Despite being the most natural thing in the world, much like birth, nursing often isn't as easy as it feels like it should be. Some babies catch on right away, and some babies have a rougher go. My first tried to latch on right away, and six weeks of stress, weight gain worries and late-night google searches followed. Finally, she got the hang of things and nursed happily for fifteen months before self-weaning. My second, on the other hand decided she would much rather cuddle than nurse (I would, too, if I had just been pushed through the birth canal in less than two hours). A couple hours later, however, she started nursing and after only a week or so of adjustment, she's been a fantastic nurser ever since (an unfortunate run-in with thrush, aside). Thankfully, after going through the troubles we did the first time, I had some experience with making things a little more comfortable, this time around, so I thought I would share some of my nursing must-haves for those often challenging first couple of weeks.
1. A comfortable nursing pillow. This doesn't have to be a nursing-specific pillow (though we've had good experience with the My Brest Friend), just something to help you position baby optimally in various ways to find the most comfortable position, for the both of you. A couple weeks in, we ditched the pillow, but in those first few days especially as both baby and mommy are getting the hang of things (literally), a good pillow is indispensable.
2. Lansinoh 3-in-1 breast therapy packs. This was probably my #2 most-used item in that first week, for breastfeeding, next to nipple butter. A friend recommended these just a little too late last time and I was SO glad to have had these ahead of time, this time around. It comes with two, so we would keep one in the freezer, for soothing in between nursing, and one to heat, for helping encourage let-down during those painful engorged days.
3. Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter. This stuff is the BEST. I tried lanolin, and where it did the job, not at the level this stuff does, in my opinion (plus, it really does smell good). It lasts a long time, and we still went through a tub fairly quickly! It's baby-safe, too, so I didn't worry when I forgot to wipe it off before she started nursing again. Not-so-secret tip: it works on more than just nipples, including chafing around my sweet chunky baby's neck and baby acne (yay for natural multi-purpose products!).
4. Hydrogel packs. This was another I-wish-I-knew-about-the-first-time products, because though we did have some (TMI alert) blistering and pain this time for a week or so while she was learning to latch, it was far worse the first time, and took longer to heal. I kept these on for a few days in between nursing sessions and they worked wonders to reduce pain in between nursing and heal my nipples up in no time.
5. Mother's Milk tea. Some mamas have an abundance of milk, right away, and for some moms, it takes more than a few days for milk to start flowing. This time around I was blessed with a bigger supply right off the bat, but even through multiple nursing strikes (due to illness) this tea has been a huge help at keeping my supply up (along with my favorite boobie balls). I drank this while in the hospital, and my milk came in the morning we went home, and I continue to drink a mug almost every day.
6. SNACKS! Nursing mamas need an extra 3-500 calories A DAY. That's on top of what you need simply to survive, let alone run around after older siblings and staying up half the night with a brand new baby. Nursing hunger is REAL, and snacks are crucial! I kept a stock of energy bars (Rx, Health Warrior and Primal Kitchen are amongst my faves) next to my bedside for late night snacking, and always have a bar or a couple lactation balls in my purse for quick-grab energy. 7. Water, water, and more water. Just as important, if not more, than having snacks for energy, is having water! Breastfeeding makes you THIRSTY- breastfeeding mamas need upwards of an extra 32 ounces per day (that's FOUR extra cups! whew!). I know i don't hit this on the daily, but I do my best by always keeping a big bottle of water with me wherever I go.
8. Nursing tanks. I have a few good nursing bras, a few for daytime and a few for sleep, but nothing beats the basic nursing tank. It makes dressing easier (just cover with a loose top and nursing is a breeze- just lift and go) and they're great easy-access for nighttime, too. I have four and will probably buy more! Anything to make the whole process easier. My favorite are the Target Gilligan + O'Malley Brand.
9. Nipple pads. These are must-haves, especially in the beginning! When milk is flowing in those early days, leakage is real. I like alternating between reusable and disposable pads depending on the situation. Bamboobies are my favorite.
10. A good pump. When establishing supply, a baby having trouble nursing means pumping is necessary to keep your supply strong. I learned the hard way the first time around a manual pump wasn't going to cut it for regular use. This time I went with the Medela Pump in Style double electric and I've been happy thus far!
Do you have any nursing mama favorites? Share with us!