Not only are the first weeks at home with a newborn intense enough on their own, the pressures and difficulties of breastfeeding can make things exponentially more complicated. Thankfully, I found there are a number of things needed for the first two weeks of breastfeeding that can definitely help a new mom navigate feeding a newborn from your body. At least, there were for me.
I’m gearing up to do it all over again when my second baby arrives in a couple months, and I’m already starting to take inventory. I want to make sure we either have this breastfeeding gear ready to go, or we put some effort into making sure it's around when we bring baby number two home. I’m one of the many moms you might know who struggled with breastfeeding initially, and more than any other aspect of new parenthood, so the thought of revisiting those early weeks is slightly intimidating. Regardless of how it goes with my second, the early weeks of breastfeeding my first will always rank high on my list of “OMG parenting is impossible” moments. In fact, it's right up there with trying to send emails from a laptop while my son climbs on my head, and what I imagine his teenage years will probably entail.
When it’s all said and done, here’s what helped me the most (and a few bonus things I think would help, if I could have managed to procure them) when it came to breastfeeding a brand new baby:
An Internet Connection
Maybe you’re better than me at not relying on the internet for entertainment. Maybe you don’t need this to stream Netflix at 2 a.m. to stay awake when you're nursing. Maybe you don’t need it to scroll through headlines and stay abreast at what’s happening in the world.
Either way, and even if you’re not relying on it for entertainment, it’s helpful for the random Googling you’ll likely be doing, like, “How do I know if my baby is actually getting milk?” and “What is nipple confusion?” and “Why does my baby’s head smell so good?”
A Giant Water Bottle
The thirst that strikes after letdown is on par with the thirst that, I imagine, occurs when you’ve attended a Backstreet Boys concert in the desert after eating over-salted french fries. As in, just don’t go anywhere without your water bottle (or without a kind soul/hero friend who can grab you a drink).
A Positive Attitude
Disclaimer: OK, I technically survived without this one. I don’t think my frequent tears and the overall desperate frustration I felt over breastfeeding would really count as a "positive attitude." Still, it would have surely helped, which is why I think it's important to mention.
It’s weird to be a fully functioning adult and suddenly have little-to-no control over certain body fluids again. Like, I’ve been potty trained for as long as I can remember, and my braces have been off for almost two decades, so drool isn’t really an issue for me either. But breast milk? Not only is it messy and sticky when you start to leak, it’s also kinda humbling.
Breast pads did help a bit, but I feel like I also need to offer a disclaimer here, too: they don’t always work as well as you want them too.
A Support System
I know there are women out there who have no issues with breastfeeding, just like I know there are women who have hair that just naturally looks like beach waves all the time, or who never drip condiments on their clothes. I am not one of those women, though. I needed a support system to help me through breastfeeding.
On most days it was my partner, but my closest friends, my mom, and a number of other women in my life had cameos as well. Oh, and Justin Timberlake, because his bangers really helped my mood and energy level.
A Secondary Feeding Option
In our case, the back-up option was a breast pump and bottles. For other moms, it’s formula. Whatever choice your family makes, knowing that there’s a back-up in the fridge saved my son's hunger, and my own sanity, on multiple occasions when he refused to latch.
A Lot Of Shirts
I’ve joked, and heard other parents joke, about the amount of laundry a new baby requires, but as a new mom I went through my fair share of clothes, too. Yes, some of it was because a baby diaper spilled on me, or because spit-up happens, but a fair share of it was also because I was leaking. I quickly learned that layers were my new best friend, as are patterned shirts that don’t show wet spots as clearly (and whatever you do, definitely avoid heather grey).
To be fair, pretty much everything within arm’s reach can double as a burp cloth, including but not limited to: blankets, wash cloths, sleeves, shirts, pillowcases, and my hair. Still, it’s nice to stay somewhat organized. I also got into the habit of putting one (or in some cases, a blanket) in between my baby and me when he fed, since they work great as diaper leak shields, too.
A Grasp Of Basic Terminology
I don’t think I’ve ever used a word more frequently than I used the word “latch” during those first two weeks of breastfeeding. Everything revolved around my son’s ability, or inability, depending on the day, to latch. Pair that with various names of breastfeeding holds (cradle, cross-cradle, football, side-lying, etc.), and the ailments that we’re all trying to avoid (clogged ducts, mastitis, thrush), and it’s enough to rival vocabulary tests from high school health.
A Comfortable Seating Arrangement
I thought it was going to be the glider I inherited from my grandparents, which we had set up and had ready to go in the nursery. It turned out to be the couch. Either way, once we figured out what worked, it helped the routine immensely. At that stage, I was using all the help I could get.