When I became a first-time mom, I knew that breastfeeding was important to me. I had it in my plan, but after Easton was born I found that I had a lot to learn. He had a high palette, and it took him a little while to figure out how to latch on. We persevered and thankfully it worked out for us to continue breastfeeding exclusively. Each baby was a little different, but having now breastfed four babies, I have definitely figured a few things out. I've nursed my boys for between 13–15 months each, and I really treasure that feeding time with them. Today I'm partnering with Medela to share my top six tips for successful breastfeeding after you come home from the hospital and to help you get into sustainable nursing habits.
1. Use your pump. With my first baby, the idea of a breast pump sounded so foreign and I was worried about using it. But when my milk came in and I filled up to maximum capacity, I could suddenly understand the need! In the first few weeks of having a baby, a pump, even just a manual pump, is a great way to relieve an oversupply of milk. My Medela manual pump was all I had for my first few babies and then I got an electric one. I recommend getting into the habit of pumping a bottle a day. If you plan on leaving your baby with anyone, having extra breast milk around makes that so much easier. Some of my kids have taken bottles better than others, and I can definitely say that having a baby who can drink from a bottle is so much easier!
2. Get nursing pads, nursing cream, and a nursing bra. Just do it. Invest in the nursing essentials. If you want to successfully breastfeed or pump and bottle feed, you'll need the right accessories. Don't skip out on a nursing bra or a sleeping bra. Be sure to buy nursing cream and have it handy during the first few weeks. You won't need it forever, but if you need it, you need it. Nursing pads are also essential until your milk regulates. Mine usually regulates within a month, but until then I really need the pads to keep my bra dry.
3. Keep a water bottle handy. Water is the first thing I think about after I've already sat down, settled in, and started nursing. Suddenly I'm DYING of thirst and if no one is around, I'm out of luck. So I highly advise finding water bottles you like and keeping them filled. Set a few around the house where you typically nurse and be sure to keep one in your bag. Staying hydrated when I'm nursing is really hard to do, but it's so important.
4. Snack wisely. Nursing not only makes me thirsty, but it also makes me hungry. I'm extra hungry if I'm dehydrated, but postpartum healing and feeding an infant does require some extra energy. I usually fall into the trap of craving and devouring sugary carbs all day long, but that really comes back to haunt me. I recommend healthy fruit bars, peanut butter with veggies or apples, cheese sticks, and crackers with whole grains. Those aren't what sound the best, but I feel so much better eating those than living on cereal or animal crackers.
5. Don't feel stuck to "nursing friendly" clothing. I really don't let nursing stop me from wearing most anything. Pregnancy ruled my wardrobe for nine months, so I don't let nursing run it too!
I can't wear dresses unless they button up, but otherwise I wear all of my normal tees, tops, and blouses. I wear a tank of some kind under my shirts and then I just pull up my top to nurse. The tank covers my tummy and backside that might be exposed when I pull up my shirt, but I've learned to keep everything pretty hidden. A nursing cover or a light blanket also works to cover up a little more when I'm nursing out and about. Button-up shirts and nursing shirts are fine, but don't let that hold you back from getting dressed for a year or more after you have a baby.
6. There's an app for that. Check out this app for keeping track of all things feeding/diaper related. When you come home from the hospital, they want you to document feedings and wet diapers. Tracking that information is helpful, but I'm more likely to have my phone while I'm nursing than paper and a pen. This app can help with many of the things that you need or want to keep track of while nursing.
I'd love to hear about your nursing essentials and what you found helped you to nurse long-term. Thanks to Medela for sponsoring this post about a topic that is near and dear to me!