Breastfeeding Checklist

img_7513Breastfeeding should be considered an Olympic sport. Especially in the first 3-4 weeks. You’re trying to ring a small, moving target with the engorged soccer balls on your chest, you have Michael Phelps’ appetite, you could drink enough water to put a small county in a drought, and EVERYONE is crying. You, the baby, your husband, your dog.

Everyone.

But that stage is fleeting and it does get easier. So much so that before you know it you can almost cook a full meal with the little leech, I mean uhh darling baby, latched.

We are well into our breastfeeding journey now, and it’s just normal routine at this point, but those first few weeks home as we were both learning how to get in our groove were exhausting. I would have never made it through without support from my husband, chocolate chip subway cookies, and a Lactation Consultant(more on her later).

To help my breast friends out, I wanted to put together a list of must haves for breastfeeding moms. Including registry ideas, what to bring when visiting a breastfeeding mom, and helpful tools for pumping when returning to work or school.

Happy feeding, Mamas!

Human milk is like ice cream, penicillin, and the drug ecstasy all wrapped up in two pretty packages. -Florence Williams

Pick Me Ups for a New Breastfeeding Mom

If you’re visiting a new mom who is breastfeeding and want to bring something by, Please bring snacks… we’re hungry. Very. A simple meal is always welcome and helps the family out a ton, but a breastfeeding mama needs round the clock nutrition. Try bringing an assortment of cut up fresh fruit (my personal favorite and one of my biggest cravings), ready to go veggies and dip, granola bars, or homemade treats that are easy to grab and eat with one hand. Chocolate is obviously a bonus. FACT: almost all breastfeeding moms report craving chocolate (which is mostly due to stress and lack of vitamins/minerals) but still. Bring us the chocolate, mkay?

We are also thirsty. Breast milk is about 88% water give or take depending on baby’s needs. This “liquid gold” water cup would make the perfect gift to bring when visiting a new breastfeeding mom.

Also, we need coffee. Caffeine AINT going to turn breastmilk toxic, and trust me, we need the caffeine or else we might end up sticking a nipple in their ear or who knows what else. This “breastfeeding is beautiful” coffee mug along with a gourmet coffee blend would be a great pick me up for someone who is, quite literally, tired as a mother.

Most importantly, when visiting a breastfeeding mom, offer your support. Let her know that you are proud of her and that she is “doing amazing, sweetie”. If seeing a mother breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, then simply leave if she mentions needing to feed the baby. (Do those little suckers ever stop needing to eat during those early days? I don’t think they do)

Must Haves & Registry Ideas

Being prepared (unlike me who had to amazon prime a car seat from my hospital bed while I was in labor) is the key to success! While all the equipment you need is built in, there are a few must haves for mom that make nursing a smoother process.

Nursing night gowns, you can’t have too many. These from Motherhood Maternity are my favorite because they are very supportive, but anything with the clip for easy access will work. I lived in (live) these!

Nursing Bras Pretty self-explanatory. I prefer the soft, yoga material for home and the ones with underwire for going out. Same as above just anything with a clip down for easy access will do.

Haaka milk catcher Just trust me when I say you have to have this. When baby is latched on one side, the other side usually sprays like a hose at a wet T-shirt contest. You can almost hear Kelis “Milkshake” playing but it’s way less glamorous. This little baby suctions on and catches all that liquid gold rather than drenching your clothes, couch, floor, dog etc. and you will freak when you realize how much milk you almost wasted!

Nipple cream I know everyone likes the kind in the purple tube, but I personally preferred The Honest Company nipple balm. I liked the texture better and felt like it had better “stickage”, coverage? I slathered it all over my lips and face too because making liquid gold sucks all your moisture from any and every where.

Nursing pillow Look, I know you’ve probably already heard of the coveted “Boppy” and probably already registered for it, but, in my humble opinion, it’s useless when you’re trying to nurse a Tasmanian devil. They slip right through the crack when they get to wiggling. Personally, a good ole bed pillow worked the best for us but I’ve heard moms rave about My Brest Friend pillow. The Boppy is great for sitting baby up and tummy time, so it’s not a total waste.

Nursing pads You know the wet T-shirt contest from before? Well the baby doesn’t always have to be latched for that to happen. Sometimes the girls want to party even without the guest of honor. My let down reflex regulated after about a month and I didn’t leak anymore but some moms leak the entire time they’re nursing. I liked Bamboobies brand the best. They were the most comfortable, absorbent, and stayed put. If you want a bargain they make washable, reusable sets but I used the disposable because, laundry.

Pumping

Oh pumping, I loathe thee. It’s not that the act of pumping is terrible, it’s just the work of nursing, multiplied. Washing pump parts, washing bottles, siting there looking like Madonna for 20 minutes, emphasizing with a cow being milked. I over pumped because I was terrified of not having a “freezer stash”. I would nurse, pump, nurse, pump repeat x 1000. By the time it was over I would sing “I’m a Slave for You” to my pretty pink Spectra S2. Well I’m here to tell you, having 500 ounces of milk in your freezer is not necessary. You may end up like me and have to donate all of that stored milk if your baby develops food allergies. Bye, bye freezer stash. Tear. If you have an oversupply or plan on exclusively pumping, then by all means fill that freezer, sister. But don’t work yourself crazy over it. If you’re going back to work or school and will be pumping I highly recommend getting a pump carrying bag. I’m posting my dream pump bag and a more affordable option. Both will get the job done. Do you know how tacky I looked carrying my pump in a Walmart bag because I didn’t think of a pump bag? I don’t even want to go back to that dark time. Not to mention how unorganized it was and a hassle, and just don’t be like me. Okay?

Also, don’t be like me and have nothing to clean all those intricate pump parts, get this. It’s perfect for those nooks, crannies and flanges.

And for work/school when you may not have access to wash your parts each pumping you can either get these quick pump wipes or, if you have a decently clean fridge, you can store the parts in there in a pinch to prevent bacteria growth. I eventually invested in enough pump parts to where I could use a fresh set each session and it was so worth it.

Also, a manual pump is helpful when you don’t have access to a plug. This little baby was a life saver on the go. My over pumping led to an over supply issue that left me engorged constantly. I tried a couple different manual pumps, but this was, hands down, the most effective. It has what they call a “massage cushion” that really grips and creates a good seal. May or may not have used this baby driving down the road. A moms gotta do what a moms gotta do.

You’ll need milk storage bags, but that’s nothing special. Just remember to leave enough room in the bag so that you can lay them flat in the the freezer. It makes storage and stacking much easier.

Support

Lastly, but most importantly, make sure you have a great support system. Do not be afraid to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. It does not, you hear me, does not make you any less of a mother. Your body isn’t failing you if you are having trouble nursing. You are not broken. You are a perfect Milky Goddess, okay? And if breastfeeding doesn’t work out you are still a fabulous Mommin’ Queen who does not listen to the opinion of peasants. I ended up reaching out to an IBCLC and she saved me. IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultants) are different than an LC you will see in the hospital. (Unless your hospital has IBCLCs, props to them). They are specially trained in issues that can cause serious kinks in the nursing process, like ties, overactive let down, food intolerances and more. IBCLC visit costs are reasonable and will usually be reimbursed by your health insurance, depending on your provider. If that’s not an option for you reach out to a friend or family member that has nursed for advice. The book “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” is also a great resource to jump start you. And sometimes, if you need it, just drink a beer and take a breather. Some say a stout wheat beer helps your supply, I can’t say whether or not the science behind that is entirely true but I can say it does wonders for your sanity.

I hope all of this helps you as you embark on this new journey and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. And if you just need someone to tell you that you’re milk is magic and the sun shines from your nipples, well I can do that too.

No Mom Shame in My Game

Mom shaming. I feel weird even typing that phrase. I know that a mom shaming post can seem cliche, but it’s necessary. I honestly didn’t think it was a real thing. I thought to myself, Surely, Crazy Susan doesn’t really come up to you when she catches you down the wine aisle in the grocery store and tell you you’re a bad mom. I was right, for the most part. Mom shaming isn’t that. Mom shaming is low key. It’s hidden in memes. In sideways looks. In unsolicited advice. In comments and those emoticon reactions. In the trenches of mom groups, and, let me tell you, no one does passive aggressive like a “mom group warrior”. I’m so guilty of it. Cringe. But we all are. Because it’s easier to herd up with like minds and act like the rest of the pasture has the mad cow disease, than it is to all meet up at the watering hole and be kind to one another despite our differences. 

This will probably come as a shock, considering I have been known to eat an entire Big Mac before I even leave the Golden Arches drive thru and the fact that my husband single handily keeps Fruit Gushers in business, but for the most part I could be labeled as a “crunchy” mom. I’m kind of stale, but for the most part crunchy. 

If it says organic, I’m sold. I buy environmentally friendly household products and aluminum free deodorant. I say heck no to GMOs. I wipe my babies butt with some quilted cashmere, chemical free wipes and wrap it up in 100% organic cotton diapers (unless they’re having a good deal on some Kirkland’s I can’t resist, told y’all I’m stale sometimes). I cosleep. I wash her with the gentlest of soaps handcrafted from our crunchy foremothers’ recipes and moisturize her with ultra pure therapeutic oils squeezed from a fairy’s ass. I breast feed her exclusively and the thought of her eating anything with red dye #40 gives me hives. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. Just bare with me.

Does any of that make me a better mom? Nope.

Does any of that make me superior? Nope.

Does any of that make my child better than other children? Nope.

Does any of that decrease the odds that she will end up eating boogers and dirt? Nope, probably not.

But it does make me the best mom I can be to her in my eyes. Everything that I do, as ridiculous as it may sound to some, is meaningful to me.

There are moms who do things slightly different than me. There are moms who do things completely opposite of me. There are moms who bypass breastfeeding and go straight to formula. Moms who give their kids nuggets and fries from a box 3 times a week . Moms who use whatever baby soaps and lotions smell the best. There are helicopter moms and free range moms. Moms that never glance at ingredient labels. There are moms who have elective C-sections. Moms who have natural home births. Some moms have strict screen time schedules, some moms restart Moana approximately 32 times per day. Authoritarian moms, and gentle moms. There are moms who sleep train. Heck, there are moms that pallet train.

I know them. I love them. They’re my friends and family. 

And although those moms may do things differently than I do, they still wake up with the same goal in mind as me, which is, “How can I be the best mama to my babies?”

Or maybe during a sleep regression they think “how can I keep these little heathens alive?” Because same. 

None of us, not the Kale Blending Cynthias or the McDonald’s Meagans or the Crazy Susans, make choices intending to harm our children.

And a mama with her babies best interest at heart is not shameful. 

A+ Mom, A- Student

If you’re anything like me, being a mom is your greatest joy. It fulfills desires that you never knew you had. Your once empty spaces are full to the brim and all is well in your soul now that you have this precious little life with you always. Mommin’ is basically your calling in life, but you still have more to offer, to learn, to achieve. You want a career that’s meaningful, that will encourage you to grow, and that will allow your family opportunities and adventures that would not be possible without the extra income.

If you don’t follow the rules, like me, you probably didn’t stick to “the schedule” i.e. high school, college, career, marriage, babies, happily ever after. Your story might look something like this- high school, undecided, college, undecided, career, nevermind don’t like that, college, undecided, marriage, career, nope that’s boring, college, baby, etc…. Finally something will stick, and you find yourself as a student yet again. Except for this time you aren’t 18 with a part time job at a burger joint whose only concern is if you favor the girl on your fake ID enough to get into the pub. This time you’re married, with a baby, or maybe 2 or 3, and a home to manage. You have responsibilities and to-do’s for days.  Bellies to fill, heinies to wipe. From patty cake to dishes to diapers and laundry, your time is spent, but you add college to your plate because why not? It’s full, but you came to eat. 

You’re well in to the semester and one day, when the baby is finally taking a nap, you think to yourself should I do the dishes that have spread from the sink to the counter and next stop is the floor (that could probably use a mopping)? Should I study for my exam? Should I do that assignment that’s due tomorrow? Fold the clothes that have been in the dryer for 3 days (or let them tumble to “get the wrinkles out” for the 89th time)? Or should I sit on the couch and mindlessly scroll through Pinterest for an hour because my brain has officially shut down and been taken over by the lyrics to the baby shark song…

Doo doo doo doo doo. Shit.

I say all this to say, you are not alone in your struggle, Mama.

I know it’s hard.

It’s hard doing work on your laptop while curious hands try to push all the keys.

It’s hard to study your books while teething, drooly mouths chew on your pages.

It’s hard to sneak out for class, praying they won’t wake up because those little arms stretched out towards you make it harder to go.

It’s hard to focus during a lecture when you’re wondering if they’re okay, how they’re feeling. I wonder if her belly stopped hurting… I forgot to take more milk out to thaw I hope she has enough for the day…. She was really cranky this morning I hope she is felling better and having a great day…. I forgot to tell the sitter that her favorite blanket is in the dryer, she’ll be looking for it…. Before you know it you’ve missed a solid 5 minutes of physics and you pray it wasn’t too terribly important. 

And some days the baby is screaming, or the kids are fighting, and you’re just trying to submit an assignment on time and you think to yourself “this isn’t worth it” but it is.

Because you made it through birthing a child (a walk in the park…Jurassic park), and you’re conquering motherhood (the scariest hood of them all) , and you’re going to kick ass in this, too. 

So read bedtime stories and then your school books.

Watch Puppy Dog Pals and then watch your online lectures.

Do crafts and then do assignments.

Load up diaper bags and book bags. 

Teach them while you learn. 

Wish them sweet dreams while you chase yours.

And some days, do nothing. Put those kids to sleep and get a cold beer because, in the words of Kris J, “you’re doing amazing, sweetie.”