What Helped Me to Breastfeed for One Year
This is one of the last photos I took of my son while nursing. I'm going to miss those moments oh so much! I am incredibly proud and grateful that I was able to breastfeed my little love for the first 13-months of his life. It was an experience unlike any other. It was challenging at times, but the hours we spent nursing provided me with a deep feeling of connection to my baby boy, feelings that I will try to hold onto forever.
From products to people, there was a good deal of support that allowed me to make it to the one year mark of nursing. I hope you'll find these ideas helpful for your nursing journey as well!
I attended a wonderful breastfeeding class at a parenting education space in our community during my pregnancy. Check Google, talk to your OBGYN, and/or ask your delivery hospital to see if there is anything similar offered in your area.
And for those things they don't cover in class? We've got your back (or, your boobs?!).
They showed this video in breastfeeding class that showed an incredible newborn doing an incredible thing – crawling from enjoying some skin to skin on mama's chest to find mama's breasts to nurse. Instincts, baby.
I so wanted this for my son and I at the hospital, unfortunately our first go at nursing was interrupted by a well-meaning nurse who grabbed the back of my baby's head and smashed his mouth on my breast. I was too out of it post C-section to ask her kindly not to intervene at the moment. Luckily our second attempt at nursing in the “privacy” of our own hospital room went much better, and I had the wherewithal to ask the kindly nurse to let my son give it a on his own before she stepped in, and he did great! It was wonderful and beautiful and I hope it's something I'll never forget. Now, all of your and baby's parts may not quite fit right or there could be any other number of things to crop up. Getting and maintaining the proper latch is huge! I am so thankful the nurses in the hospital are there and want to help mama and baby get the best start.
I took my son to a Breastfeeding Group at the same wonderful space in our community, just to check in with a Certified Lactation Consultant to see how we were doing. She checked my son's mouth, as she did every other baby's, and noticed that he had a major tongue tie. She suggested we see a specialist as he may have issues nursing around the three month mark, when mama's bodies typically shift from being the one to pump out the milk to needing baby to work a little hard to get their sustenance. So, we saw the specialist and he agreed and we had the simple procedure performed right then in his office. We're very happy with our decision!
My supportive husband
Excuse me while I brag for a moment, but my husband is the best. Remember that Breastfeeding Class I mentioned? He attended it with me to learn what I'd be going through and how he could support baby and I in our nursing journey.
He got up with our son at night and brought him into bed with me to nurse, then returned him to his bed (he shared a room with us for 7-months). It's a bit lengthy to explain why this made sense for our family, but I'm so grateful for his support so this mama could get her much-needed sleep!
He has never made me feel uncomfortable for nursing in public. I have small breasts, and while I tried my best to be decent and covered, I never used a cover in public and I wasn't terribly choosy were I got the job done. A fed baby is a happy one.
He gently encouraged me to keep going when nursing got hard, because it's not always a cake walk. Sometimes I was in pain, sometimes I was concerned with my supply. He also let me know that if I ever needed to stop, he was totally okay with feeding our son formula. Because we both agree that what matters most is that baby is fed.
I ended up staining a few shirts because of all the boob lube I used. It was totally worth it. I switched back and forth between Lansinoh's HPA Lanolin and MotherLove's nipple cream. They both gave my nipples much-needed relief in those early days of nursing.
This was my almost all the time wearer, and I loved it! Super comfy, and the style makes it very easy to pop a boob out, while still keeping your side-boob covered.
This one was my “fancy” nursing bra. If I ever needed something to give the girls a little more shape or I didn't want to show off my straps.
And then this was my pumping bra. Hands-free is the only way to go for a pumping, working mama. I am so thankful I work from home and don't have to deal with this in an office setting! Regardless of where you pump, you'll want the ability to use your hands so you can distract yourself from that cow-like feeling.
I already mentioned one of the ways this one helped me, but it was also so nice to get him weighed pre and post-nursing so I had an idea of how many ounces he was getting from each breast. And to talk to and hear other mama's struggles so I new I wasn't alone! Please try to find a group in your area!
I made and ate SO many of these boob cookies. I swear they helped, they were easy, delicious, and my husband couldn't have any of them!
I also added brewer's yeast to my smoothies and oatmeal. You grow accustomed to the weird taste and kind of start to like it.
Make sure you've got a few of these throughout your house. We had a glider in our bedroom, another chair with a footrest in my son's nursery, comfy couches with recline and foot rests, and comfortable outdoor seating. You will be whipping your ladies out all over the house to feed your nugget, especially in those early days.
Back pain relief
You're going to be sitting in much the same position to nurse a whole lot of the time. Your back may seriously feel it. Here are some suggestions to take care of yourself, so you can take care of baby too:
Stretches: Grasp both sides of a door frame and walk through the door. This is a great chest opener and you can change the stretch slightly by walking your hands up or down. It will seriously help with the mama hunch!
Hot pad: I use my hot pad almost every night. My back and I love it.
Foam roller/balls: I have been using a foam roller for some time now on my legs, hips, and back, and I can definitely tell the difference in my body aches and pains when I use it versus when I slack on it. My husband found this set of balls by Jill Miller to help with pain and increase your body's range of motion. The video is really cool and helpful, and the balls really do work wonders on all my aches.
Chiropractor: I see a great Chiropractor! I saw him throughout my pregnancy and several times postpartum, and I very much think it helped with hip and back pain related to nursing.
Massage: I know these can get expensive, but try to treat yourself to at least one professional massage every now and again. Self-care with a foam roller, stretching, and/or balls will definitely help, but there's just something wonderful about having someone work out all those kinks for you. See if your insurance covers it, some do!
Mom friends are fantastic for a plethora of reasons. They've gone through all the highs and lows that you have. No matter how understanding your partner tries to be, no one quite gets it like another mother.
My lovely sister-in-law (pictured!) came out to visit us and meet our baby boy shortly after he was born. She had just had her second child, and it was so helpful to have someone close who had not only been there, but was there! She offered great tips on a whole lot of things baby, but some of what stuck with me the most has been her advice about nursing and pumping.
My pumps, my pumps, my lovely mama pumps. Sorry, had to channel Fergie for a second. I used two pumps regularly throughout my year of nursing. One was my electric pump which was provided for free through my insurance! And the other was my Lansinoh manual hand pump, which I used a couple of times when I was away from my nugget and didn't have the space available to pack my regular pump, or the power to use it (I was snowboarding and I made a pump-pit stop in the bathroom!).
Since my son is with a nanny three days each week while I work, I had to be prepared with stored up milk for when we were apart. I stored and froze my breast milk, because that was the process that made the most sense for me, but here are safe storage instructions so you can do what makes sense for you. I used these Lansinoh freezer bags and this milk storage organizer from First Years.
Side lying nursing
I don't recall who shared this stroke of genius with me, but being able to nurse my son comfortably in bed saved me a lot of sleep and gave my son and I many a cozy hour spent cuddling/sleeping together. The trick here is if you're not comfortable with a little bed-sharing, you'll have to stay awake while nursing, which is a little harder since you're comfy and in bed. We were okay with a few hours here and there of bed-sharing; my husband would just put our son back in his own bed when he or I woke up and nudged him to do so (yes, my hubby is wonderful). You also need to remember which side you nursed on last to rotate feedings at night or stay awake until you can make the switch mid-nursing session. It may not work for everyone, but it was wonderful for our family.
In the early days you're pretty much a milk machine feeding on demand, but there comes a point when feedings start to get spaced out and nursing shouldn't be the first thing you do to remedy a cry. Having a tracker was so helpful for my fried mama brain to know how long it had been between feedings and sleeps. Plus, my husband and I could both use it, as well as our nanny on the three days each week she cares for him. There are a lot out there, but we loved Baby Daybook!
I noticed a significant difference in my milk supply on days that I didn't drink enough water. It's so important for milk production and your overall health! Friends joke that my water bottle and I are attached at the hip, and it's true! It makes it so much easier to drink plenty of H20 when you have it with you at all times.
This seems so obvious, but I am so very grateful I had the opportunity to nurse my son. It was a wonderful experience and, if we do decide to have a second, I can only hope our experience goes just as well as it did with my sweet little boy.
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