Disclaimer: I am not a lactation consultant, just a mom of 2 boys who’ve both been fed exclusively by breast milk. Please seek help with any medical issues from a professional. This post includes affiliate links, meaning if you buy something through the links I will receive a small percentage of that purchase.
I know it’s a natural act, but breastfeeding is hard! It’s painful to start, and there are a lot of nuances to learn. From baby positioning and latching to tongue tie and pumping, there’s quite a learning curve. Babies born in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s were much more likely to be formula fed than they are today. Meaning that women currently becoming mothers are less likely to have been exposed to breastfeeding, and are therefore less knowledgeable about it. I am certainly included in this group of women! I even took a breastfeeding class to prepare before my first son was born. They made it look so easy, I wasn’t really concerned about my ability to feed my son this way. Boy, was I wrong! We never got a good latch, and that paired with an early return to work I became an exclusive pumper. I felt like a failure and wondered why I couldn’t do something my body was made to do.
This time with baby #2, things got off to a much better start. Luckily, I had a lot of support and tools to help make it happen. I want to share with you a few of the things that really helped me. Hopefully, you will be able to achieve the feeding situation you’re striving for. The first few weeks are definitely the most challenging and also the most crucial to creating a solid breastfeeding relationship. Some, or all, of these things you may only use for a short period of time, but it’s important to be familiar with them so you can get the help you need ASAP!
The first few weeks of breastfeeding were absolutely excruciating. I don’t know that I would have continued without the help of these tools. I utilized my doula, my friends and family with breastfeeding experience and the lactation consultant and nurses on staff at the hospital as resources. They were all helpful with the mental pieces, but the physical pieces were aided by the following:
7 Tools to Help with Breastfeeding:
1. Lanolin – soothing cream to calm sore nipples. Watch out, this can stain clothes, so let this air out and make sure to use breast pads! Speaking on breast pads, that brings me to…
2. Breast Pads – these are a protective barrier between your nipples and clothing. They come in disposable and reusable varieties. I found that the reusable ones are a bit softer on a sensitive area, so I preferred them.
3. Breast Shells – They make two types of these – one that has a smaller opening to help with inverted nipples and one with a larger opening, that helps with sore nipples. They stop clothing (or anything else) from rubbing against the sore skin, while also giving them some “air” by creating space between your chest and clothing. My son had a tongue tie and while it was caught and corrected quickly, it was a rough couple of weeks while healing from the damage done beforehand! Cracking, bleeding, the works. Without the reprieve the breast shells gave me, there’s no way I would have been able to continue!
4. Breast Shield – Another amazing tool! These come in different sizes, so you should work with a lactation consultant to decide what’s the best fit for you. I liked that this Medela had a divot so that baby’s lip makes contact with skin. It creates a barrier between the suction of baby’s mouth and your nipple during feedings. This one was exceptionally useful at first, but we had to wean off of it after about a week, as I started getting engorged and not fully emptied. These were invaluable for me!
5. Breast Therapy – When you have sore, engorged breasts, a little heat (or cold) is heavenly! These come in the perfect size and shape to use on those achy milk-makers. They can be used in the freezer or microwave to create your desired temperature. I found the especially helpful while working through a plugged duct!
6. Breast Pump – With my first baby, I was an exclusive pumper, so I was no stranger to the act of pumping. I already had this electric double pump, which continues to be great. Even if you’re exclusively breastfeeding, having a good pump is important. I used mine to help alleviate a plugged duct, to pump milk for time away from baby, to get relief when overfull, and to create a stash to donate to the milk bank. Even if you don’t use it regularly, you’ll want a quality pump to work WELL for the times you do need it!
7. Nursing Tank – I truly don’t wear anything besides nursing tanks lately! While at home or on the go, I do not want feedings to be a wardrobe fiasco. Nursing is something you’ll be doing up to 12 times a day and the last thing you want is to be undressing and redressing, or fumbling with a falling shirt every single time. I love that this type of tank gives a bit more coverage at the top of the breast while feeding.
MyMedela app! Learn more about the MyMedela app here.
I used this app to time my feedings. It has a lot of features to keep track of baby’s progress including weight, height, sleep, pumping sessions, bottle feeding sessions and nursing sessions. In the early days you’re so tired and feel like you’re feeding so frequently it can be hard to remember which side you used last time and what time your little one ate last. This app takes care of that for you! Best of all – it’s totally free!
Click below on the appropriate platform to download the app:
I wish you the best on your breastfeeding journey! If you have any tips or tools, please let me know in the comments below!