Friday, March 27, 2015

Top Gear: Breastfeeding Edition

***The title of this post says it all, so feel free to move along if you don't care to read about this topic...

As I mentioned in my previous "Top Gear" post, if there was anything about being a new mom that I was not prepared for, it was breastfeeding.  I mean, I had read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by Le Leche League and bits and pieces from other books.  I also went through Medela's online "course" (which isn't free but I had a free code come through my e-mail) and watched videos on YouTube.

Still, once the baby got here, nothing went as planned.  Without going into too many details, all the drugs from the birth interfered with things, and we had to rush Baby Tuesday to the pediatrician only to get sent to the lactation consultant.  I always wondered why in the heck you'd need consultants for something that seemed so easy, but now I know.  Otherwise, there is the Internet, and I found to be a wonderful resource.

Anyway, it probably took two months and some supplementing to get into the swing of things.  As a disclaimer, I have nothing against formula at all -- in fact, it was all I ever knew, but they (my doctors) pounded breastfeeding so hard that I figured I would at least try it and quit if it didn't work out.  A part of me just thought, "how hard could it be?" Famous last words.  I'm sure I would have quit eons ago had it not been for Google and "The Ukrainian" helping me wrangle those first few weeks.

Now that we're now en route to five months, I don't think I'll be acquiring any new gear at this point.  But those first months... my credit card got a lot of exercise.  You see, I was dumb/naive and didn't think I'd need stuff... you kind of have everything you need, right?  And maybe that's true for some.  As I said in my previous "Top Gear" post, everyone is different.

1) Traditional Medicinals Mother's Milk Tea

This tea comes in a pack of 16, and Target had them on sale during one of my postpartum Target runs. So I bought many boxes.  I try to drink a packet a day, and I think it did help build my supply. The taste isn't super great... something like muddled licorice, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  Plus, drinking tea counts as hydration, right?

2) Medela Harmony Manual Pump

This was one thing I DID buy before the baby came, knowing that a back-up pump is a good idea, and I'm glad I did.  It is a quiet and portable alternative to electric pumping.  I like bringing it out for emergencies and have even used it while nursing on the other side (but I don't do this a lot because it's involved).  I often feel like it's more effective at getting milk out than the electric pump I have because you can control it better, even though, yes, it's definitely slower than a double electric.  Good hand workout, though!

Also, in the early days, it was much easier to stop pumping to tend to baby than it would be with an electric.  The parts are easy to assemble and clean.

3) Ameda Purely Yours Pump

Due to my issues, I started off with a hospital-grade pump (Medela Symphony -- great quiet pump, but heavy and expensive) that I was able to rent, but I honestly found that this Ameda one was almost as good at getting the milk out because you could fine-tune the speed and suction better than the hospital pump.  This pump is very light and travels easily (which is good because of all the times I have lugged it to work), and it can run on batteries if needed.  I also got a car adapter for it and have even used it in there -- not while driving, though I contemplated this... but it seemed to logistically difficult and distracting.  Also, I like that it doesn't really trap milk anywhere, so there is little waste (I tried another pump that trapped milk in some parts, so sad when you aren't pumping much!) and is hygienic.

The downside is that the valves need to be replaced pretty quickly, like once a month.  Luckily, these are pretty inexpensive online.  The flanges (horns) are kind of shallow, too, so I feel like I have to sit just so, or else there is some leaking.  Also, it is kind of annoying sounding, but I think that might be true of most pumps.  I've never tried a Medela pump (the non-hospital-grade kind), so I can't really compare, though I do prefer the Medela parts/bottles.  You can actually screw on Medela bottles onto the Ameda pump, though I haven't for some reason.

4) Nursing cover

Great for nursing and pumping in public or in the car.  I'm so glad my sister let me use hers (linked above -- a great, sturdy cover!).  It provides privacy while still letting you see what's going on under there and allowing baby to breathe.  If I were to do this again, though, I'd get a nursing scarf, which seems more convenient and fashionable for nursing... maybe not the pumping, though.

5) Lanisoh Breastmilk Storage Bags

I didn't have enough milk on hand to freeze until my baby was maybe 11 weeks old, which was great because I was returning to work soon.  I remember the feeling of satisfaction when I froze my first couple of bags.  I had not bought any but had a few samples, and then I realized that I did actually need to buy more (wahoo!).  These freeze flat and don't leak, which is very important for that precious stuff.  They also don't smear when I write on them.  At the time of this writing, I have about 60 ounces frozen (I know many people have more... I can't imagine), which I rotate through for the sake of freshness.

I recommend freezing in 2-3 oz portions, so that you can get small amounts thawed quickly and waste less because thawed milk will only last 24 hours.  Definitely if you are starting out freezing, thaw out a bag ASAP to see if your baby will still drink it, before freezing any more.  Luckily, my kid is not picky about milk and will probably drink anything I give him.  Thawing is easy -- baby gets one thawed bottle per weekday -- I put one in hot water until it liquifies again, which is actually pretty quick. I've heard you can store baby food pureé as well, though we're not there yet (and when we do, there will probably be a "Top Gear: Solids Edition" LOL.

6) Nursing tops/bras

I wanted to splurge on a nice nursing bra, but I didn't know what size I'd need, and by the time I did, going to the mall was a luxury.  Luckily, before I had the baby I got some cheap ones from Target in the size I was during pregnancy, and it seems to be working.  They don't have a very long life, though, but I'm roughly expecting that weaning will happen before they die completely.

I also have some sleep ones that are nice for home.  These are great because there are no snaps/clips to worry about, which is good because I'd always have to check if one of these was rubbing up against my baby's face.

I also picked up some of their nursing tanks, which I pretty much lived in for the first few months when pulling up clothing to nurse seemed cruel.  They went well with button-up shirts, which I still swear by now.  I will say, though, when I went back to work, I started nursing in anything I had on, maybe because I didn't have to do it as often or because I was tired of limiting my clothing choices.

7) Hands-Free Pumping Bra

I would have said this was essential, and for many people, it is.  I tried making one using an old bra that I cut holes in, but this did a better job.  Ultimately, though, I prefer not to use any because it makes it hard to get everything out (see this link for a video that explains this).  I guess if I really, really needed to multitask, I would use this.  It also keeps you from having that icky leaking feeling while pumping since it absorbs everything.

8) Dr. Brown Newborn Bottles

I was dumb, dumb, dumb and did not buy any bottles before the baby came.  I had inherited some bottles and figured I wouldn't be needing them much, and by that point, I could see if my baby had a preference for a particular kind of bottle that I could buy when the time came.  Wrong!

Besides those tiny bottles of formula that came ready-to-drink, we started out using the Medela bottle for pumped milk, since I did have one of those lying around from Item #2.  I decided to buy Dr. Brown bottles afterward because my baby, like I'm sure many babies, had bad gas, and it seemed to help in my mind.  Yes, washing those parts is annoying!

A note about these... after much research, I learned that breastfed babies up to 6 months don't usually need more than about 3-4 oz of formula per feeding, so although I have a few 8 oz versions of these bottles, I mostly use the 4 oz "newborn" version, unless I'm behind on washing or if later on if I move on to strictly formula (in which case, more than 4 oz per feeding could be needed).  I get a lot of flack about not putting "enough" in his bottles, but I'm pretty sure it's because most people (including me, previously) are used to feeding formula, which has different properties.  I had to trust my research and my baby's signals and progress.  Here's a story: I took Baby Tuesday to see his Rabbi, and the first thing the Rabbi said was, "He looks well-fed."

Also, the newborn "Level 1" nipples seem to be doing the trick since it doesn't get the baby used to a fast milk flow.  I do use the larger ones to store pumped milk, though, as there seems to be less, um, separation in them than Medela bottles.

9) Baby scale

I probably paid about $50 for one, probably too much, but this was key for me to know that my baby was actually taking in milk.  I know you're normally supposed to count diapers, but I was insecure and giving bottles, and there was a lot of spit-up during that time period due to this insecurity and my baby not knowing when to stop.

They do weighted feeds at the lactation consultant's office (which was so far away), but I only got to see them a couple of times when the results were extremely, extremely poor.  So I did more research and my own weighing and learned that 1 mL of breastmilk is about 1 gram, so all I had to do was get Baby Tuesday to settle long enough to get a grams measurement before and after a feed.  Voila!!

Honestly, I've only done this once or twice, just for reassurance.  These days, he's bottle fed a lot of the time, and on the weekend I mostly am back to watching diapers, his contentment, and weighing him periodically for weight gain.  So I would say this was probably an unnecessary splurge, but one that I really needed for confidence.

10) Fine-tooth comb

Yes, very odd item, but hear me out.  When I returned to work, I had a clogged duct that would NOT go away.  They usually would within a day or so, but it was so bad that it lingered for days, and I got a low-grade fever for several of them.  The only thing that ended up working was using a comb in the shower.  Hooray for weird remedies!

11) Oats, Flaxseed, and Brewer's Yeast

I mixed these up in an oatmeal canister and eat this for breakfast a lot of the time.  I'm not certain it really helps, but it's approximately what I normally eat and a cheap way to get things going if it does work.  The oats and flaxseed I am used to, but mannnn that Brewer's yeast smells and tastes quite bad.  Luckily, after everything is cooked, you can kind of mask the taste with nut butter or something.  This was my alternative to making lactation cookies, because I was/am lazy and didn't want to consume a bunch of extra butter and sugar (beyond what my appetite has led me to!).  If I hadn't already bought a large jar of the Brewer's yeast, I probably would have just taken the pill version, albeit a more expensive option.

12) Gatorade

Little did I know when I wrote this review that I'd be drinking this stuff outside of running.  Not long after I went back to work, I noticed some days were not particularly prolific at the pump, so rather than going for another supplement, I read somewhere to drink Gatorade.  I've also tried coconut water but haven't seen the same result.  And by "result," I'm only talking about an ounce, maybe slightly more, a day.  So I think it has helped, though it could just be because of the liquid intake itself.  Either way, had it not been for me reacquainting myself with this drink, I would have never learned about the "pepino limon" flavor that is really quite tasty!  Gotta wash down #11 somehow, right?

13) Bamboobies

While disposable breast pads work well, it's kind of an expense after months of having to wear these daily.   Okay, I'm not going to flatter myself -- I honestly think that I really don't need to be wearing these during the day mostly, but I'm sure the minute I try it, I'll have an embarrassing incident.  Maybe these are just so comfortable and absorbent that I don't know that I need them.

These come in a multipack of 3 sets + 1 overnight set for about $25, which is a lot upfront, but if I consider how many wears I've gotten out of these, I think it's a good deal.  I will still use the disposable ones occasionally, like if I were wearing something where I could not afford to have pads potentially slipping around.

14) Medela Quick Steam Bags

These little baggies are good for quick sanitizing of pump parts and bottles, but I honestly haven't used these much, maybe while traveling and when a bottle got really funky one time. I will also sanitize if a bottle has been left out dirty for wayyy too long or if Baby Tuesday has been sick.

I included it on here because these are convenient and fairly cheap (like $1/bag and each bag can be used 20 times). 


That concludes the round up!  Hopefully this helps some other parent out there comes across these suggestions and lets me know if it was helpful at all!

FTC Disclaimer: I did not receive samples for this post, unless noted.  Also, there are quite a few links in here, but no, they don't earn me any money.


  1. Thanks! Bookmarking all of this as it will be immediately and urgently relevant to my life in a month or two! I'm flat enough that I can live in non-underwire nursing bras and tanks right now - thank goodness because I haven't been measured in ages and have no clue what size I am.

  2. I tried commenting on this from my iPad but it apparently ended up in cyberspace.

    Anyways, I should have grabbed a manual pump! Great idea. I had the car adapter but it was a lot of work to set up all of the time.

    The nursing bra I never could figure out. I teetered between not enough support or enough support+clogged ducts. They are the worst. Nursing is a lot of work, props to you for enduring!! I dried up two months ago, but my freezer stash is still going strong thankfully!

    1. That must have been a very productive beginning if your freezer stash has kept you for this long. I finally figured out how to comment thread on here... I'm in heaven!