Cozy up with your babe
Many women focus on assembling a support team during birth, but new mothers need early postpartum support as well. Have friends and family help with household chores, make you food, or take older siblings while you rest, heal and establish breastfeeding with your baby. Being skin-to-skin with your little one will increase your levels of prolactin, a hormone responsible for helping initiate and maintain breast milk production. Skin-to-skin can help babies latch more easily when held, because they have a heightened sense of smell and it allows them to seek out and root for the nipple. Even if you don’t plan on co-sleeping, sharing a bed with your newborn in the early days allows for more contact and offers baby more opportunity to suckle during the night, which stimulates milk production.
Build a support system
It’s very helpful to educate yourself and prepare your support system before your baby is born. Attend a breastfeeding class near the end of your pregnancy, or hire a lactation consultant with a few other pregnant women and hold a group seminar. It’s not uncommon to run into challenges, especially when you and your baby are just beginning your breastfeeding relationship. Prepare yourself with the contact information of a trusted lactation consultant before your baby is born. It can save you the stress of struggling to find support if you experience a latch issue or have concerns with supply. La Leche League is an amazing resource of support. Locate your local chapter, familiarize yourself with the group leaders, and consider attending their monthly meetings.
Use a breastfeeding pillow
Breastfeeding pillows are a lifesaver and my favorite is the Ergobaby Natural Curve Nursing Pillow. This pillow provides the support you need to relax and breastfeed your baby comfortably. It helps align baby in the proper tummy-to-tummy position and encourages proper latch. The firm pillow prevents tired arms and keeps you from slouching forward. It’s actually been a helpful visual cue for my toddler as well. When he sees us using the pillow he knows that “mommy is busy feeding sister”. The pillow acts as great support when he wants to hold her on his lap, and it’s also proven to be a useful protective barrier around her when he decides to launch himself at us while we’re nursing. The plush cover is soft against baby’s skin and luckily it’s removable and machine washable… because: spit up, spilt drinks, and grimy toddler hands.
Apply coconut oil
Nipples can get chapped, cracked and downright sore in the early days. Coconut oil helps soothe sore nipples and encourages healing. Coconut is great for breastfeeding mothers to consume internally as well. It’s the richest food source of lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that has the ability to greatly increase the immune boosting, anti-viral and anti-bacterial qualities of breast milk.
I’ve never felt as thirsty as I do in the first few weeks of breastfeeding a newborn. Staying hydrated is crucial for milk production. It may be hard to imagine before baby is born, but even the simple act of getting up to fill a water cup can be a bit of a challenge when you’re stuck under a sleeping baby. So purchase the largest water bottle you can find and keep it beside you when you’re nursing. Reusable stainless steel straws are fantastic as well. Hopefully you’ll be lying down with your baby as much as possible while you’re healing after birth. Using a straw will make it easier to consume water even when you’re not in an upright position.
Nourish your body
Nutrient dense foods not only promote healing after birth, they also support the production of breast milk. Before baby arrives, stock your freezer with as many healthy pre-cooked meals as possible, and organize a meal train with friends and family to drop meals off for you in the early postpartum days. Having healthy snacks on hand will prevent you from reaching for poorer quality foods out of convenience. Focus on hydrating, easy to digest foods like soups, fruit and cooked vegetables.