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There is something so magical about becoming a momma. Physical feelings and emotions are heightened, ingraining the experience in your mind and heart forever. When the nurse hands that tiny little human to you to hold for the first time, everything changes. You are covered in sweat, tears, and fluids from your own body – but none of that matters. This perfect little person has somehow made time stand still, while you study their beautiful face, hands, and toes. Their alert tiny eyes take you in and they somehow know that you are the most important person to them. It’s an incredible feeling.
And then reality sets in. Your baby starts nuzzling around. You now have to figure out how to breastfeed together… you and this minutes old child. Woah.
Just as we are all individual people with our own strengths and weaknesses, we are also those same types of mothers. Breastfeeding may not be as easy as your mother, sister, friend, neighbor, the old lady chatting you up in the grocery store made it out to be. Our bodies are all different. Your milk may not come in at the exact right time. The experience might be painful. Or you may just take to it like water and nurse your baby like you’ve been doing it for years. The point to this is that you won’t really know what your experience will be until that little baby arrives. Try not to freak out over these unknowns and instead create a pathway for your success while you commit to your goals.
So what can you do to prepare yourself?
Things to do Before Baby Arrives
Create a Breastfeeding Station
Find a place in your home where you will do most of your breastfeeding and turn it into a cozy haven. Especially in the early days, you will be spending a TON of time nursing with your new little one, so make sure to have whatever you need to entertain yourself. Think about your personality and needs while doing this. Are you a TV person? Create your nursing station in the family room. A reader? Find a quiet place and leave your Kindle loaded with all those great books you’ve been meaning to read. Have older children in the house? Maybe your nursing station needs to be in the baby’s room to create the most private and quiet environment possible.
If you have space, invest in a small storage side table next to your seat. Stock this little table with water bottles, shelf-stable foods, your reading device/book/tablet, and charge cables. I would also add a healthy stock of hair ties (because holding a sleeping baby makes your ridiculously warm!), your milk catch, a couple clean burp cloths, and a light muslin blanket (something to keep the chill off of them when they fall asleep nursing).
Stock up on Some Basic Essentials
Nursing Bras – This is a tough one because baby hasn’t arrived yet. I always suggest waiting until baby arrives before your go bra shopping, but if you need to buy one before then plan to buy in your last month of pregnancy. Find a bra that fits your comfortably, then size up the cup. At least one cup size. Um, and maybe leave the sales tag on in case you need to return it after baby arrives.
Nursing Tops – These are definitely more of a luxury item, but they do make life A LOT easier. Consider picking up a couple of nursing tops for your outings and public appearances. It is awkward enough to learn how to nurse at home, why not make nursing in public as easy for yourself as possible?! Again, creating a smooth path for yourself will help you stick to your goals and find success.
By the way, nursing clothes are pretty easy to find these days. Almost any department store that carries maternity clothing will offer some options. Even common stops like Target and Walmart will carry a few items, just check the maternity section.
Nursing Pillow – I’ll be honest, I’ve never owned one of these. I do see the merits in them though, especially at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. When you have a new baby (no matter how tiny they are) your arms will ache from holding them continuously. Standing, sitting, walking from place to place, your baby will be happiest in your arms… and your arms will pay! A nursing pillow will help you to relax your cradle hold and focus your efforts on breastfeeding. There are a few different models (like this pillow style and this structured style), but most will support your baby in at least a couple of positions to help you find comfort.
Nipple Cream – This is most valuable in the early newborn days. You and baby will both be learning and adjusting to this new lifestyle, which won’t be without its pain points. Nipple cream will help to alleviate discomfort for new nursing moms.
Breast Pads – Not everyone leaks, but these are great to have just in case.
Milk Catch – This little genius cup will help you save milk for a freezer stash. As you nurse on one side, use the suction to adhere the cup to the other breast. Your letdown will be collected in the cup and not lost in your breast pads. It can also be used as a gentle breast pump. It’s a painless way to start saving milk without feeling like you have to pump in between feedings.
Breast Pump – Check with your insurance to see if it will cover the cost (or partial cost) of a breast pump. Although this tool is not a necessity for everyone, it is useful for increasing your milk production. If you are returning to work after your baby arrives, it will also help you to build a freezer stash to give to your daycare provider when you are working.
Milk Inducing Foods and Supplements – Not everyone needs these, but if you are concerned about your supply, it is better to have them on hand for your peace of mind. Here are a few to have on hand: Spinach, Avocado, Oats, Nuts, and Flax Seeds. Supplements include: Brewers Yeast and Fenugreek
Know your Resources
Taking some time to learn about breastfeeding before your baby arrives will help you to mentally prepare for your journey ahead. Knowledge is a powerful thing, even without first-hand experience, it can help you calm your fears and empower you to continue on with your goals. I really learned a lot from “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding,” I feel like that was a worthwhile read while waiting for my first baby to arrive. Online resources I trust are La Leche League and Kelly Mom. If you are more of a visual learner, I highly suggest this online class on breastfeeding. It is a great way to include your partner in learning about breastfeeding because you can both view the videos together.
Also, if you have a larger bust and are concerned about your upcoming future with breastfeeding, you can check out my article here.
Although it is beneficial to prepare, what’s most important is that you not stress over your upcoming breastfeeding experience. The anxiety and worry will not benefit you in any way. You will learn, prepare, and do your best to be successful when your baby does arrive. If things don’t work out, then know you have other ways to nourish, love, and calm your baby.
Women tend to set really high standards for ourselves… and if we don’t meet them, we feel as if we have failed.
Whether you breastfeed, bottle feed, or use donor milk, you will give your baby your everything.
You will not fail, Momma.
Until Next Time,