Finally I am wrapping up the breastfeeding series! This post is a collection of things to do and buy that can help you have a smoother experience. I hope these posts have been helpful! Let me know if you have any questions or comments!
1. Read "The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding" (8th ed.)
This is the "bible" of breastfeeding. It's published by La Leche League and covers pretty much everything you need to know about breastfeeding. Read it while you're pregnant and have it on your bookshelf for when questions come up after the baby is born.
2. Take a breastfeeding class
Most hospitals offer a breastfeeding class to expectant mothers. Our Bradley class covered breastfeeding, and I also took the hospital's class. The latter was the most helpful. It was taught by a lactation consultant for the hospital so she was able to go over information specific to the hospital.
3. Have a plan
Think about what you want to happen in the moments after the birth and make sure you convey it to the nurses. If you want the baby placed on your chest immediately and you want to nurse before they take him away to weigh/measure, make sure they know that. Think about what you want to happen if you have to have a c-section. I reached down and pulled Avery up on my chest as soon as I saw her, and I held her there skin-to-skin while they stitched me up. I also got her latched on before the pediatrician examined her. (We also didn't give her a bath until like 2 weeks after she was born, and I wouldn't do that again either! Sponge bath is enough; poor baby was traumatized.) I keep telling Adam that IF I decide to have another baby, I'm planning to do it either at home or in a birthing center, and that I don't want my newborn baby taken from me and crying hysterically while some stranger pokes and prods under a bright light.
4. See a lactation consultant
Most hospitals have lactation consultants on staff. After you and baby get to your room and get comfortable, ask to see the LC! She can answer any questions you have, help you get baby latched, and show you some different positions to nurse in. While you are at it, go ahead and make sure the pediatrician you choose for your baby has a LC on staff too, so if you run into any problems or have any questions after you leave the hospital, you have someone to call. Don't hesitate to talk to a LC and nip any nursing problems in the bud.
Buy a tube of this stuff. You will want it a few days after the baby is born when your nipples start getting dry & cracked from being sucked on. It won't hurt the baby, so go ahead and slather a bunch of it on. You probably won't need it in the hospital, but go ahead and put it in your hospital bag. Have your husband put it on the baby's bum before diapering her: it will prevent the meconium from sticking to her skin and make it easier to clean her up! That stuff is like sticky tar.
6. Nursing pillow
First I had a Boppy, but after I saw the hospital's LC, who showed me the Brest Friend, I was sold. Get the Brest Friend. The name is ridiculous, but the concept is golden. With the Boppy, the baby kept sliding down into the space between my belly and the pillow. Since the Brest Friend fastens around you, it prevents that from happening. It makes it much, much easier to get the baby positioned and latched, and lets you relax without the baby sliding away when she's so tiny. I used my Brest Friend pillow until Avery was seven months old, and even brought it back to the mainland with me in my suitcase when we traveled to my sister's wedding!
7. Nursing station
Find the chair you like to nurse in best, and set up roost there! Have your ipod, computer, books, whatever you like to entertain yourself, plus plenty of water, burp cloths, baby blankets, Lansinoh, and snacks nearby. Now sit down and nurse the baby. Have other people bring you drinks and food! I stayed in my room and the nursery in my rocking chair for at least two weeks - did not even come downstairs.
8. Nipple shells
Ah, yes. I would have loved to have some of these, but I couldn't find them locally and didn't want to wait for them to come from Amazon because I figured I wouldn't really need them anymore by the time they arrived. I suggest you have some on hand in case you want to use them. Basically they keep your bra or shirt (or anything) from touching your nipples. When you're sore and the skin is chapped, the last thing you want is your bra getting stuck to the nipple skin or rubbing on them! It was only a few days... ok, two weeks, maybe? Less? ... that I really needed these. I actually used saran wrap over some lansinoh inside my bra instead and it worked, though probably not advised because there's no air circulation. I would express some milk and dab that on the nipple area, let it air dry, then slather on Lansinoh and cover with saran.
9. Bookmark Kellymom
Kellymom.com is a lifesaver! I was on that website CONSTANTLY in the first few weeks, reading pretty much everything she had posted. It's a wealth of awesome information. Definitely bookmark the page and poke around on there before you start nursing. Then when questions come up, you'll know, oh I saw something about that on Kellymom, and you can go find the answer. I still go on there regularly whenever I am wondering about something breastfeeding related.
10. Check out Dr. Jack Newman
This is another FANTASTIC breastfeeding website. Go watch all his videos so you know what a really good latch looks like! Then check out his articles too, in case you have any questions.
11. ... and Dr. Sears
Another website. I love Dr. Sears, and his website has some great info on it. If you're like me, you like to research everything and get several opinions, so add his site to your bookmarks too. The link goes right to his breastfeeding articles, but he addresses other parenting topics as well.
12. Get a nursing bra
Preferably one with no underwire. Oh, sure, they will tell you at Nordstrom's that underwire is just fine for nursing moms. Maybe. But understand that the milk ducts go under the breast and around the sides near the armpits and you're more likely to get plugged ducts and mastitis with hard wire compressing those areas. My favorite nursing bra is at the link above (Bravado Bliss), and it's great for those with larger breasts. Or check out Birth and Baby where they have a bra fitting guide, as well as recommendations for the best bra for your shape/size.
13. And a nursing sleep bra
I started wearing one of these to sleep while preggo because my chest got so large that it was more comfortable to have some support. Even if you aren't on the larger side, you will probably still want a couple of these sleep bras, both to sleep in and to lounge around in. At night, in the early days, you will want something to hold nursing pads in place because you will probably experience some leaking. The Medela sleep bras in the link are the ones I like.
14. And some bra pads
I leaked for months, so these were a necessity. Nothing like being in public and having your boobs leak! And at night, on the rare nights I got 4-5 hours of sleep, there would inevitably be some leaking too. After a while your supply evens out and you just produce whatever baby is eating, so the leaking stops.
15. Have a nursing cover
You won't need it right away if you follow my advice to hunker down in your nest for a few weeks and don't go out in public, but eventually you will want to nurse away from home and these make it easy because they hook around your neck. I actually more often use an Aiden and Anais muslin swaddling blanket knotted around my neck because it's so hot here and they are really breathable.
16. Find La Leche League in your area
To me, it's really helpful to go to the meetings just to be around other breastfeeding moms! But there have been a few times when I've had questions answered at the meetings. Or felt like I've been able to give support to other moms. It's a good resource to have available.
17. Consider a breast pump
Before Avery was born I got a Pump in Style (PIS) and planned to use it. I wasn't sure whether I would go back to work, but I figured I would need one either way because if I didn't go back, I would still want to pump a bottle every once in a while. As you know from reading my previous posts, Avery never took a bottle, so although I did pump milk occasionally, it wasn't often, and I haven't pumped in months. I probably still would have gotten the pump even knowing how little I use it. I'm not even sure I would have gotten a cheaper pump because I wanted something easy to use that would last through multiple children. So, should you get a pump or what? Here's my $0.02. If you know for sure you are going to stay home with baby, and that bottles won't be more than a few times a week if that, you can probably get away with a less expensive model or even just a hand pump. You might find yourself pumping even LESS than you expect (like me) and you don't need to spend the money on something you won't use. You can always go get a better pump if you find you are pumping more than you expected or you just want a better pump. If you know you are going to be away from the baby for any length of time, and you're going to be pumping frequently, definitely spring for a PIS or similar.