The nursing items I shared were the following:
a) lanolin for preventing and soothing sore/cracked nipples; b) washable nursing pads to cover any leakage; c) some cooling gel nursing pads that can go in the refrigerator and help SO MUCH those first days when those nips are SO SORE; d) circular gel things that can be cool or warm to ease engorgement or assist with letdown and flow; e) my favorite bags for storing expressed milk.
The second part was a framed page with my thoughts on breastfeeding. I envisioned that she could glance at them as she went through the various stages of the early nursing relationship:
- Yes, getting baby into position is awkward at first. Try the football hold.
- Yes, your nipples should be sore. Use the lanolin every time.
- No, it shouldn't be excruciatingly painful. If it is still painful more than 30 seconds into a nursing session, talk to a lactation consultant.
- Yes, he will be noisy while he eats. Or, he may make no noise at all. Normal.
- Yes, you may FEEL your letdown. Or, no you may NOT. Both are ok. Pay attention only to wet diapers and weight gain as measures of baby-eating success.
- Yes, the engorgement phase sucks. Try heat, using your fingers to soften your nipple and hand expressing a little bit before he latches. It can be hard for a tiny mouth to get a good hold on an engorged, flat nipple. Also: football hold.
- He might cough and gag a little bit in your milk. This is normal. He might not. Also normal. If he does this a lot, try leaning back so the flow is less forceful in his sweet lil' mouth.
- Yes, it is exhausting the first weeks. Yes, you will nurse for forty minutes only to start again forty minutes later.
- Nurse whenever he seems hungry. Schedules and patterns come later. I promise.
- Yes, the above is exhausting and daunting. You will miss it someday.
- Breathe. Let downs can be prevented when stressed. If you can find a pattern of breathing/position/thought your body will learn, Pavlovian style, to release your milk to your baby. Deep breaths help. And relax those shoulders and your jaw.
- Text me, your mom, your mama friends whenever you have a wonder. We can help or even just say 'Yep. Normal.'
- The leaking does stop eventually. Promise.
- Yes, you may as well just not wear a shirt. Good thing Texas is warm.
- The first time in public is hard. Challenging, logistically and mentally. It gets so much easier.
- Soon he will be holding his own head and that pillow won't be needed. Woo hoo!
- Don't be afraid to pump and give a bottle. Wait at least four weeks but not too long- a boobie-only baby is hard to be away from. Plus, bottles help bonding with Papa!
- Don't worry too much if baby latches or makes noises that you read are 'wrong'. Is he getting milk and growing strong? Then it works. Trust yourself and your son.
- Don't beat yourself up if you supplement or need help with any part of this. You are a rock star mama and what matters is that baby eats and grows.
- Yes, there will be days, weeks in, where he suddenly nurses SO MUCH MORE or even LESS. Growth spurts/frequency days happen. Part of a growth spurt/developmental leap can be increased eating OR reduced (for a short while). If you are really concerned, call an LC or the pediatrician. But also, breathe. You got this.
- And if after all of this, you didn't get to breastfeed or your nursing relationship ends sooner than you wanted, know this: it will be ok. I promise, promise, promise.