There is a lot to know about breastfeeding, especially for first time moms, and it can be a little overwhelming. So let me break it down for you what I have learned after having 3 babies.
1. Breastfeeding is hard. But so is being pregnant and especially giving birth! If you are at the breastfeeding stage, then you made it past the hardest part, birthing your baby. So congratulations! Give yourself a pat on the back.
2. Get comfortable. You’ll want to find a comfortable place (or more than one place) for breastfeeding or pumping, because it can seem like it takes forever sometimes, so you’ll want to be comfortable. Have a bottle of water or other drink ready. (You’re going to feel like drinking a whole gallon at the beginning.)
If you want something to read or watch while breastfeeding, have it within reach of your chair as well. Being comfortable and relaxed is important not only to you willing to do it longer, but to getting the milk to flow better.
3. Be consistent. If you have a goal of how many months you want to continue breastfeeding or pumping, then do it if you’re able to. We all feel like quitting or giving up at times because it’s hard or inconvenient, but keep going.
Babies eat every few hours, which is demanding on you, but will definitely keep your supply up. If you’re only pumping, then pump as many times a day as the baby takes a bottle to keep the supply up. Even when you don’t want to. I am at 6 months of breastfeeding/pumping and believe me I wanted to skip days or weeks so I wouldn’t have that inconvenience, but I kept going. Now, I have a whole freezer full of milk!
REMEMBER, sometimes things don’t go as we planned, and that’s ok. Many people planned their whole pregnancy to breastfeed exclusively, and it just didn’t work out. Some medical issues or other causes stop the production of milk sometimes. In that case, formula is the solution. I planned to breastfeed my first baby, but he never would latch on. So I had to adjust my plans and pump exclusively.
So it’s ok if plans change. Just do what is best for you and the baby. (I would just encourage you not to quit earlier than you planned when the only reason is the inconvenience.)
4. Be organized. Whether you are breastfeeding, pumping, or a combination of those, have everything ready before you start each session. (I want to add “if possible,” because crying babies don’t give you very long once they get hungry. In that case, your baby’s needs and comfort take priority.)
Obviously nursing your baby doesn’t require supplies, maybe only a burp cloth or pacifier for after feeding. If you choose to cover yourself up while family or friends are visiting, keep a cover or blanket handy. I use a nursing cover when I have to feed my baby in public. I like it because it’s thin material that doesn’t get so hot and has a stiff neck line allowing me to see my baby.
Although, this one works as a nursing cover, car seat cover, high chair and shopping cart cover all in one! It would be great to keep in the diaper bag, or a great baby shower gift.
If you’re pumping, keep the pump pieces all together in one designated place so you can grab them when you need them. Make sure the pieces that touch the milk are cleaned after each use. I keep my pump in one cute tote bag (similar to this one) with lots of pockets so I know where everything is.
This is what I keep in my bag:
- This Medela breast pump (machine, tubing, and power cord)
- The washable pieces to the pump, stored in a gallon size ziploc bag so they don’t get anything wet.
- These wipes or normal wet wipes, good to quickly wipe off your pieces if you are pumping away from home.
- These Medela breastmilk bags where you can pump directly into the bag, or these Lansinoh bags. They have double zippers and are easy to fill, freeze, thaw, and pour into a bottle.
- A flexible lunch box for carrying the milk. I use one that is small enough to fold and put in my bag until I use it. If I’m going to be away from home for a while, I would either put the lunch box in a fridge or stick an ice pack in there with the milk.
- My phone, keys, and wallet if I’m headed to work. Hey, remembering all that and carrying it to work is enough! I might as well use it to carry all my belongings at one time, right?
It’s also a good idea to invest in these things:
- These microwave steam bags are great for sanitizing your pump parts or other bottle pieces.
- An extra set of pieces to your pump so you don’t have to wash the same one all day long.
- Prenatal vitamins, if you stopped when the baby was born. They’re still very good for the baby while breastfeeding.
- Nursing pads, because… leaking happens.
- Lanolin or other products similar it to help the pain.
- Some nursing clothes, especially a nursing bra. Nursing bras, shirts, and dresses usually have a clip to attach or detach that section of material until you’re done. (Hint: nursing clothes are great, but they don’t have to be labeled nursing to work for you. Just look at how much room the clothes give you to nurse/pump.)
For a little while after having the baby, you will want to avoid any clothes that are tight. For one, everything is uncomfortable right after having a baby; belly, chest, legs, everything! (Plus, not getting enough sleep doesn’t help.) Tight clothes only make you more irritable, making breastfeeding or nursing a bad experience, not to mention how hard it is to breastfeed or pump with tight clothes on!
Something I didn’t know until a month or two after my first baby was born was about the let-down. Babies are born knowing how to suck, and they do it in two stages. They first suck in a pattern that is fast and light in order to get the milk flowing, which is called the let-down. After the milk starts flowing, babies change to a longer, deeper sucking.
Saying this, if you have a breast pump that only has one button on it, it is the let-down button. The pumps are made to mimic babies, giving you a short, fast pattern at first, then a longer, deeper pattern after a certain amount of time. Once you see that the milk is flowing, you can push that button to get to the 2nd stage.
One last thing before you go is to know about the storage of the milk. I go by the rule of 6 in keeping my milk. Milk can sit at room temperature after pumping for up to 6 hours, in the fridge for 6 days, and in the freezer for 6 months.
I’m not perfect, I have forgotten about the milk a couple times and let it sit in my bag overnight. Therefore, I had to throw it out. Also, be very careful not to spill your breastmilk. It really hurts your feelings after all that hard work! I’ve also done that more times than I would like to admit!
If you keep these tips in mind, you’re gonna be a pro at breastfeeding and pumping that “liquid gold” for your baby. You can do it and we’re all cheering you on!