Prepare for The Hardest Weeks of Breastfeeding
The first few weeks of breastfeeding is some combination of magical and terrible. Yes, you will be nursing a sweet little infant, who most likely smells like heaven and looks at you as if you are the only person in the world. But nursing this sweet infant will take some times for your breasts to get used to. Get through the first 4-6 weeks of breastfeeding. It is the hardest part, mentally and physically. Know that is will be a hard time of learning for both you and your baby, but you will get through it and you both will be better for it.
Lanolin is your very best friend in the first weeks of breastfeeding. It is The hospital where I delivered my babies sent me home with Lansinoh brand lanolin. I found this lanolin to be too thick and difficult to spread on my skin. My favorite lanolin is Medela Tender Care Lanolin. It’s soft and very spreadable. A little goes a very long way. You can also use breast milk on sore nipples. Hind milk (the richer, fattier milk that is stored farther back in milk ducts and usually comes out in the second half of a feeding) especially has been proven to help heal cracked and sore nipples.
Invest in some reusable natural fiber breast pads. Your breasts will leak a lot during the first few weeks to months of nursing. Your breasts will be sore, raw, and easily irritated by synthetic materials like those found in disposable nursing pads. Buy a set of cotton or bamboo pads. You will save money in the long run and your breasts will thank you.
I didn’t use a nipple shield or breast shells with my first baby. I did with my second and what a difference they made! Nipple shields are a little piece of plastic that is placed over the nipple before nursing. It provides a barrier between you and the baby so that your nipples can heal. It can also aid in latching in some cases. Breast shells are a fabulous invention that allow your nipples to dry without contact from breast pads, a bra, or shirt. They create a little air pocket while remaining invisible under your clothes. It’s magic. A nice pair of reusable gel pads is also a great thing to have. Stick them in the fridge or freezer and pull them out when you need some cooling relief.
If You Are Planning on Pumping
Get a good pump. A good pump can make all the difference in what you are able to pump out and in keeping your supply up. Talk to your doctor about a prescription for a breast pump; they are covered by most insurance plans. Make sure that your breast shields are the right size and that your parts are all in good condition. If your parts are showing signs of wear, they will not do their job well.
A hand pump can be a life saver. This is another bit of wisdom I picked up with baby number two. A hand pump is discreet and more portable than an electric pump. When we go out, I simple put my hand pump in my cooler and throw it in the car. It also disassembles for easy cleaning.
Read up on pumping. Pumping is a different animal than nursing. It requires a little more thought and discipline in my opinion. Read up on storage guidelines and how to maintain your supply.
Things I Couldn’t Live Without
These are some products that made nursing simpler, but certainly aren’t necessary.
Boppy pillows save your back and make nursing easier, especially during those early months. I keep one next to my bassinet and one on the living room sofa for convenience.
A portable nursing pillow is a great diaper bag addition. My sister made one for me and it never leaves my truck! Park benches and the inside of your vehicles are not easy places to nurse, and my pillow comes in handy.
This cover has saved the day for me on multiple occasions. I am obsessed with it. It folds up into a tiny little bag that fits in my purse and makes public nursing so much less awkward.
Since having my second baby, I have truly come to appreciate the art of multi-tasking. I nurse my daughter often in a baby carrier while my son plays at the park or while I make dinner. There are the ergonomic backpack type carriers, and the softer sling type carriers.
Nursing friendly wardrobes are also a huge help. V-neck tee shirts and button downs have become staples in my closet. I also exclusively wear nursing bras. Trying to nurse in regular bras will ruin your cups. Invest in a few good nursing bras. Motherhood Maternity makes great nursing bras for every purpose: everyday wear, full coverage, sports bras, and sleep bras.
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is a book every nursing mama should own. This book is written by members of the Le Leche League and contains loads of advice for nursing mamas from other nursing mamas, as well as scientific explanations of how breastfeeding works and how it benefits you and your baby.