It’s World Breastfeeding Week and when I marked this event last year, never did I ever think that I would be celebrating it again as a mom to a 14 month old. But here I am, still breastfeeding a toddler. What felt SO insanely hard with a newborn baby feels so easy and natural with a 14 month old.
I have received many questions about breastfeeding and pumping so I thought World Breastfeeding Week was a perfect opportunity to share tips and insight. You might want to skip this post if it’s not relevant for your stage in life, or if you’re just not into baby-focused content. Also, it’s important to remember that these are tips based on my personal breastfeeding journey. Every single woman has her own unique experience.
This post does include affiliate links to my favorite products.
MY BEST TIPS FOR BREASTFEEDING
I am grateful that breastfeeding went well for Finn and me. We definitely had some stressful moments but all things considered, I cannot complain. Nothing that I read could have prepared me for the experience of breastfeeding. It is a truly mind-blowing, insanely beautiful and miraculous thing.
Here are just a few insights that I have to offer.
- Comfortable positioning, especially in the early days where you spend so much time nursing. Have a couple of nursing spots in the house where you have seating and props to be in a good anatomical alignment and to feel supported. Downstairs I had a spot on the couch with a Brest-Friend Pillow and a nursing stool and upstairs I nursed Finn in his glider with a pillow for under my elbow and a foot stool under my feet. Also, once baby gets a little bigger, I cannot recommend side-lying breastfeeding enough. It saved my life for night feedings. Thank you, a million times thank you, to Anne for bringing side-lying feeding to my attention.
- Drink a TON of water. Breast milk is around 88% water so it makes sense that your body needs to be extra hydrated in order to maintain supply. You need enough water to hydrate you but also to make milk for the baby. I carried a 32-ounce water bottle around with me everywhere for the first six months.
- Eat more! I know that it can seem counter-intuitive to continue eating more calories after having a baby, especially if you feel pressure or stress over losing baby weight, but your body needs these extra calories to produce breast milk. In the second and third trimesters, it’s recommended to increase calorie intake by about 300 calories a day to support pregnancy. This should continue throughout breastfeeding and might be closer to the 500 calorie range. Basically, if you’re feeling hungry…eat! Also, be prepared for your breastfeeding cravings and food choices to be as strong or abnormal or weird as they were during pregnancy. I have had so many women reach out to me and share that this was also the case for them!
- Feed on demand. Remember, I am sharing what worked best for me and my baby so I know this won’t resonate with everyone. Feeding on demand worked so much better for us than trying to follow a strict schedule. I think every baby is different and it resonated more with me to follow Finn’s cues for when he wanted to eat versus sticking to a set timetable. Remember, little babies use nursing not just for food but also for comfort and bonding with mom. This was a huge lifesaver for us for making it through everything from gassy nights to painful teething to just being out of sorts. I also think feeding on demand really helped my supply. Oh…and sometimes I fed Finn on MY demand! If I felt uncomfortable or needed relief I would nurse him. I also think this helped me with not getting clogged ducts or mastitis. (Knock on wood…we’re not done yet!)
- Don’t stress. I know this one is loaded and complicated but the less you can stress, the better. That being said, breastfeeding can be EXTREMELY stressful! Once you’ve made it over the initial hurdle of figuring out latching, regulating your supply and just getting the hang of nursing…try the best you can to relax into it and not overthink it. I would start getting myself worked up over supply when it didn’t even need to be an issue. Also, know that there will be bumps along the road that will cause stress. I went through a period with Finn when he was about four months old where he was pulling off my breast and just wailing and getting super frustrated. I felt like I was doing something wrong and got so stressed! It’s also common for babies to go on nursing strikes. Try to take it one day at a time.
- Seek help! When I did feel so overly stressed about breastfeeding that it was interfering with my comfort level (engorgement) or Finn’s happiness (wailing example above), I made an appointment with a lactation consultant at the hospital. I went in twice after having Finn, once at 5 days postpartum when my milk came in and once at that four month mark when Finn was crying on the breast so much. Both times I cried in relief at the guidance that these amazing women were able to offer. Also, seek help if you are feeling unwell or unlike yourself. Postpartum depression and anxiety is for real.
- Feed on both breasts each feeding and alternate which breast you start on each feeding. It’s normal to have one breast that produces more than the other. For most women, me included, it’s the right breast. It’s important to feed equally on the less productive breast to keep up the supply on that side.
- Don’t compare your breastfeeding experience to another mom’s. This is an important one! Every single mom is going to have a totally different experience with breastfeeding. It can be really helpful to swap stories but don’t let it take you down a rabbit hole of feeling like what you are doing isn’t right. Go with your intuition and your baby!
- It will get better. I remember feeding Finn for what felt like hours and hours and hours on end when he was very small. I would try to prop him up on the Brest Friend pillow while I typed on my laptop because it took him SO LONG to eat. I am here to tell you that it gets better, easier and faster. We got to the point where Finn was super efficient at self-latching and could eat in under 10 minutes. He became such an efficient nurser!
Things that I didn’t do…
- Take special supplements to encourage supply.
- Eat special foods that were supposed to be good for lactation and supply.
- Use nursing pads. Luckily, I didn’t have an issue with leakage. I have tons of them in my closet but never used them!
- Wear special nursing bras, sports bras or tops. I know I am way in the minority here with this one but I never wore nursing-specific bras or clothes. I’ve always been on the smaller side when it comes to breast size. Of course they’ve been bigger while I’ve been nursing (I will miss that!) but not enough so that I felt like I needed a ton of support. I have lived in Coobie bras and my favorite Lululemon sports bra sized up one size. Again, this is not the norm but it worked for me and I never had any issues with it.
- Use an app to track feedings. Revisiting the STRESS bullet above…I think for some people tracking feedings using an app can be helpful and ease stress. For others, it can be crazy making. I fell into the latter camp. I never tracked one single feeding in an app and it really allowed me trust my body and to deepen my intuition around what my baby needed. I think this goes hand-in-hand with feeding on demand.
MY BEST TIPS FOR PUMPING
Pumping has been weird for me because I exclusively breastfeed Finn and I have never personally fed him a bottle. I tried once when he had a bottle leftover from spending time with his dad but it was so strange for both of us that he wouldn’t even take it. That being said, he exclusively gets bottles when he spends time with his dad. (I think they are starting to phase away from bottles to cups but I don’t know…)
I don’t enjoy pumping. I find it to be inconvenient and uncomfortable, especially in contrast to how much I enjoy breastfeeding. In the end, my desire to breastfeed Finn outweighed my dislike of pumping so I’ve done it. Pumping will hands-down be the thing I miss the least when Finn is weaned.
I have pumped A LOT so here are my tips for pumping.
- Order your pump online through Aeroflow. I worked with Aeroflow to choose my pump and it made an overwhelming process stress-free. You can read about my experience here. Aeroflow not only helps you compare pumps and choose the one that is right for you but they also work with your insurance to have the cost of your pump covered. I ultimately chose the Spectra S1.
- Replace pump parts frequently. I found myself getting so frustrated with the productivity of my pumping sessions. I quickly came to realize that if you’re using your pump a lot…the parts get worn out and the suction is impacted. While my Spectra pump itself is amazing, it needs parts replaced regularly. I have found that my duckbill valves need to be replaced most frequently.
- Get longer tubing. I knew it was time to replace my tubing when it was falling off of the back flow protectors. When I ordered replacement tubing, I ordered longer tubing than was standard with my pump. It was awesome! It gave me a longer range to work with while pumping…and made multitasking easier.
- Use a hands-free pumping bra. I bought this pumping bra when I first started pumping and boy have I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it!
- Battery operated pumps are life! Get a pump that can be charged and then used on battery operation so that you don’t always have to have access to a plug to pump.
- Pump directly into breastmilk storage bags. Since I immediately froze the milk I pumped, I found it so easy to directly pump into my favorite breast milk storage bags. Here is the adapter to let you pump into the bags. Highly recommend the Kiinde system. I have purchased well over a thousand of these bags. I find the Kiinde bags to be so much easier to handle than traditional bags. Much less accidental spillage…which is KEY when dealing with liquid gold! 🙂
- Pump in the car if you have long commutes, car travel or just a busy schedule. I was the queen of car pumping. Thanks to hands-free pumping bras, it was a breeze to do. I would get all hooked up before leaving my driveway and then pump the 20 minutes it took me to get to where I was going to teach classes. I also pumped in the car on road trips when I was teaching yoga out of state.
- Multi-task! Pumping is time consuming. I usually pump for 20-25 minutes each session and then there’s also the assembly, storage, clean up, sanitization, etc. If you’re pumping 4-5 times a day…this really adds up and starts eating into your day. This is why I did things like car pump, work on the computer while pumping, make and eat meals while pumping, unload the dishwasher while pumping…I even vacuumed while pumping! I tried to multi-task as much as I possibly could because I just didn’t have 2-3 hours in my day to sit and pump.
Let me know if you have any other questions or topics about breastfeeding or pumping that you’d like for me to answer in the comments.
What are your best breastfeeding tips?
What are your best pumping tips?