Breastfeeding should be considered an Olympic sport. Especially in the first 3-4 weeks. You’re trying to ring a small, moving target with the engorged soccer balls on your chest, you have Michael Phelps’ appetite, you could drink enough water to put a small county in a drought, and EVERYONE is crying. You, the baby, your husband, your dog.
But that stage is fleeting and it does get easier. So much so that before you know it you can almost cook a full meal with the little leech, I mean uhh darling baby, latched.
We are well into our breastfeeding journey now, and it’s just normal routine at this point, but those first few weeks home as we were both learning how to get in our groove were exhausting. I would have never made it through without support from my husband, chocolate chip subway cookies, and a Lactation Consultant(more on her later).
To help my breast friends out, I wanted to put together a list of must haves for breastfeeding moms. Including registry ideas, what to bring when visiting a breastfeeding mom, and helpful tools for pumping when returning to work or school.
Happy feeding, Mamas!
Human milk is like ice cream, penicillin, and the drug ecstasy all wrapped up in two pretty packages. -Florence Williams
Pick Me Ups for a New Breastfeeding Mom
If you’re visiting a new mom who is breastfeeding and want to bring something by, Please bring snacks… we’re hungry. Very. A simple meal is always welcome and helps the family out a ton, but a breastfeeding mama needs round the clock nutrition. Try bringing an assortment of cut up fresh fruit (my personal favorite and one of my biggest cravings), ready to go veggies and dip, granola bars, or homemade treats that are easy to grab and eat with one hand. Chocolate is obviously a bonus. FACT: almost all breastfeeding moms report craving chocolate (which is mostly due to stress and lack of vitamins/minerals) but still. Bring us the chocolate, mkay?
We are also thirsty. Breast milk is about 88% water give or take depending on baby’s needs. This “liquid gold” water cup would make the perfect gift to bring when visiting a new breastfeeding mom.
Also, we need coffee. Caffeine AINT going to turn breastmilk toxic, and trust me, we need the caffeine or else we might end up sticking a nipple in their ear or who knows what else. This “breastfeeding is beautiful” coffee mug along with a gourmet coffee blend would be a great pick me up for someone who is, quite literally, tired as a mother.
Most importantly, when visiting a breastfeeding mom, offer your support. Let her know that you are proud of her and that she is “doing amazing, sweetie”. If seeing a mother breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, then simply leave if she mentions needing to feed the baby. (Do those little suckers ever stop needing to eat during those early days? I don’t think they do)
Must Haves & Registry Ideas
Being prepared (unlike me who had to amazon prime a car seat from my hospital bed while I was in labor) is the key to success! While all the equipment you need is built in, there are a few must haves for mom that make nursing a smoother process.
Nursing night gowns, you can’t have too many. These from Motherhood Maternity are my favorite because they are very supportive, but anything with the clip for easy access will work. I lived in (live) these!
Nursing Bras Pretty self-explanatory. I prefer the soft, yoga material for home and the ones with underwire for going out. Same as above just anything with a clip down for easy access will do.
Haaka milk catcher Just trust me when I say you have to have this. When baby is latched on one side, the other side usually sprays like a hose at a wet T-shirt contest. You can almost hear Kelis “Milkshake” playing but it’s way less glamorous. This little baby suctions on and catches all that liquid gold rather than drenching your clothes, couch, floor, dog etc. and you will freak when you realize how much milk you almost wasted!
Nipple cream I know everyone likes the kind in the purple tube, but I personally preferred The Honest Company nipple balm. I liked the texture better and felt like it had better “stickage”, coverage? I slathered it all over my lips and face too because making liquid gold sucks all your moisture from any and every where.
Nursing pillow Look, I know you’ve probably already heard of the coveted “Boppy” and probably already registered for it, but, in my humble opinion, it’s useless when you’re trying to nurse a Tasmanian devil. They slip right through the crack when they get to wiggling. Personally, a good ole bed pillow worked the best for us but I’ve heard moms rave about My Brest Friend pillow. The Boppy is great for sitting baby up and tummy time, so it’s not a total waste.
Nursing pads You know the wet T-shirt contest from before? Well the baby doesn’t always have to be latched for that to happen. Sometimes the girls want to party even without the guest of honor. My let down reflex regulated after about a month and I didn’t leak anymore but some moms leak the entire time they’re nursing. I liked Bamboobies brand the best. They were the most comfortable, absorbent, and stayed put. If you want a bargain they make washable, reusable sets but I used the disposable because, laundry.
Oh pumping, I loathe thee. It’s not that the act of pumping is terrible, it’s just the work of nursing, multiplied. Washing pump parts, washing bottles, siting there looking like Madonna for 20 minutes, emphasizing with a cow being milked. I over pumped because I was terrified of not having a “freezer stash”. I would nurse, pump, nurse, pump repeat x 1000. By the time it was over I would sing “I’m a Slave for You” to my pretty pink Spectra S2. Well I’m here to tell you, having 500 ounces of milk in your freezer is not necessary. You may end up like me and have to donate all of that stored milk if your baby develops food allergies. Bye, bye freezer stash. Tear. If you have an oversupply or plan on exclusively pumping, then by all means fill that freezer, sister. But don’t work yourself crazy over it. If you’re going back to work or school and will be pumping I highly recommend getting a pump carrying bag. I’m posting my dream pump bag and a more affordable option. Both will get the job done. Do you know how tacky I looked carrying my pump in a Walmart bag because I didn’t think of a pump bag? I don’t even want to go back to that dark time. Not to mention how unorganized it was and a hassle, and just don’t be like me. Okay?
Also, don’t be like me and have nothing to clean all those intricate pump parts, get this. It’s perfect for those nooks, crannies and flanges.
And for work/school when you may not have access to wash your parts each pumping you can either get these quick pump wipes or, if you have a decently clean fridge, you can store the parts in there in a pinch to prevent bacteria growth. I eventually invested in enough pump parts to where I could use a fresh set each session and it was so worth it.
Also, a manual pump is helpful when you don’t have access to a plug. This little baby was a life saver on the go. My over pumping led to an over supply issue that left me engorged constantly. I tried a couple different manual pumps, but this was, hands down, the most effective. It has what they call a “massage cushion” that really grips and creates a good seal. May or may not have used this baby driving down the road. A moms gotta do what a moms gotta do.
You’ll need milk storage bags, but that’s nothing special. Just remember to leave enough room in the bag so that you can lay them flat in the the freezer. It makes storage and stacking much easier.
Lastly, but most importantly, make sure you have a great support system. Do not be afraid to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed. It does not, you hear me, does not make you any less of a mother. Your body isn’t failing you if you are having trouble nursing. You are not broken. You are a perfect Milky Goddess, okay? And if breastfeeding doesn’t work out you are still a fabulous Mommin’ Queen who does not listen to the opinion of peasants. I ended up reaching out to an IBCLC and she saved me. IBCLC (international board certified lactation consultants) are different than an LC you will see in the hospital. (Unless your hospital has IBCLCs, props to them). They are specially trained in issues that can cause serious kinks in the nursing process, like ties, overactive let down, food intolerances and more. IBCLC visit costs are reasonable and will usually be reimbursed by your health insurance, depending on your provider. If that’s not an option for you reach out to a friend or family member that has nursed for advice. The book “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” is also a great resource to jump start you. And sometimes, if you need it, just drink a beer and take a breather. Some say a stout wheat beer helps your supply, I can’t say whether or not the science behind that is entirely true but I can say it does wonders for your sanity.
I hope all of this helps you as you embark on this new journey and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions. And if you just need someone to tell you that you’re milk is magic and the sun shines from your nipples, well I can do that too.