Things I’ve Learned About Breastfeeding

It occurs to me that I should write down all the stuff I’ve learned about breastfeeding before I forget about it.

Background
I nursed my first daughter until she weaned herself at 22 months. I’m still nursing my second daughter, who’s just over two years old. She doesn’t show signs of weaning herself, so I’m starting to taper it off to force her to wean now.

Starting Out
It hurts. Even when you know what to expect and what to do, it hurts. But only for the first week or so. The deal is, your nipple isn’t used to being constantly sucked on and your baby doesn’t automatically have her technique down perfectly. She will latch on wrong a time or two at first and that will injure your nipple. Having her continue to suck on an injured nipple just increases the injury.

What to do? Put a lanolin cream on it. This does nothing for the pain, but it keeps the scab that’s forming soft. This will make nursing on the painful nipple a bit easier. It’s natural and non-toxic, so you don’t need to worry about wiping it off before nursing again. Use ice packs between nursing to help with the pain.

Nursing Pads
There are lots of options for nursing pads. I used the disposable ones occasionally, but I mostly used washable cloth ones. I liked the kind with a bit of lace on one side because the lace helped keep them in place in my bra without any adhesives.

Nursing Clothing
For the most part, you don’t need to buy special nursing clothing. T-Shirts work great. Just pull them up to nurse. The top of you T-Shirt will cover you pretty well, and the baby will cover your belly. Button-up blouses work well too.

Nursing Bras
These are essential. Forget about pretty, lacey things for now. You just need to find one that’s supportive. Unfortunately, I can’t find a nursing bra that fits me as well as a standard bra, but I do the best I can.

You’ll likely find yourself wanting a sleep bra, perhaps for the first time in your life.  When you’re very full of milk, they can be heavy and a little extra support is helpful.  More importantly, however, you need something to wear to keep your nursing pads in place.  Because you’ll likely leak a lot and otherwise you’ll get milk soaking your nightgown and sheets when you wake up.

Mastitis
I occasionally get a mastitis infection if I don’t nurse as often as normal the day before. I end up with too much milk and it causes an infection. I get a fever for a day and feel pretty miserable, but I’m better the next day. To prevent this, I try not to change my nursing patterns from day to day. Especially on days when we have company over or we’re traveling.

Pumping
It’s a nuisance. I did it for a year with my first daughter so my husband had milk to do one feeding at night. I also did it occasionally to prevent mastitis when I had too much milk but the baby wasn’t interested in nursing.

Storing It
I froze it in the baby bottles.

Reheating It
I used the microwave. I know that experts will caution you against this. But as long as you make sure to shake it up before giving it to the baby, it works fine. Shaking it is important to prevent hotspots that the microwave can cause.

Nursing in Public
It’s really not that big a deal. Have the courtesy not to flaunt it (face away from other people in the room and, if possible, find a private corner) and they will have the courtesy to avert their eyes and give you your privacy.

Milk Supply
Sometimes it will seem like your body isn’t producing enough milk and you start wondering about ways to increase your milk supply. I’ve seen lots of advice about teas and herbal supplements and such. The first thing you should try is to just drink more water. Seriously, that was all it ever took for me. That always solved the problem. If you’re dehydrated, your milk production goes down.

Breastmilk vs. Formula
Breastmilk is free. I’m cheap. I breastfeed.

Paying Cash Instead of Plastic Makes you spend less? Not for me.

I keep seeing articles advising people to pay cash for things rather than credit cards because most people spend less when that way. It annoys me a little, because it assumes everyone uses cards the same way.

For me and my family, we definitely spend less when we’re paying by plastic rather than cash.

First, let me explain how we use our cards. We pay off our balance every month. That way we don’t need to worry about interest rates. I like having the option to make a minimum payment and let the balance ride if I need to. However, we haven’t needed to do that for years.

Second, I track everything we spend with our cards. Our credit card companies categorize all our spending for us pretty well and I use Quicken to categorize it even better. I save receipts and go through them occasionally to figure out exactly what we bought and feed that into Quicken as well. So, everything we spend with plastic will eventually have to be accounted for and justified.

Third, we get a 5% discount at Target when paying with our Target card and we get a Cashback Bonus from Discover, which I roll back into paying off the accounts. This makes for a very slight discount over everything we purchase with plastic rather than cash.

Fourth, we have two people using our checking account. If we each draw money out of the ATM or use our check cards and it’s a few days before we balance the checkbook, we may risk overdrawing the account accidentally. We do have overdraft protection, but that’s a $20 or $30 fee each time we use it. You don’t have run that risk with a credit card.

Fifth, I don’t track what I spend as well when paying cash. I don’t keep receipts when I pay with cash. All I track is how much comes out of the ATM. I know when I purchase with cash I won’t have to account for where the money went, so I don’t pay too much attention to it and tend to spend more.

I understand that this is not how everyone, or even most people, handle their accounts. For many people they do spend more when using credit cards. However, this is not the case for everyone. I know it isn’t for me. It annoys me when financial experts present financial tips like this as if it is a one-size-fits-all solution. For some people, they’ll spend less when they pay by cash. For others, they spend less with plastic. It just depends on your individual spending and accounting habits.