Postpartum plan, part 2 – Breastfeeding supplies
If you intend to breastfeed your baby there are a few things you can do ahead of time to prepare. There will be a learning curve to it and for most chances are the first few days might be a little challenging.
The more we know about it beforehand the better, that’s why I highly recommend reading a good book, going to a breastfeeding preparation workshop, local La Leche League meeting, etc. One book I really recommend is “Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws of Nursing Mothers” by Nancy Mohrbacher and Kathleen Kendall-Tackett.
In this post, I will talk a little about the absolute essential supplies to have at home before the baby arrives.
I like having some of those things organized in baskets and spread around the house, so they are always handy, but the main one should be next to your bed, where you will (hopefully!) spend most of the time in the first week (or longer)
Supplies for breastfeeding
Breast pads – these come in many shapes and sizes. You can use disposable or washable ones or a mix. You will most probably leak some milk, especially in the first weeks. The amount will vary between people, but you might leak a lot or a little, only while feeding on the other side, or between feedings too, or every time you think about your baby or hear a baby cry! It might stop very soon, or it might go on for months. Breast pads will protect you from milk stains and wetting your clothes. In Berlin, I find there is a big variety of washable pads, some cotton, some hemp, some with silk. If you do use a lot and for a long time, these might be a good choice, instead of the disposable ones.
You can also try to catch the milk you are leaking with some kind of device like the milk savers. There a few products available for this purpose. They are silicone/plastic shells you place in your bra or top over your nipple and they will collect the milk, which you can use for feeding, freeze for later, add to baby’s bath, etc. (human milk has some amazing properties, so using it topically makes a lot of sense, more on that another time.)
Similar to these are nipple shells – they can be used for the same purpose too, but if not designed to catch milk they might spill easily. Their purpose is to keep your clothes away from your nipples and to provide air and space for healing if your nippled suffer damage while figuring out breastfeeding. Pressed to the breast by a bra they will also cause the nipple to protrude a little – it might be beneficent if you have flat or inverted nipples – and if you think you might have very flat or inverted nipples – this may be a reason for latch issues for some and you can start wearing those in pregnancy to try to prevent that from happening. Talk to your midwife or doctor if you suspect flat/inverted nipples might be an issue for you. These are a handy item if you run into any of the above-mentioned issues, but not a basic for all nursing people.
Milk savers and nipple shells are not the same as nipple shields – and these I actually do not recommend buying and using at all until recommended by a very good lactation consultant for very specific reasons! I will talk about that more in a separate post, but they can cause many issues if used when not necessary, without a plan and advice of a lactation specialist. They are a great tool when really needed, but it’s risky to use them “just in case” or to help with nipple pain – they might cause more latch issues, nipple confusion, low milk supply and be very hard to wean from. Some irritation of the skin is normal, and any abnormal nipple pain should be investigated with the support of a specialist, not helped by using nipple shields alone.
Another product that I love and will recommend is a one-piece silicone breast pump – the Haakaa. It’s one of my favourite breastfeeding related products. It’s an easy to use and clean, plastic free, small, no battery, and no noise little thing. You can use it to pump, or just catch leaking milk from the non-nursing side. It will attach to your breast and just do its’ magic. If you don’t intend to pump exclusively, a lot, and regularly it’s the only pump you might actually ever need, and it’s very inexpensive. There is some controversy in the breastfeeding world about having and using pumps “just in case” because they might disrupt the physiological development of lactation, I will talk about it in a separate post though. The Haakaa pump is a thing worth considering as a backup, for dealing with very full breasts, catching leaking milk or occasional need to pump. It’s effective enough for most cases where you don’t pump daily and for some it actually works better than an average electric pump.
If you intend on pumping and storing milk you will most probably need a more advanced pump, a milk storage system, bottles and nipples, all the bottle cleaning equipment, etc.
Take care of your boobs!
Nipple cream – Having a little human attached to your nipple for quite a portion of your day will make your nipples sore at first. There is a distinction between tired sore nipples and nipples damaged because of latch issues, so keep an eye for that, but most likely you will be happy to have some cream to remedy the aches anyway. I will not recommend any particular brand, because there are so many and not all work for everyone. There are ones that you need to wash off before feeding, and ones you can leave on. Choose between more natural and simple ones and some with long ingredients lists. Lanolin and beeswax, for example, are often recommended natural ingredients, but they are not vegan if this is something you are looking for and if you or baby are allergic to these ingredients they might cause allergic reactions, so you will have to decide what works for you.
It’s important to keep your nipples clean and dry, airing them often is great too – another reason to enjoy your Wochenbett at home in bed. You can also benefit from healing properties of your own milk – hand express some milk or colostrum and leave it on your nipple to dry.
Hot and cold therapy – when your milk comes in (anywhere between day 2/3 or 5) your breasts might get engorged and sore. There are a number of ways to deal with that – one is hot and cold compresses. You can do them with a washcloth, but that will also be wet and sometimes you want to avoid excess moisture for better healing. There are special gel packs designed for your breast you can buy in pharmacies. You can use fabric sachets filled with flax seeds for that too, they can be kept in the freezer or heated in a microwave. Heat will generally help with milk flow, so use it before feeding, and cold will ease pain and swelling and stop the milk a little so you can apply a cold pack after feeds.
Maternity bras, tanks, tops, etc. Your breast size will change a lot in pregnancy and while breastfeeding. It may change daily so much in the first days you will hardly believe your eyes. It’s good to invest in some soft, comfortable, not padded, not wired, seamless pieces. In later stages, you will be able to go back to more regular clothing, but it’s great to have some maternity bras and tops for good support and easy access and to avoid uncomfortable compression in the first weeks, also at night. Later anything you can lift up or pull down or unbutton will do, you don’t have to stick to maternity wear for ages.
Burp cloths, muslin cloths, flannel cloths – a lot in various sizes and everywhere! They are lovely to put under baby’s head so they lay on a clean surface and the surface also remains clean. They catch and wipe up spit up milk, leaking breast milk, spilt tea, anything that needs to be cleaned. You can put the baby on them, drape them over your shoulder, stick in your bra, put under baby’s chin for burping. When you notice not needing them anymore you will enter a new stage of parenting. But the first weeks and months they are very handy.
Another favourite tip of mine is to put a towel in your bed. In the early days postpartum, you might sweat a lot and there will be milk leaking and baby spitting milk up. It’s so much easier to quickly change the towel instead of changing the whole bedding if you wake up wet and uncomfortable at night. Keep a spare towel and a spare set of comfy and pretty pajamas next to your bed too.
Water bottle – you might have one already if you got into the habit of drinking regularly doing your pregnancy, you will still need it – breastfeeding can make you really thirsty! And drinking plenty of water is good for you still and good for your milk supply. You might love a thermal cup for keeping a nice warm cup of tea (or breastfeeding friendly herbs) next to your bed – it’s sometimes difficult to find time to sit with your hot cup and actually drink it while it is hot when you have a newborn.
For your nursing stations you might like having some additional pillows, a specially designed nursing pillow of some sort, a special hard elbow support cushion, a little stool to rest one foot on to raise your knee if you’re sitting in a chair or on the edge of the bed, all to make sure you are comfortable and relaxed, not leaning towards your baby and that you don’t end up with a sore back and neck. If you prefer a minimalist approach, you can for sure breastfeed with the pillows and cushions you already have or utilize a pregnancy body pillow you might have used to get comfortable before the baby arrived.
I really love having a basket with all the essentials just next to my bed. It can include things like something to read or listen too, earphones, lip balm and hand cream, nipple cream and spare breast pads, a postpartum belly massage oil. I would also have some snacks and water in there, burp cloths and hair ties or clips, baby nail scissors or clippers. Also handy would be a soft but waterproof changing mat or underpad, wet wipes and diapers so you can change the baby without getting out of bed in the early postpartum, or in the middle of the night. You could add a spare towel, phone charger with a long cable, remote control for things you want to control remotely. Also throw in a baby hat and spare socks, and anything you might find you really really need just seconds after you get yourself really comfortable and ready for a long nursing session.
If you have older kids at home you might want to have an Older Sibling basket – where you keep special entertainment items that you normally don’t have out and that will keep older siblings occupied for a moment. Creating these is a great life skill, really handy in restaurants or on plains, long car rides, etc. when your newborn enters the super fun toddler years.
Get help if needed.
Lastly – google and save some contacts to IBCLC’s (lactation consultants) in your area before birth – if you need more support after birth you will be able to just grab your phone and call them, without googling first! You can call ahead of time, find out their office hours, rates, if they offer home visits, etc. The service is usually not covered by insurance but it’s definitely a great investment that will really pay of in the long term.