Did a mama-to-be who plans to breastfeed invite you to her baby shower? Do you want to congratulate a mother on the birth of her baby with a gift that won’t die or deflate within 48 hours? Or maybe you’d like to help prepare a special mama-to-be who’s overwhelmed with figuring out what she might need to make feeding her baby a breeze.
Instead of the usual gift basket full of diapers, onesies, and baby powder (do people still use that?), why not put together a basket full of breastfeeding support? It won’t guarantee a painless, restful postpartum experience, but it’ll be so reassuring to know that everything she could possibly need to get started can be easily set in space-saving fashion next to the nursing glider.
Here’s an example of the very first “breastfeeding support” package received by many mothers who birth in hospitals:
What if a new mother’s very first breastfeeding support package looked more like this?
The Bare Boob Necessities Gift Basket
A Breastfeeding Guide
Don’t just pick any book, either — get the most updated, revised version available. Consider including a book that covers the basics, as well as one that you think will apply to her lifestyle (for example, Balancing Breast & Bottle by Amy Peterson and Mindy Harmer if she’s going back to work, or Mothering Multiples by Karen Kerkhoff Gromada if she’s got a few servings of buns in the oven). Check out my list of recommended guides here.
Lanolin, coconut oil, natural nipple cream (such as by Motherlove, or Natural Nipple Butter from Earth Mama Angel Baby) are Nursaholic favorites. Nip cream eases various symptoms from mild latching pains, dryness, to thrush and bleb wound healing. It’s pretty much the duct tape of all things booby. Most natural parenting stores offer free samples of nipple creams, so indulge that rude customer inside of you who wants an excuse to grab a handful for variety’s sake (and in the breastfeeder-to-be’s honor!), this way she can decide which she likes best. Just toss ’em in the basket like candy and every time she rifles through the basket she’ll come up with yet another bonus packet she didn’t know she had.
She won’t know if she’s got leaky faucets until she turns them on, so it’s best to just be prepared for a bust in the pipes. Breast pads are typically crafted of washable cloth, single-use disposable material, or silicone. If you’re a seamstress extraordinaire, you can add a personal touch by making your own cloth breast pads. How cute would it be if you sewed her baby’s name into them, too? (Or her secret booby pet names. You know, Lilo and Hang-Low… Mickey and Mini… Lazy Eye and Pepperoni Face… Because that won’t be an awkward conversation).
In the early weeks or even months, she’ll get thirstier than she ever knew was possible. The last thing a new mom should be heard chanting is the old sailors’ cry, “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink!” If a Nursaholic gets dehydrated, I guarantee you’ll hear some other less sing-songy sailor words from her pretty mouth. Here’s the tricky part: Moms are both neglectful of their own needs and also forgetful of basic To Do’s (pregnancy brain + breastfeeding brain + mom brain = normal brain divided by number of things to remember). Encourage her to keep a bottle with her throughout the day so she can track her water intake and make sure her needs are getting met, too.
See if her delivery hospital or birth center have hand-outs that list local breastfeeding support resources. You can also visit the La Leche League web site to locate meetings in her area, and hook her up with online forums so she has a place to turn with any questions. You can find my list of hotlines and other resources here, plus online blogs and groups here, and breastfeeding expert information here. Print it all out and put it in an envelope for her so it’s all in one spot.
TOSS IN A FEW TASTY TREATS:
You can find a few different brands in the tea section of your local grocery store, including Yogi Woman’s Nursing Support Tea, Traditional Medicinals Organic Mother’s Milk Tea, and Weleda Nursing Tea. These teas include herbs that help promote healthy lactation and increased supply.
It’s a rare chance for a new mama to whip up three squares a day for herself, let alone sneak into the kitchen without waking the baby. It’s especially difficult to stay well-nourished as she expends at least 500 extra calories a day working as an all-night diner to the hungriest little person ever. Make it easier on her by filling out her basket with healthy snacks to keep up her energy. Think single-serving, on-the-go munchies like nuts, granola bars, tuna or chicken salad packs (if she’s a carnivore), baked lentil or apple chips, real fruit strips, freeze-dried fruit or crunchy edamame/chickpeas, etc.
Mmmm. Now, I’m not a cookie person, but you get the word “lactation” involved and I might want to change my favorite Sesame Street character from Elmo to the one who makes cookie binges seem like a normal childhood pastime. Toss in a few of these milk-making cookies to help boost something besides her waistline. You can purchase lactation cookies online from different companies or make your own using any of these easy recipes.
A Sexy Romance Novel
Newborns nurse for a long, long time. Sometimes for the whole evening nonstop! Pack in some reading material that’ll keep her awake… by that I mean the dirty kind! Help remind her that something else can get her cheeks flushed other than postpartum hormone shifts.
A Cute Hair Tie
For mama to tie back her hair while nursing. Unless she’s got some magical unicorn baby that is in no way like my baby, her hair will be ripped out, tangled, in her way, in the baby’s way, just plain annoying. This hair clip has gotta be CUTE, by the way. None of that cheapo drugstore crap. Act like you love her! She can stick it in her bra if she must (I can’t tell you how many strange things I’ve held for safe-keeping in my cleavage since having a baby because it’s the only spot I know I’ll access again in like, an hour). Remember, she’s a new mom now (she alone gets to decide when the “new” part wears off), which means she can dress ridiculously in any situation and it’s totally acceptable. Water bottle clipped onto belt loop? New mom card, there you go.
A Nursing Necklace or Bracelet
Think bright colors, textures, and aromatic scents (mine is infused with clove!). Some are made with crochet, wood balls, or soft silicone. Nursing jewelry may not really come in handy (see what I did there?) until baby is 6+ months old and starting to get grabby, pinchy, and punch-y (ah, now you see what I did there), but it’s a great tool to, well, have on hand.
Muslin Swaddle Cloth/Scarf
This is a nice alternative to the traditional “Breastfeeding Burkas,” as I like to call them. It’s nice to include for a mama who has never breastfed before and may want some extra coverage while she learns how to latch-on in public. If using as a cover, she can drape the swaddler over her exposed shoulder without covering the baby, only covering whatever amount of her own skin she’s not keen on baring. Everyone has their own level of personal comfort with this, and hers may change over time.
Muslin swaddlers are also useful for a mama who lives in a cold region and may get chilly opening up her shirt to breastfeed. For a mama who doesn’t really care to (or can’t) cover up her decolletage with any kind of cover (because the only person who can determine whether that’s even necessary is HER), she might use this cloth to stymie any milk that shoots out with a strong letdown (not fun when that happens in public!), or as a burp/spit-up cloth for a young baby.
A Babywearing Device
Get one that is multi-purpose, will fit an older child as well as perhaps coming with a newborn insert. Nursing in public will be so much easier in the first few months if mom can just snuggle the baby in her carrier or wrap against her chest, whenever and wherever!
GIVE IT A PERSONAL TOUCH:
What special things might she want, depending on her personality and circumstances? If you don’t quite know, gift cards and vouchers might be the way to go!
For a mama who will return to work, how about setting her up with a DepositaGift.com account so her friends and family can contribute funds toward a new or rented breast pump, bottles, storage equipment, and related supplies? Maybe even a stand-alone freezer unit or an insulated cooler when she’s traveling with expressed milk?
How about a voucher toward a session with a breastfeeding photographer? So many new moms are caught up in the crazy-busy blur of motherhood that they forget to capture the special moments on camera… but before she knows it, her baby will be a cranky teenager telling her she hates to be in family photos!
If she has already breastfed other children, you could put together an album of her older breastfeeding photos to remind her how awesome it was (or at least, how strong she was to make it through), and encourage her to look forward to starting fresh with her newest family addition. I must point out: this is a pretty personal and intimate gift, so it’d be best to get help from her partner or another family member who was closely involved with how she mothered her children.
For a mama who loves to shop, you can give her a gift card to her favorite local parenting shop (or an online retailer) so she can pick out whatever suits her fancy.
If the mama hasn’t gone shopping for nursing bras and clothing yet, she’ll probably love you for giving her a gift card to a store that sells maternity and nursing wear (hey, that stuff ain’t cheap!). It’s usually best to give a gift card for clothing rather than estimating her size, because you can’t possibly know, and with her newly pregnant/newly postpartum body, she may not really know either.
Click here for my list of natural parenting/mama clothing retailers you can visit online.
That said, what things should you just straight-up avoid sticking in this basket?
STAY AWAY FROM THESE:
Here’s a few items that’ll save you some money, because they’re not as supportive as you might think for a breastfeeder-to-be.
- Nursing or postpartum clothing/bras in a size you picked out
- Bottle supplies if she hasn’t specified that she wants them
- Formula coupons, samples, pamphlets, etc. (obviously!)
- Nipple shields
…AND FINALLY, SAY THANKS!
What else would you want to see in YOUR breastfeeding support gift basket? What did you think you’d need but never actually used?