It is with no small amount of embarrassment that I will admit to having been oblivious to other pregnant women until I became pregnant myself.
Pregnant women were once just regular humans. My eyes would simply pass over in a crowd- and the same went for their babies. I didn’t single them out, and didn’t give them much thought.
Subsequently, my few run-ins with baby showers and newborns where rife with ignorance. I would glance at the registry list, pick anything, wrap it and move on.
Naturally, this efficient, but cold selection process went out the window after I had a child myself. After you go through an event as impactful as childbirth, it creates something of a bond with the ladies next in line.
It’s very much like a sisterhood, where we who have gone before want those who follow to have similar or better experiences than our own. This translates to support in the forms of advice, heaps of empathy, and smart gift-giving. Let’s focus on the latter.
It’s no secret that I am a serious procrastinator. This has given me a little insight on the very dregs of the registry list, and I’ve noticed a disappointing trend.
Normally, after all the big-ticket items have been snapped up, and the basket-ables have been purchased in groups, there’s only a few things left: a few spare burp cloths, a couple of pacifiers, postpartum care items (another shame that I intend to expand upon at another time) and ALL THE BREASTFEEDING SUPPLIES.
Perhaps it’s a result of the sexualization of breasts. Or the feeling that it just may not be appropriate in the setting of a classy baby shower to open a breastfeeding gift that may make people uncomfortable.
Breastfeeding gifts tend to be avoided
Maybe no one wants to be the one responsible for the collective head-turning that will occur from all the little old ladies at table number 5 upon hearing the words “nipple shield”. One thing is for sure, the whole selection of breastfeeding gifts and items are avoided like the plague.
One of the most important things I have learned from the trials and errors of my own breastfeeding journey is that support matters.
If a woman is planning on nursing, even if she is just interested in trying it out, she should be prepared with her desired breastfeeding gifts. If bottle-feeding items are provided without issue, the same should ring true for breastfeeding materials.
Consider that some items may be necessary right away, and their absence, felt. Breast pads, nipple cream, shields and shells, nursing bras, ice pack inserts and such can be useful from the beginning.
More hospitals now are encouraging mothers to begin pumping right away. However, the preferred materials may not be available to a nursing mom in the hospital.
For my most recent birth, my baby had to spend some time in the NICU. The nurses in the maternity ward carted a double Medela electric unit in for me. But they did not have the proper size flanges for my needs. In cases like this, running out to the store may not be possible, and online ordering may not cover all the things a new mom finds she needs immediately.
Remember when I said that I went from oblivious gift-giver to wanting to look after the new members of the sisterhood?
It starts with being the person to stand up for what they want and need (and may need and not know it). There lies fault in thinking,
Oh if she really continues with the breastfeeding, then she can go get that or order it, I’m not going to buy her something she may potentially never use.”
So right off the bat, groundwork becomes laid down for doubt, because you are doubting she will use your gift. When you give the new mother the tools to aid in her success, you are ultimately telling her, “I believe this is something you can accomplish.”
To be fair, I don’t expect every woman who shows interest in breastfeeding to actually follow through with it. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t support a new mother regardless of her chosen method of feeding. More often than not, the moms I’ve known chose not to nurse, even after they’d tried it.
Every person has their own equally valid opinions and reasons to proceed with or halt the practice.
Some women have no choice in the matter, it simply doesn’t work out. But I would much rather be the friend that has faith in someone’s ability and tries to help them, even if it doesn’t come to fruition.
And who says the value lies only in extended breastfeeding? Benefits can be rendered during any part in the journey, whether you choose to nurse for a week or a year. Don’t forget that exclusive pumping is becoming more widespread. With all these options, it is important to remind a new mom that success is measured differently for everyone.
With my first child, I only made it for a month, but I did achieve what I originally intended, meaning my baby got a great start. Still, I wouldn’t have made it that far without many of the necessary supplies, especially since my budget was so constrained. It was also wonderful for me to have my eldest sister to rely on when I needed emotional support or my endless questions needed answers.
It is often the small gestures we offer that show someone their choices matter to us, and that we can care about what they care about.
Perhaps straightforwardness is the best method. I will smile gladly on the day when everyone can say “You will be great at nurturing your child,” as easily as they say, “You’ll do fine.” Until then, there are some of us you can count on to welcome you into this sisterhood. So instead of the cold inattention I would have presented to you before I became a mother, I hope to offer you what you really want and need. I hope to offer you the warmth of support.
-Many special thanks to Meaghan Henderson for allowing use of her photos.
Did you receive any breastfeeding gifts when starting your motherhood journey? If so, which one was your favorite? Drop us a comment below!
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