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What is the best baby equipment?

Breasts and loving arms are the best "equipment", of course! Many devices and products actually interfere with breast­feeding and other natural parenting practices. But there are a few items that do come in handy:

  1. A big bed makes for cozy family sleeping.  A crib with its rail down, pushed next to the parents' bed, also allows for closeness and easy breast­feeding. Some families sell their beds and cover the floor with wall-to-wall futons or other mattresses. Babies should not sleep on waterbeds, as they are unable to push themselves away if necessary. Parents sleeping near a baby should also avoid alcohol, drugs, and prescription medicines which interfere with alertness.

  2. A baby sling, which can also be used for nursing. They're indispensable for "wearing" the baby and keeping hands free for working or shopping.

  3. Pillows are very helpful for both comfort and support while breast­feeding. They can be placed behind the back, for supporting and lifting the baby on the mother's lap,  and for leg support while nursing lying down. Various sizes are useful for different positions, and for growing babies. Specially-designed pillows for supporting the nursing baby, such as the "My Brest Friend Feeding Pillow" can be very helpful.

  4. A footstool, such as the Brest Friend Nursing Stool. This simple item can be remarkably useful in relieving back pressure when breast­feeding in a sitting position. Foot support also helps raise baby to breast level for the most effective and comfortable nursing position. Phone books will do, but a sturdy footstool is better, and having it reminds the mother to use it.

What to avoid:

Baby bottles are unnecessary. If challenges arise necessitating supplementation, cups or spoons can be used - while continuing to breast­feed. If a doctor suggests weaning, check with a La Leche League leader or an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (ask the local hospital or health department for a referral) for expert help in making such an important decision. In the vast majority of cases, there are alternatives to weaning.

Cribs, playpens, dummies (pacifiers), baby swings, nursery monitors, and strollers (especially those that block baby's vision of the parent) subtly and not-so-subtly alter natural parenting, and can interfere with the mother-child bond.

What can parents do if they receive gifts they don't want to use? The problem here is that if there is an unwanted baby device in the house, someone will try it sooner or later. Parents shouldn't feel obligated to accept any gift. If they receive one they don't want, they could thank the giver for thinking of them, then add, "I don't think we will use this. Could we go and exchange it?" (Shopping together could be fun.) Or, if they don't expect to be asked about its use, they can return or sell the item privately, break the item and recycle the materials, or donate it to a breast­feeding support group for educational displays. After all, baby equipment should only be used to enhance the bond between parents and baby.

Marilyn Hogan is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), and the editor/publisher of Back to Nurture.

Reprinted and adapted from Back to Nurture by permission of the author.

See also: Is All That Baby Gear Really Necessary?