A woman’s body is an absolutely amazing thing. It’s enough that we’re capable of creating and harbouring a tiny little person from the very beginning of life until the day they take their first breath. I mean, we‘re aware that our bodies are literally doing double duty when we’re growing another human inside right? Not to mention the stretching and aches and pain of pregnancy that all lead up to the main event that is labor and delivery. Oh yes, our bodies are freaking machines.
But it doesn’t stop there.
After we create, grow, nourish, and deliver our sweet babies, our bodies continue the awesomeness by providing the exact nutrients and vitamins that your sweet newborn needs- right from momma’s breast. (I’m still amazed, 3 babies and 42 months and counting of nursing, at what my body is capable of.)
The decision to breastfeed is a personal one, and it’s not for everyone. However, if you’re an expectant momma or plan to be in the future, who plans to breastfeed you should know it’s not a total walk in the park. I don’t think anyone told me that.
Breastfeeding moms love to talk about nursing, but for some reason the fact that it can be REALLY tough isn’t something that is mentioned as often. When I had my first, I pretty much expected to deliver my baby, pop him on my breast and watch him eat happily. Yeah, that’s not how it went.
And while it’s true that the milk is free when you’re nursing, there are a few things, that aren’t free, that can be a HUGE help to a new breastfeeding mom. Without these things, my own journey with breastfeeding would have been much tougher and may not have had such a happy ending.
Here are my 7 must haves for new moms planning to breastfeed:
7 A Nursing Pillow
The first thing mom has to do, before she can begin feeding her baby, is to position baby comfortably. This can be awkward, especially for new moms. And even the tiniest new babies can get heavy after hours of nursing.
Yes, I said hours. Be prepared for LOTS of bonding time with your new little nursling in the early days.
Holding baby in the right position for nursing and keeping them and mommy comfortable is much easier with a nursing pillow.
There are many different nursing pillows on the market that are designed specifically to curve around mom’s body and cradle baby allowing mom some free hands for helping baby latch or whatever else she needs to do.
I would have been totally lost without my nursing pillow during those first few months nursing my firstborn. In fact, I had three. I kept one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the car. Nursing pillows can also be used to hold baby in your lap or the laps of visitors too.
So, if you’re a pregnant mom who plans to nurse, I definitely recommend putting one of these on your registry. I have been using mine for almost 5 years now.
6 Nipple Cream
I don’t know about you, but when I was pregnant and glowing with my first and everyone and their mother asked me if I was going to breastfeed, they simply smiled and said “good” when I said yes. They didn’t feel the need to warn me about the struggles and the pain that came along with it. Nobody said it would be hard. Nobody said that it would feel like my nipples were being torn to shreds. Why did nobody warn me?!
So, I’m here to tell you, that in the beginning when you’re having a tiny little mouth latched onto your nipple and sucking and pulling for dear life in an attempt to get that sweet liquid gold, it hurts. (I’m also here to tell you that if you can handle pregnancy and delivery or a c-section, you can definitely handle the pain that comes from breastfeeding. )
But it takes some time for your nipples to toughen up and become accustomed to such activity. And in the meantime, they are going to need some serious TLC.
So, I advise you to invest in some nipple cream. Kelly Mom recommends applying a lanolin ointment after nursing to promote “moist wound healing” which maintains the internal moisture of the skin without keeping the external layer wet.
There are several types of creams and ointments available, many of which are even safe for baby (as in you won’t need to clean the breast before feeding baby). Just be sure to read the directions and ingredients carefully.
5 Snacks and Water
One thing that almost all nursing moms can agree on is that breastfeeding makes you incredibly thirsty. For me personally, the exact moment I get comfortable and get my baby latched, that’s when the thirst kicks in. I’m not talking about your typical thirst either. This is a thirst like no other. This is “Oh My God, if somebody doesn’t dump a gallon of ice cold water down my throat right now I may die” thirst.
In general you don’t need to drink extra water to stay hydrated, you just need to drink when you’re thirsty. Chances are that the overwhelming thirst that so many new moms experience is due to the fact that they’re simply not drinking enough because they’re busy. But nursing does add to the thirst, so having a bottle of water next to the chair where you nurse is a really good idea.
As for snacks, if you thought the cravings ended with pregnancy, you may be mistaken. The chocolate and sweet cravings that I experience when I’m nursing a newborn are like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. If there wasn’t chocolate in the house everyday, there would be hell to pay. According to livestrong.com, these cravings are more likely related to the lack of sleep, than breastfeeding, but the two go hand-in-hand.
For the first 6 months, a nursing mother burns up to 500 calories a day just making breast milk. Which can be AWESOME when it comes to shedding the baby weight, but it also means you’re going to be hungry. Having healthy snacks on hand can help curb hunger and cravings while nursing, as it’s important we’re eating enough to make enough milk. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, two thirds of those calories burnt are from the foods we’re eating, and the other third comes from leftover pregnancy weight.
4 Breast Pads
Most moms who have breastfed probably have at least one embarrassing story about a time when their breasts leaked milk all over their shirt in public.
Our boobs are pretty awesome, but one thing they don’t have is an on/off switch. So sometimes when they get too full, or when we hear a baby crying in the grocery store, or even for no reason at all, our boobs leak.
Often leaking means the breast is too full and needs to be emptied, but sometimes it’s just something that happens when baby latches on to the other breast, or when mom is (finally) sleeping. In other words, it’s normal and will likely happen from time to time, especially during the first few weeks before your body figures out how much milk it should be making.
A breast pad is sort of like a sanitary napkin for your boob. It just goes over the nipple inside your bra. These pads protect your bras and shirts from stains and embarrassing wet spots. Disposable nursing pads are pretty affordable and easy to use. It’s important to change your nursing pads often, always as soon as they get wet. It’s also important to look for breast pads that allow air to circulate, not plastic lined pads. The purpose is to protect your clothes and also to keep the breast dry which helps to keep bacteria from growing.
3 Nursing Cover
Most new moms tend to be a little leery of nursing in front of an audience, especially when they’re still getting the hang of the art of the latch and juggling baby. But in the first few weeks when you’re baby is likely attracting a lot of visitors, he or she will also be wanting to do a lot of nursing. So if the thought of nursing in front of your in-laws makes you uncomfortable, I recommend having a nursing cover to allow you to nurse your baby without having to hide in your bedroom.
There are tons of covers available these days. I’ve been using the same one since my first baby was born 5 years ago. Mine has a strap that goes around my neck to hold it in place so my hands are free to hold and adjust baby. It also has a wire around the top that holds it out away from me so that I can see baby and he can see me. I don’t feel the need to use it as much anymore now that I’m more comfortable nursing, but in the beginning it was a lifesaver.
Nursing in public is another can of worms for all breastfeeding moms. It’s likely that at some point you’ll be out and about and your baby will need to eat. I’ve used my cover to feed my babies in public countless times and either nobody has ever noticed, or nobody has cared because they can’t see a thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all nursing moms have to cover up, because I don’t care what other moms do as long as they are feeding their babies. So if you’re uncomfortable at the thought of anyone seeing your boobs in public, a nursing cover is an inexpensive solution to that problem.
2 A Breast Pump
Even if you have no intention of ever feeding your baby from a bottle once in his life, I still recommend having a pump of some sort on hand, just in case. There are many different types of pumps from handheld manual pumps, to small single electric pumps, to the big fancy double electric pumps.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom since my first baby was born. I only gave my first a bottle a few times and never used bottles with my other two, yet I have used my pump countless times.
Besides the obvious reason to pump, which is to store and feed milk to your baby, there are several other reasons pumps can be useful. The day my milk came in for my third baby, he simply could not keep up so I had to pump to find some relief. I have had to pump and massage clogged milk ducts. I’ve pumped and dumped milk when I had a nasty bout of thrush. And most commonly, I’ve pumped to use my breast milk in baby cereal and homemade baby food.
If you’re a working mom who will be pumping to feed your baby throughout the day while you’re gone, you owe it to yourself to invest in a nice pump. Being a working mom is hard enough, you don’t need to spend precious hours or energy dealing with an inefficient breast pump.
But if you’re only going to be using your pump for special occurrences like me, a smaller pump or even a manual pump could get the job done. I have used a manual and a double electric, both serve the same purpose and took care of business, but now that I’ve used the latter, I wouldn’t willingly go back.
1 Support, Confidence, and Determination
I have saved the most crucial must-haves for last.
If a new mom is going to be successful in her breastfeeding journey, she simply must have support, confidence, and determination.
I cannot stress the importance of support enough when it comes to breastfeeding. For a new mom beginning breastfeeding, support can be found in a number of places. It starts in the hospital with the labor and delivery nurses and the lactation consultant. Use these resources as they are there to help you establish a good start. Ask questions, let them help you, that’s what they’re there to do. Don’t be shy. Your boobs aren’t the first they’ve seen and they won’t be the last.
Once you get home, having a friend or family member who is experienced with breastfeeding can be a huge help in the early days as questions are sure to arise. But if you don’t have someone to turn to in person, the countless online resources can be a wonderful tool also.
There are entire online communities full of women who have been in your shoes. There are thousands of new moms who are in your shoes now. You aren’t alone. Connect with these moms. Share your journey, your accomplishments, and your struggles. If nothing else, it can be nice to see you aren’t the only one awake feeding a baby at 1 am, 3 am, and 5 am.
Lastly, you’ll need confidence and determination. If you want to breastfeed, you can. You are an amazing woman who just grew a baby for 9 months. You can overcome any struggles life may place in your way.