The first time I tried to breastfeed, I just couldn’t do it. Be it mental or physical, I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept, and I couldn’t convince my body of what to do either. I felt tons of pressure to succeed, as if all of my motherly credentials depended on it. Needless to say, it was an epic disaster that left me feeling guilty, frustrated and completely turned off to the idea. Ten years later, when I was pregnant with my second child, who I knew would also be my last, I decided to give it another try. Knowing that I was going to be done having kids after this put a whole new spin on things and gave me a totally different outlook than I didn’t have the first time. I’d like to share a few things that I’ve found helpful while nursing and will hopefully help other nursing and pumping moms and moms-to-be.
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What’s worth buying used?
If you’re interested in breastfeeding and pumping, but are afraid to make such a big investment without knowing what your return will be, consider buying a used electric pump. I was able to find lots of them on Craigslist at different prices and styles. Most breast pump makers, like Medella, sell replacement parts and starter kits that come with new breast flanges, collection bottles, and tubing. Medella even offers a set of free flanges if you buy a set that turns out to be too big or small. All you have to do is call them and pay the shipping! Remember to ALWAYS buy new parts for anything that comes into contact with the actual breast milk. DO NOT use anyone’s old milk collection bottles, tubing, flanges, or pump membranes no matter how sanitized they are. The only thing you want used is the pump itself since no milk ever comes in contact with the unit.
Must-have book: “Milk Memos”
If you’re a nursing and/or pumping mom, then this is a must-read! I know, you’re thinking: “When do I have time to read?”, but that time you spend pumping at work or when you can’t fallback asleep after your little one’s late-night feeding are great times to thumb through this gem of a book. It’s real moms who exchange a series of emails about nursing, pumping, working, staying at home, guilt, pressure, and everything else moms talk or think about. The things these women share are so touching and personal that you really feel like you’re a part of the “group” long before you finish the book. It had me in tears and also laughing, and there are some pretty good tips too. It also makes a great gift for a new nursing or pumping mom or mom-to-be!
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Should everything be disposable?
When out and about or working, the plastic disposable breast pads are the way to go, but whenever you’re home and especially overnight, the cotton pads are spectacular. They’re not only softer and more comfortable than the disposables, but they also allow more airflow which leaves you with less raw and soreness, especially in the beginning. These pads are a bit pricey ($12-$14 for a set of 4) but are a great thing to have and help cut down on the overall cost of having to replace the disposable pads. With a newborn, you’ll be doing more laundry anyway, so using the washables won’t lead to extra work. I loved mine and I bet you will too.
Is a pumping bra really necessary?
I never owned one of these, but boy I wish I had! Especially because I pumped after I went back to work; trying to sit in a contorted position to get maximum suction for 15 minutes was terribly uncomfortable. You can buy one at your local Target or JC Penney for about $40 or you can make your own. There are lots of videos on YouTube and other places that give tutorials and suggestions on how to create your own bra out of things you probably already have like an old sports bra or camisole. Whether you chose to buy or make one, it’s a great little extra something to have when you need your hands.
Are hand-held pumps a deal or a dud?
You would not believe how “handy” (pun totally intended) hand-held pumps can be. Even if you own or plan to own an electric pump, there’s still advantages to having a hand-held too. Sometimes, you can’t or don’t want to tote the beast that is the electric pump around. Even the sleekest pump in a bag is still another bag to carry when you’re already loaded down with a diaper bag. A hand pump is great for storing in your purse or car for emergencies. And yes, you will definitely have a few emergencies. Like when you pack everything for a trip, but leave your electric pump sitting on your counter and don’t realize it until you’re at the airport (I have first-hand experience with this one). Or when your baby gets off schedule and your chest is aching for some relief. A good hand pump can be purchased at Walmart for around $30. If you’re not sure if you want to invest in the electric pump just yet, a hand pump can perform just as good as an electric one for a fraction of the cost. I also found my manual pump especially helpful when I started weaning my son. I was able to wean without tons of discomfort because I could use the mini pump for a minute or two without a bunch of set up. While the thought of using a hand pump may scare some mothers, when you’re in a bind, it’s an invaluable tool to have and I highly recommend it.
How to cut down on pump washing:
In the middle of the night, when you’re just trying to get some sleep, the last thing you want to do is wash and sterilize your pump parts and bottles. I found that putting the pump pieces in a ziploc bag in my refrigerator after use kept them free from bacteria until I had a chance to properly wash them.
Whatever you chose to do, pump or nurse, and however short or long you chose to do it, remember that every woman’s experience is different and the best way to succeed is to relax and cut yourself some slack!