To begin I would just like to reiterate that while I am pro-breastfeeding, I am also pro-happy mama and well fed baby. Please understand that your sanity and the health of your baby are far more important than successful breastfeeding will ever be. Before the birth of my son, I created a rule for myself - If I was miserable breastfeeding, I would allow myself to quit (guilt free) only if I felt the same way a week after I made the decision. Luckily, every time I felt like I just couldn't take it anymore, a week was enough time to heal the wounds (literally) and give me the strength to press on.
Breastfeeding is NOT easy. In fact it was one of the harder things I have done in my life. I approached it as a challenge and I am happy to say I was able to make it through the hard times to the rewarding, easy, bonding experience that is established breastfeeding.
These suggestions, a VERY patient lactation consultant (Thank you Fatima), and a dose of good old fashioned gumption are what helped me through. I realize that some of these opinions may not be shared by everyone. This topic and the the opinions that follow are especially personal and specialized, however, this is what worked for me. Over the next couple months, I will have several breastfeeding-centric posts, with specific brand recommendations, and some giveaways of awesome products.
1. Breastfeeding Book
Get yourself a good breastfeeding book and read it from cover to cover. I am a NICU nurse and thought I knew a thing or two about breastfeeding. Reading this book and then attempting breastfeeding only proved I previously knew very litle.
2. Lactation Consultant
Find yourself a lactation consultant. Line one up in advance if you can! Nothing helped more than having someone there that knew what they were doing. My lactation consultant was able to make suggestions and actually see if we were doing things correctly. Breastfeeding is not instinctual. At least it wasn't for me. This, "training" helped immensely. It eased my fears, and built my confidence as well.
You CAN use a pacifier. Don't let anyone scare or bully you regarding nipple confusion. Either your kid likes to breastfeed or he doesn't. You can work on it if he doesn't, but if you have a non-stop suckler on your hands what do you do? You give him a paci! I did not want my nipples becoming the only form of comfort. My baby had a need for non-stop suckling. A pacifier was my only break.
4. Nursing Bras
I only bought one nursing bra prior to establishing that this whole breastfeeding thing was going to work out. That one bra (plus some days of air drying and some great tank-tops) got me through the month and to the point where I decided that breastfeeding was for me. At that time I went out and invested in some quality bras. Normally I only buy bra's at TjMaxx for 10 or 15$ at the most. Nursing bra's were a splurge for me, but very worth it. If you breastfeed it will be the hardest you've ever been on bras. Sweat, milk, vomit, pulling, washing, etc....trust me you need some quality bras to survive this.
5. DON'T waste your money on fancy nursing pajamas
Prior to the birth of my baby I ran around frantically seeking the cutest set of nursing pajamas I could find. Fast forward to my post-partum period, and I was thrilled to be able to take a shower and suit up in my new pj's. Unfortunately, every medical professional felt the need to have me disrobe and continue skin-to-skin contact with the baby to help stimulate milk production. In short I spent probably 2 hours in my cute pj's in 3 days. Don't waste your money.