I breastfeed my youngest (almost a year now), and while breastfeeding doesn’t require much, I have a few tips that have made the experience much easier. With my eldest I pumped due to a poor latch. I had no idea how to fix the problem. So I exclusively pumped breast milk for a year using my trusty Medela pump in style. While it was rewarding meeting that one year pumping goal (shout out to all of those dedicated exclusive pumpers!), it was also a time-consuming and restrictive process.
This time I hoped to do extended breastfeeding and yearned to be free of the bottles, freezer bags and the familiar hum of the pump. I also wanted to know what it felt like to feed my child directly from my breast anywhere and anytime she was hungry or needed to be soothed. I studied and prepped for what I knew would be a challenging process. It was as if breastfeeding was an exam I had to take. And it worked!
Here is what helped me the 2nd time around:
YouTube to the Rescue!
I had a YouTube video on how to get a good, deep latch ready to go on my phone for right after the birth. I watched it many times before delivery but having it on hand to review while my baby napped really helped me with my positioning and technique.
Breastfeed right after the birth
The birth was a scheduled c-section due to placenta previa and I was in my post-partum room breastfeeding after an hour in recovery. This made a big difference because my eldest was bottle-fed for hours before I was able to attempt breastfeeding after an emergency c-section. My eldest had a shallow latch and the delay to breastfeed made it more challenging for us from the start. While many babies can go back and forth between bottle and breast, both of my kiddos preferred one or the other.
Consulting with a Lactation Consultant
I bookmarked 3 different local lactation consultants as backup in case I ran into any trouble with nursing once home from the hospital. I knew that I would be sleep deprived and in pain from the early days of breastfeeding and recovering from the c-section. It’s not easy searching for a lactation consultant at the last minute. So this time when my baby was latching but having trouble staying on the breast, I called a lactation consultant right away and she arrived at my house within a day or so.
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Medela Nipple Shield
The lactation consultant said the latch was perfect (thanks YouTube!) but, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t keep her latched on. I read that most women really don’t need a nipple shield but it is useful for flat nipples, premature babies with a shallow latch and babies with tongue tie. My baby was taking in so much milk immediately with the shield and she finally stayed latched on! At first I tried another brand but it would fall off very easily. The Medela stays put and the contact part allows baby some skin to skin while nursing. I had to experiment with the sizing and ending up using a small because anything larger made my baby work harder to get the milk. We used it for 4 months until she was strong enough to extract the milk without help. I probably could have stopped much earlier but when I did wean her from the shield it only took about 3 tries.
This stuff is amazing. It only has a few ingredients such as olive oil and shea butter but combined they make this light, moisturizing and very soothing cream that softens and heals sore nipples. Use it to prevent diaper rash, for itchy, dry skin or rashes on baby and even insect bites. I wish it came in a huge tub because I would use it as a body moisturizer.
Those first 2 weeks of nursing are a beast. The pain is real. One major reason I stopped trying to nurse and focused on pumping with my eldest daughter was due to pain. One of my favorite hacks for pain relief was using an ice pack right after nursing. I would leave it in my nursing bra until it warmed or until the next feeding if I forgot it was in there (which was often). I also used the Lanisoh Soothies for extreme soreness. These gel pads feel cool on the skin and protect the nipples from agitation allowing them to heal quicker. I was often in a cycle of nurse, ice pack, soothie then switch sides. A lot of work but it kept the pain at bay.
I didn’t think I would use a nursing cover often and even debated purchasing one but I’m glad I did. I used this one but they’re all pretty similar. My cover is lightweight and breathable. It’s easy to store in my diaper bag and it’s there when I need it. I breastfeed with it in restaurants, parks, the zoo and all kinds of public spaces. Except the beach. I always nurse without a cover at the beach. There’s just too much exposure there for me to worry about a cover. And no one pays us any attention there anyway.
These tips will not work for everyone but they helped me navigate those early weeks that are challenging and painful. Breastfeeding, though a natural experience, never came naturally to me with either child but with some preparation I was able to keep going the second time around.
Want more tips? Check out how to boost your milk supply overnight!