By choosing to breastfeed your baby, you’ve made one of many decisions that will arise over the next few weeks. Some of the first things you’ll likely want to consider will be:
- How will I feed my baby?
- How will I diaper my baby?
- How will I clothe my baby?
- Where will I put my baby to sleep?
You’ll notice these questions all begin with “How Will I” or “Where Will I?” That’s because YOU are responsible for this new little miracle in your life. No one has ever been so dependent on you until now. It’s slightly terrifying (I know), but it’s also one of the most rewarding responsibilities you’ll ever have.
Google “benefits of nursing” and you’ll find a wealth of information on how nursing helps provide babies with optimal nutrition, intellectual development, and even social and mental development. These are just some specific of the benefits of nursing*:
- Human milk provides the specific nutrients that babies need to grow, both in size and maturity – your milk is made to order for your baby!
- Provides your baby with antibodies to protect him or her from illness
- Decreased likelihood for allergies and dental caries in the baby
- Reduced rates of breast cancer and ovarian cancer for the mother
I am a first time mother of a 5 month (nearly 6 month – oh God it goes so fast!) old. We’ve had a very successful breastfeeding relationship thus far, and it’s something I plan to continue until he is at least one year old. (I could see us having a pre-bedtime session for a little bit longer than that, but I’m taking things day-by-day and following my little guys lead.) During my pregnancy, I always knew I wanted to nurse my son as it seems to be the most natural way to feed my precious child. I took a breastfeeding class with my husband at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City led by a local Doula, La Leche League Leader and Lactation Consultant.
I never thought I’d become so passionate about something so simple as feeding my son – or so open about it. I’ve whipped out a boob inches away from my grandfather, brother, in-laws and friends. I’m almost embarrassed I’ve only used my nursing cover twice; to shield Baby K from the cold air during a check-up with his pediatrician and at a restaurant with my in-laws.
But, let’s be honest: it’s not easy. Anyone who tells you the first weeks come without pain or confusion are probably lying (or really, really lucky). The first few weeks are spent recovering from childbirth, which is a difficult enough on its own. They don’t call it labor for nothin’, folks.
Here are my suggestions on how to can best prepare before baby arrives. More on what to do when you take that beautiful bundle home in another post 🙂
Take a class. You can’t practice nursing your little guy before he arrives, but you can arm yourself with as much knowledge as you can. Check your local hospital – ours was only $15 and was taught by the same sweet woman who helped us in-room at the hospital. It’s typically a couples class, and you will want your husband to come if he can. Your brain may be absolute mush by the time you get home, and he’ll (hopefully) remember some of the information you were taught. If you can’t, or don’t want, to attend a class, consider watching one online.
Bookmark these sites: kellymom.com, Alphaparent: Timeline of a Breastfed Baby, and La Leche League. Kellymom is particularly helpful during those early weeks as you’ll have a MILLION questions and concerns.
Ensure support. For the first two weeks at home, we were instructed to feed our little man at least every 2-3 hours. Which meant setting our alarm clock at night, and rousing the peaceful slumbering babe in the bassinet at the side of our bed. It’s standard practice the first few weeks of life to make sure they get the nutrients they needed to grow. I spent a lot of time reading about how to get a baby to sleep, not how to keep one awake! Imagine my surprise when our little boy fell asleep within seconds of latching on. My husband woke up every single time with me, and helped keep him awake by dabbing him with a cold wash cloth each time he started to nod off. Even when he was staying awake, my man was there to offer me water, help reposition my Boppy, but mostly just sit nearby and offer moral support. I can’t imagine doing it alone.
Stock up on supplies! Most women have trouble helping their babe get the right latch – and most babes have a tiny mouth – a good combo for pain. This usually resolves itself after a few weeks, but in the meantime could be sore 8-12 times per day until you get it right.
- Soothies. Get at least one pack. The first few days after the milk comes in you’ll be happy you have these. If you keep them in the fridge, you’ll not only get relief through the lanolin cream on the nipple-side, but from the cold as well. These felt like HEAVEN during the toughest stage. I’ll spare my readers the graphic details, but I didn’t refer to my baby as a blood-sucking vampire one afternoon because things felt good.
- Boppy nursing pillow. And organic cotton cover! Ladies on Etsy and Pottery Barn have lots of options for covers.
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Organic Milkmaid Tea. I can’t say this works for sure, but my favorite part the first few weeks home was our morning ritual. The little guy and I would get up, watch the sunrise and I would sip this decaff tea. I would nurse him in our rocking chair, and he would sleep on my chest for a while after (sometimes hours – so make sure you use the restroom first!).
- Camelback glass water bottle. I’m not into plastic, but I do like to carry a water bottle. Nursing makes you very thirsty. This met all of my needs – and also fits nicely into the drink holder of my stroller and gym bag. I’ve heard good things about Lifefactory, as well.
- Wash cloths, or bibs. I like wash cloths because they’re so versatile. Good for soaping down my baby during his bath, catching pee mid-air on the changing table or wiping up #2 when he decides to go mid-diaper change. But at the very least, you’ll want to burp your little one and wipe up drool.
- Organic cotton nursing pads. Most mamas leak at one point or another. It only happened to me occasionally during the first few weeks while my supply balanced out. The organic washable ones are nice so you can reuse them, and not worry about having questionable near where your baby will be putting his face!
- Sleep bras. I have two, but three would have been better. That way you can have one in the wash, one on and a spare in case of leaking. You’re ladies will be a little sensitive (think first trimester.
- Nursing bra. Think soft, not structured. The size of your milk-makers will change from week 1 to month 1. At 6 months post-partum, I’m pretty close to my pre-pregnancy body and love this bra.
- Nursing tank top. I suggest two neutral colors; I have black and gray. You don’t need anything fancy or expensive, but they’re great layering pieces and pajama tops. Most come in maternity sizes, so you can wear it right home from the hospital covering the weird flabby belly you’ll go home with.
- Open cardigan. Throw some one of these sweaters over your nursing tank top and boom – outfit! Dress up with jeans and pumps, or pair with yoga pants to lounge. These also double as a nursing cover. Purchase at least a black one, and one other color. These are still beneficial when your nursing time is over, so don’t be afraid to get something high quality that will last.
- Nursing cover. My favorite brand, The Honest Company, now makes cool scarves that double as a nursing cover. I’m all about items that grow with baby over time, and items that can be reused for multiple purposes. Anything that makes you feel more comfortable nursing in public will work, but something that will be fashionable when baby is not attached to your boob is even better.
- One cool-looking nursing shirt. Pretty soon you’ll want to put all of your maternity clothes away and start trying to look like your normal self again. It will take a while, so be patient, and enjoy the lounge wear and baby snuggles. But in the meantime, you can show off baby during walks and while visiting with friends and relatives. It took me a while to finally get a “cool” nursing shirt, and let me just say, I wish I had gotten more – and sooner! I popped into the Upper Breast Side one afternoon and treated myself to a color-blocked long sleeve shirt. I can feed my son without anyone noticing, or having to expose my pale stomach in the dead of winter. Zulilly frequently has sales on Momzelle items, and boob is also a great brand to check-out. (boob believes in organic material and sustainable practices – but they’re European and a bit hard to find here in the US.)
Just remember, if you’re experiencing pain: this too shall pass. IT WILL MAMA! Get the latch right, allow yourself time to heal… and it will be smooth sailing and you’ll be so happy you stuck with it. Nursing my son has been so rewarding, so easy (now) and I’m always confident I’ve made the right choice.
Good luck, love your baby, and as always – feel free to fire away with questions in the comment section. And check soon for posts on pumping, nursing fashion and more.
Please note: See a doctor or a lactation consultant with any serious questions or concerns. This blog is for fun, and a little bit of friendly advice. And whatever happens, I believe in supporting other mamas as long as they love their babies with all they’ve got!
*Benefits of nursing from La Leche League,