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Now that my daughter is a year old, our breastfeeding journey is coming to an end. When she was born, I set myself a goal of making it one year, and I am so proud of both her and myself that we made it all the way. As we begin weaning and I look back over both the struggles and the successes, I want to share with you ten of my favorite essentials for breastfeeding, especially when you’re just starting out.
- Boppy Pillow: For me it was very important to have comfortable support in order to get baby into the right angle. It takes some of the weight off your arms, so you’re able to get into a good position. The boppy worked great for me, and it fits right around your waist, so you’re able to use it for various breastfeeding “holds” such as cross body, cradle, or football hold. (Don’t forget a removable cover…you’re bound to have spills, spit ups, and other mom-brain incidents. You’re going to want to be able to just unzip and wash it.)
- Water Bottle: More importantly, an easy to open water bottle. Breastfeeding will make you SO THIRSTY. My sister-in-law gave me this one, and the pop top was easy to open one handed, perfect for when you’ve got one hand under a nursing baby. Staying well hydrated is also so important to maintain your supply too, so making it easy and accessible is key.
- Nursing Pads: Especially in the beginning when your body is trying to regulate to exactly the amount your baby needs, you’re going to uh…leak. Just one of the many glamorous secrets of breastfeeding. For me, it happened when she cried, if she slept too long, while she was nursing from the opposite side…not so cute when you end up with huge wet spots on your shirt. The Medela disposable ones worked great for me. They’re plenty absorbent, but I didn’t necessarily feel like I had a diaper in my bra.
- Lanolin cream: Even with proper techniques, in the beginning, breastfeeding is really hard on your nipples. Chances are they’ll be cracked, sore, and possibly bleeding. Keep some lanolin cream on hand to help protect and soothe them. Make sure you get a brand that doesn’t need to be wiped off before nursing, and then you don’t have to worry about cleaning it off before your little one inevitably wants to nurse three minutes after you’ve applied it. (Get ready for cluster feeding!)
- Lactation Cookies: There’s never really a bad reason for cookies, right? There were a couple phases where I felt like my supply was dropping slightly, so I headed to Pinterest to find a recipe for lactation cookies. I found these, and while they weren’t necessarily my favorite cookie in the world, they were pretty tasty. (I mean, they have M&M’s in them…done deal.) I made a batch and wrapped pairs of cookies in plastic wrap then threw them all in the freezer. I would pull out two cookies in the morning and let them thaw and eat them with lunch, or throw them in the microwave to warm them up. The important ingredients are the oatmeal, flax seed, and brewer’s yeast (it has to be brewer’s yeast, not another kind). These three ingredients have been shown to help boost milk supply in some women.
- A comfy chair: I’m going to break it to you…you’re going to be sitting a lot. Make sure you have a comfy place to sit. We have a glider in our nursery that I absolutely love. It has pockets on the side that are great for bedtime books, your water bottle, burp cloths, your phone, etc…During the day, I usually camped out on one end of the couch when she was hungry. Wherever you decide to set up camp, just make sure it’s comfortable and if you’re home alone, make sure you have everything you’ll need before you sit down to nurse. (Or make sure there’s someone else home that you can throw puppy dog eyes at and persuade to wait on you…)
- Nursing Cover: These are often a hot-button topic. Some people don’t think nursing mothers should need to cover up in public. Others believe adamantly that they should be covered at all times when nursing in public (or even hide themselves away and NOT nurse in public). I don’t think they should have to at all. It should be up to every woman to determine her comfort level. As for me, I felt much more comfortable being covered, so I used covers for a bit of privacy.
- A Good Nursing bra: I have always had trouble finding the perfect bras since I don’t wear a common size. I can’t stress the importance of finding a great nursing bra. My advice when it comes to a nursing bra is to go into a store and get fitted by someone who knows what they’re doing. Don’t try to wing it and order online. Incorrectly fitted nursing bras can cause clogged ducts, decreased supply, and other painful or uncomfortable problems. On that same token, I got a couple of comfy, stretchier bras to sleep in so I could keep the nursing pads in place. Your size and comfort will determine what is right for you, so go get fitted.
- “Side Reminder”: Having a newborn is exhausting, breastfeeding around the clock is exhausting…it’s nearly impossible to remember what breast you last nursed on when your baby has wanted to nurse 1,264 times in one afternoon. Come up with some way to remind yourself what side you should use next time. Use whatever works best for you. Write it down, move a bracelet back and forth, or get a clip to hook on your bra strap to remind you which side to start with.
- A Positive attitude: This is by far the most important thing on the list. Breastfeeding is hard work. Surround yourself with a strong support system of friends and family. Seek guidance from lactation consultants, your Ob/Gyn, or your baby’s pediatrician. Try to stay stress free and optimistic. Set goals for yourself, but realize that a fed baby is a happy baby, and if you decide that breastfeeding just isn’t for you, there is no shame in switching to formula!!