Breastfeeding Helpers

 By: Sally Michener
There once was a time when a baby, a breast, and an experienced grandmother were all that was needed to breastfeed successfully. As families drifted apart and breastfeeding declined, the supply of knowledgeable breastfeeding helpers dwindled. If problems arose, well, there was always someone eager to give the baby a bottle. Commitment runs high among today's breastfeeding mothers, and because more women are now breastfeeding in a variety of medical situations and lifestyles, a variety of ingenious aids and resources are now available to make breastfeeding easier and more enjoyable.

What to Wear

Your breastfeeding wardrobe should include the following:
- bras for breastfeeding (at least three)
- breast pads
- clothes in which you can breastfeed discreetly
- a baby sling

Selecting the Right Bra

Special bras for nursing are designed with a flap on the cup that is opened for feedings. Here's how to choose and use the right bra:

* Before birth, purchase one or two bras that are one numerical size and one cup size larger than you're wearing while pregnant, to allow for breast enlargement when your milk appears.

* When your milk is established and your breasts reach postengorgement size (usually around the second week), purchase three bras (one to wear, one in the laundry, one on standby).

* Be sure your bras fit comfortably enough in the cups to accommodate the change in breast size as your breasts fill before a feeding; tight-fitting bras encourage breast infections.

* Select a bra that fastens and unfastens easily with one hand, so that you don't have to put the baby down when you open or close the cup. Look for a style that opens via self-closing slit along the inner edges of the cups. Avoid bras that have a row of hooks down the front, which give no support to either breast when open. Bras with a nook at the top of each cup offer more support and easier access, letting you uncover one breast at a time.

* When the flap is down, the cup of the bras should support the entire lower half of the breast in its natural position.

* Choose a 100 percent cotton bra cup. Avoid synthetic fabrics and plastic liners that are not absorbent and do not allow the skin to breath.

* Avoid bras with under wires, since these wires may compress the breast, leading to plugged ducts.

Breast Pads

Disposable or washable cotton cloth pads can be worn inside the bra to absorb leading milk. Here are a few tips for using these breast pads.

* Avoid synthetic fabrics and plastic-lined pads, which prevent air circulation, retain moisture, and encourage bacterial growth.

* Make your own breast pads by placing a folded all-cotton handkerchief in each up of your bras, or cut out four-inch circles from cotton diapers.

* Change pads promptly after leading, and if the pad sticks to your nipple, moisten with warm water before peeling it off. Leaking is usually a problem only in the early weeks of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Fashions

Consider the following when selecting a wardrobe for breastfeeding.

* Patterned fabric won't reveal milk that might leak through: avoid solid colors and clinging materials.

* For discreet feeding, a patterned, loose sweater-type top that can be lifted from the waist is best. Your baby will cover your bare midriff during breastfeeding.

* Blouses especially designed for breastfeeding women have slits hidden with pleats over the breasts.

* Front-buttoned blouses allow easy access; remember to unbutton the blouse from the bottom up, using the unbuttoned flap of the blouse to cover baby for modest feeding.

* To accent the limited designs available, drape an attractive shawl or scarf over your shoulder and use it to cover baby for discreet feeding.

* In cold climates, even a little bit of bare midriff can be a chilling experience. A letter in La Leche's bimonthly magazine New Beginnings has this solution for cold climates: Wear an old T-shirt with the cop front cut away, tucked in at the waist under your loose top. The T-shirt completely covers mothers from icy northern air when baby needs your nice warm breast.

* Off-the-rack one-piece dresses are impossible for convenient and discreet breastfeeding. Look for dresses designed especially for nursing mothers in maternity shops or look on-line by searching for "breastfeeding fashions."

* Two-piece outfits and warm-up suits are practical, as are pullover sweaters. The top should be loose and easily lifted from the waist.

* Don't try to squeeze into your pre-pregnancy clothes too soon. Tight tops rub against your nipples, are uncomfortable, and can trigger an untimely milk-ejection reflex.

A suggestion for new mothers sensitive about breastfeeding in public: Choose your breastfeeding wardrobe carefully and practice breastfeeding in front of the mirror. It's all a matter of tucking your baby's face inside your clothing rather than bringing your breasts out.

Use a Baby Sling

Breastfeeding mothers for centuries have fabricated sling-type carriers as an extension of their native dress, wearing their baby in this sling very near mother's breast. A baby sling is an indispensable item, making life easier and breastfeeding more enjoyable for mother and baby. The sling-type carrier is much more practical for the breastfeeding pair than either a front or hip carrier or a backpack. It allows baby to breastfeed discreetly in public and can be used in a variety of feeding positions. Don't leave home without it. We recommend the ring sling baby carrier, an infant carrier that has been designed with the breastfeeding mother and infant in mind.

Using creative apparel with the breastfeeding baby in mind, will allow you to carry on a busy life-style while breastfeeding your baby.
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