Friday, March 22, 2013

Baby Gear: Breastfeeding Edition

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I already shared our 0-3 month baby gear must haves, and now I'm back to share our feeding-related must haves.

There are all sorts of ways to feed a baby, from formula only, to breastfeeding only "from the tap" with no need for pumping and bottles, and everything in between. Ava has been exclusively breastfed, but I am a working mom who pumps and makes bottles for daycare, so that's what this list is geared towards.

1. Boppy - The single "tool" Ava and I need for feeding when we're together. It was crucial in the first few months, and we're still using it. Of course, we can mange without it now if we're out and about, but we still prefer to use it whenever we can. We got this cover from Pottery Barn Kids and I really like it, although I mostly feed with the monogrammed side facing down because my nails kept snagging the embroidery.

While the Boppy is good for lots of things as baby grows (propping, then tummy time, then support for sitting), some people don't love it for breastfeeding. Instead, they prefer the My Brest Friend pillow, and I can see that argument. If you're a small person and/or you have a tiny baby, the curve of the Boppy can cause baby to roll into you or away from you and off the Boppy. The Brest Friend has a flat surface, so that's less of an issue. Ava and I never dealt with that with the Boppy though, probably because both of us are plenty meaty. Also, I like how easy the Boppy is to get on and off. You just slide it on, versus the belt on the Brest Friend that you have to wrap around you and snap on the side/back. While I've only used the Brest Friend a couple of times (while working with a lactation consultant), I feel like the belt might get annoying with the number of times a day you're taking it on and off.

2. Breast pads - I bought these washable, reusable pads on Etsy and preferred them over disposable pads or the reusable pads found in Babies R Us.

3. Nursing cover - I have this Hooter Hider and really like it. There are lots of other brands and I imagine they're all pretty similar. I've even heard of some sewing-savvy moms who have made their own.

4. Medela Pump In Style Advanced - Ahhh, my best friend/worst enemy. We spend a LOT of time together these days. I've got no complaints about the pump itself. It's been a good pump and I like the bag for carrying around all of my pumping gear. I was about 4 months too early to benefit from the new "insurance must cover a breast pump" law, but make sure you look into that to see if you can get one for free.

5. Dr. Brown's bottles - Every mom I talked to while pregnant recommended these bottles. Swore by them because they don't give baby gas. Ava's never really been a gassy baby though, so I'm not sure they're necessary for us (or maybe she's not gassy because we use these bottles??). They're a pain to wash because they have two extra parts and you have to use this special little brush to get in the little holes. And they leak (you have to use this "travel cap" disk but they still leak a little if sloshed around). But we still use them, and I'm not sure what other brand we'd use if we switched. So there. I'm sure that "review" was not helpful at all. Sorry.

6. Bottle warmer - This is the one we have. Some people prefer to heat a glass bowl or measuring cup of water in the microwave and then plop the bottle in there to warm but that method was way too slow for us. Two minutes and you're done with the bottle warmer.

7. Fresh Baby ice cube trays - For milk storage I use a combination of Lansinoh storage bags (filling with 4 oz, freezing flat, then storing in a gallon size freezer bag) and breast milk ice cubes. (This was a tip from Mannly Mama.) I freeze the cubes, then pop them into a freezer bag for storage. The advantage of ice cubes is that if you just need an ounce or two, you don't have the defrost a whole bag of milk. Say you need a 5 oz bottle and you only pumped 3 oz. You can pop two cubes into the bottle with the fresh milk and they melt when the bottle is heated (or if you store in the fridge overnight they're thawed by the next morning). I like the Fresh Baby trays, but my one complaint is that the cubes aren't quite one ounce, which is probably only annoying to someone as OCD as me. We're now using the trays for freezing homemade baby food and I love them even more for that purpose.

8. Medela Quick Steam bags - I probably don't sterilize my pump parts and bottles as often as I should, but when I do I like these quick steam bags. 2 oz of water + 2 minutes in the microwave = easy peasy.

9. iPhone and Baby Nursing app - Ok, I lied earlier. The other necessity when nursing besides the Boppy is my iPhone. During the first month, you spend so. much. time. nursing. I can't imagine being trapped under baby all of that time with nothing to entertain you or connect you to the outside world. HOW DID MOTHERS NURSE THEIR BABIES BEFORE IPHONES? I will never know. I spent so many hours Googling random issues, shopping online, checking Facebook and Twitter and reading books on the Kindle app. I also downloaded an app (Baby Nursing) to help me keep track of everything (which side I nursed on last, how long I was nursing, baby's weight, etc). Now I only use it to log her weight at her check-ups but during those first months it was very helpful for my fried brain.

10. Breastfeeding Support Group - Money can't buy it, but it's the most important item on this list. A wonderful coworker invited me to WakeMed Cary's Breastfeeding Support Group and that group of women (led by two lactation consultants) has been invaluable to me. They're knowledgeable, supportive, non-judgmental, and have now crossed over the line into friends. I can't make it to the meetings anymore now that I'm back at work, but we have a very active Facebook group. If you're planning on breastfeeding, or find yourself in the midst of struggling with breastfeeding, get thee to a support group. If there's not a group that meets in your area physically, find one online or just seek out friends or acquaintances who have successfully breastfed. Chances are, they're happy to talk breastfeeding with you and provide support (I know I am!). Our support group is the number one reason we've been able to breastfeed this long, and for that I am forever grateful to them.

If you're a mom-to-be, I hope you find this list helpful.

Nursing mamas, what else would you add? Formula feeding mamas, what other items do you have in your arsenal?

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