Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail

The number one myth about breastfeeding is that it’s easy for everyone.  There’s this prevailing vision that all a first-time mother has to do is cradle a newborn to her breast and he would instinctively suck his fill while angels sing a sweet chorus in the background.

Well yes, it can be like that, but not necessarily for the majority.  So many things can go wrong.  The baby can have a tongue-tie.  He can be premature, and thus have a weak sucking reflex.  The mother may have undergone a caesarian section with all of the attendant complications of major surgery. Ad infinitum.

In my case, it turned out that I had inverted nipples (I had no idea), and my baby had trouble latching. Within hours, my nipples were bleeding, I was practically in tears, and my son was still screaming.  My mother was stomping about the ward demanding formula, and I was this close to agreeing with her. Fortunately, the pediatrician arrived, calmed us all down, and eventually referred us to a lactation consultant who recommended a nipple shield.

It was only then that I realized that there was so much that I didn’t know.  And I’m a doctor. You would have thought that breastfeeding would have come up at some point in my medical education, but it never did.

Looking back now, I wish that I’d researched better, and that I’d attended a few breastfeeding classes before I actually gave birth. Because if I had, maybe I would have known that I should have been prepared with several breastfeeding accessories that would have made my journey easier, such as:

  1. Nursing tops and dresses. Before the dawn of online shopping, you could only buy these in malls.  Now, online shops abound (I favor Shopee and Lazada), and they sell comfortable and fashionable nursing-friendly clothes for a fraction of the mall price. Some of these double for both maternity and nursing purposes, so you can use them longer.
  2. Nursing bras.  A must. Buy the non-wired ones as they are more comfortable.  I suggest buying these on your third trimester and buying a size bigger than your actual measurements because your twins will swell to unbelievable proportions once engorgement sets in, believe me.
  3. Washable and reusable breastpads to catch leakage and unplanned letdowns.
  4. A nursing cover made of light material that hides both front and back.  Or if you’re well supplied with nursing tops already, the apron-type one that just hides your front.  Ideally, the top hem should also be stiffened with wire so that you can still see your baby while you breastfeed.
  5. A silicone letdown catcher like the Haakaa.  I’ll talk more about this in a later post because it’s such a supply-saver.
  6. BPA-free milk bottles for storing excess or pumped milk.  Maybe about 8-10 of them.
  7. A steam sterilizer.  It’s much easier and more convenient to use than boiling everything!
  8. A good, portable, rechargeable or powerbank-driven double electric pump.  Again, I’ll talk more about this in a future post because it’s so important.
  9. A hands-free bra or band for holding the breastpump flanges.
  10. An insulated bag and ice packs for storing pumped breastmilk on the go.
  11. A salve to soothe your poor nipples after baby has been chewing on them every 2 hours or so.
  12. One-time use sterile milk bags for storing and freezing excess breastmilk.
  13. A stand-alone freezer chest for storing your frozen breastmilk.  This is optional, and only recommended if you have LOTS of excess milk that would crowd out the food in your refrigerator freezer.  I bought mine before my third child was born because I already have a history of oversupply.  I’m still using it 21 months out.

The Haakaa silicone pump, picture from Haakaa Philippines (Facebook)

I will tackle all of these items in future posts, but suffice to say that I’ve used all of them with my two younger babies to excellent effect. Unfortunately with my eldest, he was the guinea pig.

You might think that the prospect of buying so much stuff is daunting and discouraging, but I actually think it fortunate that they’ve become available and affordable in the local Filipino setting.  Not so long ago, breastfeeding accessories were either hard to find, expensive, or both, and I had to order them from abroad.  Times have certainly changed, and for the better.

What other nursing essentials can you think of?

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