My Breastfeeding Essentials + Encouraging Breastfeeding

I have been breastfeeding for 6 months now, with ups and downs and formula top-ups, but we're still nursing and that's the most important part. My next goal is 8 months, but ideally I would love to breastfeed Mia for at least a year. Today, I am sharing my breastfeeding essentials with you. Whether you're breastfeeding exclusively, expressing or combination feeding, I hope you find it useful.

Ok, let's start with the fact, that all you technically need to breastfeed is your breasts and your baby. (Only if it was that easy, right? One can dream...). If you don't have any problems and think that any breastfeeding products are unnecessary, you are one lucky lady :) Most mums do need a couple of things to make this journey a little bit more comfortable though.

1. Muslin cloths  and baby wipes (Waterwipes if possible) - great for cleaning up dribble, milk and after your baby's been sick - this could be a tiny bit, or a full blown projectile vomit. Ah, the joys of being a mum, eh?

2. A nursing cover up - I adore the Mamascarf*, but you can use anything really. Even a muslin cloth will do. I will be reviewing the Mamascarf on Monday, so keep your eyes peeled.

3. Nursing bras - I adore Bravado and Hotmilk bras. You can read more about the Bravado ones here. I have 5 nursing bras in total and I still feel like I need more, so stock up on these.

4. Same goes for nursing wear (day and night) - from nursing nightdresses, to nursing tops and cardigans - they will simply make breastfeeding more comfortable. Yes, I still do the 'pull your t-shirt down' manoeuvre a lot, but when I am out, I like to wear proper nursing wear or normal, but nursing friendly clothes. I would highly recommend the Frugi Breastfeeding Cardigan* and the byStroom Naomi Tunic*. Both are very versatile and can be worn on top of other things.

5. Breast pads - essential in the first few weeks, or when you're away from your baby. Even when I think that I am over the leaking stage, I go to the shop, see a baby or think about Mia and I end up soaked :) haha. Seriously, it's fascinating. I also tend to leak from the opposite boob, when I am feeding Mia. Almost every time. Plenty of brands to choose from, you can even get reusable ones, like the Bamboo Nursing Pads by Mama Designs.

6. Lanolin - to soothe cracked and sore nipples. I had terribly cracked nipples while breastfeeding Zachary, as he had a poor latch in the first few weeks, but with Mia, I very rarely need any lanolin, as she latches on like a pro. Either way, it's good to have a tube of lanolin available. 100% natural and safe for your baby, unlike standard nipple creams with loads of nasties!

6. Nursing pillow - a must have in my opinion. I love the La Millou Grandma Dana's Hen Pillows and bought 2, but there are plenty of other ones available on the market. I would recommend La Millou though, because they are hypoallergenic, super soft and easy to clean.

7. Lactation Cookies - obviously, a good diet and hydration is a priority while breastfeeding, but you can also boost your milk production with various supplements etc. I gave the Boobix Lactation Cookies* a go and they helped me maintain my supply when Mia was fussy. Great to have in your handbag, when you're on the go or as a nutritious snack with a cuppa. I am obsessed with these! So good! I tried the Date & Ginger and Chocolate Chip & Oat flavours and both are delicious. The ginger and date ones stayed nice and moist for a bit longer, while the Chcolate Chip & Oat dried up a bit quicker. Each pack contains 10x50g cookies and they are a decent size and very filling. The milk magic is all due to the lactation boosting ingredients: oats, flaxseed, brewer's yeast and fenugreek. They are now cheaper too, retailing at £10.50 per pack. I might have to stock up on some more. You can also make your own, there's plenty of recipes online.

8. I also take a Fenugreek supplement and drink a Tea For Nursing Mother's to maintain my supply. Not sure how well they work, but I think they help. Some don't believe in this kind of thing, but I am willing anything to maintain my supply for as long as I can.

9. Breastpump - I had to express, as Mia was in neonatal for almost 2 weeks and I couldn't breastfeed her at all during that time :( It really affected my milk supply, but I managed to continue breastfeeding regardless. I also express to maintain my supply when Mia's fussy. I have been using the Medela Harmony manual pump* and the Medela Swing Double Electric Breastpump* and I really like both. 

10. If you are expressing (there are many reasons why you might choose or simply have to express), you will also need bottles, sterilising equipment, teats, storage bags etc. You can read all about these and the two breast pumps I use in my previous post here.

11. Nipple shields - I almost forgot about these, as I didn't need any with Mia (such a good latch!), but I used them during every single feed with Zachary for a good 3 months, until he figured out how to latch on in every position. My nipples were cracked and bleeding, so I needed protection, but these also improve latch and help to shape inverted and flat nipples. Yep, even mums with inverted nipples can breastfeed. Nipple shields are an amazing invention! I used many different brands - Tommee Tippee, Medela and Avent and all are great.

I am not going to lie, I've had some major struggles with breastfeeding both of my children. I could have gave up easily with my 1st, as it was super hard and  I had  no support and was treated terribly by the NHS. But I did it for as long as I could. I just wanted to provide the best option for my babies as we all know that 'breast is best'. Saying that, I fully support the 'fed is best' movement, as it is obvious that a baby has to be fed and that is the most important part (after all, I combi fed both mine), but... I am all about promoting breastfeeding and I hope more and more mums will at least try it and if they struggle, I really hope they can get A LOT of support from their midwife, lactation consultant etc. 

I know from my own experience, that NHS fails many women in terms of breastfeeding support and there is also many lies spread by uneducated people, many myths etc. Thankfully, we are learning more and more about breastfeeding from specialists who are crushing those myths and reassuring us with facts.

The first two weeks of breastfeeding are usually the hardest, but not necessarily. I've heard many positive stories too. Both of my sisters exclusively breastfed their kids without problems. For all you know, it could be smooth sailing for you too, so try to have that in mind, but don't put too much pressure on yourself! It's the most amazing thing you can do for your baby, it gets easier as times goes on, it is the most convenient way of feeding, an incredible bonding experience and something money can't buy.

I also had to ignore the 'I couldn't be bothered' 'f*** that' or 'just give them a bottle' comments in regards to breastfeeding. (Both real life answers I overheard, while I was in the hospital!) It's and ignorant attitude to have and it actually hurts mums who really want to breastfeed and makes their hard work feel worthless. 

I know that promoting breastfeeding can cause major upset amongst some women, but I am no longer scared to talk about. There is nothing wrong with talking about the benefits of breastfeeding! Longs you are not bashing anyone of course. UK needs boobie talk more than ever, as it has the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Let's celebrate it and promote it as much as we can! Being able to breastfeed is an experience some mums are robbed of due to health issues or lack of care and supportetc, so why not give it a chance?

I also want to add, that I wish there was more help with combination feeding, as it is such a great option for so many mums, yet health professionals just ignore it.

If there is anything I would do differently with the next baby, I think I would maybe consider to look for a local mum who could donate some breastmilk for top-ups. There are plenty of supermums who do it for those who struggle with their supply, but I only found out about it recently. Amazing!

And, if you're struggling, there is always help:

*PR samples

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