One of the best and worst things about the internet is the availability of information. As easy as it is to find answers to our most burning questions, it’s just as easy to become overwhelmed by the wealth of answers out there. Never is this more apparent than as a pregnant or new mom preparing for your baby.
While there are plenty of products that can be beneficial for nursing moms, there are a few things I found essential for successful breastfeeding.
A Quality Nursing Bra
As a breastfeeding mom, all I wanted was to find a nursing bra so comfortable I’d forget I was wearing it. Everything I had left red marks around my torso, and they were so itchy they kept me awake at night. Inevitably, I’d take off my bra to get some sleep, and I’d end up soaking my shirt and sheets.
Whether you want something for easy nighttime feedings or comfortable daytime support, the very best thing you can do for yourself is find an amazing bra that fits well and works for you, not against you.
A Supportive Pillow
I loved nothing more than holding my boys close as they nursed, but supporting your baby can while you breastfeed can be awkward at first, and over time it may take a toll on you physically. Some moms use pillows they already have, others prefer a special pillow like a Boppy or My Brest Friend (my personal favorite). Either way, make sure to find something which will allow you to support your baby and maintain a comfortable posture.
A Remedy for Sore Nipples
For the first few months of my breastfeeding journey, my nipples ached almost constantly. Fortunately, there are some incredible options out there from balms and creams to gel pads. Find what works for you and run with it. If you have allergies or sensitive skin, read the labels first to make sure there’s nothing you might react to. The only thing worse than aching nipples is aching, itchy nipples! Also be aware that some ingredients, like lanolin, may stain your clothing so avoid those products or use breast pads to protect your clothes.
A Solution for Leaks
Unexpected leaks can be annoying, frustrating, and even embarrassing. Whether you want to protect your clothes from leaks or collect every drop of liquid gold, you’ve got plenty of options from breast pads to milk collecting cups (our Kindred BraveMoms swear by Lacti-Cups and My Milkies).
A Method to Track Nursing
As a former statistics teacher, I’m predisposed to look for patterns, so I enjoyed tracking diaper changes, sleep times, and breastfeeding on a spreadsheet. That information came in handy for middle of the night feedings when I couldn’t remember which side I’d nursed on last, or when the pediatrician asked me how frequently my son was breastfeeding.
You can go as simple as paper, a pen, and a safety pin (clip to your bra on the side your baby last fed), or find a fun, interactive app for your smartphone. Many of them even provide charts and graphs!
A Solid Support System
I joke about keeping a lactation consultant on speed dial, but it’s not that far from the truth. I was about ready to give up on nursing when I found an amazing IBCLC and her twice-weekly support group. With her help, I found the confidence to persevere. Plus, I had a safe, fun outing to look forward to each week!
Ask your hospital, OB/GYN, and pediatrician if they know of a breastfeeding support group in your area. As wonderful as nursing was for me, some days I was buried under the weight of being the sole source of nutrition for my son. Finding a local group of women who were experiencing the same thing at the same time helped remind me I wasn’t alone.
Visit the International Lactation Consultant Association website to find a certified professional near you. You may even be able to schedule a home visit so she can help with latch and positioning, diagnose mastitis or clogged ducts, and make other recommendations for you and your baby.
A Basket of Snacks
Breastfeeding uses a lot of energy and calories, so staying nourished and hydrated is necessary for maintaining your milk supply and your health. Without fail as soon as my baby latched, I was as parched as the Sahara Desert! When one of the moms in my support group mentioned that she kept a water bottle and basket of snacks next to her favorite nursing spot, I rushed home to do the same. From then on, I made sure to feed myself while feeding my baby. Check out my list of quick & easy breastfeeding snacks for yummy ideas.
Plenty of Patience
New motherhood can be exhausting and overwhelming even before you factor in breastfeeding. Once you add in that stress (finding the right latch or position, concern that your baby isn’t eating enough, and worry that you’re somehow failing), and you’ve stacked the odds against yourself.
While nursing moms are often represented as radiant icons of perfect motherhood (and breastfeeding can often lull you and baby into a Zen-like, meditative state), it’s not as intuitive as you might expect.
The first few months of my breastfeeding journey, I was in near constant pain, and I thought a lot about quitting. Instead, I kept researching and asking questions to make sure I was doing everything correctly. Then it got easier: we found our rhythm, the pain dissipated, and I actually started to enjoy breastfeeding!
Every mom experiences nursing differently, so try to resist the urge to compare yourself with all the other new moms you know. Do the best you can; be kind and patient with yourself.
Be you bravely,