Nursing your baby can be an overwhelming topic. And yes, while nursing can become complex depending on the situation is also just plain natural, women & babies have nursed for centuries without all the books, podcasts, resources & gear. That being said, this is my experience with nursing that I want to share with the hopes of lessening the stress & sharing simple insights that can hopefully be useful to expecting mamas who are planning to nurse. Additionally, I am sharing my experience tandem nursing my 15-month-old & newborn at the end.
MANTRA- DON'T STRESS: When I was pregnant with Buddy the thing I was the most stressed about was breastfeeding. I bought more books than I realistically could ever read, with the goal of educating myself as much as possible. Everything still felt confusing & terrifying to me. I felt weighed down by all the information I was gathering & very little of it was applicable to me without having any experience nursing or growing up around nursing. From my own personal experience I’ve learned that yes, you can be prepared & have a sense of what’s coming but ultimately what happens between you & your baby should dictate how you learn & access resources & support. We ended up taking a breastfeeding class that our hospital offered & that was a great starting point & amount of bite size information to tackle before our baby arrived. From there I sought resources, advice & insight as we encountered the need but overall our breastfeeding journeys with both of my babies have been pretty uneventful & therefore most of the things I thought I needed to know have not been things I needed to know.
ADVICE- ASK QUESTIONS: If you are delivering in a hospital, there will hopefully be nurses or lactation consultants who can assist while you are there. My recommendation is to ask as many questions as possible & accept help! I would even encourage you to ask the same questions to different people, this way you are getting a variety of insights & you can make choices based on your own needs & expectations. If hospital staff & lactation consultants aren’t options for you, ask friends or follow some nursing resources on Instagram or Facebook & ask questions & follow conversations happening there.
MY TRICK- THE PUMP: In my experience with Buddy, my breast pump helped my milk come in very quickly. I would pump after each nursing session (for about 5 minutes each time) & by the time we got home from the hospital my milk was already in due to the increased demand/stimulation of my breast pump. I also brought my breast pump to the hospital & received guidance on how to set it up and use it for the first time, which was way less overwhelming then trying to decipher the manual on my own.
MOST OF ALL- RELAX: I got myself very worked up leading to the birth of my first baby. At my baby shower a mama explained to me, without reservation, the negative aspects of her experience nursing her baby (mamas, maybe avoid doing that if you can…) & it became a huge source of fear for me. In my experience, yes, nursing can be challenging, frustrating & in some cases painful those very first few weeks but take advantage of resources & products designed to ease those challenges for you. Most of all relax & give yourself grace. It will make nursing all the more challenging if you are anxious or stressed about it. Fed is best, so if nursing is not part of your journey with your baby that’s okay too- you are still an exceptional mother & don’t ever forget that.
PRODUCTS & GEAR
Here is my minimal list of products that have helped me in my nursing journey, from the pump I use, to bras, to self-care.
The Dairy Fairy Nursing & Hands-Free Pumping Bra: These bras are absolutely beautiful & for as long as we mamas nurse for I think we owe it to ourselves to have at least once nice nursing bra. I also love that you can pump hands-free with this bra, which is so much easier than having to put on a whole different bra just to pump. All of The Dairy Fairy’s bras are beautiful & functional; I am especially in love with the Ayla Luxury Lace Nursing and Hands-free Pumping Bra.
Oat Mama: These lactation bars are fantastic! They include ingredients that may support a healthy milk supply (oats, flax, coconut oil, brewer’s yeast) & frankly they are just delicious (I love the chocolate almond coconut flavor). I keep some in my diaper bag & some in my nursing basket so I always have them on hand (because a nursing mama should never be hungry). Their lactation teas are also delicious & what I really love about this brand is that they donate a portion of sales to Mother’s Milk Bank, which delivers life saving breast milk to babies in the NICU!! So amazing.
Lactation Cookies: This recipe from How Sweet Eats is my GO TO. My friend turned me onto them when Buddy was a newborn. Even if they don’t actually work they are delicious so it’s a win-win. I always keep a batch in the freezer.
Lil’ Buds Breast Comfort Packs: These little things are filled with natural flax & can be used hot or cold to soothe your breasts. I particularly love them warm when I am engorged, especially those first few days when your milk comes in. They also fit easily into your bra so you can move about your day. As a new mom you are also hunched over nursing or admiring your baby so they are even great on those sore achy shoulder & neck muscles.
Breast Pump: When I was pregnant with Buddy I did a lot of research while trying to choose the best nursing pump (although I had no idea what I was looking for). I read a review that the Spectra S2 breast pump was most similar to an actual nursing baby (plus I loved the design of it & the nightlight feature) so I have had that pump ever since & I love it! Of course I have never tried any other pump but more & more I see women preferring the Spectra S2 over some other available brands & models. By the way, make sure you contact your insurance company, you should be able to get the cost of your pump covered thanks to the Affordable Care Act which requires insurance companies cover breast pump expenses for expecting mothers (holla!). Do your research & find one that you think will work best for you & your needs- there are lots of options to choose from!
Erbaviva Nursing Balm: There are lots of different nipple balms & lots of opinions about them but I prefer to keep it simple, since baby will be nursing with whatever is applied to your breat. When you need something stronger see my note about prescription ointment below otherwise a soothing & hydrating organic blend of natural ingredients should do the trick. I love this Erbaviva nursing balm that is made with organic cocoa butter & calendula (a natural medicinal herb extract).
Sleep Bra: There are lots of options available but a comfy bra that is nursing friendly is so helpful for sleep (or let’s be real…. all day long if you’re a homebody). I prefer the pull-aside bras for sleep specifically, they are easy & no fuss when you’re half awake & in your PJs. I love this Kindred Bravely French Terry one (so so so soft) & these Lamaze ones.
Gel Pads: I used these Lansinoh Gel Pad Soothies to soothe my nipples the first few weeks & I truly loved them, they made a huge difference for me. I kept them in the fridge & had a few packs on hand, I highly recommend having these ready for new mamas.
Prescription Ointment: At the first sign of any nipple bleeding or blistering I contacted our hospital’s lactation consultant who immediately ordered me a prescription ointment that included a painkiller, antibiotics & steroids plus it was safe for baby. This helped me heal quickly & soothed pains those initial first weeks.
Nipple Shield: The nurse at the hospital had me use a nipple shield on one of my breasts that Buddy was struggling to latch onto. I ended up using it once a day on each nipple the first few weeks of nursing to give them a break. I thought that helped a lot actually, it eased my nipples into the nursing process. There can be mixed opinions about nipple guards but in my experience it helped my baby latch, helped me heal & Buddy didn’t experience any nipple confusion. As for our second baby, I haven’t had to use this time around.
Tandem nursing (breastfeeding two babies) was not something was initially planning to do when I learned we were expecting our second baby 15 months apart from our first baby. However, it naturally became the way things worked out for our family. Here are some details about my experience with this 3 weeks into it.
Leading up to the birth of our second baby I was working to figure out what I wanted to do with nursing my oldest baby. I do believe my supply dropped when I got pregnant, so much that my baby began self-weaning & had weaned down to only nursing before his two naps by the time of his first birthday. Even those nursing sessions were minimal & short but I decided to keep them going until our new baby arrived- if I was able to. Here is what my experience tandem nursing has taught me:
Milk Came in Faster. Given the fact that I was still nursing when Otto (our youngest) was born my milk was already in & the increased newborn supply came in within a matter of days. Therefore Otto only lost a handful of ounces from his weight while we were in the hospital & was already back to birth weight less than a week of being born. This allowed us to let him sleep & not have to wake him through the night. I don’t know if this is directly related but he has only woken up once a night to nurse since then (he goes to bed around 9pm & wakes up around 3:30am to nurse & then again around 7:30am).
Nipples & Breasts Were Prepared. This may be any consecutive babies but since Buddy was still nursing my nipples & breasts experienced little to no pains from breastfeeding our new baby. I did have some engorgement when the full milk supply came in but it was much more minimal that with my first baby. This has made the newborn nursing experience much more relaxed & comfortable for me.
Buddy Get’s One-On-One Time. This wasn’t really intentional but what I have now learned is that Buddy is able to manage the transition of the new baby by having his one on one time with me when he nurses. He is only nursing once a day right now (in the morning before his first nap) but this is our time together where he gets to be on my lap & in my arms without the new baby. He struggled watching Otto nurse for a bit initially but now, after 3 weeks, he really isn’t phased by him nursing at all. I have nursed both of them at the same time a couple of times as well & I think it has helped Buddy warm up to the changes & sense of safety in sharing his mama with the new baby. Not to mention Buddy was super helpful with easing engorgement because he’s so much more effective at nursing than Otto is right now.
We did consult our pediatrician about continuing to nurse Buddy & he encourages the benefits of nursing through 18 months if a mother is still able. That is my plan with Buddy unless something else comes up. I too enjoy having this time with him & continuing this routine with him for the time being.