04 August 2011

The New Nursing Mom's Checklist

For those of you who are planning to breastfeed and are pregnant, this list is for you. and for those of you who have already had your first child and are working on a breastfeeding relationship, I apologize for not writing this sooner. You can egg my house later. Though this may not be an exhaustive list, I hope it will provide those of you wondering what you need for nursing with a decent place to start.

A Good Pump: While for some of you it might not be "necessary" to have a pump, I would say that the vast majority of women should have a decent one. Why? For me, it really made the difference when I was engorged after my milk came in and Heidi could not possibly eat enough to make me feel better. Pumping was such a huge relief for me in those early days I cannot even begin to describe it. If you plan to return to work, you would certainly need a pump so your baby can still have milk when you're gone. Even if you don't plan to return to work, I think it's always a good idea to pump and freeze your milk for whenever you might need it or to give away to others who can't make milk.
If you don't have an electric pump, you may be able to rent one from the hospital or in some cases, they might give you a manual one. You can also manually express milk, though that takes a bit of practice at first. Whatever you do, please consider staying away from Medela. As a company, they have refused to comply with the WHO code in a number of ways and do not have the best interests of mothers and babies at heart. (Instead, look at Hygeia or Ameda).

This is how I felt about my hospital stay with Heidi.

Nursing Tank Tops: Even before you purchase nursing bras, I would tell you to purchase as many nursing tank tops as you can. Why? I lived in them at the beginning of my first nursing relationship. Literally. I'd put one on to go to bed and then wouldn't take it off until I was going to bed the following night (gross? maybe, but there's not a lot of brain power during the first few weeks of your baby's life...and not a lot of motivation to wear clean clothes). After I was more comfortable with nursing, I just wore them at night as pajamas or under button-down pajama shirts. I cannot recommend them enough, for real.

Nursing Bras: If you are a seasoned nurser, you might not really need any nursing bras because any bra is technically sufficient. However, in the first days of being a new mother, when you are likely to experience some engorgement, you might want to have a really (large) supportive bra on hand to help get you through. If you are already large chested, be sure to purchase a bra that is about two sizes larger than you normally wear and another one a size or so up for those first few weeks. Your chest will thank you.

A Rocking Chair: I consider this essential nursing equipment because it is a comfortable space for you to sit and relax while feeding your child. Additionally, the movement coupled with nursing is a surefire combination for sleep. I found, even after Heidi's birth, that I needed to rock her. It was soothing for both of us and helped with bonding.

A Nursing Cover: If you're like me, you might not be comfortable with other people watching you nurse your child, especially in the beginning. Find a really good, large nursing cover that you feel comfortable wearing and won't be too hot for your baby. I found my favorite cover to be one that went around my neck so that child could not forcefully pull it off (just attempt to choke me) in certain instances. Also, if you will be eventually returning to work and pumping, you might want a cover so that you can discretely pump wherever you are allowed (even at your desk!).
Nursing Piper was infinitely easier.

Lanolin: I was not given any lanolin until I was leaving the hospital with Heidi and when I finally got to use it, I realized what a difference it might have made to me during the first few days of painfulness. It is a substance that does not have to be removed from the nipple before baby feeds so that was a huge plus for me. If you still have some after you're done nursing (or no longer need it) it is also a good substitute for lotion and can even be used on cuts or sores, especially in the diaper area. Additionally, if you cloth diaper and decide to use wool, lanolin is how you keep your wool covers waterproof.

Support:  Having breastfeeding support is so critical in the early days and weeks when frustrations and pain can be enough to make anyone want to quit. Even if you have just one person who supports your decision to breastfeed, it can make the difference between sticking with it and giving up. And while the internet can be very informative, you might also want to have a good nursing book handy for when you cannot get to the computer or just don't want to. The only book I read is one I borrowed from a friend (and still haven't returned! Sorry!), which is So That's What They're For. I found it to be very helpful and would definitely recommend it, but again, I haven't read any others.

Some final tips:
  • Wear a bikini top in the shower. For a while, taking a shower hurt almost as much as nursing and the best way to cover my nipples while still being able to wash myself was with a bathing suit.
  • A lot of women find it easier to learn to breastfeed by being topless. If you are uncomfortable with that, wear a bra and a button down shirt so you don't have to jump through hoops to "whip it out."
  • Co-sleep/bed-share. The easiest nursing for me was nursing in the middle of the night without having to do anything other than open my shirt. If your baby is right there with you, you won't have to do much to feed her. 
  • Freeze as much milk as you can because you never know when you might need it.
  • Get comfortable. It can be very difficult to sit for the duration of a feeding if you are in an awkward position. In the beginning, it's nice to have someone hand you your baby after you sit down, but that is not always possible. While getting yourself comfortable, you can place baby on the floor or somewhere next to you where she can't get hurt. Then once you are situated, let the fun begin.
  • Though they are not necessary, you might want some nursing shirts or dresses in the early days. It always feels nice to wear real clothes and still be able to nurse easily and discreetly. These garments are often expensive, but since they still look like regular clothes you can probably get away with wearing them for a long time. 
What were/are your must-haves for breastfeeding? 



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  1. This is a great list, Amanda! I was hesitant to buy anything for nursing in advance, preferring to wait until I saw for sure that I needed something before making a purchase. This proved to be a mistake, as I ended up sending my husband on a desperate search for lanolin in the middle of the night during my first week of nursing. That stuff is worth it's weight in gold!

  2. Grrrr. Its weight. Least favorite typo in the world.

  3. You got it right the first time! :)

    I had to send my mom out to get me bigger bras the first day I was home and then smaller ones a little while later. :)

  4. I think I've got it all! :-) And, I'm definitely going to wear the bikini top when showering this time....I remember showering being near-torture for a while after Aaryan was born...