In honor of World Breastfeeding Week – which takes place annually the first week of August – I’m sharing some tips and resources to help other breastfeeding moms and soon-to-be moms. Each year there’s a different theme, but the overarching goal of this event is to raise awareness of and encourage support for breastfeeding. For moms starting their breastfeeding journey for the first, second or third time, getting the right kind of support in the days and weeks after birth can make a huge difference. Here are a few tips and resources that hopefully will help you along:
1. Identify sources of support.
Do your research and find a local lactation consultant (preferably one that takes your insurance!) that you can turn to for help soon after your baby arrives. Have that number or email address handy. Even if things seem to be going well in those first few sleep deprived days/nights at home, it can be helpful to have an expert check the baby’s latch and answer questions. (I had a million “is this normal?” questions).
Some pediatricians’ offices have lactation consultants on staff/on call. My son’s first visit to the pediatrician a few days after birth included a lactation consult that gave me valuable information and reassuring confirmation that we were doing OK. It can also be helpful to take a breastfeeding class and check out some widely known and respected resources such as KellyMom and La Leche League.
2. Nursing essentials.
You’ll want to pick out a few essentials that can really make life easier for the breastfeeding mom. Check out a previous FCMB post featuring a survival kit for nursing moms. Nursing bras, tanks and tops are so necessary and a nursing cover is great, too, if you’re shy about nursing in public. There are million different apps for your phone that allow you to track the timing of your nursing sessions and the side you left off on. These can be really helpful especially in the first few days and weeks when sleep deprivation is at its peak and baby weight gain is sometimes a concern.
Watch your backs ladies, and invest in a good nursing pillow. I swear by My Breast Friend but there are a ton of other great choices out there, such as the ever-popular Boppy. A good dual electric pump and pumping supplies are key if you want to have expressed milk on hand or in the freezer. Check out the helpful pumping tips my fellow FCMB bloggers have shared in previous posts.
3. Stock up on personal care supplies.
Let’s face it, breastfeeding can be painful, so it’s a good idea to have some essentials on hand to address any issues that come up. There’s a wide array of products out there, from nipple creams to sprays to shields to cooling pads — you name it — and these can be lifesavers. I swore by this salve and these gel pads. These shields kept me going in the first month or two with each of my kids.
4. Get your snack on.
In my experience, pregnancy hunger pales in comparison to how hungry you get while breastfeeding. Keep up your energy, strength, and sanity with frequent healthy snacks. Have protein-packed grab-and-go options like granola bars, hard boiled eggs, cheese sticks, cut veggies and fruit at the ready, in the diaper bag, and within arms reach of wherever you sit when nursing. Don’t forget to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate — you will probably be thirstier than you’ve ever been in your life. Keep a full water bottle or other liquids close by.
5. Milk supply support.
At one point or another, most moms have questions or concerns about their supply. There are a ton of resources out there that claim to help milk production. Personally, I haven’t found a magic pill. Believe me, I’ve researched it all (just ask my husband about the cases of blue Gatorade I used to keep in the trunk of my car). If you’re inclined to try to boost your supply, experiment and figure out what works best for you. Some sworn by milk boosters include: lactation cookies/bars/bites/cereals and teas; vitamin supplements such as fenugreek; eating oatmeal, dark leafy greens and other high protein foods; and strategies like power pumping.
The week before I had my son, I made a batch of chocolate chip oatmeal lactation cookies and flash froze individual portions of dough. With my daughter, I made these no-bake lactation bites on repeat. Whether they help with your milk supply or not, you won’t regret having some healthy treats around when you’re awake for what feels like the zillionth 3:00 a.m. feeding!
These are just a few ideas to help make breastfeeding a little easier. For the experienced nursing moms out there — please share in the comments anything you did to prepare or what helped you most throughout your journey!