As women we tend to expect our bodies to just naturally know how to care for these tiny miracles and are frustrated when we struggle. Let’s face it, for many women breastfeeding is hard; and for some that is down right impossible. (I want to be clear, this article is not about the evils of formula feeding–ensuring your baby is well fed whether via breast or formula is the goal.) But knowing you are not alone can make those toe-curlingly-painful moments a little more bearable.
Before my son was born I was overwhelmed with stories of cracked, bleeding nipples, and women crying in pain every time their baby latched. I was almost more scared of breastfeeding then I was of childbirth. I attended breastfeeding classes offered by the hospital, spoke to my birthing instructor, and read books. However, I still wasn’t prepared for how draining and utterly difficult being the sole source of nutrition, for a demanding little person, could be.
I was very blessed that within minutes of being born Luke latched and began feeding, no significant pain and no cracked nipples. I was so pleased, all that time I invested in research seemed to pay off… But over the next 72 hours I found myself in tears. Not because of pain, but exhaustion! My tiny 6lb 7oz baby boy seemed to be permanently suction cupped to my breast. He would scream if I detached for any amount of time. Bathroom trips, which were their own form of torture, became a sprint to get back to my squeezing little nursling. Forget meals, brushing my teeth, or showering. Oh and that whole sleep when your baby sleeps… It sounds great in practice, but he would wake every 30mins desperate for nourishment. DAY AND NIGHT! I was defeated, exhausted, and wished God had given men breasts also so we could at least take turns. AND that is all without mentioning the horrible labor-like cramping that comes with breastfeeding and the aforementioned nipple agony some women have to endure. I knew breastfeeding was what I wanted, but nothing I had read prepared me for this.
Now fast forward 7 months. I have a happy, healthy, Rolly Polly little boy who continues to breastfeed with no intention of slowing down anytime soon. Thankfully, we have fallen into a predictable pattern of feeding and mama gets to pee and shower in peace… Most of the time 😉 But the journey wasn’t easy and if breastfeeding your baby is what you want, I am hear to say YOU ARE NOT ALONE IN THE STRUGGLE and YOU CAN DO THIS!
Along the way I found some products to be especially key in making my journey successful:
- Good breastfeeding tops! This one is huge, because in the beginning especially, quick access will keep everyone happier.
– Bravado Designs
Dream Nursing Tank: This tank is comfortable and supportive enough to be worn without a bra. In fact I never wear a bra with it! The cups are designed to fit your specific bra size and expand and contract with your changing milk supply. The design is simple and discrete enough to to wear alone or layer with your favorite jacket. The silhouette is flattering without hugging tightly. And if you are unsure of your size Bravado has professional fitting experts who are happy to guide you to the perfect fit.
– Naked Tank
I admit it, initially I was a little confused as to why one would need this strange looking tank, but thought I would give it a try. It is designed with a cut-out that fits underneath your bust, allowing easy access to your bra/breast without changing the neckline of your top. After the first few months passed and I became more comfortable with breastfeeding I started to miss my “normal” tops. You know the ones that don’t have strange panels which scream “BREASTFEEDER”. This tank literally turns any shirt into a nursing top! AMAZING! By layering it underneath my work blouses I can pump at work without feeling exposed. Such a fantastic design, both the black and white are staples of my wardrobe.
White Bamboo Naked Tank
– Au Fait Mama
This brand makes adorable clothes that don’t sacrifice comfort or style to allow nursing access. Made from a luxuriously soft bamboo, AFM’s nursing pieces all have an elastic neckline that easily expands to allow full access, but what I low so much is that because there are no extra panels or clips, all their nursing clothes can stay part of your permanent wardrobe once your nursing days are over.
AFM ruched t-shirt dress
- Comfortable Nursing Bras! This was initially a challenge for me. They can be expensive and super awkward. So my first suggestion is to either go to a retailer where you can try some on, or make sure you can easily exchange. Also make sure you buy the correct size because your breast size will change drastically over the first 3-5 months.
I LOVE their Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra. It is incredibly comfortable, folds back easily, and changes cup size seamlessly with my changing milk supply. This is the perfect bra to have in your hospital bag and the bra I would recommend to anyone who has ever struggled with mastitis or clogged milk ducts. They come in lots of fun colors and are available in a Yoga version with convertible straps as well!
Bravado also makes a beautiful and comfortable wireless nursing bra called the Bliss Nursing Bra that is perfect for when you are looking for a little more support. Personally I had to size down one size to achieve optimal fit for both full and empty times of the day.
– Pea in the Pod
Once your milk supply has stabilized and you are ready for underwire again. I found the Pea in the Pod Demi bras at Motherhood Maternity to be the only structured bra that didn’t make me choose between constricting full breasts or puckering as my supply diminished during the day. Plus, these bras convert to racer back allowing them to work with a variety of tops.
- Supportive Nursing pillow! When 8-14 hours each day and into the night are dedicated to one task, you had better make sure you are comfortable. Otherwise many neck and back aches are in your future. Thankfully, there are many different breastfeeding pillows out there, some are firm, others soft. Some rest on your lap while others buckle around your waist. Each one has it’s own benefits.
– Nook Niche
I tried 3 different brands of nursing pillow before investing in the Niche. I just couldn’t bring myself to fork over so much for a surface to lay my son on while he eats. However, when breastfeeding lead to painful neck, shoulders, and back– I eagerly searched for a solution. For me, that solution came in to form of a square pebbled pillow that held Luke at the perfect angle to allow me to work hands free without being hunched over. Plus, the Nook Niche makes a super comfortable adult pillow for side-sleepers once you are past your nursing days!
Thanks for stopping by!
Dr. Patricia Bast was born and raised in Southern California. After earning her bachelors degree at UC Irvine, she went on to graduate medical school from Touro University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Northern California. She then returned home to Southern California and became a resident in Pediatrics at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital. Dr. Bast is now raising her children and loves working part-time at a pediatric clinic, watching her patients grow and thrive.