Breastfeeding has many benefits, but like most things worth doing, it can also have many challenges. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed through their first birthdays; however, studies report that while 75 percent of new moms start breastfeeding, only 36 percent are still doing so after six months. Just because nursing is natural doesn’t make it easy (just ask any mom who chose natural childbirth!), so we have compiled a list of nursing must-haves—from important information to stylish nursing tanks—to help you get the best start at giving your baby her best start.
Knowing the advantages of breastfeeding can help even the most nervous nurser overcome challenges. As your baby grows, your breast milk evolves to match her nutritional needs and provide immunities, making it superior to formula. For babies, breast milk decreases the incidence and/or severity of a wide range of diseases and reduces the risk of SIDS. Studies propose that breastfed infants have higher IQs, lower chances of obesity, and lower cholesterol levels as adults. Breastfeeding benefits for mom include a faster return to her favorite jeans, decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and reduced risk of osteoporosis later in life. Beyond the health benefits, breastfeeding also saves time and money. Formula costs (on average) $150 per month, and specialized varieties such as soy, organic or ready-to-feed can cut into your budget even more. In addition, nothing bonds mother and munchkin better than the cuddly intimacy created by nursing. And no special preparation is necessary for feeding your infant on the go—you’re all she needs!
While there’s nothing you can do to prepare your body for breastfeeding (pinching your nipples to toughen them is a myth that leads to, well, sore nipples), you can prepare mentally by educating yourself. Most hospitals offer breastfeeding classes about once a month—they are an affordable way to learn what to expect before your newborn is wailing. Having the right expectations greatly increases your chances of successful breastfeeding. Understand nursing may be difficult and uncomfortable at first, and sore nipples and leaking breasts are common components of breastfeeding.
While breastfeeding is natural, it may not come naturally, so having your baby bond with your bosom may take a little assistance. Postpartum nurses may or may not be trained to help you with breastfeeding, but luckily, most hospitals have lactation consultants (aka breastfeeding gurus) on staff whose advice is so helpful it’s worth having your breasts fondled by a stranger. They can help you find the right position and ensure your little one is latching on properly, which is the key to effective breastfeeding.
Must-haves for mealtime
There are numerous brands of gliders ranging in price from $300 to upwards of $500, but any comfortable chair will suffice, especially if it rocks. Your chair is the basis for creating a quiet, intimate setting to nurse and bond with your baby. It’s also helpful to equip a small table nearby with a bottle of water, a snack, and anything else you’d like within reach while breastfeeding.
Nursing bras & clothes
There are entire lines of stylish nursing clothes to try, but the most important item is a well-fitting nursing bra in a size HHH. (OK, maybe that’s an exaggeration!) Since your breasts will swell to the shape of melons when your milk arrives (typically three to five days after your baby), it’s best to buy one bra in a cup size larger than you’re currently wearing and wait until you’re nursing to stock up to ensure proper fit. Also, pick up some breast pads that tuck into your bra and prevent embarrassing leaks. Some moms find nursing tank tops are a must-have for late-night feedings.For moms hitting the gym, nursing sports bras are essential.
Breastfeeding exclusively does not mean you have to be the exclusive feeder. Even for stay-at-home moms, a breast pump may be indispensable. Sure, it can make you feel like a cow, but expressing milk so hubby can take the 2 a.m. feeding while you get more than three hours of uninterrupted sleep is well worth it. Breast pumps can be manual or electric, single or double, and range in price from $30 to $350. Whether you return to work or not, if you pump regularly you’ll want a good double-electric breast pump. Many hospitals rent pumps as an alternative to purchasing your own.
Many new moms find a nursing pillow essential in helping support their newborn while breastfeeding.
Having a support system is vital, whether it’s your mother, your friend with five kids, an online group, or the friendly lactation consultant you met while in your hospital gown. The best breastfeeding advice I received was from my midwife, who told me that nursing is “tough at first, but right when you’re ready to give up, it will get easier.” She was so right! After about three weeks of suffering with sore nipples and engorgement, I was tempted by the formula samples that had mysteriously appeared at my doorstep. But, with her words in mind, I gave it a few more days and realized I was no longer dreading my baby’s hungry coos. My discomfort had subsided, and I had a wonderful breastfeeding experience.
Sense of humor
When you discover a soiled burp cloth perched on your shoulder halfway through your grocery trip or squirt someone next to you with milk when your baby pulls off your breast for a breather, hopefully you’ll be able to laugh. As with many aspects of new parenting, breastfeeding is wondrous and often amusing. A little sense of humor can help make it an amazing experience.