Breastfeeding. So natural. So sweet. So fraught with controversy!
For something that “should” come naturally, it’s a method of feeding your baby with a heck of a learning curve. Some women and babies take to it like ducks to water, others seem to take to it like ducks to oil spills. Nevertheless there are products available that can make learning how to nurse your baby a little easier.
3 Nursing Essentials
1. the Boppy
First, there’s the Boppy (or other top brands of nursing pillows, like My Brest Friend). In the first few weeks, this pillow saved my arms and back. Who knew that cradling 9 pounds of baby could wear out your upper body? Boppy makers, that’s who!
Every time I sat down to feed my baby without that Boppy, I later felt like I had done 20 minutes of resistance training. Having that pillow there allowed me to rest the weight of the child (and my arms) while focusing on his latch and making sure he was feeding well.
After a few months, it wasn’t as helpful as a nursing pillow anymore – the baby had grown to the point where I could support his weight with my knee if I crossed my legs, and he was getting too wiggly to hold in one position anyway. But! There is an excellent “off label” use for the Boppy, especially if you get more than one at your shower. I had a lot of trouble with (gross, I know) hemorrhoids after my son was born. Instead of those inflatable doughnut pillows, I designated one Boppy for “lower” use. Much more comfortable!
2. the breast pump
Second in the “needed accessories” list is a good breast pump. If you’re with your baby 24/7, you probably won’t need to pump very often, but if you need to go back to work (or spend more than three hours away from your baby) a pump might be a lifesaver.
The big question is – what kind? Some insurance companies will buy a high end electric pump, like a Medela pump-in-style, for you, but if you’re not that lucky you’ll have to decide what kind of pump would serve your needs best.
For the occasional pumping, an electric pump might be overkill – a simple hand pump could serve your needs better. Usually the downside to the manual pumps is that you can only pump one side at a time, so it takes a little longer, but there is now a style of pump that can be operated manually or electrically and pumps both sides at once – the Freemie. Developed by an ER doctor who was frustrated by existing pumps, the Freemie doesn’t have bottles or flanges that have to be held in place – instead, you pump into “bubbles” that sit in your bra, and the suction tubes hang out from under your shirt to hook to the pump (manual or electric).
I’m not running the Medela or other pumps down – they’re very effective! But if I had to buy a pump tomorrow, it would be a Freemie.
3. the nipple shield
Third in the “helpful items” list would have to be a nipple shield. Ideally you should experience no pain when nursing, and your baby’s latch should be good. When those things aren’t true, sometimes a nipple shield can help you correct your baby’s latch and protect your nipple until it heals. Always consult with a lactation professional before using one, though – there may be other steps you can take to make nursing a pleasant experience for both of you.
I hope your nursing experience is terrific, and you can continue nursing your baby as long as you choose!