When I was pregnant there were a lot of things I knew would have to learn how to do: change a diaper, support his head, function on littles sleep and breastfeeding. I was determined to breastfeed sucessfully. I read all the books and had my birth plan in place to get us off on the right foot. And luckily, for the most part, I have been successful, but that does not mean that it has been easy. In my experience, and in many others, it is downright hard. And as with everything else baby-related I had no idea just how much time I would spend doing it.
The kid has been hungry pretty much every two hours from the day he was born. That means I feed him ten times a day (thankfully he usually gives us one slightly longer stretch at night... slightly). Until recently, he would feed for twenty minutes. Add the time it takes to get us ready and burp him and we are going on a half an hour (for some babies it takes much longer).
Ten times a day, times thirty minutes, times seven days a week. That is thirty hours of breastfeeding a week. Thirty hours. If I spent that much time slinging lattes at Starbucks I’d be eligible for benefits. In other words, it is a full time job. A full-time job with a really steep learning curve. However, if you are willing and able to breastfeed there are some things that can make it easier.
Lansinoh - I received two tubes of the stuff at my shower. All of my non-mom friends looked puzzled, but the moms of the group knew better. A tube of stuff secreted by sheep to rub on my nipples multiple times a day so they don’t crack and bleed? To the uninitiated it sounds weird and gross. To those in the know... well, It was the most amazing gift I was given. No cracking, no bleeding, and showers (the kind with water, not presents) are actually enjoyable. I suggest getting a tube for each room you plan on breastfeeding in, plus one more for the diaper bag.
Breastfeeding Pillow - Breastfeeding moms can be divided into two camps: Boppy and My Breast Friend. Both are pricey pillows with fancy covers that will save your shoulder and arm muscles and make perfecting your technique much less awkward. However, a word of warning: Once you get the hang of it, I suggest trying it every so often without your fancy pillow or your arm muscles won’t be able to catch up to your quickly growing baby’s weight and you might need a bigger diaper bag to fit the pillow.
Breastpump - Even if you do not plan on returning to work, a good pump can work wonders for establishing successful breastfeeding during the first critical days when your milk comes in. You will also want kiss the inventor on the mouth when it helps to take the edge off engorgement. And, of course, if you ever want to leave the kid at home to go to the dentist or get a haircut without leaving grandma with formula, you are gonna need a pump. They are also finally considered a healthcare necessity so you can write them off on your FSA, which is good since they are pricey.
Glider - The 21st century version of the standard rocking chair with a 21st century price (the most expensive thing on the list). But in my opinion a gilder is by no means simply a luxury. Since you will be spending over 30 hours a week nursing you should have a comfortable place to do it. Unlike a regular rocking chair, these are made for the sole purpose of breastfeeding so the arms are the perfect height, the motion won’t wake your (finally) sleeping babe, the ottoman will help reduce the post-partum swelling (yeah it might get a little worse before it gets better), and the cushions will keep your butt from falling asleep.
A Good Bra - This one is a little easier said than done. According to the New York Times they are *finally* making cute nursing bras. You know what? More people are going to be seeing this bra (strangers... your in-laws...) than your old ones, but you won’t care what they look like. You will care that can do their job without the benefit of underwire, can be unhooked with one hand, and actually fit — and fit is a tricky thing when your boobs can change a full cup size in the course of an hour.
Luckily, specializes in nursing bras (among other things). However, some of us have be graced with... how shall we say... largess that requires us to take to the internet. Ladies, breastfeeding or not, if you are D cup or larger (and according to Oprah, most of us are) stop buying crappy ill-fitting bras at Target and point your mouse towards Bravissimo, send them an email and they will set you up. It is totally worth the cost of international shipping.
Lactation Consultant - A lactation consultant is certified by the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners, which means they will probably have an answer. Many are also registered nurses which is a plus because sometimes the problem you are facing might be something that can be diagnosed and helped with medication, like thrush.
On the other hand, breastfeeding is not an exact science. Many of the best answers to problems with latch, under-production, over-production, plugged ducts and the like are the same tricks our grandmothers have been using. That’s why you need to find a consultant you mesh well with. They should be willing to offer multiple suggestions for each of your concerns and cheerlead you along the way. The absolute best thing about my insurance plan is that I can see lactation consultants as often as I want, and call them with questions as much as I need to and it is absolutely free (thanks, Kaiser). Considering the huge push to promote breastfeeding I think all insurance plans should offer the same benefit, because these people will make sure you have everything on this list plus all the information you need to be as successful as possible.
Support - Everything else on this list deals with the mechanics of breastfeeding, but if it was just about a good latch, building upper arm strength and creams then we wouldn’t have to promote “the most natural thing in the world” as much as we do.
Breastfeeding is a sometimes just as emotionally exhausting as it is physically demanding, which is why you need a support team. You need people to support you in your endeavor whether you find you need to supplement, throw in the towel, or continue to nurse your kid until they start kindergarten (your boobs, your baby).
Alameda has a La Leche League chapter, but you will also find that beastfeeding advice and empathy is a hot topic in many . Having someone who can also make sure you have water (you will drink gallons), healthy snacks (nusing uses a ton of calories), and make sure your pump parts are clean (there are lots and they are sometimes hard to pull apart), makes it a heck of a lot easier, particularly in those first few weeks when you are also healing from bringing a person into the world (thanks, honey).
Now, I’m off to give the kid meal number nine — maybe I can do it without the Boppy.