The Holy Family, Rembrandt van Rijn, 1634
183 x 123 cm
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
What to do in the South when somebody has a baby? BRING FOOD!
When Avery came along, we had so much food in the house that I didn't have to cook for months. It was very much appreciated - who knows how many meals I would have had to skip without them. But..... what about Avery's meals?
It is an unfortunate reality that breastfeeding takes a backseat to labor & delivery in our society. BUT nursing this baby girl was SO much more difficult, overwhelming, physically exhausting, and ultimately rewarding to me than giving birth to her. Breastfeeding is really more of an art than the science of so-many-ounces-per-so-many-hours. There are no straight lines on the human body, just as there are no straight, definitive rights or wrongs in the art of breastfeeding. It's sleep-depriving, doubt-riddled, mysterious (& too-often misunderstood by society at large) WORK.
So I thought it might be nice to help new moms out in a slightly different way with a few of my favorite breastfeeding things:
- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding - This book actually should be read before delivery - if you just THINK you MIGHT be interested in breastfeeding, READ THIS BOOK. Even in the hospital, we received about 1,000 different opinions on how, what, when, and in what position to feed Avery. It was so calming to have one resource for reference amongst the maelstrom of conflicting advice. The Nursing Mother's Companion is a good one too.
- Mother's Milk Tea - to increase supply
- Oatmeal - ditto.
- This chart for easy visualization of how teeny tiny baby's tummy is at certain stages and remember how often it needs to be filled!
- Lanolin - to hydrate sore, perhaps cracked nipples
- Therashells - for the first two weeks of breastfeeding, my nipples were so sore that I didn't want anything touching them. Even a T-shirt was enough to knock my head off. Until that went away (it started to abate after about 7 days), these hard shells were the perfect solution to keep fabric off and let nipples air dry while being able to put clothes on. We later found out that the hospital charged the insurance company $120.00 (!!!) for these. Don't confuse therashells with nipple shields, which are flexible and have little holes in them. Though often recommended by hospitals (I have no idea why!) nipple shields are terrible for breastfeeding babies. They want mom's nipple - not a piece of plastic - in their mouths.
- Soothies Gel Pads - When just letting nipples air-dry (breastmilk is the BEST salve for tender nipples) isn't enough, it's nice to have two packs of these: one to wear and one to keep in the fridge. Lanolin, however, is not good for them, so advise not to use in conjunction.
- Nursing pads - once my supply regulated, I didn't need these very much, but oh my, it was nice to have them in my bra for extra insurance that I wouldn't have a wet T-shirt contest in the middle of Target.
- Bananas and other favorite fruits - easy, one-handed access to good nutrition. I was never so hungry when pregnant with the monster as I was when breastfeeding her, and it never seemed like I had enough hands when she was nursing.
- Granola bars - ditto.
- Water bottles - oh my gosh, at the thirst! I loved the kind that you can close securely because I was always knocking them over in the middle of the night.
- Burp cloth and/or sling from Kate at Mississippi Hippie Baby
- Boon Flo Water Deflector - not only is it an awesomely fun bath toy after baby grows up a little, this deflector was wonderful for my boobs in the bathtub. I would sit in absolute bliss with warm water flowing over my engorged breasts when my milk first came in. Warm compresses also help for plugged ducts and to relieve discomfort.
- Epsom salts - for the mom with a tear or an episiotomy, there's nothing better than a warm, soaking bath. It's relaxing too, and Heaven knows she needs some relaxation.
Most of all, giving a breastfeeding mom your love and support, encouraging and cheering, sharing with her your awe at the fact that she is feeding that baby all by herself and reveling in the miracle of our bodies, would be appreciated from any new mama in the throes of Baby Boot Camp.
At the end of the day, think about Brooke Shields in Blue Lagoon: if you and baby were on a desert island and had no idea what to do, you would figure it out. Beautifully. Skip the Hollywood-dramatized (and traumatized) birthing scene and skip over to 2:10.
Many thanks to my friend Kate for helping me with this list, including The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, The Nursing Mother's Companion, Mother's Milk tea, and the easy breastfeeding reference chart!
What am I forgetting, ladies? What was your saving grace in the early weeks?