When you tell people you’re planning to breastfeed your baby, you might be met with a positive response. (You should, because it’s a beautiful bonding activity that benefits both you and baby with countless health benefits!) Or, like many aspects of motherhood, you may be met with a laundry list of “supplies” you’ll need to handle the job (pillows, tubes, shields, nursing bras, emergency hand-pumps, etc). Well, I’ve been a nursing mama since September 2015, and I’m no expert, but I’m here to tell you there are only 5 things I have ever “needed!”
If you already know how to nurse, you may not feel the need for a “guidebook.” But this book is so much more than a how-to. It contains chapter after chapter of information, FAQs, encouragement, lessons, and support. It’s the only breastfeeding book you’ll ever need. And if you’re like me, you’ll pick it up every time you have a baby, because it’s helpful to refresh your mind on the basics of your breastfeeding journey. Each baby has it’s own one. I love this book.
This is the only nursing cover you’ll ever need. Because a scarf can be worn over virtually any outfit, you’ll never have to worry about packing (or finding) a nursing cover again. It’s stylish in color so you won’t feel like a motherly spectacle when nursing out and about. And it’s breathable enough that baby can comfortably fall asleep while nursing. Honestly, I didn’t want to nurse in public at first. But like many nursing moms before me, I was put in a situation where I had to (which so happened to be the Pentagon at a military ceremony in the second-to-front row. Classic). I absolutely love how covert and seamless the transition is in taking the scarf off and unfolding it to use during my nursing sessions. So much more stylish and unnoticeable than the giant baby-colored clip covers! (My favorite infinity scarves are this style by Charming Charlie).
If you’ve nursed before you may not need this. But if it’s your first time, you might get sore or chaffed the first month. I have used plain coconut oil, and love it. However nipple cream formulated especially for nursing is nice because it comes loaded with more benefits. The kind I used is discontinued, but I have loved this brand for a variety of mama needs since my first pregnancy. Or if you want lanolin as the main ingredient, I have purchased this cream before too.
At the end of the day, you and baby as a pair makes the real and most significant ingredient for your nursing journey. I think many nursing mothers would agree that breastfeeding feels like the intimacy of pregnancy taking place outside of yourself. Nursing is your months-long continuation of giving your body to your baby. A lot of women say that they “miss” being pregnant or that it’s hard to give up feeling those little kicks while baby is tucked safely inside. But to me, there are few things in motherhood you can experience that give you that intimate feeling, and nursing is definitely one of them.
You’ve been told a LOT of “rules” ever since you got the positive test. And while the information can often be conflicting, there are some laws that seem to consistently harmonize. I have found many of them to be true. Unfortunately, one of those was the no-eating-raw-cookie-batter rule. That was completely true. 🙁 But there were some definite “golden rules” that I chose to break and it worked out for me just fine! My first pregnancy was delightful and culminated with a healthy baby. I’m about to begin my third trimester with my second little baby, and still am enjoying breaking these 8 rules. I’m certainlyNOT advocating that anyone else feel obligated to, nor do I think anyone else needs to! These are just the rules that I chose to break, and enjoyed doing it:
Rule One: Eat for Two
I broke this one right off the bat–mostly because of all my food aversions! But as my pregnancy continued, I found that “eating for two” wasn’t necessary or possible for me personally. I found myself eating more frequently, rather than eating larger portions. Many doctors will advise that your nutrient intake doesn’t need to increase until at least the second trimester, and this ended up being the case for me. All the vitamins and minerals (and calories) that my babies needed were easily supplied by my body without any additional food during the first trimester. There is nothing wrong with listening to your body, and in my case, my body didn’t want or need any “extra” food until the second (mostly third) trimesters. And even then, I couldn’t handle a lot of food at once. All my meals had to broken up into snacks. It’s just what worked for me!
Rule Two: Lose the Baby Weight After the Baby is Born
It’s pretty normal to go through a shrinking period after you give birth. I mean, there is no need for all that extra fluid once the baby arrives! But I didn’t wait until after birth to begin exercising. It’s much easier to workout BEFORE you have a tiny newborn in your house. Trust me. While I did find it was important to rest up during my pregnancies (and I really did rest a lot!) I definitely didn’t leave the working out for the post-birth time. I found my body had a significantly easier time bouncing back to pre-pregancy size because I worked out during my entire pregnancy. And it made me feel happier and more confident during my pregnancies. Bonus: being fit made the delivery infinitely easier too.
Rule Three: Buy a Pregnancy Wardrobe
I kind of blame this on the fact that my babies are small, and that nursing has become my jam. But I never bought a “pregnancy” wardrobe per se. I bought a few loose fitting tank tops and that was pretty much it. I did, however, buy a nursing wardrobe. So my personal advice to nursing moms: don’t spend more on your pregnancy wardrobe than on your nursing wardrobe. By the time you need to buy pregnancy clothes, many mommies-to-be are expecting their little one’s arrival in the next 6 months. So why invest in a wardrobe that will only last for 6 months, when breastfeeding can easily go on for 12 months or longer?! Again, it’s totally a personal preference thing, but I recommend keeping the pregnancy wardrobe smaller and “more simple,” because you’ll want to have the funds/space for beautiful and versatile clothes during all the months that you breastfeed.
Note: I only own one or two things specifically designed for nursing. My nursing wardrobe consisted of “normal clothing” necklines that stretch. For me, there were plenty of “regular” clothes that worked great for nursing–but they weren’t things I owned when I first took my baby home. I found myself needing to purchase quite a few new tops postpartum because my regular clothes were not nursing-friendly!
Rule Four: Wear Nursing Bras
Speaking of breastfeeding: you might have to set aside all your current bras during the pregnancy and after. But if you’re one of the many expectant mothers weeping over your vast Victoria Secret collection–no more tears! Not everyone ends up finding a nursing-specific bra they like. Most demi cut bras are completely nursing compatible, and come in a variety of support types: wireless, underwire, push-up, etc. The sky is the limit with those! Keep in mind that throughout your pregnancy and nursing journeys, your size will fluctuate to accommodate lactation growth, so be aware that what works for a few months may not work later on, or vice versa.
Also, most breastfeeding mothers are advised to wear bras to bed–and the demis will still work in this case. Be aware certain bras can lead to mastitis, especially at night. But don’t feel like the only bras that won’t cause mastitis are bralettes–because there are plenty of “normal” bras that are nursing-friendly too. It’s really about finding your own style and what feels comfortable. You don’t have to sacrifice looks for comfort or safety, but those two should definitely be at the top of your list of requirements when shopping!
Rule Five: It Took 9 Months to Gain and Will Take 9 Months to Lose
No. It takes your body as long as it takes YOUR body. For me, it was a lot closer to 9 days than 9 months. For some, that’s a matter of weeks and for others, a matter of months. Don’t hold yourself accountable to someone else’s metabolism, breastfeeding habits, sleep cycle, and genetics. Treat your body well and give it time. Comparison is the thief of joy and trying to “recover” the way someone else did will only mislead you in taking care of your body. Remember: the grass is greener WHEN you water it–so try hard and make great efforts to help your body recover. But realize it is the effort and not the wishing that will make a difference. The most important thing is focusing on your body’s health and peace, not on the clock or calendar and wondering if it’s taking too long to “bounce back.”
Rule Six: Get Over the Fact that You’ll be Wearing a Hospital Gown
Maybe I’m alone here in feeling like the gowns are itchy, uncomfortable, and look horrible on my skin. BYOBG. Bring your own birthing gown. Most hospitals will let you (check before you don it). If you don’t want to purchase a birthing gown though, there are many options out there. Consider making your own or altering a nightdress you already have. As long as your gown has straps instead of sleeves, the only adjustment you’ll need to make is cutting a long slit down the back from the neck to the hips (which you can attach ties or velcro to so that it closes). Get something that is soft and dark in color…you’ll be so much more comfortable in your own gown than in the hospital-issued gown! For my first birth, I wore this. And for my second, I’m buying this. (<- edited to add: I ended up revising an old nightgown.)
Rule Seven: Rock the Bump
This one is again a TOTAL personal preference. Probably the most “personal” of all preferences in this post! I have seen so, so, so, so many beautiful pregnant bumps that look super cute when accented. So many women have found “rocking” their bump to not only help them celebrate their pregnancy blessing, but also to come to terms with the fact their body is changing and so is their wardrobe. It looks GREAT on them and I think they should totally go for it. But all of a sudden when I found myself pregnant, I found the bump-hugging styles didn’t suit me! I partly attribute this to the fact that I carry my babies high, and that I carry them small. It takes me months just to get a “bump” and I think the long and slow progression never inspired me to find bump-rocking styles.
I was discussing pregnancy wardrobes with my grandmother, and she told me in her time that pregnant women gravitated towards lose-fitting, concealing outfits. I thought I would give it a try and ended up LOVING it! My pregnancy jam became leggings, shorts, or tight-night pencil skirts paired with a flowy or non-fitted top. (I have summer pregnancies so tank tops were my go-to). It didn’t bother me that people couldn’t tell I was pregnant, because I tend to bring it up in conversations all the time! haha I just felt really relieved that I had finally found a style that looked good and felt right for me. I can’t advocate enough that a HUGE part of pregnancy confidence for me was a finding a style that worked. It surprised me that my pregnancy style was very different from my non-pregnancy style, but that’s just how it worked out!!
Rule Eight: You have to Give Up Coffee
It’s TOTALLY important to limit caffeine during pregnancy, most especially during the first trimester. And I did. While I didn’t even want coffee for the first few months of pregnancy (hello, food aversions!) my nurse found it perfectly fine for me to enjoy a cup once a day, however. Most research will conclude a safe caffeine limit during pregnancy is 200 mg, leaving room for an average-sized cup of coffee–about 11 oz. That’s only IF you’re comfortable consuming caffeine though (because it’s your choice!). And if you’re more of a soda and chocolate person than a coffee person, then just remember to go by the same caffeine guidelines. Sneaky trick: in order to drink “two” cups a day, I ended up making 1/2 caff coffee, so that my caffeine was split into two mugs over the course of the day. Teehee!
It’s possible that I’ve broken more than 8 rules… haha! However, there are many rules that I totally followed (and am following right now!) Again, I’m definitely not trying to say that everyone should break the rules that I chose to. In fact, I really want everyone to know that I believe you should live your pregnancy as YOU feel is best. But I’m sharing what ended up working for me because sometimes someone else’s positive story can be helpful when evaluating your own pregnancy goals. Maybe something that worked for everyone isn’t going to work for you? Or maybe something that works for you is something no one else can handle!
Every person and every pregnancy is so unique, and that’s really special. Thanks for taking the time to read about mine! Please leave a comment below if there is a rule you broke, and why! I’d love to know. I hope you come back soon!
Have a long list of things to-do but absolutely zero motivation? Oops did I just reveal something about my day? 🙂 When I need to get stuff done, but don’t really want to, these are my 5 tips for getting that energy pumping. (And as silly as they sound, I really do them and they work for me).
I put my hair up. It’s 30ish inches long, and I feel comfy and relaxed with it down. When it’s up, I mean business. My roommates and I used to joke that they could “sense” how busy our class schedule was just by popping into my room and seeing that my hair was up. Time to get homework done.
I put on a fresh beat. Even though classical music is my favorite, if I need to get something done I put on an upbeat playlist of songs that make me want to dance. For some reason, wanting to dance = getting things done. (Word of caution: if what you need to get done is something that requires you to think–i.e. homework-then I recommend classical music or maybe silence. Sorry.)
I pour a mug of coffee. In all honestly, I’m immune to caffeine. But it’s the hot and sweet sip from coffee that gets me going. I highly recommend this, or some other yummy beverage that will make the job easier. (Not alcohol guys.)
I write down what it is that I want to get done, because honestly it’s just an innate human response to get satisfaction out of crossing things off the list.
I plan a reward. Whether it’s another cup of coffee (only kinda kidding) or a relaxing half-hour of browsing pinterest in my freshly vacuumed house, I make sure there is a silver light at the end of the tunnel. Or is it a silver lining? 🙂 You get it.
I can (and probably will) write post after post about nursing, what it means to me, how important it is, etc. But this post isn’t about any of that. It’s about a particular topic that began circulating when I researched it before having my first baby. It was a little known “fact” that I had no experience with: nursing hurts.
I didn’t know if this would be true for me or not. A book by the La Leche League called “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding.” (I can’t recommend it enough!) had an interesting perspective. It recognized that nursing can hurt. But it said that nursing never should hurt. They say that almost any mommy and baby team can make nursing work, and so if it starts to hurt, that only means that something is off and needs to be fixed. I know it sounds like wishful thinking, but I loved the concept that pain doesn’t equal incapability.
With that in mind, I entered into the world of nursing. And much to my pleasant surprise, nursing really doesn’t hurt! However since it was my first baby, for the first two weeks or so I found myself sore during the latching process. The number one way to ease the soreness is to ensure proper latching and help baby do this if need be. But I still wanted to find something that could provide comfort in between nursing sessions.
Enter the My Brest Friend Nipple Cream! It’s made of natural and organic ingredients (bonus!) and is completely safe for mom and baby. There is no need to wipe it off before baby nurses, and its clear in color, so no staining anything! It had a very slight butter smell, but it is very pleasant and relaxing. What I loved most about it was obviously it’s effects– it is soothing if you’re hurting, but it also is effective at preventing those hurts in the first place.
One word of advice, this cream does “solidify” in a way because it has coconut oil in it. So it comes out of the tube a little “grainy” which doesn’t hurt when you apply, but it makes it less perfect that a buttery-vaseline type texture. (Obviously vaseline isn’t a nursing cream). My advice is to roll a little bit of it between your fingers to try to warm it. Once you apply it, the cream will also melt onto your skin, so warming it beforehand is not strictly necessary. But if the grainy-ness is not your thing, you may want to rub it between your fingers before applying.
I suppose you could just use plain coconut oil–it really does work as a nursing cream! But if you want something that is easier to carry around then a jar of coconut oil 🙂 then I highly recommend this cream. Plus, it has a few additions to it that coconut oil doesn’t have…like Shea butter, sunflower oil, mango seed butter, Candelilla wax, and soybean oil. Those little additions have their own nourishing benefits, and make the cream extra buttery and soothing.