Each month a group of breastfeeding bloggers will bring you several posts on the same theme. This month's theme is Gifts for the Breastfeeding Mother.
Andi from Mama Knows Breast sings the praises of her digital videorecorder. Sinead, of Breastfeeding Mums, has composed a humorous take on an old Christmas song, "Lament to a Breastfeeding Baby." Jen from The Lactivist brings you A Breastfeeding Mom's Holiday Wish List." Angela of Breastfeeding 1-2-3 brings you her list of Cost Effective Gifts for the Breastfeeding Mother.
My contribution is below. Best wishes from all of us for this holiday season!
From "Need" to "Nice:" Best Gifts for the Breastfeeding Mother.
When I teach breastfeeding classes at our local hospital I sometimes get asked "What do I need to buy for breastfeeding?" Here's the list I put together for my classes, from things you need, to things that are really nice to have. Feel free to add your own items in the comments section.
Resources for help. Having the right help when you need it can make or break a breastfeeding experience. So, find out where she can get help by phone, at support groups like La Leche League, or any other source of help. In the Breastfeeding Help section of this blog you can find resources like a breastfeeding hotline, email breastfeeding support, and a list of lactation consultants searchable by zip code. Tack this information on the mother's fridge, and tape it up by the phone!
Support. Everybody needs at least one person to support a mother during breastfeeding. Support can take so many forms: listening to her feelings, affirming her decisions, congratulating her on the great job she is doing, helping her work through her fears and doubts, helping her find help when she needs it. Support can also mean taking care of household stuff, babysitting, and ushering out well-wishers when the mother needs a nap. I've recently written about the value of support, as well as what it's like to not be supported by your family.
Really nice to have:
Reference book. A good breastfeeding reference book can be a life saver. To me, the best books are up to date, supportive, evidence-based, and - this is important - make it easy to find information quickly at 3:00 AM. My favorite is The Nursing Mother's Companion (5th ed.).
Breastpump (maybe). Whether a mother needs to pump, and what kind of pump she needs depends on her plans. If she's going back to work full time she'll need a sturdy double electric pump like the Medela Pump in Style (this is the model I used) or the Ameda Purely Yours. I think that a good pump for part-time work is the new Medela Swing pump. If she's likely to use a pump for an occasional bottle, the Medela Harmony manual pump or the Avent Isis manual pump may work fine. Some women find they don't need one at all. For pumping at work, a mother will also need storage bags or storage bottles, feeding bottles, and may want cleaning supplies (not always necessary), too.
Nursing bras. Having several 'daytime' nursing bras and a few 'sleep bras' can make nursing a lot easier, but it can be hard to figure out what size to buy. Here are Motherwear's suggestions for fitting and the number to buy. I like these sleep bras because they can accommodate some changes in size and also are comfortable enough to be worn at night if you need to keep nursing pads in place.
Frozen peas and rice socks! What do you do if it's 2:00 AM you need a cold compress to use after feedings to reduce engorgement, or a warm compress to work out a plugged duct? Frozen vegetables make great cold compresses, and a warm compress can be made by putting uncooked rice in a sock and heating it in a microwave for 30 to 45 seconds (test to make sure it's not too hot).
Care for soreness. Not all women have pain with breastfeeding. I repeat: Not all women have pain with breastfeeding. I know because I've seen it many times and have experienced it myself. That said, many women do experience some very mild (considered normal) to severe (not at all normal - seek help immediately) nipple pain with nursing in the early days. The most important remedy for soreness is getting experienced help (see "Need" section above). To assist with healing while the problem is being addressed, a mother can use a purified lanolin creme or a hydrogel dressing such as "Soothies." Rubbing expressed milk on sore areas can also help.
Nursing pads (maybe). A mother won't know until after the baby comes whether she'll need these, but many women do use nursing pads for leaking, especially in the early weeks and months. Disposable pads are often the most absorbent, but washable ones are usually cheaper in the long run, and are probably better for the environment.
Nursing pillow. For a little more stability than regular pillows (which often work just fine), it's nice to have a nursing pillow. The most popular pillows are the Boppy (which I think works best if you roll up a blanket to put in the space between the mother and the pillow to create a flatter surface), and the My Brest Friend pillow. The Nuzzle nursing pillow fits well in a glider rocker.
Nursing shirts and pajamas. I think it can really help, especially in the early days of breastfeeding, to have a couple of nursing shirts. Here are the best-selling "essentials" from Motherwear, and a few favorites of mine for winter, fall, spring, and summer. Nursing pajamas can make nighttime feedings a lot easier, too. If you're not sure about styles, Motherwear has gift certificates, too. This year, you can also establish a wish list, and share your holiday list with friends and family.
Nursing stool. Having something, such as a nursing stool, that prevents you from hunching over while nursing can be really helpful. You can also use a kitchen stool, a coffee table, or even phone books to keep your knees up and back reclined.
Swaddling blanket. A good swaddling blanket can help both calm a baby and help keep her hands out of the way while latching her on. Make sure it's big enough to wrap well - many traditional receiving blankets are too small.
Sling. Slings can work well for baby carrying, as well as nursing while walking around (a skill I'm sad to say I never mastered). There are a million slings for sale out there, and you can even make one yourself.
And couple more things...
I'm having trouble ending this list. Here are few more things that I loved having during my nursing experience: Our Babies, Ourselves, which is the book that made me drop my old career and become a lactation consultant; A Girl Named Zippy, which has nothing to do with breastfeeding but made me laugh while nursing in the middle of the night; our favorite kids' CD, Sing Along with Putamayo, which I heard for the first time the old Motherwear outlet store (no longer open); a nursing necklace for the distracted baby.
And if you want to support the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio - a great cause - be sure to check out Jen's new t-shirt designs at her store. All of the profit from sales this month will go to the Milk Bank. Angela at Breatfeeding 1-2-3 has a nice post on the shirts and the importance of donor milk.