When I found out I was pregnant, I pinned a million pins on everything pregnancy and childbirth related. I thought I’d comb through them all and be an expert on everything by the time my due date approached: the best things to eat and do while pregnant to ensure a great delivery, all about hypnobirthing, going med-free, breastfeeding, putting baby on a schedule, etc.
Well, here’s the thing, none of that happened. I was busy working 40+ hour weeks on the opposite schedule of my husband, getting our house ready to put on the market, packing to move to another state, and was sick constantly. By the time I was in my third trimester, I realized the baby was coming whether I knew the top five birthing positions or not, and life would still go on.
Time passed and all of a sudden, I was being told I was having a baby sometime in the next 24 hours.
Crap. My bag wasn’t packed, I didn’t get my nails done or shave my legs or prep myself for anything. I didn’t read up on the 24 pictures you MUST take before leaving the hospital, or questions to ask my midwife, but none of those mattered, because I realized I hadn’t researched the one thing that was most important to me: breastfeeding. At. All.
I had no idea what to expect, or if Harrison would know how to latch when I brought him to my chest. I had zero clue. I knew it was supposed to be the most natural thing in the world, but I can tell you when they handed H to me and tried to nurse him, it was weird. It felt foreign. I wasn’t sure where to put my hands to support him properly, if I even had milk yet or if it was supposed to kind of hurt like it did.
Thankfully, my hospital has an awesome Lactation staff and my consultant answered all of my crazy and probably incredibly stupid questions. I was not a natural, H has a lip tie that caused a lot of soreness and pain, I (still) struggled with an oversupply which meant lots of clogged ducts, engorgement, leaking and soreness, and at 7 months he still only goes about 2 hours at most between feeds unless he’s in bed for the night, but I am so glad we’ve been able to make it this far exclusively breastfeeding.
The following are a few of my favorite items that have helped make mine and Harrison’s breastfeeding journey a successful one.
1// A great nursing bra: I have a few nursing bras from Motherhood Maternity and Target, but my favorite by far is the one I have from Bravado. It is incredibly comfortable and fits far better than much more expensive bras that I was fitted for at Nordstrom. I love that they are so incredibly supportive without the underwire and their clasps are super easy to undo when you have a tired and fussy baby who needs to eat right now.
2// A nursing necklace: There will come a time when your normally sleepy and easy eater will become a hitting, pulling, kicking gymnast that gets distracted by fans, lights, voices, cars, the wind, etc. You will be pinched, scratched, pulled in all sorts of directions and if you’re like me, you’ll get incredibly frustrated and consider throwing in the breast-feeding towel. I can honestly say that Jen and Mel of @thevintagehoneyshop have legitimately saved mine and Harrisons nursing relationship. He now has something to grab onto that isn’t my hair or opposite breast and will nurse for longer than .2 seconds, hallelujah!
The beautiful ladies from TVHS have graciously given all of YOU a discount on their amazing necklaces! Head over to their website here and use code VHBR10 to save 10% off your purchase! This code will expire 8/24/2014 so get your necklaces soon!
3// A breastfeeding friendly wardrobe: This does not mean you need to go out and buy all new clothes! For me, it means wearing a tank top under pretty much everything I own, whether it’s a tee shirt, loose fitting tank, or a dress with a V neck – anything that I can pull up or pull down easily enough to feed the dude. My favorites are American Apparel’s deep V neck tees and the V neck boyfriend tees from the juniors department at Target layered over shelf bra tanks from Express or scoop neck tanks from B.P. at Nordstrom.
Right now, nursing covers just don’t work for us. When he was still a newborn and I would venture out of the house, I used an Aden+Anais muslin swaddle blanket mainly because I was still figuring out how to ‘gracefully’ nurse in a booth or in a chair without our pillow and without exposing myself completely, and I was still a little uncomfortable nursing in general. If you want to cover, good for you, if not, good for you – it’s totally a personal choice! I will say I totally regret spending the $40 on a nursing cover at target when I already had swaddle blankets that I carried around with me every day in the diaper bag, especially since they ended up making much better and more breathable covers that double as burp cloths, blankets, and carseat covers!
4// Water bottle: The number one tip any lactation consultant and anyone who has ever breastfeed will give you to maintain your supply is to stay incredibly hydrated. The best advice I can give is to get a cute tumbler with a straw – for some reason I can easily double my water intake as long as I have a straw to drink from rather than one of those ginormous openings where I’ll inevitably spill water all over myself while trying to manuver the water bottle around a grabby baby.
5// A breasfeeding pillow: There will be days you will feel like your child is attached to your nipple. You will be exhausted, your baby will be cluster feeding and the last thing you will want to do is to have to worry about supporting him or her for the marathon sessions. I actually have two Boppy pillows and kept one upstairs and one downstairs until H was about 4 months so I would always have one wherever I was. While I don’t use them as much now that H prefers to sit up or kneel while breastfeeding, I still use them at night while Zach reads to him before bed and I rock and nurse him to sleep because my arms are dead after carrying him around all day.
When all is said and done, however, the number one reason I believe we’ve been so successful with breastfeeding is the fact that I have an amazing support system. Through all the rough nights, my husband has been there to refill my water, bring me snacks, and grab the Boppy, but most importantly he’s held my hand through the tears from the sore nipples, feeling like a human pacifier, all of the overwhelming emotions and helped remind me to take it one day at a time. Those first 6-ish weeks he would sit there and rub my back and recite what my LC had told me – that it was normal to feel ‘discomfort’ (read: pain), but that Harrison was super efficient at nursing and we would eventually catch on. My hubby, family and the on call LC have all been so amazing and play a huge role in H and I hitting our breastfeeding goals.
A few other things I kept around that have been beneficial:
Healthy snacks: especially Lara / Cliff / Luna bars, because if you’re anything like me you’ll constantly feel a raging hunger, especially right after nursing.
Smart phone / Kindle / iPad / lots of magazines: for those marathon nursing sessions.
Lanolin: for sore nipples. I stopped using it after about 3 months and still have over 3/4 of the tube left, however if you’re pumping regularly this stuff is a lifesaver! As an added bonus, it’s awesome for dry or chapped lips!
Mother’s Milk tea: for those cluster-feeding and growth spurt days where you need a boost.
Solly Baby Wrap: did you know skin to skin contact is super awesome for your supply? It can increase your prolactin levels, which are the hormones responsible for helping your body make milk!
Breast pads: because none loves waking up in a pool of breast milk, and leaking while you’re at the grocery store is not the most fun thing. My favorite are Bamboobies, I love that you can just throw them in the wash and reuse them instead of having to throw them out.
Prenatals: because sometimes it’s hard to make sure you’re eating a well balanced diet, and as a breastfeeding woman you need a ton of calcium and to replenish your iron levels after childbirth, which prenatals can help provide.
Kellymom.com: my holy grail of mothering websites. There has literally not been an answer I couldn’t find on KellyMom, and its way less scary than googling.
What are some of your essentials for breastfeeding?