Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Breastfeeding Survival

One of the most surprising things to me when I had Jack was how difficult breastfeeding was, at least in the beginning.  This was one area that I was NOT prepared for.  I knew that I wanted to breastfeed, but was truly ignorant on the topic and just assumed that once I had the baby I would learn the ins and outs at the hospital and call it a day. 

I'm almost three months in and still breastfeeding (even as I start back to work), but I'm just now getting to the point where I truly enjoy it.  I am so, so happy that I didn't give up when it was difficult even though there were days when I came close.

I will save my personal breastfeeding story for another day, but I wanted to offer my Breastfeeding Survival Guide tips now in case someone else is having struggles of their own. 

I also want to say that although breastfeeding was something I wanted to do, I do not believe it's the only choice.  There are many reasons why some women just can't or choose not to breastfeed.  At the end of the day, as long as baby is getting food and growing that is all that matters.  I think it's more important for mom to be happy and healthy for her baby than to struggle with breastfeeding. 

Chelsea's Breastfeeding Survival Tips

1.  Do your research. 
Read as much as you can prior to having the baby.  I read tons on pregnancy, childbirth, and baby care but zilch on breastfeeding, aside from the overall reasons why it's good.  If I had been more educated, it would not have been such an emotional struggle during the hard adjustment part.  I would have known that my struggles are common, have easy fixes and how to get help.

My favorite resources:
The Girl in the Red Shoes Blog series called "The Breastfeeding Diaries"
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding
The Nursing Mother's Companion

2.  Invest in a quality pump (especially if you will be going back to work)
This is something that I did do and boy am happy with it.  I can't imagine not using a double electric pump.  Pumping is already a pain to work into your daily life.  Why not make it as easy as possible on yourself?  I purchased the Medela Pump In Style Advanced On the Go Tote and am 100% happy with my decision. 

3.  Invest in multiple sets of parts (if going back to work and/or exclusively pumping)
All of your parts much be cleaned after each use. Before I went back to work I tried to pump 1-2 times a day in between feedings to build up my frozen supply.  Now that I am back to work I'm pumping about 3 times a day.  All this means is that you are washing your parts a LOT.  It's been so much easier to have multiple sets so I don't have to wash in between every pump.  Make sense?  I have 3 sets and it's working great for me. 

4.  Three Magic Words:  Hands Free Bra
I do not know how I would pump without this.  Using the hands free bra I can get a lot done while pumping.  Trust me, if you aren't doing something else while pumping, the time will drag and you will hate it.  I have come to actually enjoy it because I let myself browse Facebook, read or check my emails.  When I was home with little man it gave me those hands to play with him if needed. 

5.  Learn how to use your pump and related products BEFORE the baby arrives
I purchased my pump before the baby came, but then tucked it away in the back of a closet until I needed it.  When I wanted to start using it I felt overwhelmed because I was trying to get everything cleaned, read the manuel, and learn how to properly put it together all while tending to a fussy baby.  In hindsight I should have mastered the pump while I was bored on bed rest with nothing else to do but watch Friends reruns...oh, the life. 

With that said, DO NOT stress about pumping right away.  I made the mistake of trying to pump too soon for various reasons (wanting to build a freezer supply for when I was back at work, let Jason assist with feedings, to encourage my milk to come in quicker).  All of these are bad reasons.  Pumping too early isn't going to do anything for you but add stress to your already crazy life.  Trust me.  I think 6 weeks is ideal to wait to pump. 

6.  Identify help BEFORE the baby arrives
Just like you want to know who to call in case of any emergency before the emergency, you should identify a local lactation consultant who you can call should you need it.  I never ended up calling for reinforcements, but had I already had someone's name and number I might have reached out for help (and saved a lot of worry and stress).

7.  Make "Feeding Kits" to keep wherever you have breastfeeding sessions.
This way every time you feed your baby (in the beginning it's practically 24/7) you have what you need, thus making you a happier, less stressed mommy.  I like to have these things on hand at every feeding:

-  Water
-  Snacks
-  Burp pad
-  Swaddle blanket since feedings often lead to naps...for both of you!
-  Boppy Pillow for baby
-  Pillow for you in case you want to doze
-  iPad or iPhone for entertainment or if phone rings
-  Hair ties (I always got hot when I had long hair)
-  Clock to time feedings
-  Remote (if I'm in a room with a TV...feedings are a great time to catchup on the DVR)

Part of being successful at breastfeeding is to be comfortable and relaxed.  This will help baby relax who will then eat better.  Figure out what you need to find your "happy place" and make sure its within an arms reach away!
 
Chelsea's Breastfeeding Checklist:
  • Boppy or My Brest Friend Pillow - I own the Boppy and think it's perfect.  It seemed more versatile than the Brest Friend since it has uses for baby too.  Inside tip:  the Boppy covers from Pottery Barn Kids, although a bit more $$, are the best because they are thick and so, so soft. 
  • Baby Connect App for iPhone - keeps track of how long each feeding is, diaper changes, and when baby sleeps.  You can then view averages and patterns which is very useful for doctor visits and your sanity.  Remember, lack of sleep does crazy things to your brain.  An app to help keep track of these things will be a lifesaver. 
  • Water Bottles with Lids and Straws (drinking lots of water is good for a breastfeeding mom and it's my opinion that a cute cup promotes water drinking...and a lid and straw make it easier when a little one is attached to you)
  • Lanolin
  • Nursing Cover- for feeding in public, the car or when you have visitors
  • Nursing Friendly Clothing - Not necessary, but it makes your life easier, especially in the first few weeks when all you are doing is feeding anyway.  I'm not saying you need to go and purchase "Nursing Clothes."  Just "nursing friendly."  For me this was spaghetti strap dresses, v-necks, wrap shirts and dresses, button-ups.  Anything that gives you quick and easy access without making you totally strip down.  I never found a nursing bra I liked, but also felt this wasn't necessary. 
  • Nursing Friendly PJ's - Again, spaghetti strap nightgowns and tanks that can be easily pulled down.  I own this nightgown and cover by Jessica Simpson and LOVE it.  It was the only thing that made me feel pretty during that first week when I felt fat and gross. 
  • Hands Free Bra
  • Breast Pump
  • Extra pump parts
  • Freezer bags and storage set - A good labeling system is key, especially if you have someone care for your child when you are not home.  Our nanny can easily know what milk to use on which days without me even telling her since we have a great system going. 
  • Nursing pads
Any other tips you want to share?  Good luck and please email me if you have any specific questions. 

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