Before having my first baby, I naively decided that learning to breastfeed was like learning how to swim: you can’t read about it in a book but have to actually do it. Then when she was born, I was astounded by what a huge responsibility it is to feed this little creature, who gave me a panic attack right off the bat by losing a pound in the hospital.
Here’s what I found most useful:
1. A Lactation Consultant
My advice to any new mom would be to plan ahead to have a lactation consultant come to your house for a session after you get home from the hospital (or earlier!). Choose who this will be before you have the baby, and assume you will want the support regardless of whether breastfeeding gets off to a good start. A lactation consultant will weigh the baby before and after a feeding so that you get reassurance that they are actually getting milk. My lactation consultant confirmed that the baby did not have tongue or lip tie, showed me some positions to make breastfeeding comfortable, checked the baby’s latch, answered a million questions, and generally was very reassuring. It’s a great investment, and your insurance may cover this visit. Look for the ICBLC certification when choosing your LC.
2. Milk Tea
I saw a huge boost in my milk supply from drinking a cup of milk tea every few days. I like the one from Traditional Medicinals.
3. Boppy/ My Breast Friend
I have a Boppy pillow and love it, I use it all the time. The My Breast Friend pillow is more structured and firm. I chose the Boppy because I felt it had more uses beyond just breastfeeding, for example the baby can be propped up on it for tummy time.
4. A Breast Pump
I got my breast pump the Medela Pump In Style Advanced for free through my insurance before the baby was born and was very intimidated by what seemed like a medieval torture device. A friend helped me sterilize the parts and put it together after the baby was born, and I started using it pretty early on. With the blessing of my lactation consultant, we started giving the baby one bottle at night so that I could get some extra rest. You often hear pumping treated like a necessary evil, but I actually love it. Milk in the fridge & freezer = freedom & extra sleep. I love my baby but also love a little break from constant nursing! When she was about 2 weeks old I pumped a bottle of milk and my husband sent me out on a Saturday afternoon to get a pedicure — it was a great thrill and much-needed break from the intensity of round-the-clock nursing.
Because I am pumping, there are a bunch of related gadgets that I ended up purchasing: a Simple Wishes hands-free pumping bra, extra Medela bottles, breastmilk freezer storage bags, a bottle brush, that green grass drying rack for bottles, plus I was gifted an extra pump to keep at work and a manual pump.
Everyone’s situation is different, and this is not professional advice, but I’m personally happy that I’ve started pumping regularly on maternity leave, so that baby is used to getting bottles and it won’t be such a learning curve when I got back to work.
Water is super important for producing milk! You will be thirsty! I am constantly chugging from my BKR water bottle, day and night — it’s always within arm’s reach.
They say that a supportive spouse/ partner is the number 1 factor that determines if you will continue with breastfeeding. One way to turn a regular old spouse into a supportive spouse is to share info about the benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby.
I also had some amazing friends jump in with advice and encouragement in the early days when things got off to a bumpy start. They were like mind-readers who sensed from afar that I was a hormonal mess sobbing in my bedroom because my milk hadn’t come in and knew exactly the right things to say.
I also love some online forums:
La Leche League Mother-to-Mother Breastfeeding Support and KellyMom Breastfeeding Support are super helpful for advice from other women who have been in the trenches.
7. Time and Patience
Breastfeeding is mind-bogglingly time consuming — at least it was for me, for the first couple of weeks. I had a vision that maternity leave would be me, baby and puppy taking long walks in Central Park every day. It was a big mental adjustment to realize just how many hours a day would be spent parked on the couch with a Boppy around my waist and a sweet baby on my lap. It’s amazing and wonderful, but you really have to surrender to the process for the first few weeks as you establish the breastfeeding relationship. The baby is placing her order for milk, and your body is responding, and you can’t control or predict how long a feeding “should” take. Reading on the Kindle, watching shows on Netflix streaming, using my personal assistant (aka Amazon Prime) to run errands for me, and ordering healthy food on Seamless all helped a ton.
Good luck and and enjoy this special time with your baby!