My Unsolicited Advice on Breastfeeding: Tips, Tricks, Products, and Thoughts

If you’ve never breastfed a baby and don’t plan to, you’d best be getting clicky on another website. You’ve been warned. Seriously why are you still reading??

All others- welcome to the post where I share what I’ve learned about breastfeeding. Disclaimer: This is based on my experience with a full-term baby who had no latch problems. I had normal nipple pain and chafing but no bleeding or supply issues.

I have been kicking this post around in my head for a while now- basically since Sweet Pea was born but now that my sister is about to have her first baby, the time has come. Because I could tell the whole internet stuff about nursing and get all neurotic, like Oh crap, now they think I’m a know-it-all and I’m trying to be a lactation consultant or something just because I nursed one baby but actually I’m just trying to help! Don’t hate me! Or I could tell my little sister stuff about nursing whether she wants to hear it or not because I’m the big sister so she has to endure me. So this post is dedicated to my sister. (Hi, Liz!)

1. Don’t buy any nursing bras until you actually have the baby. You can’t know how much bigger your tatas will get until your milk comes in. (Breastmilk = Miracle Gro for boobies). Also, you can’t know what will be comfortable and user friendly until the time comes. I bought one nursing bra before I had Sweet Pea and I NEVER wore it. If you’re wondering what you will wear for a bra for the first week or so, don’t sweat it. You can get by with an old, stretched out sports bra, or if your boobs aren’t too huge, no bra at all, just a stretchy tank top or cami would do fine.

2. I’ve heard of some women whose breasts never leaked, but I was not so lucky. You probably will not be either. After a while your boobs get smart and they stop leaking, but in the beginning they might be out of control. You will need some nursing pads. They are like panty liners for your bra. The Johnsons and Johnsons nursing pads are great and they hold their shape which is good if you are wearing a tight and/or light colored top. I tried other ones too, but many of them get scrunched up every time you nurse and then the sticky side is on your skin and that is annoying. J&J were definitely my fave.

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3. Get these Medela Tender Care Hyrdogel Nursing PadsThey are like a dip in a cool lake on a hot summer’s day for your sore nipples.  Medela did not pay me to say this. (But Medela, if you want to, that’s cool). They are amaze-balls. You can freeze them and then when you stick them on your sore nips, it will feel like heaven. The only downside is that the baby shouldn’t ingest the adhesive so you have to wash with soap and water before the baby latches on. This isn’t fun in the middle of the night. But nothing about nursing a baby in the middle of the night is fun.
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4. Also, your nipples will love this Lanolin cream. And no, Lansinoh didn’t pay me either, but Lansinoh, my contact info is on the side bar. It’s basically chapstick for your nipples and it doesn’t need to be washed off before feeding time.

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5. Don’t get a Boppy Pillow for breastfeeding. They take up a lot of space and they are not nearly as comfy to use as the Breast Friend. And I’ll just say this one last time, neither the Breast Friend people nor anyone else paid me for anything in this post. When the baby is teeny tiny, it’s hard to do everything at once- hold the baby, lift up your shirt, manage your bra, get out your boob… The Breast Friend helps and it is nice, ergonomically, because it belts around your waist. You can adjust it to fit as high or low as you want, which keeps you from having to lean forward excessively. The baby rests on the pillow, and once she’s positioned, you have your hands free and you’re not hunching forward and straining your shoulders and neck. Also, it has a handy pocket where you could keep your phone.

6. Speaking of nursing and positioning– This was great advice I got from my mom- In the early days, give your baby a chance to nurse while you are sitting up and while you are side lying. That way she will be used to doing it either way, and you will appreciate having the option to do it either way. My mom said some babies get used to nursing only in one position and then they don’t want to do the other position if you wait to introduce it.

7. Let’s discuss nursing covers for a minute. I know my sister and lots of you will totally disagree with me, but nothing screams “I’M NURSING A BABY!” louder than a nursing cover. They come in adorable, fun prints, which only adds to your high profile look.  Once you get your latching on technique down, the baby’s head and body should cover everything to the point where if someone doesn’t expect to you see you nursing, they would probably think you’re just holding your babe.

That said, if you would rather die than let a stranger see the corner of your areola* or worse, an entire nipple, by all means, use your nursing cover happily. If you’re going to nurse, you need to do it in a way that makes you feel comfortable. God knows I would have killed for a nursing cover the first time I nursed in public. I got one a couple days later. I ended up using it about three times (much to the dismay of my beloved lil sis).

8. Nursing babies want to nurse a lot. This is normal and ok.  Nursing nutrition, hydration, and emotional nourishment for these little creatures. This baby was in your body up to now. Being in the world is freaking him out sometimes.  He’d climb back into your womb if he could, but he has to settle for plan B (get it? B? B for breastfeeding!?). Don’t worry about spoiling him. Don’t worry about being a human pacifier. Eventually you will consider about these issues but I think everyone would agree, it is not necessary in the first month to six weeks for the full-term baby. Also- breastfeeding works on a supply and demand principle, so, especially in the first few weeks, it’s important to nurse according to the baby’s demands so you will have an adequate supply.

9. To nourish your babe, you have to nourish YOU. Right after I gave birth to Sweet Pea, I was like “Yessss! I’m a supermodel.” Even though my jeans still couldn’t button, I had lost about 20 lbs. in just 30 hours! Labor was like, the best crash diet EVER! So I was feeling hot until I realized my whole abdomen felt like a giant swath of memory foam and there were angry,  bright reddish purplish stretch marks all along the bottom of which I was previously unaware because looking at your belly 42 weeks pregnant. is like wading in murky water. You just have to hope it’s fine even because you can’t see the bottom.

My midwife was adamant that I not restrict my calories. Making milk for another human requires a lot of metabolic energy.  Upon my midwife’s direction, Dan bought me a dozen flavors of ice cream and made sure I ate some every day, in addition to meals, snacks, and lots of drinks, even though I had little appetite in the first couple of weeks post-partum. I had enough milk for Sweet Pea and although I didn’t drop the weight immediately, I felt ok in spandex for a sprint triathlon at 4 mo. post-partum and I was back down to my normal weight eight months post-partum.

The point is, get some pants that fit and don’t give you muffin top and don’t restrict your calories. Figuring out how to be a mom is hard enough. You don’t need the added stress of getting your old body back on top of everything else immediately post-partum. No one expects you to be perfect. Except maybe you. But no one else does, I promise.

10. Enjoy this special time, especially the first couple of months when the baby wants to nurse nearly constantly. This is nature’s way of making sure you rest adequately to recover from the birth. Whether you had a C-section or a vaginal birth, pregnancy and birth takes a lot out of your body. More, I think, than our culture gives women credit for. It’s ok to sit on the couch and nurse while you catch up on America’s Top Model, read something on your Kindle, talk on the phone, or just gaze at your baby. The house doesn’t need to be cleaned right now. The laundry won’t explode if you ignore it. Your friends will understand if you don’t reply to their emails. Your baby will never be this little again.

11. About pumping– I could write an entire post on pumping, but I will try to be brief. For starters, you should know that the pump is part of the bag. Don’t be an idiot like me and try to extract it from the bag. (I have a Medela Pump N Style, which comes in a black bag so you will not necessarily look like you are carrying a breast pump in public). The pump and the bag are one entity. You will not win.

Also, don’t boil the clear tubing to sterilize it. It will turn black. I might know this from experience.

The best way to clean pump parts is to soak them in a bowl of hot soapy water.

A friend told me to introduce the bottle at 4 weeks. She was adamant that it couldn’t be 3 weeks or 5 weeks but precisely 4 weeks of age. I trusted her because she’s nursed three kids. It turned out great. Sweet Pea was always happy with either the breast or a bottle if I wasn’t there.

And when you’re out in the world and you need to pump, it can be scary to ask a total stranger where you can go, but you might be surprised how nice people are and how willing they are to help.

12. A great resource for all your nursing questions is Kellymom. There’s tons of research based info there and it’s very user-friendly. Also, the Breastfeeding Advice and Support group on BabyCenter is full of info too.

13. ADDENDUM 9/29/13 – For middle of the night nursing sessions, a Nook light or headlamp is great so you can see what you’re doing while the baby latches on (with the light pointed away from baby’s face) with the minimum necessary amount of light. This will allow you to not have to fully wake up and will help the baby get the idea that it’s dark, it’s night, time for sleeping, and will give you sufficient light to get the job done.

If there are any other essential tips or tricks you would add, please feel free to leave them in the comments!

Baby Boobie Hat
I never had the balls to put my baby in this hat. But I love it!! Image credit: Polar Ice Designs Etsy Shop 


*OMG spellcheck does not know the word “areola.” I looked it up and I am definitely spelling it right


2 thoughts on “My Unsolicited Advice on Breastfeeding: Tips, Tricks, Products, and Thoughts

  1. Heather L. says:

    “nothing screams “I’M NURSING A BABY!” louder than a nursing cover. ” I could not agree more. Great tips overall. I’m totally buying a headlamp for next time, way better than the annoying light by my bed.

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