Are you planning on breastfeeding your baby but worried about the learning curve? I won’t lie, there is definitely an adjustment period! It’s not always the easiest thing to do in those early days.
It’s good to be prepared! The more you know before you start, the better off you’ll be.
Here are some of my top hacks that I wish I’d known about before I started breastfeeding my first baby (they came in super handy with my second):
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Burp Cloths Are Multi-Purpose
Breastfeeding can be messy. Having a burp cloth or two, or even a flat old-school cloth diaper around helps.
I like to pop a cloth under the breast baby is feeding from to catch any leaks, dribbles or spills and save my clothes and the furniture. Especially in public!
You can also pop them under your boobs when you get out of the shower as the hot water can cause the milk to flow.
Use a Haakaa
The newborn breastfeeding days pass in a haze of leaking, squirting, dribbling milk. Yeah, it gets messy.
If you’re currently pregnant with your first, here’s something you might not know about breastfeeding: when your baby latches on and is happily feeding away, your milk will ‘letdown’ meaning it’ll start to flow (or even spray o.o). It happens on both sides so you might find your other breast starts leaking, dribbling or squirting milk. (This is why we wear breast pads… and carry cloth diapers and a spare cardigan!)
The Haakaa not only contains the milk mess but let’s you keep that liquid gold good stuff so it doesn’t go to waste.
The HaaKaa is a suction based breast pump that you can pop over your other boob when your baby is feeding from one side. When your milk lets down, it’ll start to fill the HaaKaa and you can then pour it into a bottle to give baby afterwards or store for another time.
What’s so awesome about the HaaKaa:
- it’s super cheap (especially compared to other pumps)
- it stays put via suction and collects milk from your letdown
- you can use it as a manual pump if you need to relieve engorgement
Learn What to Expect and Where to Get Support
How much do you know about breastfeeding? Have you read up on the logistics of latching? Troubleshooting? Milk supply?
The more you know, the better off you are.
- Follow bloggers online
- Join breastfeeding Facebook Groups and follow pages and Instagrams dedicated to breastfeeding
- Take a breastfeeding class (either online or in person)
- Talk to other moms about their experiences
Postpartum Help… Helps
Sometimes it feels like your baby went from being attached at the placenta to being attached at the breast. Nursing sessions with a newborn seem to last forEVER.
If you can, accept offers of help!
Make sure you also be your own best helper by preparing for baby in advance as best you can:
- Make freezer meals in your third trimester – and not just meals, you can make and freeze lactation cookie dough, smoothie packs and all kinds of snacks ready for the fourth trimester.
- Consider getting a meal service like Hello Fresh for a few weeks/months postpartum
- If you can, hire a cleaner! Your house is going to be pretty clean already (thanks nesting instinct!) but if you can swing it, hiring a cleaner for an hour or two for a couple of weeks will help keep it that way.
Choose Breastfeeding-friendly Service Providers and Hospitals
If you want the best support for your decision to breastfeed, choose a breastfeeding/baby-friendly hospital, ObGyn and paediatrician.
They should have policies in place that support early establishment of breastfeeding (like skin to skin after birth and rooming in) and have help there if you’re struggling with getting breastfeeding to work.
Prepare a Breastfeeding Station
Choose a space in your home to be your breastfeeding station – this is where you’ll keep all your essential breastfeeding supplies close at hand for when you’re nursing your baby.
If you don’t have the space or you have other kids so you won’t have time to enjoy the quiet of a breastfeeding sanctuary, prepare a breastfeeding basket instead that you can use on the go!
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Get A Breast Pump
You might find you’re entitle to a free breast pump through your insurance – take advantage of it!
Even if you don’t plan to pump regularly, having one is great if you want to have a night out and need to pump some extra milk (though if you have a Haakaa, you may not need a pump). A pump is also helpful if you experience mastitis and need to empty the breast.
Learn to Manually Express (And Start a Colostrum Freezer Stash)
You can start this before your baby is born! There’s a bit of a trick to manual expressing, and I thoroughly recommend you follow this video to do it as you can bruise your breast if you do it wrong.
You can also start a freezer stash of colostrum (store the colostrum in 1ml or 5ml syringes). It’s a great confidence booster – see! your body CAN produce milk! – and it’s also great to have as a back up in case breastfeeding gets off to a slow start.
I was told to express some colostrum with my second baby after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes – although we didn’t end up needing it, I was glad to have done it so I knew everything was in working order!
Stock up on breastfeeding essentials
You don’t really need that much to breastfeed. You don’t want to run out of nursing pads, nipple cream or anything else you’re using on a daily basis.
If you’re pumping, that might include breast milk freezer bags, sterilising bags and spare pump parts.
Work Out How You’re going to indicate ‘side last fed from’ and STICK WITH IT
If you want to avoid the discomfort of engorgement or even worse, mastitis, you have to empty both breasts relatively equally. Skipping a feed on one side is a bad idea. Your breasts will definitely let you know it.
There are loads of different ways you can manage the ‘which side?’ thing.
I like to offer both breasts per feed when baby is very young – and alternate which side baby starts from each feed. So, as an example: start on the left until baby finishes or is just comfort feeding, switch to the right (sometimes baby won’t be interested at all or will only do a tiny feed at the second side). Next feed, start on the right and switch to the left once baby is finished/comfort feeding.
Seems simple enough, right? But, it is really hard to remember which side you last fed from when you’re so tired you could fall asleep standing up.
Some people use a hair tye which they swap from wrist to wrist. Others put a twist in their bra strap. There are even products like wrist bands you can buy to keep up with it.
I prefer a super low tech option: I put my nursing pillow in my glider on the side I fed from last.
The most important thing is to find what works and always stick with it so you know you can trust your system.
Now You Make Your Own Hacks
Once your baby is here and you start to breastfeed, you’ll develop your own hacks to make life easier. Don’t forget to enjoy the moment!