Friday, November 17, 2006

Five Favorites: Breastfeeding Stuff

Blog Mama reminded me that August is World Breastfeeding Month, so to celebrate, I posted my breastfeeding story and a review some of my favorite nursing products on the Blog Mamas site on August 10th, 2006.

I’m not exactly a lactivist, but I believe that mothers deserve lots of breastfeeding encouragement and I would love to see our society become much more supportive of nursing.

My Breastfeeding Story

After the pretty standard painful start, Jeep and I were able to manage breastfeeding although it seemed like I produced just exactly enough milk. When he was three and a half months old and I returned to work, I had enough stored milk to get him through one day. So everyday I would pump like crazy at work, rush to the daycare center to nurse at lunch, drink tons of water, swallow fenugreek caplets until I smelled like maple syrup and we still lived from bottle to bottle! My supply started to drop from all the stress so I finally bought a can of organic formula. Jeeper happily sucked down the bottles of formula in between the bottles of breastmilk and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. I didn’t get to relax for long because after about two weeks, he started balking at the formula and within one more week he completely refused it. So I was once again chained to the breast pump praying that I wouldn’t spill even one drop of the "white gold."

At six months we started to introduce fruit and veggie baby foods so the pressure began to let up. Things got easier as Jeep ate more foods and now I only pump once a day and each afternoon at daycare he has one bottle of breastmilk. He is almost 14 months old and he still nurses in the mornings, evenings and nights – most of the time I love it although there are some frustrating moments. Originally I hoped to be able to breastfeed for one year and now I hope to nurse for at least two years.

I encourage every mom to consider breastfeeding. It is rarely easy so you’ll need lots of tools, support and determination. The two pieces of advice that helped me the most were: 1.) Take it one day at a time. Sometimes when it isn’t going well it is hard to imagine pushing through the challenge to make it to some far off goal (like 6 months or one year) but you can probably make it until tomorrow and that is enough. 2.) If things aren’t going well or you have a question or problem, ask for help (some resources to try are a lactation consultant, La Leche League meeting, midwife, doula, doctor, mom’s group, female family member or friend with nursing experience or even the internet) and if that person or resource doesn’t help, ask someone else. Rarely does the same advice or solution help everyone so keep seeking answers.

November 2006 update - Jeeper is still breastfeeding and right now my goal is to continue to nurse at least until he is two and maybe longer. I started working less hours in September so I stopped pumping and he primarily nurses at home. A standard day of nursing would start in the morning as he is waking up (he comes to bed with us in the very early morning), then we would nurse when we get home in the afternoons, often again in the evening, always right before bed and probably once in the middle of the night. He nurses more when he is teething, upset or going through a big transition. For example, he recently moved into a new classroom at school and he is a little clingy and wants to nurse more than usual. Early in 2007, when he is 18 months old+, I plan to slowly cut down the number of nursing sessions. For the most part, I am very happy to still be nursing and I enjoy the closeness it brings us. He is very efficient at nursing so I don't spend long periods sitting like I used to which is nice. It can be hard to come up with nursing alternatives (cuddles, books, songs, snacks) when he is asking for more nursing sessions than I am willing to have and occasionally I do get a little tired of it. Overall, I'd say it is going very well lately.

Breastfeeding Product Reviews

Hug Nursing Bra by Japanese Weekend – The Hug bra is by far my favorite nursing bra (I own three of them and would love to buy one or two more). I bought and wore my first one in late pregnancy because it was soft and stretchy and it accommodated my expanding chest. I was so grateful to have it in the first weeks of nursing when I needed to wear a bra 24 hours a day; it was even comfortable for sleeping. Like many new moms, my breasts were extremely tender and sore when I was first learning to breastfeed so a very soft bra was of paramount importance! After the soft, stretching fabric, my second favorite feature is the layered style which creates easy access for breastfeeding. Because there are no clips or snaps, it is easy to operate with one hand. I always lift the cup up which provides a smidge more privacy than bra styles that only drop down to give the baby access. (Note, the photo shows the pulled down cup position, but it is just as easy to pull the cup up.) I throw these bras in the washer and dryer (probably not ideal) and they have held up beautifully. The only potential downside is this bra is on the lighter end of support so it may not be a great all-day bra for moms who need firm support.

Lansinoh Lanolin – I’m still not sure why rubbing sheep grease on very sore and tender nipples helps, but it does. (It would make sense to me if they were just dry and cracked, but they weren’t dry and cracked as much as they were raw and cracked. Sorry, but it is true!) Anyway, one tip is to rub some lanolin in between your fingers to soften it and then put it on the nursing pad which you then gently set on your sweet tender ladies. M-u-c-h better than trying to rub cold, stiff lanolin directly onto sore, sore girls. Yee-ouch! Lansinoh is a reliable brand for quality and purity and I found that one tube was more than enough to get me past the painful part. Now I use it on my dry elbows.

Lansinoh First Days Ultra Soft Nursing Pads – The regular Lansinoh nursing pads were high on my list, but during those sore first weeks, the ultra-soft nursing pads were my favorite! They are more curved than the rest, plus they are puffy cloud soft.

Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags – These are the best, no question. They are easy to open, easy to fill, easy to zip, easy to label, easy to freeze and easy to pour. I avoid bags that use twist ties because they easily leak.

Medela Pump in Style Backpack – If you are returning to work, you MUST have an electric, double breast pump. (Even if you are not going back to work, you should get one.) I heard and read this advice when I was expecting but it didn’t really sink in until almost too late. After Jeep was born I went to the nearest drug store and bought a manual pump. The manual pump worked okay for expressing a little milk if I got engorged and I used it to pump a few ounces after we had breastfeeding established. But once I needed to pump three or more times a day at work, the only way to go was the double electric pump. An angelic friend lent me her Medela “Pump-in-Style” Backpack so I haven’t tried the newer Advanced version. The original one worked fine and the backpack was super handy for hauling to work and back everyday. My dear friend also gave me all my own new replacement pump parts so nothing “used” was ever touching me or my breastmilk. Remember that not only is it ideal to give your baby as much breastmilk as you can, formula is expensive so think of the purchase of a high quality breast pump as an investment.

To see more product reviews, check out my post on my top ten favorites: Baby Stuff.

No comments: