As we reach the end of World Breastfeeding Week and embark on our fifth week of breastfeeding, I thought it would be worth sharing our breastfeeding essentials.
Breastfeeding hasn’t been easy for us, it’s been marred with ups and downs and quite frankly, I’m not sure if the worst is behind us but there have been a number of products that have made the pain and frustration more bearable.
When we started on a breastfeeding journey with Mini, one of the sides of this method of feeding that we’d underestimated is the effects it has on your mental wellbeing as well as the physical side of things.
People advise that lanolin can help with sores and cracks but no-one can prepare you for sitting through a 5 hour cluster feed with increasing pain because the latch is getting worse the more tired you are, your child is crying every time they unlatch and wake themselves up and as much as you don’t want them to re-latch (as you know it’ll send searing pain through your body), you have to. You’re their food supply.
Thankfully there is support available to gain confidence in maintaining a good latch and because we had to give formula top ups in hospital to help reduce Mini’s jaundice, we’ve not been too harsh on ourselves if we’ve thought a top up has been required.
Overall, I think that the key thing we’ve learnt is that you have to do what is best for you and we’re currently persevering as it is getting better. Slowly but surely.
Anyway, onto our essentials:
You need easy access for a feed (babies do not like to be kept waiting) and there are a number of nursing friendly clothes available online and on the high street. I’ve bought the majority of my selection from H&M as they’re reasonably priced and have simple designs.
I have everyday nursing bras, sleeping nursing bras, nursing vests, nursing t-shirts and nursing dresses. I tend to get the most wear out of the everyday bras (goes without saying) and vests – you can layer the vests under your existing tops and t-shirts to keep your stomach covered while you feed.
There can be a fair bit of leakage when your milk comes in (or when a baby cries in your vicinity) so it’s best to have a barrier between your clothes and nipples. I use both reusable and disposable pads – we have bamboo washable breast pads (c/o Mama Designs) for when we’re at home and at night, and Lansinoh disposables for when we’re out for the day.
I use the washable pads at home as they’re much more comfortable, feel soft against the skin and I generally have more time to readjust myself after feeds.
The disposables have the added benefit of having a sticky layer to help them stay attached to your clothes which can make it a little quicker when you’re trying to hold your baby in one hand and put yourself away with the other so I use them when we’re out for the day. If I start worrying that they’ve absorbed too much, I can easily swap them for fresh disposables and throw the others away.
Saying that, once we’ve used up our supply of disposables, I should be confident enough at readjusting my clothes post feed to just use the reusable pads.
Lanolin nipple cream helps sooth and protect your nipples and it’s 100% natural so you don’t need to worry about removing it between feeds.
As well as having the effect of helping your nipples heal, I think there’s the psychological side of applying the cream and feeling as though you’re doing something to help the situation. I’ve gradually used less and less of the cream as we’ve had fewer issues with Mini’s latch but we’ll always have a tube upstairs, in the living room and in our changing bag just in case.
Whilst this is a bit of a miracle cream for many, I should note that it does stain your clothes so it’s best to avoid using it when there’s no barrier between your nipple and clothes. If you do find that you get a stain, soak the item in a bowl of hot water and washing up liquid before putting it in with your usual load.
We were also advised by a breastfeeding midwife to avoid using it too liberally before a feed as it could make the area more slippy and make it harder for baby to latch.
I won our breast pump in a competition that Hannah over at Make Do and Push ran a few months ago and it’s been a bit of a god send. It’s the Medela Swing single electric breast pump and it’s really easy to use, it takes batteries so it can be used when you’re travelling, and everything we needed came with it.
I bought a Medela breastfeeding starter kit too and as Medela is used by hospitals and we used a pump there, we have a few more bottles and essentials that go with the pump.
I’ve predominantly used the pump to express between and before/after feeds to increase my supply so far but as time goes by, I’ll be using it to build up a collection of milk for when I go back to work. As it’s easily transportable, I’ll be able to use it on my lunch if necessary too.
Mini has taken well to the bottles when we’ve given him the expressed milk as a top up at the end of a feed (waste not, want not) and whilst it took me a couple of attempts to grasp how to put the teat together initially, I’ve got the hang of it now and would recommend them to other new mums who are breastfeeding. We haven’t had any issues with nipple confusion at all and I imagine that is down to the design of the bottles and Calma teats.
Muslin cloths are your friend for most things with a newborn but I’ve found them useful for covering us up in public, removing excess lanolin from my hands, and for removing milk dribbles. This selection is from Tesco but they’re available from a wide range of stores such as Morrisons, Primark and TK Maxx.
I asked for advice on twitter a couple of weeks ago as to how I could increase my supply as I felt that I wasn’t meeting demand. Fenugreek was recommended a few times so I headed to my local Holland and Barrett the following day. The H&B listing notes that it’s commonly used as a flavouring in curries and further reading has highlighted that it’s been used by women to increase their milk supply for centuries.
I’m not sure what it is that has ultimately helped my supply but I’m continuing to take Fenugreek until I run out and then I’ll decide whether or not to make another purchase.
As someone who isn’t the most confident of people at the best of times, one of the biggest barriers for me was always going to be feeding in public. In reality, the desire to stop your child crying supersedes any concerns about ‘being on show’ but I’ve found it reassuring to have the Mamascarf (c/o Mama Designs).
Invented by Keira, a breastfeeding mum, for other breastfeeding mums, the mamascarf is an award winning nursing cover that offers discretion with style and has a handy little pocket to store your breast pad whilst you’re feeding. I’ve used my scarf in multiple locations (even at home to make it less weird to feed in front of my parents) and it’s a staple in our changing bag.
It takes a few seconds to put on and I’ve found that the cover often makes the environment much more pleasant for Mini if we’re in an area with a lot of noise and distraction – it offers him some solace and I think he finds in reassuring.
I have to admit that I didn’t know that products such as the Mamascarf existed until one of the midwives in hospital was telling us about products she is amazed to learn about from working on the post natal ward and recommended looking for a breastfeeding scarf. From there I discovered Mamascarf via Google and now I’m trying to exercise some control and not buy all of the Mama Designs cellular blankets and sleeping bags…
Breastfeeding uses a fair few calories and to maintain energy, it’s best to have a number of snacks and plenty of water on hand. I tend to reach towards bananas, yoghurt coated fruit flakes, oaty cereal bars, milk biscuits and yoghurt break bars and have 3 snacks on my bedside table for during the night.
Aldi are by far my favourite place to stock up on snacks (they’re so much more affordable than their branded counterparts) and if you choose oaty options, they should help increase your supply.
I’ve found myself trapped under Mini for anything from 5 minutes to 5+ hours so I tend to like something nearby that I can read. Over the past few weeks I’ve got bored of scrolling through social media so I’ve read Mother & Baby magazine, spent far too much time reading the active threads on mumsnet and sought out recipes in supermarket magazines.