Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Favorite Tools for Breastfeeding

I was thinking about breastfeeding the other day and wanted to write a post about my disappointment over people's reaction toward so-called extended breastfeeding, but somehow it became a post about the items I really appreciated having when I was breastfeeding my son.  Perhaps you have something to add to my list?

My initial instinct is to just write "BREASTS" and call this post complete, but that wouldn't be the truth because I found that I needed more than just my breasts to have a successful nursing relationship with my son.  So here's a list of my favorite items that helped me nurse my lil' guy until he was right around 13-months old.  I tried to list things in order of importance, but realize that doing so didn't really work out that way for this list.

The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins - This book was like my breastfeeding bible.  It was so helpful every step of the way!  Think your baby isn't getting enough milk because they nurse a lot?  It's covered.  Think something is wrong with your milk because your baby is fussy or spits up a lot?  It's covered.  Think maybe you should wean because baby is "old enough" or you're too tired to nurse?  It's covered.  I referred to it so often that I am kicking myself for lending it out because I never got it back and I know that I'll want it again when this baby is born.

My Brest Friend - This nursing pillow was my absolute favorite for the first several months of my son's life because it made it so much easier to get him in a good position for nursing.  I really struggled with breastfeeding while in the hospital and part of it was because it felt that he was resting directly on my incision whenever he was nursing. . .thankfully, I had this nursing pillow at home!  It has a wrap-around design that stays put until you're ready to remove it (I actually was able to walk around and nurse only because of this pillow) and it was almost like a firm shelf that he rested on right under my breasts.  It also has a handy little pocket for stuff like nursing pads, lip balm, and nipple lanolin.

Boppy - This crescent-shaped nursing pillow is much more popular than My Brest Friend, but I didn't find it helpful at all until my son was around six-months old and older.  It was nice to have at that point, but I'm afraid that I may not have continued nursing if it had been the only nursing pillow available for me to use in his first six months of life.  I guess I'm saying that you might want to save the Boppy until baby is a bit older or you might find nursing somewhat discouraging.

Lansinoh Lanolin - I never used any other nipple treatments because this worked so well for me.  It kept my nipples supple and helped heal the wounds that I received to my nipples in the very beginning. 

Lansinoh Ultra Thin Nursing Pads - I had massive over-supply and I leaked constantly so I tried a lot of different nursing pads and these ones are THE BEST if you're a heavy producer.  These nursing pads held so much leaking milk that they quite literally would make a "squish" sound the few times that they hit my tiled floor.  Though the pads were totally saturated, I was dry!  Bonus: They did not leave any little fibers on my breasts like I experienced with other brands.

Lansinoh Ultra Soft Nursing Pads - These were my favorite to use when my nipples were tender or sore, but they did look a little funny under my shirt.  They were great in the beginning and anytime that my son experienced a growth spurt.  Why mention the growth spurts?  Because during a growth spurt it can feel like your infant is hanging off your boobs 24/7 and all that extra nursing can make your nipples hurt.  Bonus (again):  They don't leave any fibers to pick off your sore nipples.

Reusable Nursing Pads - A few months after my son was weaned, I no longer had to use my standard Lansinoh Ultra Thin disposable nursing pads.  However, I still had leaking issues and it took a looooong time for my milk to dry up so I turned to cotton nursing pads that could be washed & dried.  Of the mainstream (found in BRU) pads, I liked the size of Dr. Brown's the best.  The others I tried were too small and looked really funny under my bra.

Breast Pump - I have no proof of this, but I swear that lots of pumping in the early days is what set me up with a fantastic milk supply.  I used a double electric while in the hospital and switched to the manual Avent Isis at home.  It's quiet, inexpensive, and super-easy to take apart for cleaning.  Using the Avent Isis, I was able to get ounce after ounce after ounce of milk in less than ten minutes and, as a result, I had tons of frozen breastmilk that I could use to mix with my son's cereal once he started solids.

Breast Shells - Note that I am not talking about a completely different item called breast shields!  I liked Avent's breast shells and they were so helpful when my nipples were healing (after having bad latch for the first several days) and when I suffered with engorgement issues.  I had engorgement issues off & on for around nine months so I had plenty of experience with using these babies.

Cold Packs and Warm Compresses - These were helpful to alternate when my milk came in and I had the most painful engorgement issues.  When I was so full that my nipples were stretched totally flat, I found it helpful to lean over a big bowl of warm water and let my nipples soften up.  Funky bonus is that it looks crazy to see the milk swirl out of your nipple and in to the water. I also thought that spraying down the shower with my milky fountains worked too, but it required more effort.

Breasts & Nipples - Obviously these are necessary, right?  One thing you might not realize is that the percentage of women who are biologically incapable of breastfeeding is incredibly small.  So if you want to breastfeed, the chances are incredibly good that you'll be able to do it.  Small breasts, inverted nipples, and other issues aren't necessarily a roadblock to establishing a nursing relationship.  If you have any reason to think that you have (or may have) problems with breastfeeding, do seek out the assistance of a lactation consultant as soon as possible to get help and reassurance.

Fluids - I was so thirsty and drank so much water when I was breastfeeding!  I guzzled a full glass of water at every nursing session in the early months of breastfeeding.  Fluids are important for a nursing mama, but follow your own thirst cues and avoid fluids that are diuretics.

Rest - Silly idea, resting while breastfeeding exclusively, but it's sorta possible.  Some mamas have success with side nursing, but I could never make it work for me.  If you can manage it, you can snooze while baby nurses.  Let the house fall apart and lean on others for help wherever you can find it so you can sleep when the baby sleeps.  Why rest?  Because your body will have an easier time producing milk if you're not bone-tired all the time.

Baby Carrier - I liked a stretchy wrap for the early days, but a ring sling would also work.  Actually any carrier that's appropriate for the child and used safely will be a good choice.  Why wear your baby?  Because it's easier to spot hunger cues when baby is nearby.  I also found that I was more milkalicious and produced far more milk when baby was against my body.

Attitude - It's true in breastfeeding and any other area of your life:  Don't "try," just "do."  In other words, don't let your attitude be a contributor to failure.  Why take home hospital samples of formula if you're planning to breastfeed?  Leave them there and believe that you will not need them.  Believe that you can do it and you probably will.  I think it was Henry Ford who said it best, whether you think you can or think you can't, you're probably right.

Education - No, you don't need to become a lactation consultant, but ignorance is not always bliss and many women, even mothers, are not very well informed about breastfeeding.  Devour books and scour websites to learn all you can about breastfeeding.  Find out if you can have meet with a lactation consultant or if there are any La Leche League meetings in your area.  Talk with friends who breastfed their own children for any length of time and pay particular attention to those who were able to nurse as long as they wanted because they probably have a lot of handy information to share that they learned while breastfeeding.  Arm yourself with the knowledge you'll need to succeed.

Did you breastfeed?  What were your favorite tools for breastfeeding?


  1. It's totally lame that I'm having such a ridiculous time commenting on my own darn blog, but okay. . .

    I should have added that a supportive partner is important too! Had my husband not been so supporting and encouraging, I probably wouldn't have stuck with breastfeeding during those difficult early weeks.

  2. You could have just re-edited it, lol. I would add a supportive doctor and a supportive OB. My regular doctor can't wait for me to quit. But I can't go on normal BP pills if I am prego again, grr... oh well. Having supportive friends, family, and a husband helps a lot with breastfeeding. It's not just the relationship between the mother and baby that needs to be nurtured, but the relationship and support of her husband, friends, and family that make all the difference. No one told me to not keep nursing Chloe. I was proud of it, and I told, and I will continue to tell the world of my nursing journey with her!

  3. I didn't want to edit it because it had already been read by then. I like that, "It's not just the relationship between the mother and baby that needs to be nurtured. . ." So true! And, it is so helpful when mamas who nurse let others know that they nurse because it will eventually help turn nursing back into the normal activity that it is.