This is my second breastfeeding adventure. First time I fed exclusively for 9mths and this time I am focusing on the 6mth mark and going from there. Essentially all you need to breastfeed are your boobs but there are lots of products out there claiming to help make breastfeeding easier. So to mark National Breastfeeding Week 2014 here are a few of the things I have found genuinely helpful during my breastfeeding experiences:
You need to make sure baby is positioned correctly and often that means you are taking a lot of weight on your supporting arm whilst rounding your shoulders and back to reach baby. Most of the time this results in all kinds of aches and pains. Support is key to avoid this. You need to raise baby up to meet you rather than stooping over them by using a number of cushions or an ergonomic feeding pillow.
My favourite pillow is The Original Boppy Pillow which is a C shape to hug around your waist providing support for your baby and taking pressure off your cradling arm. It is quite a study pillow so it doesn't sag with baby's weight like cheaper brands do. This means baby remains up high so you don't have to lean over. You can buy a series of SlipCovers for the pillow so you can have one on standby for those inevitable reflux accidents! My spare cover is reversible with one side soft fluffy pink and the other patterned cotton.
The Original Boppy Pillow £34.99, SlipCover £17.99 boppyworld.com
Finding a good nursing bra which fits big boobs whilst being easy to feed from can be as difficult and stressful as finding a new pair of jeans. Having big boobs but a small back I have searched high and low for the right bra which actually supports me and I can reveal I have finally found it!
The Bravado Body Silk Seemless is a crop top style bra which gives loads of support whilst being stretchy and flexible enough to adapt to your changing size pre and post feeds. The bra comes in four sizes, S,M,L and XL. When not pregnant or breastfeeding I measure 34D. When breastfeeding this increases to a 34 E/EE. The M size fits perfectly. It has a wide back for support and four hook and eye adjustments allowing you to find the perfect tension across your back as your ribcage shrinks post birth. The shoulder straps are fully adjustable and have the clever little clips which allow you to drop the cup to feed (They are really easy to operate one handed!). Aesthetically it looks a bit like a sports bra but it does dip slightly at the front making it discreet underneath most tops except plunging V necks. It comes with removable foam pads which are designed to hide nipples or breast pads and the seemfree design is virtually invisible under clothes. It is so comfortable and soft I even sleep in it! I now have four of them in different colours and I'd never even consider the stressful task of finding another design unless I need something to wear with a specific outfit with a low front. When you have finished breastfeeding you can convert it into a standard bra.
Bravado Body Silk Seemless Nursing Bra £30 bravadodesigns.com
How long you plan to breastfeed will probably dictate how much you spend on clothes specifically designed for breastfeeding. They can be quite expensive. I have a few select pieces but generally I have taken to wearing a long, cheap Primark vest underneath a standard top so that I can pull my top up and the vest down. This keeps as much flesh covered as possible! I have heard great things about a product called BreastVest which is designed specifically for this purpose but I have yet to try it myself.
My breastfeeding wardrobe essential is this fantastic top by Envie de Fraise. It is just so versatile and the crossover front peels open so you can feed really discreetly. It is nice and long to hide the dreaded mummy tummy...
Pregnancy and nursing wrap top £28.74 enviedefraises.co.uk
Unless you consider wet patches an unusual fashion accessory you will probably need to wear breast pads to keep your clothes dry and draw moisture away from the sensitive nipple area. Regularly changing pads is key to avoid nipple thrush. I personally prefer disposable pads as I have enough washing to do without adding breast pads to the pile but you can buy a variety of re-usable, washable pads if you want to go down that route. I have tried pretty much every disposable pad on the market and I have some favourites.
I have recently tried Organyc pads and I love them. Made from 100% cotton they have a waffle design which really holds it's shape and doesn't screw up in your bra (a pet hate of mine).
If you don't mind paying a premium Avent, Medela or Lahsionh pads are all lovely. Packaged individually they are perfect for hygienically popping in the changing bag. They are thin and discreet too so great for under your Summer wardrobe.
If you are on a budget Tesco's pads are pretty unbeatable value wise and do the job but the pads are a lot smaller and do show up through clothes. I tend to wear these at night when it doesn't matter if it shows.
Organyc breast pads £3.99 for 24 organyc.co.uk
Even if you do not plan on expressing milk for bottle feeds I would recommend buying a pump for two reasons; firstly I recommend you have emergency milk in the freezer - you never know what may happen and you want to make sure there is always milk available for baby. The second, and the more common scenario, to relieve engorgement. My boobs get really big if baby sleeps an extra couple of hours or misses a feed and often, especially in the first 8weeks when my boobs are trying to regulate to baby's needs my nipple surface tension is simply too tight for them to latch on to at all. Manual expressing is never enough, I have to pump off 30mls or so to give them enough slack nipple to latch. My pump has been my friend on many a painful morning!
Of course if you have a wedding or function which baby cannot attend you will need to leave expressed milk for someone else to give them in a bottle or cup. We have a baby free wedding at the end of June so Little I will be having her first expressed bottle feeds then. Or you may decide to get a pump to help increase your milk production (more stimulation = more milk) or you may want to express so your partner can feed baby. Whatever the reason getting a good pump is essential. It needn't necessarily be expensive, it simply needs to suit you. I have always used an Avent electric pump which I have found really efficient. I've also heard great things about the Medela Swing but I haven't used it personally. Some of my friends also swear by a double pump but I've found a single to be efficient enough for my needs. For the wedding in June I don't want to carry my rather cumbersome electric pump around in my handbag so I have tried out the Avent Comfort manual breast pump which is really compact and can easily be used one handed. The great design of the Comfort range is that it can be used in an upright position; no more bending forward to get the angle right. I'm really impressed with this little pump and l'll be keeping it on hand for emergency pumping!
Philips Comfort manual breast pump £46 philips.co.uk
If you are pumping milk to feed your baby at a later date you will need to sterilise all your pump parts and, if you are not using sterile milk bags, your storage containers.
There are loads of different microwave, steam or cold water sterilisers out there which all do a similar job. Pick the one which suits you best. If you need to steralise whilst away from home I recommend a travel option such as the Milton Solo travel steriliser which is really compact but will fit all your breast pump parts and works with either a microwave or cold water sterilisation tablets.
Milton Solo Travel Steriliser £10.99 milton-tm.com
Cracked, dry or sore nipples are common during breastfeeding. Most experts say if baby is latched correctly you shouldn't experience this. Well, both times I have suffered badly despite trying different hold styles and numerous breastfeeding consultants telling me my positioning is perfect. So I think some people just can't avoid it regardless of how well baby is feeding.
If you suffer from nipple damage applying nipple cream can help to soothe and mositurise the nipple area. Lanolin (wool wax) based ointments are really popular because you don't have to remove it before baby feeds. I found Medela's Purelan 100 really soft and easy to apply. If you are looking for a Lanolin free formula then try Moo Goo's Mudder Udder Balm which is 100% natural and derived from a formula used to help cracked cow's udders! You don't have to remove it before you feed and it smells great too.
Medela Purelan 100 £7.93 for 37g medela.com
Moo Goo Mudder Udder Balm £9.90 for 50g moogooskincare.co.uk
If your baby has reflux of any kind you will need a supply of muslin squares. Little I is quite sicky immediately after feeds so we do a muslin wash every other day and Little E was even worse. But sick aside the other fantastic use for a muslin square is to help you feed discreetly. I have tried specific feeding covers and wraps but they can end up being more trouble than they are worth and when baby gets bigger and tries to strangle you with an apron like feeding cover whilst they are attached to your boob you end up drawing even more attention to yourself.
I love the larger swaddle style muslin squares such as these beautiful ones by Sew Lomax. They come in different colours and are really big and super soft. They save your clothes from baby sick whilst giving you some privacy and are super easy to chuck in the washing machine when you get home.
Large muslin squares £26 sewlomax.com
I'm going to shoot myself in the foot now and suggest you don't go online for information about breastfeeding! There is so much conflicting information out there you'll confuse yourself within minutes. One site will say drink 15 pints of water a day, another will say drink normal quantities. How do you know which is right? Get your information from reputable online sources and websites affiliated with medical bodies. I find personal experiences on blogs can be incredibly helpful to relate to other mums. It feels so much easier to cope at 3am when you know you aren't going through this alone! Look for people's breastfeeding stories and posts and see what top tips they have for you. A bit like this one!
I would recommend reading Breastfeeding Made Easy by Dr Carlos Gonzarlez. It is a really easy to understand book explaining some of the mechanics behind breastfeeding and debunking the myths surrounding it. It's main aim is to help breastfeeding mum's stay feeding for as long as they want to and gives advice on how to keep feeding when it seems that the world is putting hurdles such as illness, attitudes and 'the done thing' in your way. I don't agree with all his opinions but the book makes so much sense. I have learnt a lot about how my boobs work which has helped with my feeding.
If you prefer to learn visually try The Essential Babycare Guide to Breastfeeding DVD. Narrated by Dr Robert Winston, the guide shows you all the basics such as how to latch your baby, express milk, use a pump and find a position which suits you. It also explains about the different kinds of milk and what to do when you have a breastfeeding problem such as mastitis. It is part of a larger DVD series covering different aspects of baby care.
Breastfeeding Made Easy £11.99 pinterandmartin.com
The Essential Babycare Guides Breastfeeding £3.99 essentialparent.com
Some of the products in this post were sent to me for review purposes but all opinions are my own.
Artist, Baker and Blogger. Mum to my two beautiful, cheeky girls. Muddling my way through parenthood with equally cheeky Husband.