wear mine so often. I love that I can wear them under sheer tops or low cut dresses and that even if I'm wearing it under a normal shirt, they keep my belly covered while I nurse. If you're wearing a shirt that you have to lift up to nurse in, having a tank on really makes it more comfortable to nurse around people since your stomach isn't exposed. I have two from Motherhood Maternity (I got them with a couple nursing bras with their buy-3-get-one-free deal) and I like them. They fit well and seem to hold up nicely to multiple washes. I have heard good things about the Target brand tanks as well and think I'll try some of those next. 

8. Lansinoh breast milk storage bags: If you are planning on pumping and storing breast milk at any point, buy these bags! I've tried the Target brand that mimics the Lansinoh and they're better than the Medela by far but still not as great as the Lansinoh. I'm not even sure how to explain why they're so great, they just are. 

9. Lactation consultants: So, here are my thoughts on lactation consultants. Use them as much as possible while they're easily available to you (e.g. in the hospital before you go home, through your doctor's office, etc.) but don't take everything they say as gospel. So much of the breastfeeding experience you have is going to be dependent on you and your baby's individual characteristics and needs. There is no one-size-fits-all breastfeeding instruction booklet and sometimes lactation consultants can approach issues or questions in the same way for every woman. Alden started nursing within 20 minutes of being born and he nursed about every hour for the first night- without a proper latch. I had the nurses check his latch a couple of times in those first few hours and they seemed to think he was fine. I wish I had asked the lactation consultant to come by for one of those first feedings instead of waiting until the next day. Since he wasn't latching completely correctly and since he was nursing so frequently that first night, I got very raw and very sore. Once your nipples start to hurt, it's difficult to get them to heal since you have to continue to nurse. After that first night, I called the lactation consultants to come watch us at almost every feeding until we left the hospital. I figured why not use them when all I had to do was call them? I wasn't going anywhere, anyway :) It was also comforting to know that they were only a call away once we went home. Plus, our hospital's lactation consultants do a weekly Mother's Group where you can go for support, "latch checks", and general breastfeeding questions. 

10. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by D. Wiessinger, D.L.West, and T.Pitman: This book was given to me by a dear friend and it has been my go-to guide for all of my 
breastfeedings questions, concerns and just general "I wonder..." moments. It helped me to get 
comfortable finding nursing positions that were the best for Alden and I, to feel confident in my ability to 
breastfeed and to trust my body to provide for my baby. It really is invaluable and I will forever give it to 
all of the women I know who are having babies. 

I hope this list helps someone who is just starting out or who is waiting to meet their little one and 
wants to begin breastfeeding in comfort and with confidence! 

much love, L&N

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