Whenever a friend or a family member is gearing up to have their first child and the plan is to breastfeed I give them one light-hearted piece of advice. I always say, "make sure you always have a good book, internet browsing device, or TV remote right next to you before you start feeding!" It's very simple you see, every exclusively breastfeeding mom, in the beginning, will be attached to their child 8-12 times a day for feeding. In fact, I'm writing this post as my 2 month old is sucking away. What greater use is there is for an iPad than to browse the internet, watch video, read, or pay your bills as a baby is vigorously gulping away on your breasts!? So think about that when you go to that hipster restaurant that uses those tablets to take your order and pay your check.
I'm not an IBCLC or an expert by any means, but have a great passion for breastfeeding. Mostly because I have experienced so much joy breastfeeding my two children. Women struggle with breastfeeding in the U.S. for a variety of different reasons and circumstances. I'm not here to tackle difficult or heavy issues surrounding breastfeeding but to give moms-to-be and currently breastfeeding moms a few helpful ideas: items to purchase, or things you can prepare for, to make life just a little more easy as you embark on your breastfeeding journey.
1. Double Electric Breast Pump: Sometimes moms think since they are exclusively breastfeeding it seems silly to get a fancy pump, but please reconsider, especially if your insurance company is giving it to you FREE!! With the new Affordable Healthcare Act guidelines insurance companies must give breastfeeding mothers some sort of pump, with the exception of Medicaid (don't even get me started on that). GET YOUR FREE PUMP! I have exclusively breastfed my babies and have used my breast pump tons. You never know if you will have an oversupply issue where you have to relieve yourself or drain your breasts to prevent mastitis, or have an emergency gallbladder surgery, like some of my personal experiences. If your insurance company allows you to get a Medela double electric pump I probably would advice you to choose that one. It is a pretty decent pump and is easiest to get parts for. Sometimes if a good pump isn't offered to you they will pay a percentage of the total cost and you can pay the rest at a deeply discounted price. Don't skimp on the pump. My advice is to always get an electronic double pump. Expect to pay at least $100 for a very simple pump that can be used occationally or $200-300 for a decent pump you can use regularly if you take good care of it. Hospital grade pumps are a lot more pricey and it may be in your best interested to rent one if you need to use one short-term.
2. Breastfeeding Support Pillow (such as a Boppy): This over-sized looking neck pillow is a must. It was absolutely essential with my first child. They are sort of pricey ($40 for a wrap around pillow) but you just need to bite the bullet. Before I had my first child I thought it seemed silly and that I could just use regular pillows. I went my first week without one until I went to a breastfeeding group and saw all the women using them. I tried it out at the group and loved it so much I went to Target right after the group and got my own.
3. A Nightlight By Your Bed: There may be a few women out there who do not breastfeed at night in bed but I have yet to meet one. My little girl is a very finicky eater, mostly because my letdown is quite strong. My son was able to handle it and adjust but not my second so far. Feeding in bed is just so much more difficult with her pulling off and giving herself boob showers. Solution: one of those battery powered lights you tap. I attached it to the bedpost on my side of the bed and it has been glorious ever since. Figuring out bed feeding usually doesn't happen overnight. There are a lot of things you are learning that first month. Once you master this skill your nights will be oh so pleasant. The awesome thing about this tip is it is less than $10 and all parents should do this, not just the breastfeeding mom. I turn on the light to re-swaddle her or check on her. I have never seen her wake up because of the light. If it's too bright, wrap a piece of fabric around it to soften and dim the brightness.
4. Boobie Pads: Maybe you won't need them or only need them for a very short amount of time. Don't be the woman that found out too late. Just get a cheap $5-$10 box of disposables at first and if you think you may need something more long term buy some nice washable ones. For you leakers like me, the best washable pads I have found are the ones Bamboobies makes, around $25-$30.
5. Breast Care Supplies (Nipple Cream, Ice Pack): Even as a second time mom who breastfed for almost a year and a half with my first child I still needed some cream when I started to breastfeed for the second go around. If things go well you really won't need it for too long. The best thing to do for nipple care in those first few weeks is to express a couple drops of milk on the nipple after a feeding, rub it all around, dry, and then apply your cream. A lot of women experience some form of engorgement when milk is coming in and the body doesn't know how much it needs to make yet. Make an ice pack out of rice and fabric or buy one and use it for engorgement. These annoyances will pass. If you feel at any time it is has been too long or you are overwhelmed then please let professional help from an IBCLC. They can either see if things are not quite right or give you the best advice for care.
6. A Few Very Nice Breastfeeding Bras: Celebrate your ginormous ta-tas! Give them a good home to live in for the duration of your breastfeeding journey. You can get stylish ones that will not make you feel like grandma. I really really like the Bravado bras. The first time I put one on I came out of the dressing room and told the store lady that it was the most amazingly comfortable/best bra my boobs have had the pleasure being in. Price range for those particular bras $35-$60 each.
7. A Good Water Bottle: I'm so bad about drinking liquids. I think I'm part camel or something. For some people they do very well drinking water throughout the day but for me, I have to work at it. One thing that has really helped me is getting a water container that has ounce marks. You don't have to be a crazy person and drink until it makes you sick! They tell you to drink to thirst these days but water intake is important so make sure you are hydrated. $10-$20 for a water bottle is good. There is even a pretty good chance you have one already lying around.
8. A Good Book, Internet Device, or TV Remote Near By: As mentioned above, tablets were made just for breastfeeding mothers! Other time-wasting things will do just as well. I can't tell you how many times as a first time mom I sat down, started breastfeeding, and I didn't have anything to do because everything was on the completely opposite side of the room. And if you have a baby that has been fussy and they are calming down or starting to fall asleep, the last thing you want is to disturb that groove. I once counted all the Netflix documentaries I watched during my time breastfeeding my son and it was an embarrassing number I don't care to share. I know we as mothers want to go-go-go but enjoy the downtime with your baby. After I weaned my first I longed for those snuggles and nap sessions we shared together breastfeeding. Luckily, I'm able to do it all over again with my second child now. This piece of advice is for all moms and all ways you may feed your little one. Cost: $10+ for book, $200-$600 for a tablet, $10 a month for Netflix, Downtime and relaxation - Priceless!
9. A Community For Support: This really doesn't have a price tag on it but I believe is one of the most important thing a breastfeeding mother needs! I highly stress to my mothers to find a breastfeeding group near you. A lot of them are free. Some ask for a small fee or donation. Women are far more likely to succeed at breastfeeding and will breastfeed a lot longer if they are surrounded by help and support. I really didn't have that many issues or hiccups with my son breastfeeding the first time around. That being said, I went to breastfeeding group religiously for a long time. There was always some sort of question that I would think to ask the lactation consultant, and it was a great way to get out of the house and interact with other women who where also breastfeeding. It made me feel confident in myself and body seeing and being around other breastfeeding mothers. I also loved being able to weigh my son every week and charting his growth in those precious months. I made friends, learned about things I most likely would not know unless I would have joined the community, and I became a woman who could make well informed choices. Of course, most of these things are my experiences and my opinion but I feel very strongly about community. They set up mom groups and breastfeeding groups for a reason. They want you to come! They want to help and support you. Use them, please. It can be very scary going that first time. Especially alone when you don't know anyone. Take the leap, I doubt you'll regret it. If it's too hard try bringing a family member or friend with you the first time.
10. Confidence in Your Body: Again, another priceless thing you need as a breastfeeding mom. Confidence is really hard to gain. Sadly, we live in a society where our breasts are thought of as essentially for grown men's pleasure. Our pediatricians have little-to-no education or training on lactation. Breastfeeding in public can be scary and is taboo (even covered ladies) depending on where you are and everyone knows someone, either a family member or a friend, who couldn't make enough milk for their baby and/or stopped pretty early on. It really falls back on relying on your support and community to lift you up, getting help when you need it, and being brave. I am also a huge advocate for mothers educating themselves about their bodies and lactation. Please take a breastfeeding class when you are pregnant, utilize the hell out of those lactation consultants those few days you are in the hospital, get a reputable breastfeeding book you will read during breastfeeding, and find a group to learn even more. Education is power and you will find your confidence in that power.
I believe that eliminating stress, making life a little easier (by purchasing some of those easy breastfeeding essentials), surrounding ourselves with community and supportive friends and family, educating ourselves, and taking control by being brave and making the best decisions for your family will put you on the right trajectory to a successful and enjoyable breastfeeding experience.
Your body is amazing. You are smart. This is your time, so please Treat Yo' Self!