In many hospitals, new moms are given a diaper bag from the formula companies, full of information about formula feeding, free bottles, and formula samples. Breastfeeding supporters blame these bags for some of the early cessation of breastfeeding, given the ease of having formula at hand during the difficult early days of breastfeeding initiation. Philadelphia recently passed a new bag-free policy that will help many local hospitals get one step closer to the coveted Baby-Friendly Hospital designation.
I wish that our hospitals weren’t bag-free though. I dream of a time when we could give all new moms a swag bag of breastfeeding goodies. The first few days, even weeks, of breastfeeding are challenging and having a few helpful tools accessible can make the difference between a mom who perseveres and one who switches to formula. In clinic, I often counsel moms about ways to help combat sore nipples or how to order a breast pump and we discuss where to purchase some of these items. When you are exhausted and recovering from birth yourself though, it is difficult to get to one of the stores that sells these items. It would be amazing if women were gifted these things early on though, as many moms stop breastfeeding before their baby’s first clinic appointment.
If I were building a breastfeeding bag, these are some of the things I would make sure were in it:
– lanolin: I found this to be the best thing to help soothe and heal sore, cracked nipples. I advise new moms to keep it within arms reach for the first few weeks.
– boppy: finding a comfortable position for both mom and baby is important and having a good support pillow makes this much easier and spares you from back aches later on. Hospitals typically don’t have any support pillows and instead ask moms to use hospital pillows, but it would be so much nicer if they provided a boppy that a mom could then take home!
– nipple shield: not every infant will need to use a nipple shield, but for those who do, having one easily available can be crucial to making sure their baby latches on correctly early on.
– nursing cover: I am a huge fan of nursing without any cover, as covers often annoy infants and only serve to draw attention to the act of nursing rather than hide it. However, there are many moms who prefer more modesty and infants who appreciate the veil to limit distractions. A nursing cover can give new moms the confidence to breastfeed in public, which is often a huge barrier and leads to formula supplementation.
– breast pads: once a mother’s milk is fully in, there can be some leakage. Wearing nursing pads can make her more comfortable that there won’t be any embarrassing stains on her shirt when her visitors arrive. I prefer cotton pads that can be thrown in the wash and reused the next day.
Of course, there are always the things that can’t be put into a bag, such as a breastfeeding support group, lactation consultant, and paid maternity leave. While the Affordable Care Act requires most health plans to provide breast pumps and counseling to moms, there are some plans that are grandfathered in and even those participating make you jump through a few hoops. Ideally women wouldn’t have to navigate the complicated world of health insurance red tape in order to get a breast pump either while pregnant or postpartum. So let’s throw a breast pump in the bag too.
As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and our new bag-free Philadelphia, I am looking forward to a time when breastfeeding is not just something we recommend to women but something that we can truly support without mothers having to fend for themselves. We need to provide them with the time and tools that one needs in order to be successful, and a bag of goodies would be a start.