Set yourself up for Breastfeeding success with these nursing mamas must haves
To the expecting mom dreaming of nursing her newborn but nervous about all the unknowns, I see you. To the sleep-deprived new-mom cradling your newborn and fighting back tears wondering why nursing isn’t as blissful and easy as the movies make it seem, I see you. To the mama who wasn’t able to nurse her firstborn but is hopeful to share this experience with her next babe, I see you.
When expecting my first the feelings of overwhelm began to creep in as the weeks drew closer and closer to meeting our little man, I pinned all the pins, asked lots of questions during our birthing classes, read the books, and downloaded the apps. While there certainly aren’t a lack of resources for mamas when it comes to nursing I hope my perspective can help even just one mother feel more prepared, empowered, and seen during their nursing journey.
Pre-babies I had zero idea how complex nursing a newborn could be, I just figured you whip your boob out and baby hooks on and eats. Ha. Jokes on me. Its a heck of a lot more complicated than that.
While I am still nursing our daughter (she just turned one – cue tears!) I will do my best to summarize each child’s nursing journey (thus far).
Disclosure: Some of the links included are affiliate links. If you do decide to use these links, thank you so much for your support!
Tatum – Tate and I had an overall “easy” nursing experience, in the hospital he latched well, he steadily gained weight and didn’t have any health issues. Nursing him was pretty textbook, and the lactation consultant that came to check on us in the hospital encouraged us that everything was going well. There is an unexplainable feeling of empowerment when you see your body nourishing the tiny human you just made. (insert me feeling like wonder woman here)
And while everything was going as planned I still had many moments of feeling totally overwhelmed. We successfully nursed for 18 months, I became pregnant with my daughter when he was 15 months and he slowly weaned himself.
Kennedy – Little miss latched oookay in the hospital, but the first few weeks I noticed she was a lot gassier than I remembered Tate being, her poops were also green and frothy instead of the mustard yellow they are at that phase. I was apprehensive about going to a nursing support group. I felt like because I had a son who I nursed for 18 months I shouldn’t need to go, I should be able to figure it out on my own. Wrong. My only regret was not going sooner. AZ mamas check out the Happy Boob group at Modern Milk! I met an amazing lactation consultant there and met with her privately to asses Kennedy and I ( psst. Our insurance covered most of my visit with her like 80% I believe!)
Kennedy had a small lip tie which we opted not to treat, she gave me some methods of feeding to try, and also put my fears of using a nipple shield to rest. I also had an oversupply and she was only getting the foremilk so we moved to block feeding. Having guided support truly changed our nursing journey. I was so thankful for the guidance she provided, it helped Kennedy’s gas issues so much and it put my mind at ease knowing I had a resource. We are still going strong nursing and she just turned 12 months yay!
I think every parent stresses about if their baby is getting enough food, too much, is it sitting well with their tummy, if a paci will ruin their latch, how soon to introduce a bottle etc. So you’re not alone in those feelings.
Here are some memorable feelings of – “I didnt realize it would __________” fill in the blank ( hurt this much, be this exhausting, be this complicated, feel so special, empowering, etc):
- Nipple Pain – cracking, bleeding. Oooo mama. The moment you nurse a newborn through tears because the pain is absurd but your desire to nourish said tiny nipple cracker outweighs it is one of the first of many times you’ll sacrifice yourself for your sweet squish.
*Things I wish I had on hand and didnt have to wait even one hour for a target run to have: Nipple shield *we’ll dive into this*, Cooling gel pads, nipple cream, ice packs
- Milking coming in – woah. The days of massive pushup bras and chicken cutlets to enhance my already generously sized tatas came back to bite me in the butt big time. I’ll never forget looking at my rock hard, engorged breasts in the shower and crying just wishing they were smaller. High school and college me would have never guessed I’d be wishing these away. Ha. But FOR REAL. You think you’ll know what’s up when your milk drops… and then holy boulders in your bra
- Pumping – I remember being in my new mom brain fog, and Taylor and I just in full zombie mode when my milk came in. I needed relief, and google was telling me I could pump off some of the excess milk. Pre-baby me didn’t think I would need to use that contraption for a good long while so it was still in the box. Fail. So Taylor was youtubing how to set it up and sanitize it while I cried on the couch.
I now tell all my first-time mama-to-be friends to sanitize all the parts, set it up and even take it for a test drive before baby comes. I promise you that sanitizing the pump parts when your boobs are engorged will be your least favorite activity, so save yourself a go at that.
My main advice regarding milk coming in is threefold:
- Don’t be afraid to pump some of that off for relief.
- Warm and cold packs are liiiifeeee
- Hop in the shower and massage those bowling balls, and try and enjoy a moment to yourself while you’re at it. Every mama needs a shower break.
Now that I may have either made you laugh or totally scared you out of nursing (I sure hope not the latter) Here are my nursing mama must-haves! And let me tell you, those first few weeks are hard… not glossing over that. Freakin hard…. But hang in there mama, get support, take the help offered, if it’s not offered ask for it, and let all the stuff (dishes, laundry etc) wait – just focus on feeding yourself, and the baby and everything else will be there when you’re ready.
Nipple shields – prior to nursing I had inverted nipples (I’m sure you wanted to know that about me) I was super worried that I wouldn’t be able to nurse because of it. I got nipple shields because of that to give baby something to latch to.
Turns out I used them more for protection than anything. For some reason, I had it in my head that if I used these too much that baby wouldn’t learn to latch. However, the LC (lactation consultant) gave me the “go” to use them whenever I needed and I was so relieved that it wouldn’t affect the baby’s latch. I used them mostly when one side was cracked and hurting and it majorly reduced the pain while feeding.
Lanoish heat/ cold pads – Reference rock hard engorged milk duds above… these bad boys helped so so much. I kept one in the freezer and left one out that I would heat up, both hot and cold provide so much relief.
Gel Nipple pads – Oh my lanta. Yes. I’m so thankful for these gel pads. If you think hearing about cracked, bleeding nipples sounds cringy than you won’t want to think about dealing with that without these tiny little lifesavers.
Nipple cream – I really like Medela’s, also let them air dry a bit ( also putting breastmilk on your nipples is very helpful!)! So good for them!
Nursing Pads – Because leaking through your favorite shirt or robe is not fun… especially not fun in public. I loved these bamboo reusable nursing pads ( but also sometimes mama doesn’t wanna do laundry. / you’re out and about and want something you can toss ) Disposable nursing pads I liked here
Breast friend nursing pillow – I loved this nursing pillow – the lower back support, the fact that it buckles so it cant slide down, and the shape all made this an absolute must-have. The pocket was also a nice touch!
I also have a boppy – to be honest not a huge fan, it slips and slides down all the time, I didn’t find the shape was ideal for positioning baby either. ** I have the traditional boppy, a newer one had since come out and I tried it at that nursing group mentioned above and I really like it a lot!
Udder covers nursing cover – This nursing cover is amazing especially when you’re trying to get the hang of nursing/nursing with a cover on. It’s very convenient to be able to see baby / what you’re doing! + I feel like baby gets more air.
Electric pump (+ pumping bra if you’re going to pump a lot) I have the Medela electric pump and I like it, I’ve also never tried any others so I cant really say how it stacks up…. I have also heard great things about the Spectra. A lot of insurance plans cover your pump ( for like 72 months of something wild!) I got mine completely covered through YummyMummy.
Hakka – Whether you make too much milk or not enough and want to save every last drop this Hakka was such an awesome gadget to have! I had an oversupply and wanted to catch the milk on the other side that was leaking during my let down. On most days I would get 3-5 oz per feeding! – I do recommend wearing a pumping bra to hold it in place if you are using it while nursing, whoever said not to cry over spilled milk must not have been a nursing mom.
Nursing Bras – Collectively I have nursed babes for 31 months… I honest to God forgot that bras were made with underwire. While nursing Tate I just never really found a bra that I felt great about ( but I’m also cheap in this dept)… While pregnant with Kennedy Target rolled out nursing bralettes ( bless! which TBH I’m a little too big chested for but I did deliver Kennedy in a gorgeous rose-colored bralette and every nurse asked about it. I am really bummed to say that as I am typing this I have learned that the Gilligan & O’Malley is gone (tear!) but on a positive note their new line Auden, which seems to offer a lot more variety for different body types YAY!
Here are two I think I’d be really into!
Nursing Seamless Bra
Nursing Sports Bra
I’d also like to add that I found nursing tanks to be 100% useless.
Nursing stations – In those early days/weeks you’ll be under a newborn nursing a lottt. I got little bins like this and filled them with all kinds of things that I wanted in arms reach. I had these little “stations” set up on the couch, near my bed, and in the nursery next to the rocker. These “nursing stations” came in especially handy during cluster feeding.
Items I included at these “stations”:
Snacks you can eat one-handed (bars, trail mix etc)
Nipple shield (in the case)
Baby nail clippers
Bonus: TV Tray – haha I’m cracking up at myself that I’m including this BUTTT I hated having to try and strain to reach my water on the coffee table. #noshame #treatyoself
Bonus for the Dads: Aside from just being there for anything mama needs, the thing that sticks out in my mind most was Taylor refilling my water all the time without me ever having to ask. It became such a thing that we nicknamed him the water fairy. Nursing makes you supppperr thirsty and staying hydrated assists with milk production. So significant others – fill mamas water up as often as humanly possible ( I personally love the hospital cup with a straw they give you and managed to snag 2 when I had Kennedy so I was never without a full cup #thanksbabe)
I wanna know, expecting mamas: what are you anticipating the most?
Mamas who have experienced this already what would you add to this list?