Here are a few tried and true tips that will make your breastfeeding adventure a tad easier.
When I first started nursing, I thought of trying to market what I thought was simply a brilliant idea: Breast Bibs. It's exactly as you probably have pictured it: take a baby bib, preferrably one with velcro tabs, pretend the top of your breast is the neck and put the sucker on! See what the sleep deprived mind comes up with when dealing with yet ANOTHER wet spot (ha!) on the bed? Since that time, I discovered a more simple method with the same end results. Receiving blankets! We all have them. If you don't want to use those, use cloth diaper prefolds or burp rags. All you do is tuck them under your nursing bra, over the flap or nursing pad and under your baby's double chin. This effectively catches the over-flow of milk as your new born latches and unlatches multiple times in an effort to drive you mad. When you're done with the nursing session, you simply remove it from their double chin, put it up over your shoulder (which is why I like receiving blankets--nice length for this maneuver), keeping it tucked in over your nipples to help contain any more leakage as you burp your baby. After you're done burping, wipe up baby's face and use the blanket for the second breast if needed.
This might seem to be an obvious tip, but you'd be surprised. When THEY say to drink lots of water to keep up your milk supply, THEY weren't kidding! A couple of weeks ago, I had some family visit. Lots of soda was in the house as a result. Now, soda is a weakness of mine, which is why we generally don't keep it in the house. That weekend, I drank practically nothing BUT soda and boy could I see a difference in my supply! The letdowns (when your milk suddenly fills your breasts, begging to be nursed) weren't nearly as intense as when my main beverage was water. I was even momentarily worried that my milk supply was on its way out! I started drinking water like a camel and everything righted itself. Whew! Seriously, ladies, drink your water, whether you're nursing or not!
They say you should try to nurse evenly between both breasts, so you don't end up lopsided. Well, I nursed fairly evenly and still ended up with lopsided ladies, so don't be surprised if that happens to you. Anyhow, THEY are so adamant about nursing them evenly that THEY've suggested going so far as writing in a notebook to keep track of where you left off. If this works for you, go for it. THEY've also suggested wearing a bracelet on the wrist of whichever side you left off or perhaps tying a ribbon on the bra strap of that side. Anything to remind you to switch sides! Me? I go by whichever breast feels fullest. Then again, when your milk first comes in and your get engorged (believe me, it will happen!), it is hard to tell which is fullest. At that point in time, use one of the suggested methods for remembering or go by whichever hurts the most.
Speaking of engorgement! It's no joke! It can be SO uncomfortable and down right painful. You suddenly have HUGE boobs, they are ungainly and in the way. That and it can make nursing difficult. If you find you're so hard that baby is having a difficult time latching on, squirt some of the milk into a burp cloth or a receiving blanket until it is soft enough around the nipple to get a sufficient amount of the nipple AND areola into that hungry baby's mouth. Don't be afraid of "wasting" the milk. There is plenty more where that came from! You'll be able to feel hard areas on your breast; Those are mammary glands filled to the brim with milk. Massage them to help relieve the pressure. Be sure to follow it all the way up to your armpits and down to the bottom of your breasts. If needed, you can fill an old sock with rice and warm it up in the microwave. Put those small heating pads on the hard parts to encourage the milk to move. You can use both those techniques while nursing.
Don't forget to drink your water!
When in Doubt, Squirt it Out
Breast milk is, in a word, Awesome. You can put it in your child's eye to cure Pink Eye and ear to clear up an ear infection! Even if you don't pump to fill bottles for later, pump out a bit to use for those purposes. I've even used it to augment the BRAT (Banana, Rice, Applesauce, Toast) diet for older kids who have an upset tummy. What they don't know... In this case, it'll help them!
Many women swear by boppys. I prefer My Brest Friend as it feels more secure and fits me better. Either way, find a pillow that works for you. It is better to have the baby brought up to breast level instead of hunching over. As soon as you can, I recommend learning how to nurse while lying down on your side. To keep the baby from rolling away, roll up and wedge a receiving blanket under baby's back. Belly to belly is best.
My lifestyle never led me to NEED to schedule feedings. I've always fed on demand and that works for me. With my first nursing baby, I pumped quite a bit for the rare occasion I'd go out without Baby. Pumping never really gave me much milk, though, and it was a time suck. So I didn't do it for my second nursling, nor for this one thus far. Breast milk is neat in that it changes with the baby's needs. So, if you pump a bunch when they are one month old, but don't use that milk until they are three months old, your milk has changed by then! While it definitely won't hurt your baby to have the other milk, it won't be as satisfying. So, for me? Eh, I just don't bother. Again, this is what works for me and my family. If you find that pumping for night time bottles works for you and you can make it through the engorged nights (before your breasts adjust to no night feedings..), then go for it. If you're going back to work and wish to continue nursing your baby, by all means, pump!
Do what works for YOU.
If you've got any tips, please share! I may consider myself a veteran, but I'm always up for learning something new or adjusting one of my techniques to work more efficiently.