If I wasn't so passionate about the benefits of breastfeeding, I probably would have given up on it. I had so many problems right from the start. It did get easier, but I have still had periodic problems. I know some women find it easy, but it wasn't so for me. I did receive a lot of help and support from the lactation consultants at my hospital, and I found some products that really helped and made the experience better.
Helpful online resources include La Leche League and Kelly Mom.
My baby was born with a slight tongue-tie which combined with a laid back feeding attitude, made the first couple weeks pretty difficult. The hospital lactation consultant set me up with a Medela Contact Nipple Shield, which made it easier for the baby to latch properly and avoided soreness and other problems from bad latching. I was able to wean my baby off of it after a few months when his tongue tie stretched out enough to latch properly.
The lactation consultant also recommended Motherlove Herbal Nipple Cream to sooth sore, cracked nipples. It is an all natural, healing salve. The period of transition from nipple shield to without was pretty painful, and this cream really helped. I used it through the whole breastfeeding period to keep nipples soft and avoid plugged pores. I also mixed in a few drops of Nutribiotic Grapefruit Seed Extract which is a natural disinfectant with antifungal properties, which fights and prevents yeast and thrush problems.
I also had periods of low milk supply, mostly due to stress or cold viruses. I took Motherlove: More Milk Plus supplements to bring up my supply. They really do work and are all natural.
I also had regular issues with plugged ducts and a couple rounds of mastitis. It was very painful and not fun. I finally figured out what was going on and got the problems under control. After the first few difficult months, I only had about 1 or 2 plugged duct issues every month. I tried everything I could to clear the plugged ducts and nothing worked, until I realized that the plug was in a pore in the nipple. I realized that every time I had issues there was a white spot I could see on the nipple. Sometimes the baby feeding would open it up, but if it didn't clear up within a day I used a hot moist compress and a sterilized needle to open the pore and express the hard white plug. Relief was instant and the problem was gone. I don't know why I kept getting the plugs. I did start taking a Lecithin supplement, which the lactation consultant suggested to make milk less 'sticky' and thick. It seems to help.
I noticed that my two rounds of mastitis occurred after I had busy weekends with house guests. I was stressed and worked too hard cleaning the house and getting ready for guest. I had plugs that were not cleared out and the extra stress made me susceptible to the infection. Both times I had to take antibiotics, which I hated to do while breastfeeding. After the antibiotics I made sure to take Probiotic Acidophilus Pearls
to reestablish the good bacteria in my body. This really helped me and the baby's digestion and immune system.
Pumping is not really fun, but it is nice to have milk in the freezer and fridge for when the baby is at the sitters or when we're out in public. I used the Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump and it worked very well and was convenient and discreet for travelling. You can often find the Medela breast pumps at rummage sales and save money, but you need to get new parts that come in contact with milk. Medela sells a Breast Pump Accessory Set. I also found that a
Hands-Free Breastpump Bra was very useful. It allows you to read or work on the computer while pumping.
I didn't like the idea of freezing milk in plastic, so I used glass bottles. The Evenflo Pack Classic Glass Bottle worked great. They fit right on the Medela pump and you can thaw out, heat up, and feed right to baby. My baby refused the bottle at 5 months, so I transitioned to a sippy cup. I tried a few different kinds, but the Born Free Trainer Cup was the best because the spout was soft and it was designed for easy transition from breast to cup.
Shopping for a nursing bra was also a long and difficult search for me. I have a small frame and above average size breasts, and I had a lot of trouble finding something that would fit and support. I was happy to finally find the Glamourmom Nursing Bra Full Bust Long Top. It fits great and is long enough to cover my post baby belly. The straps are nice and wide and the tank top is nice to wear under anything. You show very minimal skin when nursing. For women with average size breasts you can probably use the Glamourmom Nursing Bra Long Tank.
Another necessity is the nursing pad, in case of leaks. I preferred the washable kind because they were thinner and felt better on my skin. I wore them everyday to protect my clothes and avoid embarrassing wet spots. My favorite was the TL Care Organic Cotton Nursing Pads but I also had the Philips AVENT Washable Nursing Pads. The Avent pads were thicker and tended to get stuck to dried milk easier.
I'm glad I breastfed my baby for all the health benefits and the bonding time. He is a strong and happy boy, and did not have any problems with gas, colic, or colds. I know it was good for him, but it wasn't easy, and I'm glad I found some things that helped.