Let me start this post by saying that breastfeeding is freaking hard! My initial reason for deciding to do it was strictly for fiscal reasons. With Camilla, my first, I ended up exclusively pumping for a year. That had it’s own set of challenges and lots and lots of cleaning all the time which is what solidified my decision to make every effort to breastfeed my second, Hendrix. Between the two, breastfeeding and pumping are the hardest, most disciplined things I’ve ever done in my adult life. Seriously ya’ll, it’s tough! In my decision to exclusively breastfeed Hendrix I have encountered bleeding and damaged nipples, mastitis, clogged ducts, latching issues, and oversupply all in the first month! I felt compelled to write this post because 1. I wanted to document the journey 2. have found that there is so much solace in knowing you aren’t alone (I’d love for you to feel like you are not alone if you have had difficulty) and 3. I have found so many great resources in my quest to breastfeed like a boss. I am by no means and expert and there is no way that I know it all so I have relied heavily on people who do which is what got me over the hump.
1.Talk to Someone You Know Who Has Reached the Goal You Want to Reach
After you have a baby no matter if it’s your first or fifth, hormones can make you feel super isolated. If I only had one take away about breastfeeding to give to you, it would be to make sure your support system (your mom, partner, sisters, friends) all know that you have made the decision to breastfeed and that you will rely heavily on their support even if it’s just to listen. That being said, make sure part of that support system is someone that has been there done that. If your goal is to breastfeed for 6 months, talk often to a girlfriend, or your mother who also breast fed a child for that amount of time or longer. They will be your best guide on what to expect and have many stories to share to help encourage you.
In my case my mom couldn’t remember if it was me she breastfed or my sister and she didn’t do it very long. When the struggles got real for me with bleeding and cracking nipples, her default was to tell me that I can always supplement. I know she was coming from a good place in that she didn’t want to see her daughter in pain (and trust me, I didn’t want to be in pain) however, this was not the path that I chose. I knew I wanted to tough it out and figure out how to breastfeed so that both Hendrix and I were happy and comfortable. A friend of mine had a son 5 months before I had Hendrix and she was my perfect go-to person. She could relate and answer questions about what was to come and how to troubleshoot.
2. Seek Help From a Professional
The nurses at the hospital can only help you so much if they are not breastfeeding specialists or at least advocates. Even if you think you have it down when you leave the hospital I would still recommend talking to a lactation consultant if you are serious about breastfeeding your child. Lactation consultants are licensed professionals who make a living by knowing all about your breasts and how to use them to feed your tiny human. Getting one-on-one time with a lactation consultant allows them to assess exactly what’s going on with you and baby as you nurse and they can suggest ways to make the whole experience easier for the both of you. There is only a certain amount you can google and there is no substitute to having someone there in the flesh to see what is happening real time. Lactation consulting is a service so some of the time they will charge #worthit! Sometimes your insurance will cover it, and other times you can search and find free lactation services through a local hospital or clinic. I was able to seek help from a good friend that is a lactation consultant as well as through a local hospital that offered free hour sessions one day a week.
3.Find a Support Group
Oh man. This is my favorite. I have found so much comfort in a good support group and the feeling of knowing you aren’t alone is priceless. There are several great breastfeeding support groups that you can join on Facebook. You can ask questions and get answers from other moms and you can also get help from lactation consultants within the group.
I finally got fed up with the latch issues that Hendrix and I were having so I googled to find a lactation consultant in my area. One of them directed me to a group that had weekly meet-ups in a town about a 30 minute drive from where I live. The first opportunity I got I went and discovered other moms that had questions, problems, and needed support just like I did. This group met at a hospital and was led by licensed lactation consultants. The best part was that it was all free! I committed to going to the meet up every week until Hendrix and I felt comfortable breastfeeding together on our own.
4.Have All of Necessary Gadgets and Gizmos
A Good Pillow
Half the battle of breastfeeding in the early days of Hendrix’s life was finding the right pillow combination where Hendrix and I were both comfortable. It wasn’t until I met with a lactation consultant that she showed me the My Brestfriend nursing pillow and that was a game changer for me! It was sturdy enough to hold baby and rest my arms comfortably. I also like that I didn’t have to use 10,000 bed pillows to try to find a comfortable position. One pillow and it’s done. 3 months later and I still bring My Brestfriend with me in the car just in case I need to breastfeed him while I am out and need the support.
Breast Gel Heating Pads
Those early weeks when your breasts are engorged and your ducts are throbbing are the days when a heating pad will be your bestie. As I mentioned above I did have one bout of mastitis and during this time I relied on my heating pad as I massaged any swollen or clogged ducts.
Sunflower Lecithin and Probiotics
Because I got Mastitis twice with Cami and once with Hendrix I know that it’s something that I don’t ever want again. Truth be told, baby to the breast is the best way to prevent it as a pump doesn’t empty as well as a baby will. With Cami I exclusively pumped so I was more prone to getting infection. When I got it with Hendrix I was breastfeeding him on my right side and pumping my left because the left nipple was too damaged to feed him from. With the combination of healing, getting Hendrix back on the breast, sunflower lecithin (helps to thin out breast milk), and probiotics, I feel as though I rid myself of getting mastitis for good.
Coconut oil pretty much can be used to make anything better these days! Slathering it on those nips is yet another great use for it. It’s natural, doesn’t mess with the chemistry of your milk, and is safe for baby to ingest. It can help to heal cracked or bleeding nipples, and is also a great lubricant if you are pumping.
5. Get Nursing Friendly Clothing That Makes You Feel Good
Nowadays it’s getting easier to find clothing that gets you quick access to the ta-tas thanks to online shops like Ingrid & Isabel, Belabumbum, and Pink Blush. Seriously. I waited until the 11th hour with pregnancy number two to think about nursing attire and with a couple clicks of my mouse I was able to get some really great stuff from my 3 favorite shops.
I sleep in a nursing cami every night and it’s super convenient to just click open the clasp and get to nursing. During the day I like to wear a nursing tank under whatever shirt that I am wearing so that I can lift my shirt up and still have my torso covered while I am nursing.
I am living in my Afterband from Ingrid & Isabel. It’s great because you can wear it under your clothes to smooth that postpartum pooch but also use it as torso coverage when you lift your shirt to breastfeed. during my 4th trimester I still looked about 4-5 months pregnant. The afterband gave me so much confidence when getting back to my regular clothes.
A good robe is a must when breastfeeding. I particularly loved this one from Pink Blush because it made me feel beautiful and feminine while in the hospital. I may have been sporting a huge pad-cicle for a few days but I looked cute! Great coverage when you need it and easy open access when it’s time to nurse.
Probably my favorite thing is my nursing dress from Ingrid & Isabel. When you are nursing you basically have to kiss wearing dresses goodby unless the neck is low cut and stretchy enough for you to pull down. This perfect little midi dress has a panel across the chest with hidden slits perfect for nursing or pumping. I basically wear it to church every week, haha! It’s genius and more importantly it’s comfortable!
Pajama sets are a must especially during the early days when you are stuck at home. I particularly loved this one from Belabumbum because of the nursing friendly layers. The cardigan, and cami both can be worn separately and both can function for nursing. When I experienced leaking or got spit up on, I was able to shed a layer, haha! Another thing I like about sets is that you still feel put together. That’s important when you are at home all day for multiple days so you don’t get into a postpartum funk.
6.Give Yourself and Baby a Break
Feeling at ease with breastfeeding was a hard road but something that Hendrix and I had to figure out together. Problems that we experienced weren’t all his fault and weren’t all mine and he and I had to be a team to over come it. He had to open-wider, and I had to relax. He had to get his hands out of the way and I had to position him better. There were tears from both of us but the main thing was to remind myself to be patient. When things got too painful I had to tell myself that it’s ok to stop, pump, and try again in the next day or two so that I could heal. We didn’t get comfortable until the beginning of month 2 postpartum. That first month felt like it would never get better but with a good support system and tenacity to reach my breastfeeding goals I can say 3 months later we are in a really great place to reach our goal of a year.
If you have the desire to breastfeed like a boss or are in the beginning stages of breastfeeding always remember to NEVER give up on a bad day!
Kingwood Boob Group (In the greater Houston area. Offers free sessions with a IBCLC, Meet up, and 24-hour hot line)
Helpful Blog Posts from a Lactation Consultant
Get The Look
Belabumbum- Nursing Pajamas