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How to Breastfeed and Pump

Updated: Apr 6

The guide to nourishing your baby - this is what I wish I would've known before starting my breastfeeding journey. There's a lot to learn about how to breastfeed and pump!

Breastfeeding is a journey filled with love, nourishment, and bonding. In this post, I'm going to share tips and tricks with you, that I wish I would've known when starting this journey. I hope this information is helpful for you!

How to breastfeed and pump

The Benefits of Breastfeeding First, let's talk about why breastfeeding is a great choice. Of course, a fed baby is always best, but in this article I'm going to share the pros of breastfeeding. It's not always easy, but it is worth it.

Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby. I'm not saying that you won't bond with your baby if you don't breastfeed by any means, but the closeness and comfort that breastfeeding provides can help your baby feel emotionally secure and contribute to a strong emotional connection.

Not only is breastfeeding a wonderful way to bond with your baby, but it also provides essential nutrients and antibodies to help boost their immune system, protecting them from infections and illnesses. It can reduce the risk of various health issues for your baby, such as being less likely to develop ear infections, respiratory infections, childhood obesity, and even SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). The benefits can extend into adulthood, reducing the risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and even certain cancers. Breastfeeding has even been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer for moms, too!

Breast milk is custom-made for your baby, providing enzymes that no formula can replicate. It changes composition as your baby grows to meet their individual evolving needs, while providing the perfect balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Additionally, breast milk is more easily digested than formula, so it's gentler on your baby's tummy.

Okay, let's talk about the CONVENIENCE of breastfeeding. When I first started this journey, I felt like breastfeeding was anything BUT convenient. It felt like I was constantly feeding my baby, but I wasn't comfortable doing it in public places yet. However, in those beginning days of breastfeeding, someone told me, "Actually, breastfeeding IS the easy choice", and now that I've heard that, I think about it all the time. Once you get the hang of it, it's actually incredibly convenient. You don't have to worry about sterilizing bottles, preparing formula, getting the measurements and the temperature of the milk right in the middle of the night, etc. If you're breastfeeding, the milk is always ready to go at the right temperature, and baby can choose how much they want to eat until they're full. Not to mention, breast milk is completely free! Formula can be pretty expensive, depending on which brand you're buying, but you don't need to spend any money at all to breastfeed. Other than, perhaps a few helpful items to get you started. Here is my short list of must-haves for making the start of this journey a little bit easier:

  • Silverette Cups - Yes, they are a little bit pricey, but you only need to buy them once and then keep them forever. Trust me, in the early days of breastfeeding you will be so glad you had these.

  • Haaka - Even if you're not pumping, using a Haaka is a great way to relieve a bit of discomfort when you're engorged. You can save the small amount of extra milk and freeze it to easily build up a small stash of breastmilk without pumping, too.

  • Lanolin Nipple Cream - Trust me, buy a couple tubes of this stuff and use it after each feeding until the nipple soreness goes away.

  • Earth Momma Nipple Butter - I liked using this in addition to the Lanolin cream. It has more natural ingredients which I prefer, but I found the combination of both creams to be really soothing.

  • Disposable Nursing Pads - You might be using these throughout the entire breastfeeding journey, depending on if your breasts are more prone to leaking. Either way, you'll definitely want these for the first couple months while your supply is regulating.

  • Nursing Bras - I tried so many different nursing bras, and these were my favorite. They are a little bit pricey, but in my opinion they really are the best. Here is another option that I liked, at a less expensive price point.

  • Comfy Robe - I lived in a robe for the first couple weeks because you can allow your nipple cream to air-dry more easily.

Learning the Latch Okay, now that we know breastfeeding has a lot of perks, how do you get started? Getting the right latch is crucial for successful breastfeeding from the start. Make sure your baby's mouth covers both your areola and nipple. Your baby's chin should touch your breast, and their lips should be flanged outward. If it's not quite right, don't be afraid to adjust until it feels comfortable. You can gently pull baby's lips to flange outward if needed (I did this in the early days). When you get the right latch, you'll know because it will be comfortable for you (except maybe still sore in the first couple weeks), you won't hear any clicking sounds, and you'll hear baby swallowing. If you need any assistance, don't hesitate to reach out to a lactation consultant. And if you deliver in a hospital, they might have one available for free, just ask.

Breastfeeding Positions Finding a comfortable position is important.

Breastfeeding positions

You can try the cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, football hold, and others. I personally prefer the cross-cradle hold, but you should experiment and find what works best for you and your baby.

Support your back with pillows, and use a nursing pillow if needed to relieve strain on your arms. I'll link a couple good breastfeeding pillows here:

  • Boppy - This option is great. Here is a washable pillow cover that fits nicely over it, too.

  • Momcozy - Another great option, and comes with a removable cover.

Common Issues Breastfeeding can come with challenges. To avoid them as much as possible, it's important to educate yourself.

  • Sore nipples and engorgement are to be expected in the first few weeks. To relieve sore nipples as much as possible, use plenty of nipple cream after each feeding, and try to let air dry (wearing a robe is helpful during this time).

  • Engorgement is when your breasts feel so full it is almost painful, and they often leak. This is going to happen for the first few weeks, or even up to two months until your supply regulates. To help with engorgement, use the disposable breast pads for leaking, and feed your baby on demand.

  • Another common issue moms are often worried about are clogged ducts. No one wants clogged ducts because it can be extremely uncomfortable and can sometimes lead to Mastitis (a breast infection) if not treated quickly. Some moms are unfortunately just more prone to clogged ducts than others. To try to avoid them as much as possible. you will want to empty your breasts completely during each feeding.

For example, if you start feeding your baby on the left breast, do not switch to the right breast until baby is no longer swallowing milk, meaning it is completely empty. You might notice your baby start to get "frustrated" when milk is no longer coming out. I recommend leaving them there for 1-2 minutes after you think it is empty, just to get the last bit out. Sure, this might increase feeding times a little bit, but I prefer that over having a clogged duct any day. Once you switch sides, don't worry about completely emptying the other side- just start with that side for the next feeding session to get it completely empty next time.

Another tip to potentially avoid clogged ducts is to lightly rub your breasts while baby is feeding, to try to move the milk down from all areas within the breast. I like to do this in the shower with warm water on the breast as well, because that can really get the milk moving. Using all of the tips I've mentioned here, I have personally never had a clogged duct. Like I said, some people are just more prone to them than others, but it doesn't hurt to implement these tips to try to avoid it.

Finally, if you feel a clogged duct coming on, I've heard that Sunflower Lecithin can be a lifesaver. I have a bottle on hand in my medicine cabinet, just in case. Because as I said earlier, if you have a clogged duct, you want to treat it as quickly as possible to avoid a breast infection like Mastitis.

Final Thoughts

Breastfeeding is obviously not for everyone. Some people may have an easy journey and others may have it harder. I would categorize my own journey as somewhere in the middle of that.

My baby had a great latch right from the beginning which was a blessing, but the nurses compared his latch to a "vacuum cleaner suction", so as you might imagine, it was very painful for me for the first few weeks. It might've been easy for me to give up as I literally cried through the pain sometimes, but for me, formula just wasn't an option. I did not buy any formula ahead of time as a "just in case" solution, because I felt like that might've been too easy for me to grab in those painful moments. That might be a bit harsh, or you might think I was being unprepared by not buying it "just in case", but for me, that's what I needed to do to tell myself that there was no backup plan. I was going to make breastfeeding work for me no matter what.

I also saw the lactation consultant that my hospital provided several times within my few days there. I had her come in just to check my baby's latch occasionally and give me any tips she had. She didn't mind at all, and these services were completely free, so in my opinion, there was no downside to getting as much help as possible.

Now, after everything I've said above, it's still essential that you remember a fed baby is a happy baby. You need to take care of yourself and your baby in the ways that work best for you. Self-care is key during this time. Get plenty of rest, eat well, and stay very hydrated throughout the journey. You've got this!

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