First, y’all, a Wee announcement: Wee HQ just gained another warm body — a little body, weighing in a little short of 8 pounds. (A very cute little body, I might add.) I had my second baby a couple weeks ago — a daughter — and she’s doing great. Her mother? Finally beginning to do great (or at least beginning to feel something approaching semi-normal), after a bit of a recovery period from birth and the beginning stages of nursing. (Okay, so in truth, I’m still in the throes of early nursing days, which is, as many of y’all know, a roller coaster.)
Anyway. Since the last time I did this, there’s either been a lot of new helpful things to emerge on the scene and/or I have more friends with kids who have helpful tools and tricks for the newborn stage that I somehow missed out on the first time. And in this newborn stage — you know, that window of time when everything sort of hurts, when everything is a bit disorganized and messy — anything that makes life even slightly easier feels like a true godsend. So here, without further ado, is our new roster of favorite finds and a general survival kit for the new-baby weeks. (Psst: They make excellent gifts to send along, too.)
Like nursing pads, but with cooling gel that soothes sore (or inflamed or cracked) nursing nipples. I had never even heard of these until my lactation consultant gave me some when I complained about pain. Hers were a different brand that worked well, but not as well as this Medela version that came from a care package a pal made for me. The relief upon application is both immediate and long-lasting, and were I do ever do this whole birthing thing again, I would buy these suckers and bring ’em to the hospital.
Avent Thermal Gel Pads
These were also part of the care package, and I used them for both heating and cooling purposes. (Heating helps with clogged ducts and stimulating milk flow; cooling helps soothe soreness and pain.) They’re super easy and convenient to use — I found the cooling aspect especially to be helpful, as the gel pads fit easily in the freezer, and also inside a nursing bra. The heat feels nice and works just fine, but doesn’t work quite as well as the other trick I picked up, which is pouring hot water into a diaper, wringing out said diaper, and using it as a warm compress. The moist heat stays warmer longer, and feels really good on sore breasts, particularly in the case of clogged ducts.
Nipple shields and soft shells, plus creams and salves
Many, many moms can attest to the wonderful relief that nipple shields can bring if your baby has a shallow or otherwise troublesome latch or your boobs need a break from the
abuse contact. I relied heavily on shields for my first kid for at least six weeks. This time, a new discovery came from a neighbor who lent me her Medela soft shells, which are designed to help let sore nipples heal by keeping your bra or shirt from rubbing against them, while still allowing airflow to the skin so that you can heal. (They are called “soft” because there are little soft absorbent sponges on the back to prevent leakage.) They look a little funny under your clothes, but given that I spent most of my days all but topless, wearing anything at all was a step up, and they really did help in those first very painful days. They’re also nice if you want to put lanolin or some sort of cream/ointment on, and don’t want it to get on your clothes. (Speaking of: I liked this Earth Mama Angel Baby stuff — again, a find suggested by a friend — because it was slightly more easily absorbed than straight lanolin. Also, I used some on my terribly dry cuticles, and it seemed to help!)
Time-honored mom wisdom: Take as many of the hospital undies as they’ll let you take. Ugly? Hell yes. But they’re also soft and stretchy and the only thing you’ll want to put on your body whether you’ve had a C-section or a V-birth. And while they’re designed to be disposable, they will survive a wash or two, so you can wear ‘em that much longer.
Tools for Dealing With General Unpleasantness
Do you like my delicate, Victorian way of referring to everything happening in your nethers? Simply put, in addition to the Colace or whatever the hospital gives you, I find Miralax to be an absolute must, as are Tucks pads. (Don’t flush them down the toilet, however — remember the fatberg!!!) (PS. When I dreamed of becoming a writer as a young girl, did I ever imagine myself writing about laxatives and inflamed bums and fatty sewer deposits? Reader, I did not. But motherhood changes us all.) Finally, while I haven’t tried it myself, I have one friend who swears by Always or Depends undies over any other sort of hygiene product post-birth (less leak-prone, comfier and altogether tidier, she says), and several other friends who lived and died by Dermoplast, the pain-relieving spray that helps moms cope with post V-birth discomfort. Why the hospital doesn’t hand this stuff out along with the Motrin, I do not know.
One new tip from my lactation consultant was how much a couple of drops of saline can help heal bruised, cracked, beat-up nipples. A few drops of saline followed by the application some breast milk — both allowed to dry in open air — helps heal the skin. The saline isn’t anything special, just your run-of-the-mill plain saline used for nose drops or whathaveyou. Again, the soft shells help with this, as you can put the saline/milk on, and then let your boobs “breathe” in the shells.
Excellent hand lotion
Good Lord, I forgot what damage all the hand-washing does to skin. Two favorite remedies of mine are Beauty Counter’s citrus mimosa hand lotion (not cheap, but zero harmful chemicals, super light, quick to soak in and only very lightly scented); the heavier-duty CeraVe Baby, which I bought for the baby because it’s gentle (dermatologist-approved, paraben-free and whatnot) and long-lasting. I’ve found that it’s also really effective on my own eczema-prone dry skin, and not at all sticky, oily or scented.
The Great British Baking Show and Outlander
Netflix to the rescue for late-night feedings. Here are two shows that complete the troika of “perfect breastfeeding binge-watching” requirements: 1) Perfect for solo watching (a.k.a. Husband would never watch either of these things) 2) Lots of soothing/sexy British/Scottish accents, depending on what you’re in the mood for 3) Very easy to follow narrative, even half-asleep at 2 a.m.