When you announce on the internet that you're nursing your baby and need advice, women are only too happy to give it to you. However, I've noticed that the women most likely to give advice, the ones who frequent the breastfeeding communities, are the so called "boob nazis." They feel so strongly that breast is best, that even an ounce of formula is criminal. For example, a new mother I know was just "dropped" by her online breastfeeding mentor because she confessed that she started giving her newborn one small bottle of formula at night (for the sake of her sanity).
To me, this seems crazy! If you believe so strongly in breastfeeding, isn't it better to encourage women to at least do it part of the time, rather than reprimanding them for taking measures to make it more doable? I've gotten some ridiculously useless advice from women who refused to compromise their breastfeeding ideals. (i.e. When I started giving my daughter solids, I was advised to have her reverse her sleep cycle to spend most of the night awake so she could nurse during this time. Seriously??)
With that in mind, I'd like to offer some practical tips and advice for breastfeeding and pumping, coming from a working mother who believes strongly in breastfeeding but is not a "boob nazi." You can take this advice with a grain of salt, because this is just based on my own personal experiences:
1) Breastfeeding is actually not that easy. I was amazed how challenging it was the first week. Your nipples hurt, the nursing itself hurts, you get dehydrated, and you never seem to have enough milk. Don't give up after just one week. It gets way easier. Promise.
2) One (or even more than one) bottle of formula will probably not result in terminal nipple confusion or a sharp decrease in supply. Due to an ABO mismatch between me and my husband, we produce very jaundiced babies. They got bottles in the hospital. No evil resulted.
3) You are not a horrible person if you allow your partner to give the baby a bottle at night so that you can get a few consecutive hours of sleep and feel human. I resisted this for as long as I could with my older daughter and finally gave in when my health started suffering. It actually ended up being wonderful because it made my husband feel closer to the baby and more comfortable taking care of her.
4) You don't need to have five gallons of frozen milk stored up when you go back to work. If you do: awesome. But if you don't, it's not the end of the universe. Due to a variety of reasons, I had absolutely no stored breast milk when I returned to residency. Despite this lack of foresight and my daughter's monstrous appetite, she didn't get any formula at all for the first three months I was back at work. Obviously it would have been better if I had planned ahead, but I'm just saying that you can make it work.
5) Expect to hate pumping. I have yet to meet a woman who didn't find pumping really depressing.
6) If you're having a hard time pumping during your maternity leave, try pumping first thing in the morning every morning. Your supply will be highest then and the pumping will be most successful. Nurse one breast, pump the other. One 5 ounce bag of milk every morning for 11 weeks will give you about 400 ounces of milk, even if you don't pump any other time.
7) If you work standard hours at your job (Monday through Friday with most weekends off), your supply will probably decrease as the week goes on and be highest on Monday. Take advantage of this by pumping like crazy on Mondays and over the weekend. I used to nurse on Monday morning AND pump out 10 ounces.
8) Keep well hydrated.
9) If you feel you can't breastfeed and your baby gets formula, your baby will still be healthy and absolutely nobody will judge you except for a few nut jobs on the internet. When I was an intern, a graduating resident told me she couldn't make breastfeeding work because of her hem/onc fellowship. That woman was an awesome resident, a wonderful person, and I bet anything she is a great mother. If nursing is going to make you tired, cranky, and unhappy, and you hate it and are only doing it out of guilt... well, I just don't think it's something worth feeling guilty about.
Anyway, that's all I've got for now, but feel free to add your own practical advice. Hopefully, this will help some new moms or mothers-to-be.