So I had a baby! Nearly 10 weeks ago now. What a whirlwind. No one can truly prepare you for what it’s like, though many will try, bless their hearts. They’re right though – it’s both the hardest and best time of your life so far.
Please note: this blog post will be written from the perspective of someone who chose to breastfeed exclusively, because that is what I have chosen to do, that is what suits me and my lifestyle and my baby. I respect any and all choices that others make to feed their babies adequately, I truly believe that fed is best. Breastfeeding is what I chose.
Let me get this out of the way: breastfeeding is not easy. It is kind of a bastard of a thing in the beginning. You’ve just done this intensely difficult thing (whether you have a natural birth or a C-section, the act and the recovery are bloody hard in different measures) and now you and your broken body and tired, hormonally charged brain have to try to learn this intensely difficult skill that is SO, SO important literally to the survival of your baby. Ha! What a monster of a thing to inflict on a suffering mother. As much as childbirth and finally meeting your baby is so magical and wonderful, it’s also so hard.
Eamon had a period of ill health not long after his birth, which was extremely scary, but it also meant we missed some key breastfeeding time. As such, and just because of the inherently difficult nature of breastfeeding, we had a tricky time latching him and getting things working in that way. I’ll never forget when Ray had gone out to get me some lunch on day 3 in hospital (we stayed an extra day because of the health issues and latching issues, he lost a good amount of weight) and one of the wonderful RNs was trying to help me get him to latch in side-lying position so I could get some rest (carefully monitored) and I just lost it. He was crying, I was crying, poor Ray comes back in the room laden with sandwiches to me sobbing “I just need to not hear him crying right now, I can’t take it, he needs to leave for awhile or I do” and the kindly nurse saying “got it”, bundling him up and taking him for a little while to the nursery. I cried in Ray’s arms for quite a long time. It was so bloody hard and I felt like a failure and a monster.
Luckily he was fine and was back at his birth weight not long after we left the hospital. A week or so maybe. But those first few days at home were so hard too. We were trying to get him to sleep in a bassinet and he may as well have been on the moon, according to him. Poor little mite. NONE of us were getting any proper rest. We absolutely DREADED the nights. The sun would go down and our spirits would too, and as soon as we spotted light leaking through the windows in the morning (because of course we were, or at least I was awake for that. Of course.) things would feel a bit less scary and impossible. So we started co-sleeping (safely and with purpose, as a friend recommended, rather than in frustration and desperation which is what leads to SIDS issues) and things improved DRAMATICALLY. Side-lying is now my go-to bedtime position, and I enjoy it immensely, it’s so snuggly and I can read a book or whatever while he nurses and smooshes his little feet into my belly, just like he did when he was inside. It’s great.
Anyway, on to the point of the post. I wanted to write up some info on things that I found incredibly useful in the first few weeks. I’m sure there are tonnes of posts out here on similar things but these are what worked best for me and Eamon.
ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL as far as I’m concerned! I got the Boppy from lovely Corinne (you may remember her from such posts as the first preggo roundup!), it was on my registry, and it’s what we used in hospital. I still use it in bed, it is our bedroom pillow, and it’s great for multiple reasons – it’s quite snuggly, it’s the right height, it comes in awesome prints, cover is removable for washing and it can be used for tummy time when baby is a little bigger (not to mention to help them learn to sit up etc as well!). But the one that gets a bit more use when sitting on the couch is this one – the My Brest Friend pillow. I think because it’s flatter, it makes bub easier to position and means he doesn’t sink into the space between the pillow and my tummy (especially when he was really little). It’s nice and firm, and it actually secures around you with a buckle so you don’t have to hold it to you. I’ve even stood up while feeding him on it and gone to the bathroom or got myself a drink. I do not recommend this. It’s hard. But you do what you gotta do in the moment.
Huge-ass Drink Bottle
It is absolutely unbelievable how thirsty you get while breastfeeding. And I mean “while”, literally. The letdown reflex (ie the time when your milk starts coming out) triggers a feeling of thirst like no other. I bought this awesome adult sized sippy cup with a straw as recommended on another blog. It is the best. I love how the silicone straw is really wide, enabling me to suck down a bunch of water really fast, which is a weirdly essential feature for this to have. The thirst cannot be underestimated. Nowadays, I have this one beside the bed and my daytime water containers are six quart-sized Gatorade bottles (btw, Gatorade is great in the beginning when you’re building milk supply!) because they’re really sturdy. I drink all six in a day. Sometimes more. It’s madness.
Silicone Bulb Pump
I couldn’t think of a better way to describe this weird silicone thing. It’s called the Haakaa (there are many knockoffs also) and what it does is collect the letdown on the other breast than what you’re feeding on. So it’s not a pump as such, it applies some suction just to draw out what is already being released by your natural letdown reflex. Please note – don’t make the mistake that I did and assume this won’t work for you if you don’t leak much if any breast milk. I never really leaked much and I still get around an ounce, sometimes two, each time I use this. So even if you’re not pumping, doing that a couple of times a day will allow you to build a little tiny bit of a stash in your freezer for in case you want to, oh, leave the house or go on a date or if you are on a medication that doesn’t allow for breastfeeding (these are few and far between, mind you, always check with a pediatrician you trust before you take advice to pump and dump from anyone else including pharmacists and other doctors. Sometimes they say that just to cover their butts. Same with drinking. If you can safely pick up bub to nurse, if you can drive, you’re probably fine to nurse. Not much booze gets in breast milk). Anyway, you just squeeze the bulb, suction it to your boob and you’re golden. You can’t dance a jig or go for a run with it on, but it has enough suction to stay on if you’re still. It’s an NZ product so Aussies might have an easier time getting it from a local source rather than Amazon.
Grass Draining Rack
If you are pumping or bottle feeding, you’re going to have a million tiny parts and drying them is a bastard. You need this product. Trust me. We had this on our registry because it was a recommended registry item and I totally get why. There are a few other interesting little pumping things like microwave steam sterilizing bags that I find handy but I don’t want this post to just be about pumping because I know not everyone does that. Plus, things like milk storage bags, bottles etc are really personal choice (your baby’s choice, tbh) so giving my opinion is kinda moot anyway.
Disposable Changing Pad Covers
We bought some of these based on a recommendation from my friend Leah. They have really come in handy. We use them when we go out, but their handiest use so far has been for when Eamon pees or poops on the existing changing pad cover which then has to be removed from the changing pad lest he roll around in it, but I don’t have enough hands to hold a baby AND put a new cover on it. I just grab one of these from the convenient packet, toss it over the pad and I’m good to go.
Diaper Disposal Unit
This is a bloody godsend, you guys. It not only keeps the odor (not that there is much odor at the moment, breastfeeding newborn poop doesn’t really smell IMO) enclosed, it gives you a way to secure dirty diaps from enterprising dogs for whom the smell might be just way too tempting. Gross I know but hey. Plus when you change the bag, you get this awesome diaper log that’s very satisfying to tie off and toss in the garbage. We are weird people, I realise this. We went with the Diaper Genie and we could not be happier. The refills are easy to install and it’s easy to set up and use.
I love these! So handy for a bottom layer, especially the ones with a decent shelf like these from H&M. H&M nursing gear is honestly great and so is their babywear. They’re also great for wearing to bed if you (like me) find that most sleeping bras are not quite enough to contain The Ladies, especially when they’re full of milk. Which is pretty often. The Old Navy ones I bought are rubbish – the straps are too long (who the fuck has shoulders that tall!). These ones are great. Lots of people also swear by the “two shirt method” for going out and about and nursing without showing too much skin (and I’m not talking about “OOOH I WOULDNT WANT ANYONE TO SEE AN INCH OF MY BREAST” fuck that shit, I mean having to basically remove all your clothes to get to the boob). The two shirt method is pretty basic. Tank underneath, shirt on top. Pull shirt up, pull tank down or unclip, boom. Boobs. Baby. Put ’em together and everyone’s happy (especially the baby).
I don’t have a preference here. I had one from H&M, and a fuzzy one from Target, they both do the job. Get whatever as long as it’s soft and comfy. It’s just great to wander around the house in a robe when your baby is cluster feeding and you don’t want to have to keep getting your boobs out. Just open up the robe, stick the baby on and you’re golden.
I am probably leaving out some stuff. Partly because I’m still pretty sleep deprived and partly because I didn’t need some things that others might find essential. For example I never really suffered from any nipple damage or leakage, so things like nipple balms and breast pads aren’t things I have strong opinions about. I got a sweet diaper bag but I’ve gone back to using my precious JW Hulme bag anyway. I didn’t have a lot of “downstairs damage” so apart from the first couple of weeks I wasn’t really in pain and during that time a squirty bottle of warm water to rinse with when I peed, and some numbing wound care spray were all I used and I got both of those from the hospital.
The next post will be more about things baby needs (needs is always subjective, you understand!). To tide you over, here’s some pics of my beautiful little bundle!
Thanks for reading! Until next time…