Editor's note: As this new column progresses it will follow the transition of the mommy-to-be to new mother and offers tips, ideas, and resources for all the stages and steps along the way.
I am thinking of you often these days and re-living the (mostly wonderful) experience of pregnancy every time I do! I can relate to all the things you're going through; after all, it wasn’t that long ago that I was pregnant with Oliver. To me, being pregnant felt special and important, like I was doing something amazing just by breathing and eating and going about my daily activities. I loved feeling Oliver's kicks and hiccups and knowing that he was always safe inside me, no matter where I went. The transition from inside to outside the womb is a remarkable one, for both mother and baby.
Thank you for your question about the books and products I have found the most helpful. As you know, I am always happy to offer thoughtful advice and have been thinking about this for a few weeks. There are of course several books and practical items that I would highly recommend for any new mom; you can add them to your registry or look for gently used versions from Craigslist or from friends with young children.
One of the best things we got as a gift was the Aden & Anais muslin swaddle cloths, along with a copy of The Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp. Oliver really needed the swaddling during nap times for quite a while; without it he would be inconsolable (the book explains why). Learning to swaddle is a challenge, but the more you do it the easier it gets. The book shows one way of swaddling, but once you understand the basic premise and a few general rules, you can find your own way. There was a night when Hugo lost patience with trying to swaddle a wailing Oliver exactly how it’s done in the book and somehow the book ended up in two pieces! We still laugh when we think of it! I think this was before we started co-sleeping, though. More on that when I write again.
Also, we didn’t plan to use a swing, but it turned out to be indispensable as Oliver really needed the vigorous swinging motion for his daytime naps (the book also explains this).
Another item we didn’t have at first was a chair for Oliver, which became necessary very early on so that he could sit and watch us doing stuff around the house. Some babies will just sit in their car seat, but Oliver never liked his car seat. We got the BabyBjorn Baby Sitter 1-2-3 which he sat in at first perched on a rolled-up blanket, but he quickly became big enough to sit in it on his own and bounce it with his legs. He still uses it now every day at 9 months old and won’t be outgrowing it any time soon; it has held up great and still looks good, too. My sister passed along her son’s Bumbo seat to us which was fantastic and very useful. Very young babies can sit alone in these as long as they have good neck strength. Ollie even used to sit in the Bumbo at restaurants and the Laundromat!
Last but certainly not least, a snug baby sling or wrap is absolutely essential, so you can manage to get some stuff done and still keep the baby close. We found that Oliver wanted to be held very close to us for much of his awake time and the fabric wraps allowed us to do that. See my article on baby-wearing at www.earthbodybalance.com/naturalparenting.
Since you will be home with the baby and only needing to pump occasionally I would recommend the Harmony Medela hand pump which works pretty well for pumping a few ounces now and then. You may also find yourself just hand-expressing a lot of milk as well because sometimes it’s easier and quicker. You will find out what works for you.
For the first 6 months or so of breastfeeding there was quite a lot of milk leaking from the breast that wasn’t being used while I nursed and I would always lament that there was no way to save it. I always said someone needed to invent a product for this! Well someone did! I would have loved to have a product like Milkies Milk Savers (www.mymilkies.com) for saving the breast milk that leaked from the other side as I nursed. I only recently learned about this product, so I didn’t get the chance to use it myself.
For feeding Oliver breast milk from a bottle we use the glass Evenflo bottles with slow-drip nipples; you can even freeze your milk in the bottles and save it up for later on (just leave an inch of space in the bottle as the milk expands when it freezes). Don’t forget to have breast pads on hand for leaks, too! I really like the Avent disposables; some women prefer the Lansinoh brand. I tried cloth ones first but it became too much of a pain to wash them constantly (though if this works for you that’s definitely better for the environment!). My sister also gave me a tube of Lansinoh lanolin and told me to use it every time after nursing to prevent chapping; I used it religiously for a few weeks and then felt I didn’t need it anymore (you may want to continue using it, though). I found The Breastfeeding Book by Dr. Sears to be very helpful and full of practical information about all things related to breastfeeding; try to read up on it now so you are prepared.
I would also highly recommend finding the contact number for your local La Leche League chapter leader and even calling her ahead to introduce yourself and get some preparatory advice if you like (see http://www.llli.org) This way if you have any problems with breastfeeding or need someone to answer questions you will already have this resource available to you, and this person will already know you a little. LLL chapter leaders generally have a wealth of information and provide FREE breastfeeding advice and support!
They can also refer you to a lactation consultant who will come to your home (for a fee usually) if you have more serious difficulties. We had a lactation consultant come one time and it made all the difference in the world! For some women and babies breastfeeding comes extremely easily; for others (like me and Oliver) it is a real challenge at first. I hear of many women who give up and use formula because they are having pain, because the baby is really fussy, or because they don’t think they are making enough milk. A good lactation consultant can help with all these issues. I know now how very important it is to have readily-available support (meaning someone who can come to your house and coach you)!
Choosing to breastfeed your baby is one of the best decisions you will ever make for his/her health and early bonding. I strongly believe that every woman can breastfeed successfully with perseverance, support, and good nutrition (I will talk about this more in a future letter). Again, like I said, for many women and babies it’s really easy, so don’t assume you will have problems; however, you should be prepared for them so they don’t catch you off guard.
P.S. I would love to hear about your preparations and plans. I am always happy to answer questions and give you more tips for making the first few months after your baby arrives fun and restful for all of you! Please use the handy comment section below this article.
Hannah's Baby Oliver