Monday, August 5, 2013

Breastfeeding Awareness: #2 Breastfeeding Essentials

Today's Breastfeeding Awareness post is all about the things I have learned throughout the past 11 1/2 months of breastfeeding. I call it my tips, tricks, and tools of Breastfeeding, aka Breastfeeding 101!

If you missed the first post check it out here!

When I found out I was pregnant, I never actually made the decision to breastfeed. I say that because I always just knew that I would. I really don't know why because I never did any research on it, I didn't know anyone who breastfed, and I certainly had no idea that it would take tons of dedication and effort to make it work. I guess it was just one of those crazy motherly instincts that is instilled in you to make the right decisions for your unborn child. Needless to say, I wasn't quite prepared for all that breastfeeding would bring our way. So here are some things I think are helpful to know:


(i.e. before the baby gets here)

Build a Support Network

Before the baby is born do some research to find out what kind of support they have in your area. Find out any and all groups pertaining to breastfeeding. Trust me, you will need the support. Even if not right away (like me), I think it's safe to say that at some point in your breastfeeding journey, you will need support. Whether you will need advice, encouragement, or just some comfort knowing you're not alone; your success in breastfeeding can be greatly effected by the support you find. Having these networks in place before you have your baby is a smart move. With everything you will have going on with your newborn, trying to find help is the last added stress you need. My suggestion would be to start with your area's hospitals. Usually they are a great source of information. Many hospitals offer breastfeeding classes and support groups. I did not take a breastfeeding class because naive me thought "Oh how hard could it be? Women have been doing this for years, right?!" Looking back it probably would have been helpful (a lot more helpful and worth it than my birthing class lol). Many areas also have independent support groups like Le Leche League, which I heard are wonderful. If none of those are available to you, try an independent lactation consultant. They will come to your house and work with you one on one. To me this would be the last resort as I'm sure it is quite costly and most hospital support groups are free. Lastly, look into joining a mommy group. Even if they are not specifically for breastfeeding moms, chances are some will breastfeeders. Sometimes the best advice comes from fellow moms who have or are going through the same issues as you.

Make a Plan and Buy Accordingly

Well let's get real: the word plan and newborn can not seriously be used in the same sentence. However during the newborn phase it is better to over-plan and over-buy (and possibly have to return items) than to under-plan and under-buy (and have to go out at all hours of the night hoping to find what you need). 
Think about your breastfeeding plan: do you want to introduce bottles, are you going to pump, will you need pacifiers, do you want to supplement with formula, etc? Obviously, things will most likely not go as planned, especially if it's your first, but it is important to at least have an idea of how you want your breastfeeding journey to go. 

Buying suggestions for all needs:

Breastfeeding essentials

1. A Breast Pump- whether you're planning on exclusively pumping, building a stash for going back to work, or just giving an occasional bottle, a pump is a must in my book. The first pump I bought was an Ameda Purely Yours Breast Pump. I decided on this one because it is considered a closed system. That means that no milk or condensation actually pass through the tubes, making it more sanitary. With a closed system, you don't have to risk the chance of getting the dreaded moldy milk in tubes problem. It worked well enough for the first couple of weeks. If you plan on using a pump just for the occasional bottle for some time away or going out, I would suggest this pump as it is about half the price of most other double electric pumps. However for me, I quickly realized that the Ameda was not going to be good enough. At the time I planned on going back to work at 12 weeks postpartum. I wanted to only give Myles breast milk though, so I intended on pumping between feedings to freeze my milk to be used while I was away at work. After just a few weeks, I was getting barely anything out of my pumping sessions. I went into panic mode and decided to buy another pump. At first I vowed to stay away from the Medela pumps. They were suggested in all the mommy blogs I followed, but I just couldn't get over some of the stories I read about people finding moldy milk in the tubes. I did some more research on pumps and came to the conclusion that the Medela double pump was the strongest commercial grade pump on the market. I also read more about the mold problem and learned that as long as you clean and check the motor regularly there shouldn't be a problem. So I went ahead and purchased the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump with On the Go Tote. I was very happy with this purchase. This pump was a lot more powerful than the Ameda and I was able to get more milk out of my breasts each pumping session. It does get tiresome to have to clean all of the parts after each use, but there really is no way of getting around that when it comes to pumping. I also highly recommend the "on the go tote" option.  It comes with a cooler bag and contoured ice pack for keeping milk cold if your pumping away from home. And the best part is it all fits nicely and discretely into the bag!

2. Breast Milk Storage: If you're pumping, you're most likely storing. In the beginning this was the part that confused the heck out of me. Even now, the process makes my brain hurt. Luckily the Medela  pumps come with a nifty little magnet that tells you how long milk is good for in every different storage option. Here is another good chart:

Storage depends on the reason you are pumping. When pumping, the best option in my opinion is to use freshly pumped as much as possible. It is good for up to 5 hours at room temperature. If I was pumping because we were going somewhere and I wanted a bottle, I would pump before we left so I could use the freshly pumped milk instead of having to figure out how to warm up milk that came from the fridge or freezer while we were out. If you are giving a bottle at home or sending milk with a sitter then it's a little easier to use cold or frozen because you can warm it up with hot water from the sink. If you know you will use the milk within 5 days, then keeping it in the fridge is just fine. Don't be alarmed if the milk separates and starts to look funny. This is totally normal and will mix up once it is warmed. I have also read not to shake the milk in order to mix it back together. I guess it separates the protein molecules, which isn't the end of the world, but best if you can avoid doing it. If you're pumping to strictly build a stash for when you return to work then straight to the freezer is best. When I froze the milk I would make bags of 3 ounces. That seemed to be the best amount to minimize waste. You will most likely have to adjust that as your baby grows but I would never make more than 5 ounce bags. You can make smaller amounts as well and then combine them based on how much your baby eats at certain times.
As far as products go I used a couple different brands. I first started with the Ameda 20 Count Store N Pour Breast Milk Storage Bags with Adapter because that was the pump I had. I thought the store and pour was a neat idea because I was using the Playtex drop-ins (I will get to bottles next) at the time and I could easily pour the milk into the bottle liners. The problem I had with these liners was that they spilled. I had even read reviews on them that said to not put them on their side because they would leak if they were not closed all the way. I didn't think about it because I was certain I had closed the bag tight. However when I went into the freezer to check the milk, it had all leaked out :( ... cue me crying over spilled milk. The other issue with these bags is that they are inaccurate in their measurements. The way the bag is shaped makes it appear to have more ounces than what is really in the bag. To fix that, you can just measure in the bottle first, then pour in the bag and write the accurate amount on the bag label. Of course, once those were all used up, I tried a different brand. I read some reviews and decided to go with the Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags. These are the bags I would recommend. They have a double zip lock to ensure that there are no spills and they are able to hold up to 6 ounces of milk. I had no problems with these bags and somehow they are the least expensive!

Win, win in my book! Also sometimes I would just store milk in the Medela 5 oz Breastmilk Bottle Set if I knew I would be using it within a day. It's nice because they can go straight from pumping into the fridge and all you need is the cap. If you want to do that definitely buy extra bottles. You will always need two for pumping both sides, so I would have at least 5 or six bottles total.

3. Bottles: I will preface this category by saying that this is a very sensitive subject for I will go into more detail in my journey post, but I will say that bottles might be the ultimate bane of my existence as a mother so far. The first bottle I decided to go with was the Playtex Drop-Ins. I like this system because the removable liners means less washing! I also felt better using them because I didn't have to worry about making sure the bottles were sterilized and had no soap residue after every wash. This is a perfect starter kit here:
Playtex Drop-Ins Kit. I highly recommend these bottles and nipples. The other bottles I used in the beginning were the ones that came with my pump: Medela 5 oz Breastmilk Bottle Set. It was out of convenience that I used these, but I never had any problems with them. 

Both of those bottles/nipples worked fine until I decided to go back to exclusively feeding from the breast only. This happened at about 14 weeks. Ironically, I made the decision because I was trying to save my sanity... ha! (again more on that in my journey post). When I tried to give him a bottle again after not giving him one for about 3 weeks, he absolutely refused! And so began my quest to find a bottle he would take. I tried the The First Years Breastflow Bottle, Tommee Tippee Bottle, and NUK Orthodontic Latex Nipples. I even ventured into the sippy cup realm out of desperation with the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature First Transition Cup. And while all were nice bottles, I guess none of them were close enough to the nipple to trick my kid. I eventually just gave up as I figured my son would rather be able to go to college than know that I finally found a bottle he would take after 100 unsuccessful tries and 1,000 of dollars later. Moral of the story, find a bottle you and your child both like and STICK WITH IT :)

4. Nipple Cream: It is important to know that I am not frivolous. I do not buy things I do not need and I always look for a deal first. There are so many products marketed to first time moms who haven't a clue and think they need one of everything in the baby department. I tried to steer clear of all the hype on the 1,000s of products out there and stick with the essentials. I was on the fence about the nipple cream. I read a lot of great things about it, but I just wasn't sure it was necessary. I decided to buy it and keep it in the box, just in case I ended up not needing it. I went with the Lansinoh HPA Lanolin. Well it didn't take long for me to realize I needed nipple cream! All I can say is this stuff is a lifesaver. Not only does it numb the pain, it is also very soothing. I only needed it for about the first week, but it was still worth it as I used it after almost every session. I didn't use the whole tube, so I would suggest just buying one at a time just in case you don't either. This is one of those products that you want to have before the baby comes, sitting on your bedside all ready to go. I promise it's worth every penny!

5. Pacifiers: I wasn't sure about the pacifier. It's one of those things that kids can easily get hooked on and then you're fighting tooth and nail to get them to get over it. Since I got a few at my shower, I just decided to keep them and figure out if I wanted to use them when the time came. I got both the Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier and the MAM Silicone Pacifier. I waited a few weeks as recommended by most breastfeeding experts to see if Myles would take a pacifier. I started with the soothie because to me it looked the most like a real nipple. He adapted to it really well. It was a nice break from him using me all the time to soothe himself. The soothie is definitely #1 in my book. Now I will say that the soothie is probably only good up until a certain age; I would say around 6 months. After that, you will probably want to switch and go for something more like the MAM Silicone Pacifier. Myles never used these as actual pacifiers because when he stopped taking the bottle at 14 weeks he also stopped using a pacifier. He did however use them as teethers to chew on and they worked great for that.

6. Breastfeeding pillow: I, of course, registered for the Boppy Pillow. This was one product I didn't really do any research on. I just figured since it was the most popular and widely used, it was the best option. I have since read some great reviews on it, so it may just be personal preference with me, but I hated it (for its intended use anyway). When I first got it, it was very hard and inflexible and honestly not at all comfortable. I could never seem to get it into a position that worked well for feeding Myles and I. It did come in handy for laying Myles in though. I know it says you're not supposed to have them lay on it, but he liked it and I was always watching him. 

Boppy Pillow: breastfeeding, no; baby laying, yes! 
I pillow that I would 100% recommend is an L-shaped pillow. The ones they make for sleeping would probably do just fine, but they also make them specifically for breastfeeding like the Luna Lullaby Bosom Baby Nursing Pillow. I never actually owned this pillow, but I used it when I went to a breastfeeding support group. These were the pillows they offered at the group and I absolutely loved it. It was soft and comfortable; it maneuvered well and I didn't have to wrap it around my body! It's large enough to keep using as your baby gets into the older months, but works well with a newborn as well. (There were babies of all different ages at the group). I wish I would have had this pillow from the beginning; I seriously cannot not say enough great things about it! 
If a breastfeeding specific pillow isn't something you can afford, any normal pillow will do  fine really. You just need something that the baby can rest on during those newborn hour long nursing sessions :)

7. Nursing Cover: Up until a month ago this would have been on my not necessary to buy list and in all honesty I guess it still is. I mean, yes, I would recommend having a nursing cover on hand, but buying one for some ridiculous amount of money is completely unnecessary. It is just a square of cloth with a strap for around the neck. They can be made with minimal effort and about $5. I never had an actual nursing cover for a long time. I used blankets during the first couple months and because Myles couldn't move around much, they worked just fine. Then as he got older and his feedings became more consistent/predictable, I just planned outings around when he ate. I have never been a big NIP person (for others' comfort, not my own), so I never saw the need to have a nursing cover. I did buy one recently though (resale purchase of course) because we went on our first plan ride and I knew I would need all the help I could get to keep my goodies contained as Myles does not stop moving. I suppose it was worth the $8 I spent on it, because I wasn't completely exposed but it really didn't deter him from moving all over and ripping the cover off from around his face. I should have bought one that was bigger (wider and longer) and maybe that would have helped. 
So all in all, I would say having one is necessary for certain occasions, but make your own or make sure it's big enough with a small price tag!

8. Nursing Pads: This was an item that I personally did not end up needing. I had a couple that came with the pump kits I bought, but I never ended up using them. I think I am in the minority for that one though. I have never had a super strong let-down or an engorgement problem. For the first week or so after my milk came in, I got engorged a couple times but nothing super painful and I also barely ever leaked. And when I did leak, it was so little that it really didn't warrant wearing a huge bulky nursing pad. Regardless of my situation I still think, for most people, these need to be on hand for when baby comes home. I would suggest starting with the brand that you trust most; some examples are Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads or Medela Disposable Pads.

9. Formula: I really do not like putting this on my list because it's possible that having formula around may just aid in unnecessary supplementing, but I think everyone should have at least a sample can or pouch in the house just in case. I know that there are unforeseen circumstances that arise during newborn care and it would really be stressful to need something and for it to not be readily available. Most formula companies have starter or sample kits that they send out for free. I would suggest signing up for one or all of them so you have a little bit around. That way you don't have to pay for it, but you have just enough in case of an emergency. Always consult an expert before supplementing though because it is never good for your milk supply to start supplementing with formula. If you're having issues most likely that support network you have in place can help you before you get to the point of having to supplement. Hopefully it will never need to be used, but it is there for your piece of mind. 

10. Clothes: If you read any breastfeeding essentials lists, most of the above items are on the lists. I have included most of the basics and a couple extras. There are a few things though that I have not included that you see on most others' lists. The main items being nursing specific clothes. I find it completely unnecessary to buy bras and tanks made for nursing. I see no added benefit of being able to un-clip the strap vs. just putting the fabric under your breast. Sports bras and/or bralettes work perfect for me and I am able to wear them under cute flowy tops as well. I love any of these bras from Forever 21: they are super comfy, come in all different colors, and are way cheap! Same goes for tanks: you can just buy normal tanks and still be able to wear them even after you're done breastfeeding. They work just as well and have many more colors and styles to choose from. Go crazy with all these options!

*I will add that in the beginning you may need a more supportive bra as your breasts may be engorged and painful. Also as you start venturing out into the world again, you may need a more uplifting bra with an under-wire for when you wear certain shirts or need more support. In those cases you might need a nursing specific bra that un-clips because under-wire bras are not as easy to tuck under your breast.  

Link Up:

Stay tuned for the next post on my tips, tricks, and tools continued!


  1. Hi! Stopping by from the Mom lovin' hop! Great list of breast feeding goodies! I had that same breast pump, but while still nursing baby #2 the motor stopped working :( I'll be getting another one for baby #3 though because I love it so much!

    1. Thanks for coming over :) I definitely think it is the best commercial grade pump out there! Sucks that it broke on you though! I wonder if there is a warranty on it? They are costly!


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