There is SOOOO much information out there on breastfeeding. To cover everything I could probably write a book. There are many reasons to breastfeed your little ones. Just know there isn't really any reason not to breastfeed your baby. I want to first talk about how to get you set up for success when it comes to starting your breastfeeding journey. I remember having my first and I had other moms tell me “you better rough up those nipples. When your about to have that baby; take a wash cloth in the shower and rub your nipples really hard to get them ready for all that friction.” Would you believe me if I told you I did this... I did and I cried. It hurt so bad. I was 18 trying to do anything to get ready to have this little baby. Now I wouldn’t recommend doing this because they say nipple stimulation can induce labor and unless you are past your due date we don’t want that. Really though when it comes to the prep before your baby you just want to make sure you have the supplies you need and you are mentally ready. You may have already experienced your boobs growing with being prego. Well if you haven’t already bought new bras now is a good time to start thinking about that. I would recommend finding a good nursing bra. This way you can wear it during pregnancy and during nursing to get the most use out of it. My boob size fluctuates so much during the time span of nursing. So padding is a no go. You want something with a soft material that is stretchy. I will link my favorite nursing bra. I’m not a huge fan of wire bras but this one just hugs my girls so nice and makes me feel like they don’t sag to my belly button. The material is thin. Which is nice that first couple of weeks when your nipples are cracking or really sore(yes... I’m sorry but it’s a thing) The material is also nice because it’s stretchy so when I get super full I don’t feel like I’m suffocating. Nursing tanks are also a thing but I never found them super useful. But I think if you are using a bra that doesn’t have those front hooks then a nursing tank would come in handy because most have those front hooks on them.
Next we can talk about nipple cream. I never found this super useful some people SWEAR by it. I maybe applied it 2 times at the most with each kid. If you are delivering at a hospital they have some they will give you. Most of the time the welcome bags you get with your registry will have sample sizes in there. I never used more then what comes in those. Nipple cream isn’t something you will need your whole breastfeeding journey. That first couple of weeks is the hardest on your nipples. You and your baby are trying to establish a good latch. Which a poor latch can be really rough on your nipples. My last baby, I actually had a great recommendation from my midwife. She said next time you nurse hand express a little bit of milk out, rub that on and around your nipple and let your boob “air dry” for a couple of minutes. Your breast milk will do the healing for you. This worked way faster/better then any nipple cream I tried. On to nursing pads. These are mandatory lol. Remember how I mentioned my fav bra is super thin. I can only get away with it being so thin when I wear it in public because of the nursing pads. There is something about being a mother, your nipples are so much more sensitive lol. When your are nursing every time your nipples get hard they want to lactate. I don’t know if that’s just me... but I get cold, I’m lactating, jumping jacks... lactating... stub my toe(aka dying in pain)....lactating. You may have heard people say if you hear a baby cry you start lactating. Yeah I had that happen and it wasn’t even my baby. I think it’s just that natural mother sympathy kicks in.. nipples get hard and I start leaking. So yeah to sum that up you never know when your boobs are going to leak so you want to make sure you don’t spring a leak through your shirt. There is a small flaw to women's boobs. When you start nursing your baby on one side, a little bit of time goes by and you will have your “let down period”. Your let down is when the muscles in your boobs start to squeeze the milk out and some other scientific stuff goes on. Anyways, when this happens the opposite boob, that you are not nursing on, starts to leak. For this reason I would recommend getting the Haakaa (I’ll add the link at the bottom). This is a silicone suction thing that you stick to your opposite boob. This way when the let down happens it catches all the milk coming out. Some times it is literally less then an ounce and other times it is 2 oz. You just never know but at the end of the day it is liquid gold. I like the Haakaa better then other “milk catchers” I have tried because it has the suction effect that will help you get the most out of your let down. I see some use it for “pumping” but I haven’t had success with it getting that much milk out but maybe you would. Also, fun fact that I learned from a lactation consultant: that first bit of milk is very low calorie and very hydrating. I thought of it as “water”. Still a necessity and good for you but not super filling. The second part is the denser portion that has more calories and is more filling. So if you are nursing your baby on one side and that side starts to empty you would want to switch boobs. Since more of that thinner milk is gone, when you switch, your baby will be closer to getting the denser milk. I think this may let them stay fuller a little bit longer because they are not burning through that thinner milk. Again, all your milk is made perfectly for your baby so don’t stress yourself out on what part of your milk to give them but just a little “food for thought”. Next I would recommend making sure you have a nice little set up that can be your “nursing station”. On pintrest I searched breastfeeding cart. This showed me different ideas for a nice little cart I can wheel around that have everything I need while nursing. My booby pads, Haakaa, nursing pillow( highly recommend so you can have good support while nursing your little one), water jug(very important to drink LOTS of water), you could throw in diapers and wipes, breast pump and milk bags. This cart will really just be helpful that first 6-8 weeks when you are attached to your baby constantly. There is nothing worse then sitting down to nursing and being like “ahh shoot I forgot.... blah blah”. If you are going back to work right away and need to build your freezer stash it will be good to have your breast pump on there. That way as soon as your baby is done eating you can pump the left over right there and put it in a baggy. While also adding whatever your Haakaa collected. You do have to be careful because there is such a thing as an “over supply”. This is where you just have a ton more milk then what you baby actually consumes. You would think “well why is that a bad thing”. A couple of reasons is if we go back to that “water” part of the milk I mentioned earlier. When you have a over supply both portions of your milk grows in size. So when your baby goes to eat they have to get through all of that watery milk to get to the dense stuff. If there is too much then they get full before they ever get to the more filling stuff. Which just makes for a baby that wants to eat more frequently and is super hydrated (this is not to get confused with “cluster feeding”. Which is when they eat more frequently because they are going through a little “growth spurt”). Another reason it’s not good is because when you have your let down, if your boobs are super full that let down is really strong and comes spitting out. This can cause your baby to get uncomfortable and feel like their chocking or cause them to spit up more. If you find that you have a really strong let down it is good to pump through that initial let down and then start nursing your baby. But going back to the pumping right after nursing, this will help build your supply if you are having trouble keeping up with your babies demands. As far as a pump goes, did you know most insurances will provide a pump for you? All the insurance asks for is a prescription from your doctor. There are tons of different third party companies that will work on behalf of you to ask your dr for your prescription and contact your insurance for the request. I’m going to link the people I used. This is literally no cost to you. I’m assuming they make their money either from the insurance or the pump brands? I don’t know. All I know is I put in my insurance information and picked the pump I wanted and I got it without having to spend a penny. But you just want a find someone who works with your insurance. Alright, so we talked about the materials you will need. Now let’s that about mentally preparing. You may run into a couple of mind blocks where you find yourself thinking... “what about my boobs, will they recover?” “What if I don’t like the way it feels” “I think of my boobs as a sexual part of my body, how am I going to put my child to them” “what if I can’t deal with the pain”... these are all conversations I have had with people, plus many more. At the end of the day one thing trumps ALL of the thoughts your having. Your breasts were MADE for growing your baby. Whatever higher power/creator you believe in made it to where your boobs produce a milk to grow your child. Your breast milk is the best thing for your baby. Now nobody come and attack me because I’m not saying it’s the only option. My first baby I starting giving her formula at 4 months old and my second baby I gave her formula at 6 months old. Both were because I lost my supply and my babies were hungry so I supplemented with formula. But because I know what I know now... it bothers me so much that I didn’t try harder with them. When I was pregnant with my 3rd baby my fiance and I did a lot of research on the benefits of breast milk and once I fully understood what mom bodies are CAPABLE of... I was determined to make it work. I went back to work when she was about 8 weeks.. around 4 months my milk supply started dropping. My fiance went one day on his lunch break to this one little baby boutique where they had “lactation treats”. This place also had nursing classes and lactation consultants. He talked to them a little bit and brought home these boobie bars. They were so yummy and helped a little bit but it wasn’t enough. I ended up renting a hospital grade breast pump from them where I paid like $60 a month to rent this pump and help jump start my supply again. Because at the end of the day no breast pump works like your baby but because I was working and couldn’t bring my baby to work I tried to get as close as possible. I was a hair dresser at the time and it was SOO hard for me to be regular with pumping. This is why my supply dropped in the first place. If you are waiting too long in between pumps it confuses your milk making schedule. Your body thinks oh this baby only eats ever 4 or 5 hours(because that’s what your pumping) when really your baby is at daycare eating every 3 hours. But I felt like pumping took so long. So when I did sit down to pump I wouldn’t allow my boobs to empty all the way. I had to get back to work. I didn't realize how much I was hurting my milk supply by trying to cut corners. So this pump helped me do what I needed to do very quickly. Now if you start having your milk supply drop I’m not saying your only option is to go rent a hospital grade pump. Just make a commitment to you and your baby to not give up right away. I know there are some women who have health issues that play a factor and may other things that put them in a situation of not being able to breast feed their littles and that is okay! That is why formula is there or breast milk banks. If you know me personally you would know that I support all moms and all forms of parenting. I gave my kids formula and it helped by not making them hungry but made it harder in other ways. I breast fed one of my kids till they were 2 years old and every bit of it was worth it. Breastfeeding is so hard. and so time consuming. It is literally a full time job just in it‘s self. I see moms all over social media celebrating their breastfeeding timeline. And they deserve to!! It use to be said that 6 months was best and anything after that is a bonus then it went to a year is best. Now they say 2 years is best. More research is done and more discoveries are made on how amazing this stuff is. Just educate yourself on your options. Personally at the end of it all I want to feel confident that I tried everything I could to give my child their best options.
Since that went a little deep let’s lighten it up with the awesome things that your body and your milk do! First and most important your body works as a supply and demand system. So in those first couple weeks if you are exclusively breastfeeding and not supplementing at all your body will produce exactly what your baby needs while also learning how to maintain it at the same time. As your baby grows and eats more your body has that built in muscle memory of what to do. My favorite thing is the benefit part. When your body is exposed to something not normal your body makes antibodies to fight off whatever that is. Well those antibodies go to your milk and next go to your baby’s body. Your little one is so fragile and defenseless in this big world. As a mother all you want to do it protect them... while also allowing them to learn to thrive on their own. Your milk is an extension of that. Your milk gives your baby your antibodies to keep them safe while also teaching their body what antibodies to make! Say your baby goes to daycare and gets exposed to some germs that could make them sick. When you pick up your baby and come home for that first nursing time, as soon as they latch on their saliva(which will contain the germs they got exposed to) enters your body, gets into your milk/bloodstream and your body gets to work. By the next time you nurse them they are already getting exactly what they need to fight those germs. CRAZY, I KNOW. I’m the type of mom that’s like “a little dirt don’t hurt” because I feel like you want them to get exposed to germs to build their immune system. But that goes hand and hand with nursing your little one too. It also has anti-virtual properties that help kill harmful cells. It has different hormones in it that help regulate your babies mood. Like your milk first thing in the morning is like a little cup of coffee for them. It has a hormone that gives them a little pick me up in order for them to have energy for tummy time and bonding moments without them feeling sleepy. As for at night it has a hormone that makes them sleepy so they can calm down and rest/recover from their day of adventures. Your milk also grows with your baby. It changes to accommodate your babies different milestones. When you baby is a couple days old your body produces colostrum. This is the MOST important milk of them all. If nothing else just make sure your baby gets this. Their little belly’s are so small at this age and the colostrum is very dense and jam packed with nutrients. Since your baby can’t eat a lot it is denser to make sure they get exactly what they need. Then as they start to get older this is when it starts to get thinner and thinner, more “watery”. It’s a real thing that formula babies have nastier poops. This is because formula is a blanket "formula" of “nutrition” for babies of all ages. When a baby is processing breast milk there is little waste left over for your baby to poop out. The poop is very water soluble. If you compare that to a baby that is fed formula. There is going to be certain time frames when their body doesn’t know how to process everything that is in there. So they have more waste. And believe me when I say that waste is not as water soluble. This a lot of times can lead to constipation or gas issues. The benefits of breastfeeding don’t all go to the baby either. When you are nursing your body releases a hormone called oxytocin. This is the same hormone that induces labor by causing your uterus to contract. This is super helpful after you have your baby because you want your uterus to keep contracting back down to its normal size. So each time you nurse you will have contractions to shrink that uterus back down. Which can play a part in helping your wall heal where the placenta was attached. This can lower the amount of bleeding you experience. Which brings your body that much closer to being “back to normal”. Oxytocin also helps with bonding with your baby. This can play a part in lowering your chances of the "baby blues phase". They also say a full day of breast feeding can burn about 500 calories! Say what!!??? That means while you sit on your butt and feed your baby your working out? Who else can say they can do that. But with that being said you have to make sure you are eating enough. And eating the right things as well. You can maximize doing something great for your little one by making sure you have a well balanced diet. Everything you eat your baby gets exposed too. This helps them build a anti-allergies. This way when it comes time for them to start being exposed to real food they will most likely not have as many sensitivities.
If you are delivering in a hospital 9 times out of 10 they have an lactation consultant at the hospital. Make sure you do not leave until you see this person. You are already paying a pretty penny to be there. It is in their routine to stop by your room but sometimes they get really busy. It is in your best interest for her to see you actually feeding your baby. This way she can make sure you have a good latch. also, she will watch your baby's little suckle. Just make sure everything is going well. Even if you are delivering at a birthing center or at home your midwife is more then likely educated on this topic. My 4th little one has a little tongue tie. This made nursing in the beginning really hard. He had a very shallow latch and it was extremely painful. I was also worried that his bad latch was having him work so hard to get milk out and he would get to wore out to finish eating. After trying different positions and learning how to encourage him to get a deeper latch, we found success!! And we didn't have to cut his tongue tie, double yay!
If you have made it this far in the blog, round of applause to you!!!! I feel like I have so much information in my head that I want to share but finding words for it is so hard. I encourage you to keep reading up on breastfeeding. I attached a couple of really good links below that covered stuff I didn't. I can sit and have conversations for hours about breastfeeding. So if you have any questions or comments, please reach out! I want to talk more.
This first photo is us in the side-laying position. The Second photo is the football hold position. These worked the best for us because it helped encourage his head to be at an upwards facing angle.
2020 Breastfeeding Week Theme
Breast Pump Through Insurance
Different Nursing Positions
Keeping Your Milk Fresh
Having Supply Issues
Saving Your Milk For a Sick Day
Breast Milk Changes