You’re prepared for the birth of your baby, you’ve read all the books, taken a class to teach you to breathe, talked through every scenario possible (who’s taking care of the dog, what if there’s a hailstorm?!) and mentally you’re singing your bravest songs for that moment (ring of fire!) right when the baby is born. Amazing, sun beams in your window and this bundle of flesh, a person, is now yours in this world.
Or however it happened, a baby came out of your body and is now yours to take care of.
If you’re like me, you thought, “phew, that was the hard part, now I can just breastfeed this baby, because it’s “natural” and so it should come naturally.”
This might not be the case.
We can prepare for breastfeeding much better, and I don’t mean rubbing your nipples with washcloths to “toughen them up” in the last weeks. (That is a terrible idea, an old wives’ tale if there ever was one. Nipples are delicate tissue, extremely sensitive. There is no such thing as toughening up those tissues. Just rubbing them raw, and that’s what we’re trying to avoid. A complete blog post on that later.)
I mean, we can prepare by taking a breastfeeding class or by watching a friend breastfeed her baby. We can read and watch videos, we can mentally prepare ourselves for something that is the biological normal but that I think of as a learned skill. And just as you learn anything else, you’ll need a few things.
Support – this is the biggest one. Talk about it with your husband/partner, get them on board with you. They’ll be the one bringing you water, snacks, and another pillow to prop you up into a comfortable position. They’ll be the one answering the door and saying now is not a good time for a visit. (Make him practice this, if you don’t want visitors while you’re topless on your couch for the first week. On the other hand, maybe you’re ok with being topless in front of well-meaning neighbors, uncles and co-workers who drop in.)
Support also means from the wider circle of women around you; your mom, mother-in-law, sisters, friends. Do they know what you want and how to help you do that?
That leads me to the next thing you’ll need.
A Goal and some Determination – what is it you want to do in terms of feeding your baby? Do you think you’ll breastfeed for as long as the American Association of Pediatrics recommends – exclusively SIX months or go as long as the World Health Organization recommends which is those same exclusive six months plus TWO YEARS and beyond as a complement to solid foods. I’m planning an entire blog post (or six) on this topic, how we each as individuals choose what’s right for our baby, our family and ourselves as moms. But it’s worth thinking about before we have a yowling baby on our chest and sore nipples.
I wish we placed as much emphasis on learning to breastfeed before the baby comes as we put on writing a birth plan, learning pain-coping mechanisms and choosing nursery themes. I went through it all, all the painful things that I won’t detail just yet (don’t want to scare you off). But it has motivated me to become a Certified Lactation Educator/Counselor, to learn from truly extraordinary Lactation Consultants and to volunteer at the hospital on the Mommy-Baby unit.
My experiences breastfeeding two boys and helping friends through the journey, one way or another, has led me to write this blog.
My love of food, cooking and baking, and nutrition is something else I want to share here. Nourishing, at the table or at the breast, babies and big kids, is the best thing I do every day. For years, I’ve been studying nutrition’s effect on the body. I am in deep and could talk and teach and cook for days, if you let me! Getting a Masters degree in Nutrition is a natural next step for me.
So to end this post on preparing to breastfeed, I’ll leave you with a recipe to have on hand for those first few weeks. (Or maybe you are the support, the friend who wants to drop off a meal but “not another lasagna, please”. Bring this!) This is quick, easy, anyone can make this delicious food. Drop it off with a large container of whole milk yogurt, and some fresh fruit. There’s breakfast for the morning after that lasagna.
Try to be prepared, both in the kitchen and in your mind, to nourish yourself and your new family member after the baby is born. Get support lined up, get your mind made up and be open to the new experiences about to arise.
Taking cues from Cook's Illustrated for the oil as binder to hold it together, and somewhere else I read the egg white helps do the same, this granola is chunky and not too sweet. Adjust the flavorings as you wish, I go heavy on the almond extract because I love that flavor. You could add in up to 1 cup of unsweetened coconut, change up the nuts and fruits as you wish.
- 4 c. rolled oats
- 2 c. almonds, chopped
- 1/2 c. sunflower seeds
- 1/4 c. hemp seeds
- 3 Tbsp sesame seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp salt (I use kosher coarse)
- 1/2 c. coconut oil
- 1 egg white (40 g)
- 3 tsp almond extract
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/3 c. brown sugar
- 1/3 c. maple syrup
- 1 cup (or more!) dried blueberries
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, being sure you've chopped the almonds down to a size roughly in line with the other ingredients. Helps with the chunky factor.
- Mix liquid ingredients (egg white, extracts and oil) with the sugar ingredients.
- Pour wet into dry and mix thoroughly so everything is coated.
- Press mixture into a parchment-lined cookie sheet with sides. It should be a little less than half an inch thick and really press down on it with your spatula to get it to stick together.
- Bake on middle rack for 30 minutes until golden.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool briefly before throwing dried blueberries on top and then breaking up the chunks. If you let it cool completely, you'll get bigger chunks to break up. Breaking it up when you add the dried fruit gets just the right size chunks to fit into a mason jar for storage.