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One of the most magical (and frustrating) things about becoming a new mom was breastfeeding. Before I was pregnant, breastfeeding seemed like the oddest thing in the world. While I was pregnant, tried to read books on breastfeeding, but honestly never made it past the first few pages. Instead, I listened to podcasts (Pregtastic and Preggy Pals were my favorites) and attended to a breastfeeding class at a birth center. I learned about all of the amazing health benefits breastfeeding would have for Baby and made some personal goals for how long we would breastfeed.
The most important thing I learned was that it was normal for Baby not to breastfeed for the first 24-48 hours, and that if he didn’t eat he would be ok because he had some nutrition stores from before he was born. Still, it was important to put Baby to the breast every couple hours to practice, especially with the amazing nurses and lactation consultants there to help.
I looked at our stay in the hospital as time to practice breastfeeding. I sought out one-on-one guidance and advice during our three day stay. I was told the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so asked for help early and often. I received a lot of coaching to help Baby latch correctly and on different positions for holding Baby while nursing. The lactation consultants also taught me how to hand express milk, something I would have never thought to do. Hand expression was super efficient and has come in handy many times, especially while traveling.
With the mindset of “we’re just practicing,” I didn’t feel stressed or frustrated the times Baby wouldn’t eat because that was what I expected to happen. Each time Baby would eat, it was a little bonus celebration that we were on the right track. This attitude helped me relax and bond with my baby when he was first born. Of course, a few comfort items also helped, especially once we were home and on our own. Here is my list of must haves for the first few weeks of breastfeeding.
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1. Lanolin. I heard of lanolin while I was pregnant, but it was a few nurses in the hospital that really encouraged me to use it. They advised me to put it on before and after every feeding to help prevent cracked nipples and soothe soreness. It’s basically chapstick for your nipple, and it was a lifesaver. My favorite was Lansinoh HPA Lanolin for Breastfeeding Mothers.
Warning: Lanolin stains! Always use it with nursing pads to protect your bras and tank tops. After the first few weeks, I only used lanolin once or twice a day, and eventually stopped using it altogether. A little goes a long way, so I wouldn’t stock up on the stuff, but it was great for me to have a tube in the diaper bag and another in my nightstand at home.
2. Nursing Gel Pads. At first the gel pads felt like a luxury item, but they quickly became absolutely essential when my milk came in. I used the Philips AVENT Thermal Gel Pads and stuck them into my nursing cami. I still keep the pads in the freezer, and they’ve come in handy as ice packs. I’ve used them to soothe sore tendons from mommy thumb or my back after a hard workout.
3. Breastfeeding Camisoles. I lived in nursing camis when Baby was first born, and still sleep in them at night. I started wearing them in the hospital with sleep shorts, and they also look great under kimono style dresses for easy breastfeeding access. I would wear them comfortably around the house, and tighten the straps for more support when going out. My favorites were by Gilligan & O’Malley at Target.
4. Nursing Sleep Bras. Baby was born in August, and it was HOT. Our poor air conditioner just could not keep up. Thus, I slept in my (lanolin stained) sleep bras every night. They were comfortable and made nighttime feedings easy. I waited until Baby was a few weeks old before buying regular nursing bras so that the size would be right.
5. Nursing Pads. Whenever Baby would nurse, the “other side” would also let down, so I always wore nursing pads to protect my clothes. I tried a few different brands and Lasinoh Disposable Nursing Pads were my favorite. I stuck them into my bra without using the sticky tape to adhere it. They were super absorbent, so I would typically only switch them out once a day. However, if the pad feels wet, replace it to prevent infection. I always wanted to try reusable pads, but they seemed like they would be bulky and show through my bra. Maybe next time.
6. Manual Breast Pump. I originally wanted a manual breast pump so that I could stick it in my purse for when I needed to pump on date nights with my husband (ha!). Instead, I used it to relieve some pressure when I was engorged. It was great to have on hand while I was figuring out all the red tape for ordering a double electric breast pump from my insurance provider. The manual pump came in handy when I needed to pump in the middle of the night, when we were traveling, or when I needed a break from the whirring of the electric breast pump. I chose the Philips Avent Manual Comfort Breast Pump because I could attach it directly to our Avent bottles. It’s a great pump, even with its own squeaky sound that I never figured out how to stop.
7. Water. Staying hydrated is always important, but especially so when you’re lactating. If you give birth in a hospital, take your water jug with you when you leave. They can’t reuse them, and it’s wonderful to have at home. For out and about, I never go anywhere without my favorite Camelbak water bottle in tow. However, keeping up with filtering water and washing the bottles was one thing I let go of my first week or two at home. For that short period, we had a couple flats of bottled water from Costco and I relished in having it readily available. I still feel a guilty about all the plastic bottles, but it was a simple and affordable indulgence that supported breastfeeding and made life a little easier. I promise I recycled each one.
8. Nursing Pillow. Thank you to Charlotte from the Pirate Monkey Mama for reminding me of this one! In the hospital, I used an arrangement of normal pillows to help position Baby. However, once I was home I used the My Brest Friend Pillow constantly. Some of my friends preferred a Boppy Pillowinstead. I recommend trying out both and keeping the one you like.
9. Breastpump Bra. I received a lot of hand-me-downs from my sister, but her hands free bra may be what I used the most. We were different sizes, but the velcro in the back made it extremely adjustable. Pumping hands free gave my sore thumbs and wrists a break and allowed me to do other things during Baby’s precious naptime. I highly recommend a zipper version if you are planning to pump regularly, but you can also make your own by cutting slits into a sports bra (a helpful mom hack I discovered on Pinterest).
Those are my top breastfeeding essentials for new moms! I eyed a lot of other products when I was pregnant and even after baby was born, but these are the ones that I actually used from day one. I hope this list helps you pack for the hospital and
survive thrive during your first few weeks at home. I know it’s cliche, but it really does go by fast!
What’s on your “must have” list for new moms?
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This isn’t something you can buy, but a supportive partner is essential to breastfeeding, I think. Because it’s so hard. Harder for some than others. For me, it’s HARD. I’ve only ever lasted four or five months with all three, and I was pretty proud of making it that long. But my husband was always really good about giving me time to pump, or running to the store to buy different size nursing bras (he gets an award for that one haha) and just being there to listen to me complain and moan about how painful it was. Great tips! If I ever have to do it again, I will definitely get those gel pads. I wonder why I never did before. They look wonderful!
Leilani recently posted…Sometimes you’ve just HAD IT
Amen on the supportive partner! My husband couldn’t get up and nurse babies during the night, but he did get up with the other children and then when they got up in the morning he let me take a few extra minutes. That was so nice! Kudos on mentioning the water, just can’t get enough when you are nursing!
P.S. I mentioned your pumpkin bread in my pumpkin palooza
[email protected] recently posted…The GREAT Pumpkin Palooza
Agreed! I still don’t understand why men have nipples. Thank you for the pumpkin shout out!
Agreed! A supportive partner is so helpful. My husband often made trips for more diapers and take out, but you guy definitely gets and award for bras, especially for coming back with the right ones!
I love this post! I just sent it to a friend of mine who is due in two weeks. I’d never heard the “practicing” advice before and I think it’s probably the best I’ve heard.
I found water was especially essential when I was pumping. I couldn’t drink enough.
The only thing I would add is a My Brestfriend nursing pillow, I couldn’t live without mine – and my nursing tanks from Target.
Charlotte @ Pirate Monkey Mama recently posted…Night Terrors
How could I forget?!?! I love my Brestfriend pillow. Awesome suggestion ~ thank you!
Great list. I’ve added a few of your suggestions to my registry
Julie recently posted…Supernatural Convention #DallasCon
Thank you ~ I’m so happy to hear it was helpful!
Fantastic list, I’m going to pass along to my friend who is expecting in January. I have that same exactly nursing tank you have pictured above, plus one in white. I basically lived in those tanks for the first few months! I wore them to bed, around the house, under my clothes. And keeping a water bottle next to my nursing chair was key. I never knew how thirsty breastfeeding makes you!
Bev recently posted…It’s not even Halloween and I’m already thinking about Christmas
The tank tops were amazing. I still sleep in them at night! Thank you so much for sharing the post!
I have to agree, these things are all very helpful when breastfeeding! Thanks for sharing on the #SHINEBloghop this week!
Lauren recently posted…Pitbull and Enrique on Tour with Cricket Wireless
The little things make all the difference!