The Mom Life Guide to Breastfeeding and Pumping
It's finally here! Welcome to The Mom Life's No-Nonsense Guide to Breastfeeding and Pumping! Truth? I have been avoiding this post because it feels bittersweet. Arya is officially 100% weaned and, while there are so many positives to getting my body back, I can't deny how bummed I feel at the same time. Breastfeeding was a struggle and I cursed it many times, but overall I really enjoyed being able to do it. We've had a few relapses since the beginning of our weaning process, but the last week of February was certainly the end. So before we dive into all things milky, I have to take a moment to celebrate! Somehow I successfully nursed Arya for 1 whole year! From February 2016 to February 2017. 365 days. Over 10,000 ounces of milk. Countless moments of frustration, and anger, and pain, and bonding, and commitment, and love.
Much like sharing my birth story, I needed some time to decompress and collect my thoughts. And now that I have, I'm absolutely bursting at the seams to share the ups, downs, and essentials that helped me throughout my breastfeeding journey. I am by no means a certified lactation consultant, but I approached breastfeeding and pumping by arming myself with knowledge. And knowledge is powerful! I'll assume you have a general understanding of how breastfeeding works (if not, head over here!), so these are the quick and dirty details that helped me get through the hardest year EVER. Whether you're breastfeeding, formula feeding, pumping, or a hybrid of all three -- I hope you find something here that's useful for you and your journey!So, let's start it at the beginning! The first few weeks of breastfeeding are super critical for establishing your supply. Rule of thumb here is that the more you latch baby, the more successful you'll both be. The moment I gave birth, the nursing staff jumped in and started showing me tips for correct positioning, latching, everything. Those hours of bonding are something I'll never forget, but honestly from there it just got more difficult. As much as you're learning how to feed, your baby is learning how to eat. Patience is key. And so is finding a support system! A mommy group, a certified lactation consultant, a supportive husband who likes to Google are all as equally helpful. You may be topless 90% of the time, you may cry, and you may feel like giving up. Instead, check out these top 10 breastfeeding tips for new moms!
My tips and essentials?
- My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow: I know, I know. There are a ton of nursing pillow options out there, but in those first few weeks, this thing really was my best friend. Unlike other options, this nursing pillow almost works like a breastfeeding shelf! Strap yourself in, prop baby up properly on the front, and nurse with a little extra confidence that she/he is positioned properly for latching. The back padding acts as support for you too, so you'll feel a lot less hunched over! Also a bonus? There's a built-in pocket for all your essentials (i.e. water, snacks, the remote control, tissues, your phone). You will be spending 10+ hours a day in one spot, so this pillow makes it super convenient.
- Bravado! Women's Maternity Body Silk Seamless Nursing Cami: Do not sleep on the power of a comfortable nursing top. I wish I had had these to wear home from the hospital. Sure, some days you are literally not even wearing a top at all but when you do start covering your breasts again, make this cami part of your first outfit. You don't even need to wear a bra underneath, the removable pads are super absorbent (perfect for a leaky mom like me), and it's naturally slimming. In fact, get two.
- Dr. Bronner's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil: Warning! Your nipples are now completely in control of how well you'll be able to enjoy nursing. And guess what? They're going to get put through the ringer. Cracked, dried, sore, split, bleeding? It's not fair, but it's a reality for a breastfeeding / pumping mom. Coconut oil is like magic -- perfect for healing sore nipples but as equally useful for coating your flanges before a pumping session. And SO much cheaper than other balms. Basically, buy stock in coconut oil. *Tip: SUPER safe and natural for baby, so no need to wipe off in between latching!
Somewhere between 2-3 months, I started pumping once a day to build up a stash! Talk about upping the ante. Nursing and pumping is a literal full-time job, and is not for the faint of heart. Double kudos for my mamas who pump exclusively from the very beginning. You da real MVPs! How did I get the hang of it? This 101 guide here and the archives of KellyMom are a great place to start and provide so many answers to the many questions that come up!
My tips and essentials?
- The Boppy Pillow: Once you and your little find a groove and latching is no longer an issue, the Boppy is amazing! I used ours from this stage right up until weaning because it's just so versatile and can handle any nursing position. They come with tons of covers, but we always opted to keep ours bare white because less milk stains are actually visible that way lol...
- Nurselet: Genius product. Once the engorgement subsides, it gets less and less obvious which side you last fed from. It's also hard to keep your shirt up and out of babies face sometimes! Insert this nifty little bracelet that does both for you. It velcros on to keep you hands-free when nursing or pumping! And when you're done, just slap it around a wrist to help you remember what side to start the next session on. Comes in tons of fun colors!
- Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breastpump: The relationship that any mom has with a breastpump is interesting. Even on it's best day there's plenty of contempt, and passive aggressive anger, and just plain old frustration. But if you're going to get it done, the Pump In Style is a no-nonsense buy. Not many bells and whistles, but really all you need. Most pumps are covered by insurance, so check here to see how you can get yours!
By now, I felt like a pro. I got cocky, overconfident, lazy even! Milk was flowing and everything was fine. Or so I thought! This stage of breastfeeding presents its challenges like any other, they're just less related to the actual baby and more related to you and your body. Toward the end of this stage, I went back to work and entered into the world of full-time pumping. It was HARD. My supply tanked. I got emotional. Learning how to pump at work was no easy feat, but these links here helped to prepare me for what to expect. If you're joining the pump at work club, also check out these links here to make sure your employer is set-up to support you, and lastly -- get a Bravado! Clip and Pump (more on that below!).
My tips and essentials?
- Milkmakers Lactation Cookies: Plenty of debate on whether lactation treats really work. Every mom has different results, but these really worked for me and the individual wrapping made them super convenient. They come in 3 flavors, and are HUGE so you really only need eat one. I saw an 1-3oz increase in my pump output, and there's a full on post about them here!
- Milk Snob Nursing Covers: Gone are the days when your baby is happy to sit still and latch! Oh no -- your baby is going to want to dance and latch, roll around and latch, stand and latch, the list goes on. These covers are the only thing that have stood between my exposed nipple and a crowded store on many occasion. Plus they're super cute, easily washable, and double as a car seat cover. Win!
- Loyal Hana: Clothing for moms that are pregnant, nursing, pumping -- and they are actually cute (and functional)! Jumpsuits, dresses, tops -- all with hidden discreet zippers that make it super easy to get it done. Bonus? Many of their pieces can be worn from pregnancy straight through to motherhood!
Truth? I hated this stage the most. I really, really, really disliked pumping at work. Going back to work as a new mom presents all kinds of challenges, but pumping is probably the worst to overcome. It involves extreme time management, level setting expectations, discipline, and resilience. Nobody tells you how hard it is to maintain a supply when you're away from your baby for 8+ hours a day. Nobody tells you how lonely that lactation room can become. Nobody tells you the secrets of how to hack your pumping sessions. These are all things you must learn by trial and error, or if you're lucky, from a pumping mama pro who's gracious enough to lend you some insider info (shout out to my pump at work guru, Sandy Eisen!).
My tips and essentials?
- Bravado! Clip and Pump: Bravado makes some of the best nursing bras out there, and they've added this awesome little accessory to the lineup! Simply put, it clips onto your nursing bra to give you a hands free pumping experience! I can't say anything more about this other than that it singlehandedly extended my pumping at work plans. I was on the verge of quitting, when I found this gem and it allowed me to continue pumping for another 2 months. Seriously!
- Winc: Yes, wine. No, not a typo. Winc is a pumping / nursing moms best ally. It's a club that connects you to a world of exclusive wines tailored to your tastes and delivered directly to your door every single month. After a long day of working and momming, I want wine and Winc makes sure that I don't even have to go to the store to get it!
- Support: There's so much power in community and as I reached the end of my breastfeeding journey I realized that it was other moms who helped get me through every stage. Have questions? Ask away! I'm no expert but I'm chock full of resources and happy to help point you in the right direction!