Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Favorite Things | Breastfeeding & Pumping

Last weekend I attended a baby shower where we discussed the pros and cons of various breastfeeding-related products, and I then had a conversation with my Mom's best friend whose daughter is struggling with nursing her newborn and was looking for advice. I have been meaning to post about my favorite breastfeeding and pumping essentials while it is still (somewhat) fresh in my mind, and this was the perfect reminder.

Breastfeeding is not as easy as it seems...at least not during the first few weeks (or months). It is a different experience for everyone, and it may not work out as planned. Both of my kids have upper lip ties, so I faced difficulties in nursing both of them, but in different ways.

With Ava, the lip tie meant that she had a terrible latch, which resulted in lots of pain on my end as well as cracked nipples, mastitis, and her getting thrush as a result of my antibiotics. So we only breastfeed for two weeks before I started exclusively pumping. At the same time, I had a terrible cold and took Sudafed without realizing that it would dry up my supply. This meant that I could only pump half of what Ava needed a day, so we went with a half-formula/half-breast milk route until I returned to work. I was so disappointed that breastfeeding hadn't worked out as planned, but I was proud of the pumped breast milk she did get. I was also determined to make it work with our second child.

I did more research on breastfeeding before having Rylan (I highly recommend the KellyMom site and the "Timeline of a Breastfed Baby"), and set a goal to breastfeed for six months.

Despite our initial struggles while he was in the NICU, Ry finally figured out a good latch. Other than a little discomfort, I didn't experience any pain this time around. However, Rylan's lip tie caused issues with his ability to efficiently extract milk. As a result, his feedings lasted forever and his slow weight gain was a big concern. We eventually hit our stride, survived the three-day marathon nursing session at the six-week mark, and breastfed exclusively until I went back to work at three months. I am not able to pump a ton of milk, so we had to supplement with at least one bottle of formula at daycare. But Rylan didn't seem to mind and went effortlessly back and forth between the breast and bottle (our first sign that he is not a picky eater). Pumping that much is no freaking joke, and the further we got from exclusive breastfeeding, the less milk I was able to produce and the more my bottomless-pit-of-a-child needed to eat. But…we met my six-month goal and it was such a wonderful experience.

In addition to self-determination (fueled by my inner hippie plus working-mom desire to "do it all") and the support of family and friends, the products below truly helped make my breastfeeding journey successful the second time around.

1. Organic Cotton Nursing Pads. These nursing pads are so soft and absorbent. I also love that they are machine washable.

2. My Breast Friend Deluxe Nursing Pillow. I truly feel like I lived in this thing while on maternity leave. I am definitely team My Breast Friend. It was way more comfortable than the Boppy, the pocket came in very handy, and I loved the stability due to the buckle strap. I could multi-task like a boss while nursing in that thing. But the Boppy came in handy for other things…

3. Motherlove Nipple Cream. Such simple ingredients; such magical healing powers. Bonus: it works fabulously as lip balm once you are done breastfeeding.

4. Cake Lingerie Nursing Bras. These nursing bras are pricey, but they are so unbelievably comfortable and supportive. I may or may not still wear mine sometimes. They also make nursing tanks.

5. Milkscreen Alcohol Breastmilk Testers. Because after going nearly a year without wine, these come in very handy.

6. Baby Scale. One of the disadvantages of breastfeeding is that you don't know exactly how much your baby is eating on a daily basis. However, as long as they are gaining about an ounce a day, then you are good. Normally, I wouldn't have worried about it, but due to Rylan's slow weight gain initially (and my polite refusal to not follow the doctor's suggestion to start supplementing with formula), I knew it would put me at ease to keep track of his weight at home. A sweet friend let us borrow her scale, and it made me feel so much better to see those little ounces adding up.

7. Milkies Milk-Saver. I ordered this on a whim a couple months into breastfeeding, and my only regret is that I didn't get it sooner! You place it on the non-nursing boob, and the little contraption catches the milk that escapes during let-down/throughout the feeding. It didn't capture a ton, but I would much rather save that 1/4 an ounce each feeding than have it soak up a nursing pad. Evidently you also catch a lot more during the early weeks when your boobs haven't quite got their act together yet.

8. Trader Joe's Frozen Steelcut Oatmeal. Oatmeal is supposed to increase milk supply, and it doesn't get much better than steelcut oatmeal that re-heats in just minutes. I'm sure all that oatmeal I consumed totally balanced out the tubs of TJ's Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies

9. Serial Podcast. Listening to this addicting true crime podcast got me through many a late-night feedings. I especially liked that it kept me awake while I could still rest my eyes. (Note that I did have some crazy dreams after going back to sleep).

10. Fenugreek Capsules. While it made my pee smell like maple syrup (there are worse things), the fenugreek really helped with my milk production when I needed a little boost.

11. Medela Breast Milk Storage Set. I was lucky enough to get lots of hand-me-down bottles and storage containers from my sister-in-law, so I only had to purchase the freezer storage bags. However, this set would be a good purchase if you are starting from scratch. (Note that I just used these bottles for pumping/storage as I prefer Dr. Brown's bottles.)

12. Medela Easy Expression Bustier. The picture on the cover of this packaging kills me, but a bra like this is essential for pumping. I have friends who have just cut holes in old sports bras, but I needed something that was easier to get on and off at work. Since these are strapless and zip up in the front, they fit the bill perfectly.

13. Medela Quick Clean Micro-Steam Bags. These bags are great for cleaning all those pump parts (as well as pacifiers, bottle parts, etc.).

14. PackIt Freezable Carryall Bag. I used a boring soft-sided cooler with ice packs, but this bag would have been perfect. The entire bag freezes and stays cold for 10 hours, which is key for the trips between  fridges at work and home as well as when you are pumping on the go.

15. Medela Freestyle Breast Pump. With Ava, I used the Medela Pump In Style Advanced (another hand-me-down…thanks Tori!). It worked great, but I was worried that the motor was slowing a bit since it had been used for many years by the time Rylan was born. Thanks to Obamacare, I was able to get a new pump for free! The free option is a very basic version, but it did the trick. (And I was able to have a pump both at home and at work, which was amazing!) However, if I had my pick, it would totally be this Medela Freestyle pump due to the compact size and portability.

Other Things To Have On Hand:
  • Nursing tanks. I wasn't a big fan of nursing cover-ups and found it easier to wear nursing tanks under shirts that were easy to pull up or down. This gave me enough coverage to feel comfortable without the hassle of dealing with a cover. I stuck to the cheap ones (mainly from Target).
  • A comfortable neck pillow. After dealing with lots of neck/upper back pain early on, I found that using a neck pillow during the longer nursing sessions really helped. My ideal night-time nursing set-up was: in the recliner, feet up, the My Breast Friend pillow for Rylan, neck pillow for me, and the aforementioned podcast in my headphones. I had it down to a science.
  • Something to elevate your feet. While one of those fancy stools would have been nice, our old law school textbooks came in very handy. This really helps with your posture/positioning during the early weeks. Once you get in a groove, you can nurse anywhere in pretty much any position. 
  • A bag big enough to fit cooler bag, pump, bottles/storage bags, and pumping bra. I felt like a Sherpa taking all this stuff to work every day. It did get easier once I got my Obamacare pump and was able to leave a pump in my office. 
  • Gallon-sized Ziploc bags. One of the best pumping tips I found was to store your pump parts in the fridge with the milk during the day at work. Because the milk residue stays cold, you don't have to clean the parts in between pumping sessions...which saves you a lot of time when you have to pump 3-4 times every day at work! I kept them in a ziploc bag to keep the inside of my cooler bag clean.  

And with that, I will conclude this novel of a post. Happy nursing, mamas. 

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About Me

My name is Catherine, but most of my friends call me Cat. I was born and raised in Austin, went to TCU, and ended up in Dallas for law school (where Josh and I met). I decided that being an attorney was not my cup of tea and pursued a career in legal marketing instead. I am now a mother of two attempting to balance family with a full-time job, which is always an adventure. I love: my sweet babies, handsome husband, very large family, and fabulous friends; trying new restaurants; wine; TCU football; holidays; cooking; The Bar Method; pajamas; La Croix; reading; coffee; podcasts; Central Market; carbs; the beach; mani/pedis; Anthropologie; binge-worthy TV shows; trivia; French 75s; Pinterest; cheese boards; The Ticket; dancing; Sprinkles cupcakes; The Texas Rangers; fresh flowers; thunderstorms; naps; Tex-Mex; the Texas Hill Country; porch-sitting; ranch dressing; throwing parties; and my job. I hate: working-mom guilt; snakes; heights; waking up early; ignorant people; stomach bugs; paper cuts; green fruit; snoring; bad hair days; the sound of people eating (Misophonia); scary movies; bad drivers; pulpy OJ; trimming baby fingernails; and Miracle Whip. I think that about sums it up.


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