You're pregnant with your first baby and you have no idea what breastfeeding will be like. Questions float through your mind at midnight as you try to get comfortable enough to fall asleep...
Will it hurt? What will it feel like? Will my baby nurse right away? What if I don't know what to do? How will I position the baby? Will it come naturally...?
The good news is that it IS perfectly natural. Breastmilk is perfectly created to sustain and nourish newborn babies - and your body is uniquely designed for the task.
The "bad news" is that it might hurt, it might take some getting used to, and sometimes you'll feel like throwing in the towel and calling it quits.
But don't give up. Even if society tells you otherwise. Breastfeeding has so many benefits - for your baby, for you, and for the environment.
As you get ready for your baby to make his or her debut, I recommend having the following items on hand for the first days and weeks postpartum:
Nursing Bras: I've heard that you should shop for nursing bras in your third trimester because your size probably won't change significantly after that. I think that's good advice. Pick a day and go bra shopping or, if you prefer, shop online. I would recommend getting 3 bras for starters. You can always buy more later - after the baby comes and you figure out what "styles" (underwire, wired, sleep, sport, etc.) and brands you like best. Surprisingly, my favorite nursing bras (in terms of comfort...) are from Target. I also like my bras from Melinda G.
Nursing Pads: My favorite are the Lansinoh Ultra Soft Nursing Pads, but any brand should be just fine. Buy two or three boxes of disposables for the first few weeks. You can get the washable kind later if need be. I'm not a "leaker" so I stop using pads after the first few weeks, but every woman's body is different.
Lansinoh Lanolin: Yes, you want a tube of this. Or, in my case, you want four tubes of this. Lanolin cream soothes and treats sore nipples - and is completely safe for baby to digest. It's "miracle cream," really.
Shower Hug: This little wonder product seems unnecessary, but you'll thank me when you get in the shower and realize that the jets of water feel like razor blades on your skin.
Breastfeeding pillow: The two most popular brands on the market are Boppy and My Brest Friend. I've used both and I think the My Brest Friend is superior (more back support, flatter surface, etc.), but either pillow will do.
Slouchy shirts and oversized t-shirts: Specially-designed nursing clothes are a luxury and are nice, but not necessary. Shirts that are soft and non-clingy, however, are a must. You can buy some tees (in the softest fabric you can find) that are one size up...or you can just wear some of your maternity tees or your husband's t-shirts for the first week or two.
The phone number of La Leche League, a local breastfeeding support group, or a lactation consultant: Just in case. Don't be too proud or too embarrassed to ask for help...and feel free to get multiple opinions. I promise you won't be the first one to ask if it's normal for your baby to prefer one breast over the other (it is) or to ask for a "demonstration" of the side-lying position (that's one you gotta know...). Any question is okay.
A friend (or two) who has breastfeed - preferably for 1 year or longer: Not everyone has a friend or sister they feel comfortable talking to about breastfeeding, but it's definitely nice if you can surround yourself with "breastfeeding-friendly" people - at least at first. My "breastfeeding-friendly" mentor was my sweet and super knowledgeable friend Sandy (pictured left).
Best wishes, friend. Breastfeeding may not be easy, but it is worth it...and I applaud you in advance for your commitment to it.