When I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed but I was too scared to set any goals for myself. I read books, read online articles, took breastfeeding classes, and did everything I could to prepare myself. In the hospital I was able to meet with a lactation consultant (albeit on my last day in the hospital...grrrr) and get some helpful advice and tips. My nurses were also extremely knowledgeable and helpful. I also attended a second breastfeeding class while I was in the hospital which was really nice because we could ask questions about problems we were already experiencing!
Once I got home, it was all up to me. My husband attended the classes with me so he was able to support me and help in some ways, but otherwise, I only had my birth month group of moms (who were a HUGE support system). My mom was only able to breastfeed me for about 3 weeks due to severe mastitis (and lack of support) so I didn't have anyone in real life to help me.
These were some of my breastfeeding "must haves" when I was in the early stages of nursing:
1. Breast Pump. Whether or not you're planning on bottle feeding, a breast pump is very helpful. I was very engorged in the early days and the pump provided some nice relief. We mostly nursed, but it was nice to pump a few bottles so that Daddy could get in some bonding time and give Mommy a break as well! I also slowly started building my freezer stash for when I returned to work. Even if you are planning on staying at home, it's nice to have a little stash of breastmilk in the freezer for times that arise unexpectedly. I used the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump (Tote Style Bag) and also the Medela Harmony Manual Breast Pump. Read reviews before purchasing because although some pumps look similar, they do not all perform equally!
2. Medela Quick Clean Wipes. These were great for quickly cleaning my pump parts. I washed them in warm water with soap between pumping but if I was pumping somewhere other than my house (family's homes, work, etc.) these wipes were great!
3. Lanolin. Let's be honest, your nipples WILL be sore. Breastfeeding is hard and isn't comfortable at first. I would slather on this lanolin cream before every nursing session and it really helped. I had friends who got dry, cracked nipples (yikes) and luckily I never experienced that. I thank the cream!
4. Hydrogel Nursing Pads. Just like I said in #3, your poor nips will be sore. These little hydrogel pads feel SO amazing. They give a cooling sensation and really help take away some of the pain that comes with your little bundle of joy trying to perfect his/her latch.
5. Disposable Nursing Pads. Another fun side effect of nursing is leaky boobs. This is something you cannot control and it WILL happen when your supply is regulating itself. When my milk first came in, I was positive my boobs were going to explode. Even when Carson had just nursed, I would still sometimes leak just minutes later. These disposable pads slip right inside your bra and save your clothes and also save you from embarrassing moments. Don't be this lady:
7. Boppy Pillow. This thing was my best friend for the longest time. Having a pillow to set your baby on while nursing really helps get them into the right position and brings them to the breast. This is ideal because you don't want to be slouched over them - it will get uncomfortable very quickly! I've heard great things about different nursing pillows, but I personally had the Boppy and had no problems at all! I would also suggest getting at least 2 covers for your pillow because it will get covered in breastmilk, spit-up, and other fun bodily fluids faster than you can blink your eyes. Hey, YOU are the one who chose to be a Mommy, remember?! ;)
8. Breastmilk Storage Bags. Just like I mentioned in #1, it is always great to have a stash of breastmilk. There are a lot of different brands of breastmilk storage bags on the market, but the Lansinoh were my favorite. I never had a bag break and they hold quite a bit of milk as well. I would suggest keeping a Sharpie by your bags so you can mark the date and number of ounces. I also suggest storing your bags FLAT because it will save space in your freezer and it is much easier to organize your milk supply that way! KellyMom has a great section on storing your breastmilk.
9. Water! If you get one of those big insulated mugs at the hospital, KEEP IT! I used mine for almost 9 months. When you breastfeed you will be SUPER thirsty (and hungry) so always keep water close by! Not to mention, drinking enough water is what helps to keep (and even boost) your supply so drink away, my friends!
One more thing that I used a ton that I didn't include on my list is a baby tracking app for your phone. I use Baby Connect and I love it. For nursing, you can track which side your baby fed from and for how long. For bottle feeding you can track how many ounces. You can even track diapers, medicine, sleep, milestones, etc. I still use this app to keep track of Carson's stats and also medicine intake when he gets sick (which is VERY rare thanks to breastfeeding)! Here's a screenshot from Google of the app:
Back in February, I guest posted over at Julie's blog for her Breastfeeding Diaries. If you haven't read it, head over and check it out!