Breastfeeding Prep for New Moms

If you’ve decided to give breastfeeding a try, you may be wondering where to start and what to do. Breastfeeding doesn’t always come naturally to new moms, so it’s smart to do some prep work while you’re still pregnant so you know what to expect. Here are a few tips to consider before you start nursing your new baby:

Stock up on nursing bras. Easy access when you’re nursing is important, so think about purchasing a couple of nursing bras in the middle of your third trimester. Get fitted by an experienced salesperson (you want a little bit of room to grow towards the end of your pregnancy). Start with two bras for now and then get more as you need them.

Attend a breastfeeding class. Attending a nursing course will give you a preview of what to expect; it’s also a chance to ask questions you may have about the process. Many childbirth classes also include breastfeeding instruction, so don't worry if you can't find a class that's exclusively about breastfeeding. To find a class near you, call the hospital where you’ll be giving birth, ask your health care provider, or check out local message boards or mom groups.

Purchase the gear. If you plan to return to work after the birth of your new baby, a breast pump will be invaluable. It’s normal to leak a little when your milk starts to come in, so pick up a few breast pads to insert into your nursing bras. Finally, a nursing pillow may also come in handy, as many new moms find it to be very helpful for propping up their baby when nursing; others use regular bed or couch pillows for the same result.

Find a lactation consultant. Starting off on the right foot when you’re nursing is a lot easier if you have some professional support. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy at first, and it’s possible you may struggle with figuring out certain positions or getting your new baby to latch-on. You may want to make an appointment with a lactation consultant in advance of your birth to get must-know tips, or schedule it for soon after your delivery. Many hospitals will have lactation consultants and nurses available to help you start nursing right after your baby is born.

The best breastfeeding experience starts with a bit of planning. Ask your friends and family for their advice, too, as you get ready, and call on them for support as you begin nursing your new baby. Don’t worry if you can’t stick with it for as long as you’d like -- any nursing you do will have a positive effect on your baby.

Cord Blood Questions

If you’ve been following pregnancy news lately, you probably know that there are discussions surrounding cord blood and its use for new babies. To keep you updated, and help you figure out if storing your own new baby’s cord blood is right for your family, here are some answers to your most pressing questions.

What exactly is cord blood?
Simply put, cord blood is the actual blood that’s stored in your new baby’s umbilical cord and placenta when you give birth. In most cases, the blood is disposed of and not used for any medical purposes.

Why is everyone talking about cord blood?
New information has recently surfaced about the potentially life-saving stem cells that can be extracted from cord blood. These stem cells have been used to help treat diseases like leukemia, lymphoma, and sickle cell anemia.

Who saves and stores cord blood?
Cord blood is either saved privately, for potential personal use within families, or publicly, where it’s donated for others to use. When parents decide to save and store their new baby’s cord blood, it’s collected quickly and safely by their health care provider. If the blood is meant for public use, there is usually no cost to the donor. Private cord blood banks -- which reserve the blood for use by the new baby or family members -- tend to be quite costly, however, with donors paying for all costs related to collection, transport, testing, and storage. Generally, health insurance does not cover the cost of the storage.

Deciding whether or not to store your new baby’s cord blood is a personal decision you’ll need to make with your family. Most experts don’t recommend private cord blood storage, as the chance a family member needing a transplant is slim and the public cord blood pool is always available to dip into. But if you have any questions, talk to your doctor about what is right for your family.

How I Bonded with My Preemie

I don’t think it’s possible to be fully prepared for becoming a mom. When I delivered my son, Jacob, 10 weeks early, I felt 10 times as unprepared for the transition into motherhood. I quickly realized I could not hold him after he was born, for he was too underdeveloped and sick. I could not look down and stare into his beautiful eyes, since they were covered. But I also realized I wouldn’t let that stop me from being his mom and loving him as much as I could. Since I couldn’t bring my premature baby boy home and rock him in my arms all day, here’s how I bonded with the new love of my life.

Embrace your new full-time job. Much of my maternity leave was spent at the hospital, which was obviously less than ideal. But I made caring for my son as best I could in the NICU my new full-time job. It quickly became the hardest, but most rewarding job I ever had -- even without the pay. I just wanted Jacob to know I was there, and was certain that he did. Just because we weren’t together in our home didn’t mean I should act differently as his mom than I planned to.

Participate in newborn duties (and doodies!) While Jacob was in the NICU, I did whatever I could to care for him, just as I would if we were home. When I could nurse, I nursed. If he had a dirty diaper, I helped changed it. I wanted to care for my son as much as I could, and not feeling completely helpless helped me. It’s important for moms of preemies to get comfortable with their baby immediately, and try not to depend on the nurses for the things you will need to do once the baby comes home.

Hold your baby when possible. Any chance I could hold and touch Jacob, I did. The first time I held him was difficult, because he was hooked up to so many wires. After a while, I barely noticed. I remembered learning during my pregnancy that skin to skin contact is one of the first and best things to do with your newborn to not only bond, but to boost their health and growth. It was those moments that nobody could take away.

Project your beautiful voice. While pregnant, my husband and I did what most parents-to-be do, and talked and sang to our growing baby. At the hospital, we continued to talk and sing to our tiny love, and knew he recognized the voices he had heard for months. We brought books to read to Jacob, awaiting the day we could snuggle at home with books in hand together.

My emotions were very raw after the birth of my son. I was very scared and upset -- often with myself. I felt inferior, as if my role as a mom wasn’t up to par with other moms. I felt responsible, but also determined to do everything I could to help my premature baby strive. I felt as though we can work together as a team to go home. Letting myself feel and talk to others about those feelings -- including other moms of preemies in the NICU -- allowed me to be the best mother I could be for my son. Now, years later, my son is thriving and I look back on those early days as a challenge well worthwhile. 

Pre-birth Bonding With Your New Baby

The bond between a new mom and her baby is, without a doubt, something that’s incredibly special and unbreakable. When you envision developing that bond with your own baby, you probably imagine reading stories, going for walks, or cuddling in a rocking chair together. While these are all sweet ways to grow closer to your new baby, the bond building doesn’t have to wait until your baby is born. Here are some great ways to start the bonding process while your baby’s still in utero.

Turn Up the Tunes
Studies have shown that growing babies respond positively to music. But before you turn up the rock music, know that by the second trimester babies seem to prefer classical music, or music that mimics your own heart rate of 60 beats per minute. It’s soothing for them, and it’s something you’ll probably enjoy, as well. Remember, if you’re relaxed, your baby probably will be, too.

Write It Down
Take some time at the end of each day to write down your thoughts and daily activities in a journal you purchase specifically for your new baby. You could describe how you reacted the first time you felt your baby kick, for example, or how excited you are for her to be born. Then, when your new baby is older, you can read the entries to her (or she can read them herself!). The journal will make a nice keepsake for your child to cherish in later years.

Have a Conversation
Talking to your baby is a nice way to start the bonding process early. Say “goodnight” and “good morning,” sing songs, talk to her while you rub your belly, and explain to your little one what your movements are throughout the day. She may not understand what the words mean, but the sounds will be soothing.

Get an Ultrasound
The most exciting bonding experience with your new baby may be when you get to actually see how she’s growing. Your ultrasound will give you a very realistic look at your little one. Having a real-life, tangible photo to hold on to will definitely help make the experience feel more real (if the morning sickness and growing stomach haven’t already!).

Sure, you may feel silly talking to your new baby while she’s still in your belly, but keep in mind that starting these bonding rituals now will make them seem like second nature by the time your little one is born.

First Baby Bath

When my daughter, Morgan, turned 7 days old, I noticed that we’ve reached a big baby development milestone-- her umbilical cord stump fell off. Until then, we gave her washcloth baths to avoid getting that area wet.

Under the instruction of her doctor, we knew once her cord fell off that it was safe to give her a tub bath, so I started preparing my baby bath time toolkit. It included:

  • Towel with hoodie to keep her cozy and cute from head to toe

  • Gentle baby shampoo and wash for that irresistible clean baby smell

  • Washcloth to get inside her fingers, behind the ears, under the neck and in her many folds

  • Diaper for immediate coverage, as “accidents” were a regular occurrence

When the time finally arrived, we took off her diaper and laid her in her baby bath seat, where she could be comfortable and supported. Although we knew she was ready for this baby development milestone, there was still a lot to do to keep her safe. To prevent her from becoming cold, we placed a warm washcloth on her belly. I quickly -- but gently -- washed her head to toe while my husband documented the experience. It was certainly a sprint, as I was terrified of her uncontrollable bowels.

Of course we made sure there was still enough time for belly kisses and bath time tunes.

For a baby who was solely capable of lying like a blob all day, I was surprised at the level of grime she had accumulated. This came at the perfect time, since our little one was in desperate need of a bath!

Surprisingly, Morgan loved the water from the minute we put her on her baby bath seat. She seemed to enjoy the gentle massage of the washcloth, and I enjoyed staring in awe at this perfect little person we had welcomed into our lives a week ago.

Once the cleaning mission was accomplished, my husband held his arms with the towel while I lifted Morgan out of the tub. Little did I realize how slippery a wet and wiggly newborn is. Her body felt as though she was given a butter bath, but all 7 pounds of her couldn’t escape my loving hold.

As we wrapped her up and dried her off, I knew we had rocked this baby development milestone, and that our bath time future would involve playful giggles, water kicks, and rubber toys. But for now, belly kisses would do just fine.