For moms who aren't returning to work - building up a milk stash
For mom's who don't need a lot of milk to return to work at 6 or 8 weeks (etc) I recommend not pumping until they are at least 6 weeks postpartum. Pumping becomes a full time job if you do it often with cleaning all the pump parts and the time commitment it takes. Breastmilk supply is a supply-and-demand process. If at three weeks postpartum you start pumping, your body is going to be over-producing milk and that's a recipe for engorgement and mastitis if you're not careful! Here are a few tips and tricks I've learned & clients usually find helpful!
If you are returning to work or will need to be away from baby (or just want to bottle feed in addition to breastfeeding!) these are still great tips, but I'll have a separate post for you soon!
Milk Savers - Your "Breast-Friend"
ha, ha. Awful joke I know. There are a couple of different kinds of these. These will collect milk for you while you do absolutely nothing, just whatever you would normally drip into a breast-pad, you can gather to turn into a bottle for baby at a later date!
Shells: I love the shell ones for the early days postpartum. It prevents friction on your nipples when you can barely stand to have a shirt touching you, much less a bra. They are also awesome at allowing air to get to your nipples to reduce the chance of developing an infection while your supply is regulating and everything seems to be getting soaked in breast milk. (link to shell here) If you have flat nipples, shells are a *must* and you really need to start wearing them before baby comes! They will absolutely collect milk that you drip during the day but the base where milk will pool and collect isn't very deep and can spill out easily as you bend over (so still wear breast pads!).
Milk Savers: The same spilling situation can happen with the milk savers, but they are deeper so less likely if emptied regularly. (link to milk savers here) You could absolutely just buy one of these products (I'm all for buying less, good quality gear!) but some people find the milk savers to be bulky - it's really just a personal preference thing!
Clients: Let me know if you think you might have flat nipples at a prenatal (I promise, this won't be awkward to bring up... I bet I also openly recommend sex at some point in our conversations!) and we can talk about ways to set yourself up for breastfeeding success!
Use a silicone breast "pump" to start your stash
I say "pump" because I don't think these would actually be effective at draining your breast as your primary pump. They are however wonderful to compress, attach to the breast you aren't feeding from and collect whatever let-down flow comes. It's a freezer stash with almost no work! You can start doing this as early postpartum as you would like.
You can find a Silicone Breast Pump here.
Store parts in the refrigerator
You can store pump parts in a gallon zip lock bag in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours between sterilizations. I would still give them a good rinse in the sink to keep the fat in the milk from coating the parts and making them hard to clean, but this will cut down on the time commitment you're making when pumping so you only have to wash and sterilize once a day! For working moms or moms that are needing to pump often, I recommend having two sets of pump parts so that one can be cleaned and drying on the rack while you have another set to use.
Pumping Bra Hack
If/When you decide you're ready to pull out the big double-electric breast pump you will quickly find that it's a two handed process. Mom's often don't have one hand to spare, much less two so a pumping bra can be handy. Not everyone is a fan of pumping bras or a fan of their price tag. Here is a link to a genius pump bra hack on pinterest! This is how I pumped when I went back to work full time after my first! While you're in Pinterest land - this is my breastfeeding board and it has lots of great tips and videos about latches!
On the topic of bras... when you're purchasing nursing bras - do not get a bra with an underwire. For some unknown reason Motherhood sells these bras with underwires but that can often lead to clogged ducts and mastitis because of the pressure it puts on your breasts.
Other Tips & Tricks
Cloth breast pads are so much softer than the disposable ones so they're perfect in the beginning! Brand matters with the disposable ones (in my opinion). I'm not a big name-brand gal, but I loved the Lansinoh breast pads. There were other brands I could stand, but those are by far my favorites. There are samples and small packages, so start with a small sampling of each brand and pick which one fits you best!
If you have a sore on your breast, a little bit of breast milk can help heal it up! It has great antibacterial properties in it!
Lanolin is recommended by well, just about everyone... and it's great... but so is coconut oil - and that's food based, has natural antimicrobial/antibiotic properties and is my first pick in nipple "creams". If you do find yourself needing Lanolin (I did, you wouldn't be alone!), a little goes a long ways! And it's kind of greasy, so you will want to make sure you're wearing nursing pads to protect your bra and shirt.
Chamomile tea bags on sore nipples can help reduce swelling. Just dip them in some hot water and squeeze out the excess water (you still want them wet, test on the inside of your wrist, make sure it's not too hot!) Apply and remove as the heat diminishes, you don't want to leave the wet bags against your nipples too long.
Breastfeeding in Public
You will at some point find yourself needing to feed babe in public. Some of us are a whip-it-out kind of mom and don't mind who notices you feeding your baby, others would prefer a cover and then many fall in the middle. My kids hated the breastfeeding cover. They're hot natured and the covers are hot! I would end up more exposed than if I just didn't use the cover at all when my child would suddenly rip it aside to look at the world going by. If you use what I call the Two-Shirt trick, you can breastfeed discretely without a cover.
Under whatever t-shirt you're wearing (because let's just face it, you aren't going to be wearing a dress for a long time... you have to practically undress to breastfeed in many dresses...) just wear a nursing cami. This is a link to some, Target also has a great selection. You just want to make sure it has those same clips to drop the side down as your nursing bras. The cami stays down, your t-shirt comes up and you're only exposing your nipple and a small bit of breast for baby to feed. Practice at home in front of a mirror, you'll be a pro in no time! I can walk around stores feeding and talking to people and many don't even realize what I'm doing!
Pro-Tip: You can breastfeed in baby carriers and wraps. It might take some figuring out how it will work for you. Many times you'll have to adjust the fit to bring baby down to your breast, but the carrier often provides lots of privacy and no one will know you're feeding unless they are very much in your personal space! Personally, I have had luck breastfeeding while baby-wearing in an Ergo, ring-sling, Moby Wrap and k'tan.
I hope that some of these tips are helpful to you in your breastfeeding and pumping journey!
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Rebekah Lewis provides birth doula and postpartum belly binding services in the North Texas area including Denton, Decatur, Gainesville, Krum, Aubrey, Flower Mound, Grapevine, Coppell, Highland Village, North Fort Worth, Keller, McKinney, and surrounding areas.