This month will be a "celebration of the tata's" for my little one and I. If you're a Bumpie reader, you're already aware that August is "National Breastfeeding Awareness" month. It's also my (nearly) 10-month nurseaversary! As a breastfeeding and working Mom, I'm pretty darn proud of myself to reach this milestone. In the U.S., most women throw in the towel after a few months of nursing due to low supply issues, frustration with pumping, etc. Fortunately, I didn't really experience issues that I couldn't easily overcome.
I knew early on that I wanted to breastfeed my baby. My own mother breastfed my siblings and I - and I vaguely knew about all the benefits. (I won't inundate you with the benefits of breastfeeding, but you can read about all that here.) However, I wish someone sat me down when I was pregnant and told me the truth about what to expect - scary or not. I know now what "let downs" are and what the perfect latch looks like. I know that if I don't use a nursing pad, I'll surely soak through my shirt on the other side while feeding my daughter.
So, grab a seat and listen up because I've got some tips and tricks I learned along the way through trial and error, mommy groups, and Googling every possible scenario during midnight feeding sessions.
1) Take a Breastfeeding Class - First and foremost, educate yourself. This is a glimpse into what you can expect, but it's just the beginning. I also suggest taking your significant other - don't go at it alone; times will get tough and you will need someone who will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel (filled with newborn's cries) when you want to throw in the towel.
2) Have Patience - Sure, your hormones are raging, you feel like you're still wearing a fat suit having pushing out said baby, and your milk hasn't come in. On day three, I expected cups runneth over with milk. Instead, I was filling cups with tears while nursing a dark Belgium beer to "hopefully" bring in my milk. Once your milk comes in, the fun begins. I'll just say it. The first six weeks suck. Sure, there's that overwhelming feeling of love while you're nursing, but oh em gee your nipples are on fire, you feel like a human pacifier and you're nursing every two to three hours. I'm telling you - stick it out. It gets so much easier! Hunker down and start a show on Netflix. I watched all FIVE seasons of_ Breaking Bad_.
3) Nipple Cream is your Breast Friend - See what I did there? Nipples are one of the most sensitive areas on our bodies. They need to toughen up or else you'll be left with bloody, sore nubs. Nipple cream can be used to help ease into that process - keeping you supple and lubricated while essentially "creating a callous" for feedings to be easier on you. One of my favorite nipple creams on the market is Motherlove Nipple Cream.
4) Invest In Good Undergarments - It's important to get a wire-free, multi-functional bra that fits correctly. My favorite nursing bra is a game changer. You can pump or nurse throughout the day with no pesky costume changes needed. I also recently learned that Nordstrom will convert any bra into a nursing bra for a small fee.
5) Invest In a Good Pump - Before you run out to the store or order online, check with your health insurance to see if you're eligible under the Affordable Care Act for coverage for a discounted or free pump. Read more here. More on pumping: keep spare parts at work so you don't have to lug them back and forth daily. Also, know that you can don't have to wash your pump parts in between pump sessions! Just put the flange and bottle in the refrigerator until you're ready to pump again.
6) Take Care of Yourself - It's hard to even think of yourself when you have a new little person occupying every waking moment of your day and night. However, you need to take care of yourself if you expect to take care of another person. Keep yourself well-hydrated, eat a balanced diet, and get enough rest. Every time you sit down to nurse, grab a tall glass of H20. Now is not the time to start thinking of dieting; you need to eat plenty of calories to keep up your supply. Trust me, the weight will fall off.
7) Galactagogues - Galacta-huh? Plain and simple — these are substances that promote lactation. They include oatmeal, fenugreek, flax-seed, etc. Have you tried lactation cookies? Yes, I am suggesting that you eat cookies to help you nurse. There are some companies that make them (i.e. Milkmakers and Bellybelly) or you can whip some up at home and make your own creation. My favorite combination was the pumpkin, walnut and chocolate chip lactation cookies.
8) NIP - Nurse in Public. Do it. It doesn't mean you have to pull your bare breast out in the middle of a restaurant, but there are options: covers, layers, scarves and babywearing. Normalize breastfeeding.
9) Plugged Ducts and Remedies - Sure, not everything is sunshine and rainbows. I have a bum duct in my right breast that starts to act up if it's not properly drained after every pump or feeding session. This includes when my baby likes to latch on and off repeatedly (they become easily distracted as they get older - "oh look, a squirrel!") leaving me with one sore boobie. If you do get a lump, call your physician if your remedies don't "fix" it within 24 hours. You do NOT want mastitis. Hot compresses (skin adhesive heating pads are awesome) and showers, massage and hand expression, dangle feeding, and my favorite, lethicin are all go-to's.
10) Enjoy every minute - The moment Sophia was placed in my arms to nurse for the first time was absolute bliss. It was just me and her and my heart swelled with every minute. She nursed for 45 minutes - her playful nickname was TeeTee Monster. I've been given such a gift to be able to provide for her and allow her to grow from a six pound peanut to a thriving, 17.5 pound nugget complete with lovely little "Michelin Man" rolls. The small things have made it all worthwhile — the cooing, gymnastic routines, clutching my breast or my face, twirling my hair and the loving gaze that seems to say "thank you Mommy" is indescribable.
My long-term goal is one year and that is quickly approaching. It's bittersweet to see the end in sight. My relationship with breastfeeding has been a rollercoaster, but in the end, it was the best thing I could do for my daughter.
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