Whether it strikes you as the most natural thing your boobs could do or whether you’re suddenly feeling decidedly squeamish, breastfeeding is something that takes a lot of getting used to it.
Much is made of the fact that nursing is supposedly so much more straightforward, as your baby’s milk is always available ‘on tap’ and you don’t need to worry about all the various paraphernalia that accompanies bottle-feeding; bottles, sterilisers, formula and so on. However there are a few essentials you should consider adding to your shopping list, to assist on your individual breastfeeding journey…
Slightly different to a maternity bra, these allow easy access to your nipples. Nursing bras are soft, with wider straps for greater support, and don’t use underwire, which is potentially harmful to your milk ducts if it digs in too much. Their extra feature is a handy ‘drop down’ system using a hook and eye clasp on each side, which allows you access to one breast without revealing the other.
Don’t even think about wearing a normal bra to breastfeed – it’s way too uncomfortable, is unlikely to stretch to accommodate the changing size of your breasts as the milk comes in, and is way too much of a hassle to remove each and every time your little one needs a feed!
Many new mums don’t realise that when they start breastfeeding, it doesn’t end there. Until this period of your life draws naturally to a close, prepare to leak… Some mothers find that their emotional response towards their baby’s cry starts the process, others simply find that when it’s time for a feed and their breasts are swollen with milk, it begins to seep out, regardless of whether they’re ready or not! This is known as the ‘let down reflex’.
Breast pads are small, discreet circular absorbent pads with a waterproof adhesive backing. They’re quite similar to eye makeup remover pads in appearance, just with a sticky side (like a sanitary towel), which attaches invisibly inside your nursing bra. Any leakage will be absorbed by the pad rather than leaving telltale marks on your clothing and staining your bra. Depending on your body, you may need to change them every few hours or only once a day.
Nipple cream or a mild emollient is a must for any breastfeeding mum. After hours of continuous sucking, nipples can become very sore and, if they aren’t appropriately moisturised, they can become prone to cracking and bleeding. Make sure to choose a clinically approved cream that is harmless in the event of ingestion by your baby.
This is a flexible silicone nipple that is worn over your own during breastfeeding and is designed to prevent unpleasant chafing or baby ‘gumming’ on your nipples. The shields are most commonly worn when the mother is suffering from sore, cracked or bleeding nipples at the onset of breastfeeding, as some ladies’ nipples need to adjust and ‘toughen up’ to their new function.
The disadvantage of nipple shields is that your baby might not receive quite as much milk and the process might take longer, plus the mother is at greater risk from suffering blocked ducts. Nipple shields are only a temporary solution and shouldn’t be considered a permanent fixture.
While out and about, it is possible to protect your modesty by using a special nursing scarf to cover your breasts and/or baby’s head when feeding. There are many different options available online, some of which as unobtrusive and as fashionable as a regular scarf or snood.
A breast pump is essential for any mum who plans to express her milk, which can be invaluable if she intends to return to work yet still feed her child naturally, or if she simply needs a full night’s sleep with Dad taking the night shift. Breast pumps are either manual or battery operated – the latter is far more expensive, yet also more effective and useful if expressing is going to be a regular part of your daily life. Manual pumps involve a certain amount of work pressing and depressing a lever (which can be amusing if you get a squeaky one), but although slower, they do the job just as well and are relatively cheap.
There are many vitamins available on the market that are especially designed to fill the needs of nursing mums, but the NHS simply recommends that you take supplements containing 10 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin D each day. All other vitamins and minerals can and should be obtained by eating a varied and balanced diet. If you decide to take breastfeeding supplements then you’re certainly covering all your needs, but take care to not let your diet slip and keep healthy.
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