I’m just going to be very honest here and say that breastfeeding has been one of the biggest challenges for me thus far. BUT, it was a challenge that I was up for, and with determination, patience, practice, a REALLY great lactation consultant and a handful of remedies that helped my breasts, it got better day by day.
Before I get into the remedies, I want to stress how important the determination part was for me personally. Given the pain and the amount of tears shed, I definitely contemplated quitting quite a few times. In fact, a consultant told me that I should. “Some women don’t have the anatomy for breastfeeding, it’s too painful and I think you may be one of those people, it’s ok to give up – happy mom, happy baby.” I had my out and I could have taken it, but reminded myself of one of my favorite quotes, “what you think, you become,” and chose not to allow my mind to give up. I knew I could get there. I doubled down on my determination, just like I had many many times in life, and persevered. I have now survived ten weeks of breastfeeding (amen!) and am hopeful to last quite a few more. I’m really glad that I didn’t give up and that my body allowed me to eventually continue, because it truly has gotten SO much better. With that, here is what helped keep my head in the game:
1. A good lactation consultant
If you live in LA and need a lactation consultant, Linda Hanna from My Nursing Coach is it! She’s basically the breast whisperer. She’s been a nurse for 40 years, but more importantly, she pioneered the Lactation Education programs at Cedar Sinai (in 1999) and Kaiser Permanente (in 1996). She comes to your home, gives a full assessment, helps make very specific adjustments, and designs personalized plans to help you succeed with breastfeeding. If you don’t live in LA, find your town’s Linda Hanna – it will help tremendously!
While working through the pain as a beginner to breastfeeding, my nipples were incredibly sore to touch (bras and soft t-shirts included) so keeping them covered when the baby wasn’t feeding was important. Enter Silverette’s. Small cups crafted out of pure 925 silver that fit over and help to protect nipples while breastfeeding. Silver is a natural antimicrobial, antifungal, and antibacterial metal that also contains anti-inflammatory agents. It heals and prevents cuts, wounds, cracks, soreness, and infections.
3. Chair, pillows, stools, etc.
Sitting in a comfortable position with support is key, and what that looks like is different for everyone. Some people like the Brest Friend, others like the boppy, some like using a nursing stool and others are perfectly fine holding the baby on their own in a cozy chair with arms (we got ours from Restoration Hardware who has some pretty cute ones). If you’re not feeling supported and comfortable, play around with switching things up so that you can be as relaxed as possible.
4. Nipple balms & patches
Dry cracked nipples don’t make things any easier, so it’s important to soothe the skin in between feedings. I slathered on organic nipple creams as often as I could, opting for Earth Mama, Motherove and Honest. The nice thing about those is that you don’t need to wipe them off before feeding again since they’re all natural. If your nipples are burning, Lansinoh Soothing Gels can bring a lot of relief, especially if stored in the fridge. And last but not least, if you have serious injuries like bites or tears, you may want to consider taking a break from putting the baby on the boob, pump instead, and treat the nipples with a topical antibiotic. I had to do this and the break-cure combo gave me the time I needed to heal, and once we tried again, it was so much better.
5. Massage, hot & cold
If your boobs are engorged, lumpy, aching and/or tender, it’s important to treat them properly to avoid clogged ducts or mastitis. Try gently massaging the breasts to loosen them up and apply moist heat compresses or a heating pad before nursing and a cold compress after nursing (these Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack, Hot or Cold packs are great). The heat with help with pain, discomfort, and milk flow, while the cold compresses help relieve pain in between nursing sessions. Taking a warm bath or shower may help, too, not only for the heat but because it may help you relax.
6. Nursing bras
I never really had much of a chest and didn’t understand the need for supportive bras until breastfeeding but wow, what a difference they make! The key is finding soft bras that fit right – you don’t want them too tight as that can impact your milk but too loose that they don’t provide enough support. Of all places H&M has an EXCELLENT selections (including sports bras) and I also really like Bravado especially these in the basic colors.
I struggled with engorgement, blocked ducts and my supply but luckily didn’t suffer too long thanks to adding a few supplements to my daily routine. To help with my engorgement/blocked ducts, and to prevent mastitis, I started taking Sunflower Lecithin. Sunflower lecithin helps unclog ducts that are “stuck” by making the milk more “slippery,” by emulsifying the fatty bits with the watery bits of breastmilk and I swear by it. Since taking it, I haven’t been engorged once (knock on wood). To help my supply early on, my lactation consultant had me take Motherlove More Milk Special Blend and Motherlove Malunggay (Moringa) and it made a huge difference.
I saved the best for last and that is support from other women. Talking to family, friends and/or strangers in a group/class about their breastfeeding experiences, most of which struggled, made me feel as though I wasn’t alone. It turns out, just about everyone I talked to had similar challenges which kept me from feeling as though I had some sort of shortcoming. Plus, they all had great recommendations to help get me through it.
The next challenge: diving deeper into milk supply. More to come on that.