if you’re pregnant, now is the time to prep for success by making sure you have the right nursing products on hand before baby arrives, and prepping yourself psychologically. not every mother is able to nurse her baby. a tiny percentage of moms can’t physically produce milk for various reasons. but for the overwhelming majority of women, this is not an issue, and you can choose to do what is best for your baby.
nursing is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child for it’s health and development, and can be one of the most profound and beautiful experiences of your life.
but you will want to prep yourself mentally and emotionally. i’m not going to lie. the first month of nursing a newborn can be very, very difficult. it can be one of the greatest challenges you will face. but if you muster the strength of mind and willpower to overcome them, you will go into the smooth sailing zone, and breastfeeding will become easy, and blissful.
i was determined to do everything i could to nurse my daughter. my goal was at the minimum to nurse until she was 6 months, but ideally i was hoping to get to one year, and if possible, to a year and a half. the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months, before introducing any solids. the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding to 6 months, and continued nursing to 2 years, and beyond.
i assumed it was going to be an easy, natural process, and it was for the first couple days. my baby took to my breast as soon as she was born and her father placed her on my chest for skin to skin bonding. she was a preprogrammed little squirrel searching for my breast, and i was eager to give her the colostrum she needed. my milk came in within a couple days, and 15 months later, i’m still nursing her.
but i had no idea how hard that first month would be for me. the arduous physical recovery of my difficult and traumatic labor and childbirth was a shock. and the pain of nursing again and again when your nipples are cracked and bleeding, when just brushing a shirt against your chest makes you wince, was something i hadn’t expected, but was determined to tough out. i was crying, but i was nursing. i made myself laugh through the discomfort joking that maybe i have a little vampire baby. and then the breastpump- the first time i used it it was so uncomfortable and i felt like a cow, and i just sat there and sobbed.
i didn’t give up through those early days. i didn’t complain. but the pediatrician saw me nursing, and called the lactation consultant who promptly diagnosed my baby with a tongue tie, which was causing the bleeding, because it was making it difficult for her to get milk efficiently, and she nursed more often than she needed to. a tiny snip, and suddenly i felt relief, and hope, and my baby was gulping down the milk. she became the most efficient quick nurser of all time. and i healed (after suffering a bout of mastitis because she started sleeping so well).
the moral of my story is: learning from the lactation consultants at the hospital and the pediatrician’s office is critical. make sure to ask for a lactation consultant as soon as you give birth because they will explain everything to you- how to best hold the baby, latching, what to expect when your milk comes in and your boobs become melons. they will watch you nurse and give you advice, and they will know if something isn’t right.
not all moms suffer so much when they start to nurse, i just assumed ok this is normal and i’m just going to keep going because this is what my body is meant to do, and i’m not going to deny my baby the liquid gold just because it hurts. but even if your baby doesn’t have a tongue tie, most likely it’s not going to feel good in the beginning, because your nipples aren’t used to that much friction. you will feel sore for a while, but just put your big girl mama panties on, and talk to the lactation consultant as often as possible.
don’t give up, because it’s only a few days of discomfort. the benefits of breastfeeding are undisputed. you are feeding, strengthening, loving, and protecting your child with everything it needs, and the longer you keep going, the more strength it will get from the nutrition and antibodies you provide to grow its immune system.
within days, i was able to fully enjoy nursing my baby, without wincing. the profound spiritual experience of feeding and growing a human being with your own body, with nourishment that my body was producing, is mind blowing. like when your baby was in the womb, you alone are responsible for it’s wellbeing, for its growth, and this sense of responsibility is scary and incredible at the same time. you will feel like a superhero, because you are a superhero. until the baby starts getting most of its nutrition from solids around one year, YOU are keeping the baby alive, and making it flourish and grow optimally. it is going to rock your world and change you in the most profound way.
the close bond that you will feel with your baby is incredible, and you will stare down at the milk bar in wonder and amazement, watching your newborn get milk drunk, and grow at astonishing rates. through all the sleepless nights you will kiss and nurture your child with your body, and give it life. if you allow yourself to feel the divine in those moments of beauty and stillness, you will. the energy of life and love coursing through you to your child, connecting you to the timeless infinity of the universe and god, and all the nursing mothers through all of time, is unbelievably beautiful and powerful. but i digress…
here are the must have products + resources that got me through the tough times, and into the i-love-breastfeeding zone:
breast pump make sure to call your insurance company after your baby is born, so they can send you a free breast pump. thanks to Obama, insurance companies are now required to do so, which saves us mamas a lot of money! having a breast pump is key if you want to step away from the baby for a bit, go back to work, or allow your partner to experience the joy of feeding, albeit via the bottle.
KellyMom.com KellyMom is a fantastic resource for breastfeeding moms. when you need to find out if a medication is safe, or are having supply issues, this site has a lot of info and answers.
track breastfeeding, diaper changes, etc. perfect for data geeks. information is power.
remembering which side baby nursed on is impossible. i still use the app at 15 months, to track growth spurts, nursing patterns etc.
if you don’t understand why you need these, let’s just say you will be leaking, a lot, until your milk supply is fully established after two or three months. it’s not really a good look, so you will want these. plus they’re made of bamboo, and more sustainable and absorbent than throwaway ones. i probably wore mine until at least eight months.
Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads
they will soothe your sore nipples, and help you feel comfortable, you just put them on, then put on a soft nursing bra/sleep bra, and whenever you nurse you gently peel them off and then put them back on after.
it’s the most moisturizing salve out there. i tried several others, that just don’t cut it. now i use it on the dry skin on my elbows and to protect my nose when i get a cold.
i got two of these organic sleep bras, and i basically wore them day and night for the first couple months, and then at night as my sleep bra until almost a year. super soft, comfortable, organic cotton. there’s no uncomfortable hooks, straps etc.
it’s not until you start hanging out outside the house with the baby that you start wearing normal nursing bras. these were my second skin, and kept the bamboobies in, without having to adjust.
i’ve tried dozens of the top rated nursing bras. and this one is hands down my favorite. it’s wireless, which is critical, as underwire can interfere with milk production. it’s extremely comfortable, and the fabric is supportive yet soft, and adjusts to the changing sizes of your girls (which padded bras don’t), and your ribcage, which grows during pregnancy and then gets smaller postpartum.
it also comes in different colors and designs, as well as a wide range of sizes. for example 32 DD, which is a difficult size to find. plus the bra looks cute with its lace trim, whereas most are just frumpy. i have two of these.
La Leche League Intimates Lace Softcup Nursing Bra
this is the bra i’m wearing in the big pic above where the sun is shining upon us so magically. every nursing mama needs a lace bra to feel pretty. i hate all the frumpy nursing bras, they are so ugly, and depressing.
this one is all lace, and a soft enough rose color where it looks like a cami peeking out. plus its soft and comfortable, and inexpensive.
depending on how much Vitamin D you are getting in your prenatals, or in a separate supplement, your baby may or may not be getting enough from your breastmilk, as only a small amount of Vitamin D transfers into it.
babies need Vitamin D to develop healthy bones, immune system, brain etc, and pregnant moms are often Vitamin D deficient, so make sure you’re taking a supplement, and if you’re not sure, get these Vitamin D drops, which you can drop, one a day, on your nipple, or on a pacifier.
these muslin blankets are perfect for summertime swaddling, covering the stroller, and so much more. my favorite use is as a nursing cover. i fold the blanket in half, tie the ends, and i can wear it as an infinity scarf, or put on whenever i need to nurse in public.
this is a great way to practice being comfortable nursing in public. just leave the scarf on (the stripe pattern is my fave as it doesn’t look like a baby blanket), and pop baby underneath to nurse, and use the blanket to wipe up spit, drool, barf, boogers, all those delights. don’t waste your money on buying an ugly nursing cover. this is much more versatile.
if this is helpful, please share with an expecting mother!