AI’ll start out by saying breastfeeding can have many challenges. This post is meant to address some of those challenges by providing 10 helpful tips for breastfeeding and pumping for beginners.
In my experience, breastfeeding was hard. Before I gave birth to Q, I was fairly open to how the journey could go. I think it’s important to keep an open mind and to regularly evaluate your mental health. I’ll preface this entire blog post by saying I made it just shy of 6 months breastfeeding and pumping while also supplementing formula. I’m not opposed to either breastfeeding or formula. It’s important to do what’s best for you and your baby. 🙂
Prior to having Q, I ordered my breast pump through my insurance and picked it up at their medical equipment store. I ended up going with the Spectra S2 after asking around and doing a little research.
Once Q was born, she latched really well! To this day, I feel very grateful that I was able to hold her shortly after the c-section and establish that bond. At the hospital the nurses warned me that days two and three would be trying. For me that was completely accurate. After 26 hours of labor and an emergency c-section, I was exhausted. Q was fussy but rightfully so because she was feeding on demand, helping to establish my supply, and adjusting to life outside the womb (welcome to the fourth trimester). The lactation consultant visited a few times while I was in the hospital. I honestly was so exhausted that it was hard to take in all of the information. A nurse visited our house on the second day we were home and answered any questions I had, including questions about breastfeeding.
Having more tools in the toolbox honestly makes a huge difference. I wish I would have known so much more at the beginning of my journey. I strongly advise seeing a lactation consultant (LC) once you are out of the hospital for additional tips and advice. The LC instilled more confidence in me. We were fortunate to connect with an LC through Q’s pediatric office. The LC did not push breastfeeding or formula. She truly was there to equip me with tools and knowledge to make the decision that was best for Q and me.
Overall, I would say it took around a month to feel more confident, get into a good routine, and to have less pain. We made the decision to supplement with formula because I felt that I was not producing enough and the mental strain and anxiety were starting to consume me. We maintained a mix of breast milk and formula until Q was just about 6 months.
While on maternity leave, I also wanted to create a consistent pumping routine. Truthfully I was not as consistent as I should have been to help increase my supply and create a freezer stash – but I’m not going to let that mom guilt get to me :). Ideally I wanted to be pumping at least once a day 30-60 minutes after Q’s morning feed and feeding on demand the rest of the day/night. Q naturally got into a schedule of feeding every 2-3 hours unless she was experiencing a leap or growth spurt. I tried to pump if I needed to skip a feeding.
If you plan to go back to work and continue your breastfeeding journey with pumping, I strongly encourage you to know your rights. Talk to someone in human resources about accommodations for pumping at work, and create a plan. Communicate that plan with your supervisor/boss, and try your best to stay consistent. Block the time off on your calendar. Set the expectation that you will not be attending meetings during those time blocks. On occasion my scheduled times would have to change, but at the very least I tried to maintain the same amount of pumping sessions throughout the work day.
- Set a goal – I set small goals for myself and would reevaluate once I made it to the goal. For example, I initially told myself I’d just try breastfeeding. Then I wanted to make it through my maternity leave. I made it just shy of my last goal of six months.
- Position – Try different positions to see which works best for you and your baby’s latch.
- Have a nursing station – Set up a station next to a comfy chair. I had both the my breast friend pillow and the boppy pillow. Have lots of water and snacks at your disposal! I also had a tablet set up with some blue tooth headphones for the night feedings.
- Heating pad – Keep a heating pad nearby to help with let down when used up to 30 minutes before a feeding.
- Massage – Massaging the breast will help with draining and to avoid clots.
- Nipple cream – It will get you through the first months. I have heard coconut oil is an alternative.
- Nursing pads – Everyone is a little different when it comes to needing nursing pads. I used lansinoh nursing pads, because I got a lot of freebies. I’ve also heard good things about reusable nursing pads. Some people can get away with only needing these in the beginning, and others use them their entire breastfeeding journey.
- Clothing – Nursing sleep bras were very convenient for night feedings. I tried my best to avoid buying a whole new wardrobe, so I invested in nursing tank tops and did a lot of layering with loose tops or button down tops. Also, be sure to bring an extra shirt with when you’re out of the house.
- Nursing Cover – This is preference, but I also found it useful for pumping on the go.
- Tracking – Download an app for tracking feedings. I used the Hatch Baby app. It tracked start time, length of feeding, side started on, and which sides nursed on.
- Hakaa – Invest in one. It’s helpful if you want to start a stash but you’re not quite on a pumping routine.
- Freezer storage bags – I used the lansinoh storage bags since they were reasonably priced along with whatever freebies I had gotten. To create less waste, you can freeze milk in one ounce quantities with one ounce freezer trays that have a lid. Transfer the milk cubes into a freezer gallon ziplock bag. Label the bag with the date/week.
- Bottles – Decide which ones you want to use for storage and make sure they have a secure lid that seals well for travel.
- Pumping bra – I REALLY wish I had bought a pumping bra sooner. I don’t know what I was thinking trying to get by without one….not worth it. The pumping bra I used was budget friendly, compact, and got the job done. My second choice would be a strapless bra that clasps in the front.
- Extra pump parts and pump – Try to have at least one extra set of pump parts and a second pump. This is such a time saver and less hassle. Carting a pump back and forth to work is a pain, but doable if you’re on a budget. With a second set of parts there was less wear and always a dry set available.
- Pump and bottle bag – Invest in a bag/tote to haul your pump, pump parts, bottles, and a cooler bag unless it’s already included in the bag.
- Portable plug – This is helpful for pumping on the go in your car.
- Music – Play calming music to help with more successful pumping sessions.
- Wet bag – Store your pump parts in a sealed bag in the fridge throughout the course of a day.
- Water – Stay hydrated. This is the number one thing you can do to help your supply.
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