You are finally at home with your little bundle of joy after ten long months of waiting and a life-altering birthing experience. It is equally exciting and terrifying. You are confident that you have everything you need after staying in the hospital with the true essentials (but are maybe hoping you could have brought the nurse home with you just to be safe). You are excited to have the people closest to you meet your beautiful new baby. Aside from the lack of sleep and normal new mom jitters, everything seems to be going okay. But all of a sudden you aren’t sure how long it has been since baby last nursed, or if it is safe to let him or her continue to sleep rather than wake to eat, or why you have been nursing for four hours and you are positive that your baby is still hungry. And then you are really wishing for that nurse. You start to realize that every doctor, nurse, and lactation consultant you talked to in the hospital gave you different (and often conflicting) advice on breastfeeding, and that you were now totally unsure what you were supposed to be doing. Can you relate?
Well then you are in the right place! This is the first post in the Successful Breastfeeding Series, meant to help newly nursing moms find the resources, encouragement, and confidence you need to hit all of your breastfeeding goals! (You can check out part two here) I hope that you find everything you need to know in this series, and if not please let me know. I will try to help in any way I can–aside from giving medical advice or diagnosing specific problems, of course, because I am not a medical professional. I’m just a mom like you who had no clue what I was doing and want to help you have an easier time than I did finding the information you need.
Having accurate information and the breastfeeding necessities are the most important things right off the bat. You need to know what to expect, have resources at your disposal when you are having any issues or questions, and of course you also need to be prepared with all of the essential products to make breastfeeding as easy and comfortable as possible. Nursing is hard! You will definitely face some challenges, and knowing where to go for help or support is crucial.
Breastfeeding Resources Every New Mom Needs
There are a few major resources that helped me navigate the new and scary world of breastfeeding. I was terrified that my son wasn’t going to gain enough weight, that he wasn’t eating enough, that I wasn’t producing enough milk, and whatever other related fears you could possibly have. I also had a ton of questions about milk storage, pumping, how often my son could go between feeds during the day vs at night, what are the symptoms of mastitis, and so many more that I never thought of until it was happening and I had no idea what to do! Since I didn’t have any family or close friends who had nursed (and never took a class before giving birth!), I was shooting in the dark. These resources are all I had to help me through!
Breastfeeding Support Groups
One of the best resources I found in my area were free, in person breastfeeding support groups offered at local hospitals. They were run by an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant–you are better off using someone certified rather than someone who isn’t), and were filled with other brand new moms facing the same problems and questions as I was! It was truly an invaluable resource. Check with the hospital or birthing center you delivered at, or even with your OBGYN’s office to see what your area has to offer. There is also an organization called La Leche League that offers this service and has an amazing reputation, but our local chapter was too far away so I never ventured out there.
Many of the groups I attended had a scale so that you could make sure your baby was hitting weight milestones each week and perform weighted feeds–when you weigh baby before and after a feeding to see how many ounces transferred–which is how you can tell whether or not you are producing enough milk. This is very important in those first few weeks, especially when cluster feeding begins and you start doubting your body’s ability to keep up!
I have also found Facebook groups to be very helpful. I mostly joined local pages (like the ones started by members of the in-person groups I mentioned above), but have also found Nursing The Littles to be helpful (and international)!
These groups can be tricky. Of course, you don’t want to take any kind of medical advice from random strangers, but it can be a great resource for questions and support. Obviously, call your doctor, baby’s pediatrician, or an IBCLC if you have any concerns before you post in the group! Make sure to do your own research on the accuracy or safety of the suggestions you receive, and run anything by a professional before you act on what you’ve learned.
Make sure that you always consult the proper professional (or resource) concerning the safety of breastfeeding while using certain products. It is just important to note that many medications, skin care products, essential oils (all should be avoided until age 2), and plenty of other products that you ingest or apply topically to your skin are unsafe to use while nursing. A few good places to ask: your doctor, baby’s pediatrician, an IBCLC, the medical professional prescribing or recommending the product, the LactMed app or website, or the infant risk hotline (806-352-2519).
Essential Breastfeeding Products
I know, I know. One of the big draws of breastfeeding is that it’s cheaper and you don’t need more “stuff.” But, there are definitely a few things you want to have available during your breastfeeding journey!
A Good Breast Pump
Even if you don’t plan on pumping, you should get a breast pump. Many insurance companies will cover them for free, so make sure that you check your plan! There are many reasons to use a pump: you are producing either too much or not enough milk, baby isn’t latching well, baby is sleeping longer stretches and you are engorged, or to have some milk stored in case of an emergency. I went with a Medela Pump In Style and had great success with it. A pumping bra was also worth the investment for me, but I have also heard many people make their own by cutting slits in an old sports bra!
Nursing Friendly Clothes
When baby is hungry, the last thing you want to do is have to waste time getting half-naked to nurse. Especially if you have visitors or are out in public. Invest in a few good nursing tanks to wear under your clothes and you can nurse discreetly no matter where you are! I also got a few nursing bras and a nightgown. You will also want to make sure to get some nursing pads so that you don’t leak through your very functional new clothes!
Pain Relief Products
As I’m sure you have quickly learned, breastfeeding comes with it’s struggles. Unfortunately, pain is one of them. Here are a few good products to get you started with pain management and healing:
- Bottles – Sometimes the best thing you can do when you have cracked, sore, or bleeding nipples is just use a bottle. We loved the Avent glass bottles for our little one, he took to them easily and never had nipple confusion. Just make sure you read up on paced feeding, the best practice for feeding bottles to breastfed babies.
- Nipple Cream – A soothing cream like lanolin will help you heal more quickly and protect your nipples from rubbing against your clothes. Just make sure to use nursing pads as a barrier so that it doesn’t leave a residue on your shirt!
- Heating or Cooling Pads – I recommend also having a product like Boob-Ease that you can use with heat or cold. Heat can be used to help with plugged ducts and mastitis, and cold can be used to soothe sore nipples. Fortunately, I didn’t need this product until my son hit toddlerhood but know many moms who would have loved to have it within those first few weeks home.
What Are Your Biggest Breastfeeding Challenges So Far?
I hope that you have found this helpful! I’d love to know what specifically you are struggling with regarding breastfeeding. I am actually still nursing my son who is two, which was kind of a tough decision if I am being honest. Our pediatrician, who we trust very much, is also an IBCLC and was able to support us and explain why nursing in toddlerhood still has so many benefits and is really the best choice for our little one. Having a little experience under my belt, I’d love to pass it on any way I can. This post just barely scratched the surface, but I think it is a comprehensive list of the resources and products that any new mom would need first and foremost. Let me know what you think! Leave a comment below or shoot me an email if you think I left anything important off the list, if you have any questions about nursing so far, or if you just need some support in your breastfeeding journey. I’m happy to help! Don’t forget to share this post or series with any moms you know trying to navigate the world of breastfeeding for the first time.
Free Breastmilk Storage Cheat Sheet
All the information you need on storing breastmilk so that when it comes time to use it, you know it is safe to drink!