Parenting is complicated these days, isn’t it? Everyone has an opinion about everything, including breastfeeding.
For me, I was committed to breastfeeding successfully for at least two years, even before I was pregnant, and the science told me that was best for baby. If you’re committed to breastfeeding for any length of time, this post is for you!
“One breast. One baby. Simple, huh?”
Now that’s the kind of advice more mamas could use!
Breastfeeding nowadays is approached as a complicated, difficult, arduous task, for which you require all the correct tools; rather than the natural biological process it is. Breastfeeding is like any other skill, like driving a car, it takes time to learn the ropes, but once you do, for most people, it becomes nearly effortless.
Although being prepared can be beneficial, a lot of the products sold to mamas-to-be are totally unnecessary. Below, I’ve outlined a few of the breastfeeding supplies that I found most helpful.
Adequate Water, Lots of Rest, Healthy Food, and a Supportive Family
To be successful at breastfeeding, arguably the most important aspect is to maintain your health – both physically and mentally. Nursing moms should be drinking at least 3 litres of water per day and eating more calories (from nutrient-dense foods!) than they needed while pregnant. Sleep is crucial to a nursing mom’s ability to produce enough milk (and maintain her sanity!). This makes the support of family and friends extra-important. Ideally, in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, until a stable breastfeeding relationship is established, you should be focused on nothing more than feeding and hydrating yourself, sleeping at least 9 hours per day, and keeping baby clean and fed. Don’t be afraid to allow others to help you with these things either – let your mother-in-law cook you dinner, have your partner to clean the bathrooms, ask your friends to wash your dishes when they come over, or bring groceries you need with them. The age-old adage it takes a village to raise a child is still true. Don’t try to do it alone, find support, and focus on only your most basic needs.
We upgraded to a firm king-size bed prior to our little one arriving. We planned to co-sleep, and I knew the extra space would go a long ways in making my life easier. It did. Night time feedings weren’t as exhausting when all I had to do was roll over to go back to sleep.
A pregnancy/breastfeeding pillow
I purchased a long pregnancy body pillow, with a curved end (think of a J-shape). I used it during my pregnancy for comfort. After baby was born, I used it to prop up behind my back so I could sleep reclined on an angle, somewhere between back-sleeping and side-sleeping, which made nursing during sleep much easier. In the early days, I could also wrap the pillow around myself while sitting, and use it to hold baby up higher in my lap, taking some of the burden off my arm muscles, while nursing in a chair. I’m all for items with multiple uses.
Nursing Tank Tops
Bras are something I wear only for special occasions these days, which I’ve written more about here. I found nursing tank tops, layered with a regular cardigan or button-front top to be the easiest for my everyday life. I was back to work soon after baby was born, so I needed to look “presentable”, but also be able to nurse frequently. Nursing tanks were the answer for me.
Re-useable Nursing Pads
I think I could have made enough milk for 8 babies. For this reason, I also leaked a lot. If you don’t leak, you may not need nursing pads. I preferred washable cotton nursing pads. I still use them, although I haven’t leaked in over 3 years, because they add just a bit of padding inside my nursing tank tops, which keeps my nipples from pointing at the world during our cold Canadian winters. TMI? Sorry about that. I did say I’m all for items with multiple uses…
I’m including a breast pump on the useful list, but it certainly isn’t mandatory. I found a breast pump helpful, because I knew I would be away from my little one for small periods of time soon after birth. If you will not be away from your baby, then a breast pump may not be necessary. I’ll also mention that pumping can contribute to oversupply issues (more milk than baby needs), because you’re breasts make milk based on supply and demand – the more milk you “demand”, the more they “supply”. For me, limiting pumping was vital, or I ended up engorged and with mastitis.
Along with the breast pump, you’ll need a way to deliver that milk to baby – bottles are common, but there are other options like spoon-feeding, finger-feeding, cup-feeding and more.
That’s all, folks! These are the only items I found truly helpful in being successful at breastfeeding. Did you have a different experience? Let me know what worked for you in the comments below!