Whether you’re a few months into nursing your baby or adding breastfeeding must-haves to your baby registry before your little one arrives, having the right gear is essential to you and your baby having a successful and happy breastfeeding experience. Check out this list of breastfeeding essentials every nursing mom needs!
10 Breastfeeding Mom Must-Haves
For Breastfeeding Baby
You may be asking yourself if you really need a nursing pillow. And some moms breastfeed very successfully without one. But for me, it was a must-have. I breastfed my two kids for a combined total of about 2.5 years. And there wasn’t a day during that time that I didn’t use my nursing pillow.
A nursing pillow allows you to breastfeed your baby more comfortably, without hunching over. The pillow can support your baby’s head and body, keeping it level with your breast and nipple for the best nursing positions.
I also liked that if my baby fell asleep nursing I could rest her on the nursing pillow and still hold her while she slept and have my hands free to read or eat.
The two most popular brands of nursing pillow are the Boppy and the Brestfriend. I preferred the BrestFriend. Probably because it’s what the lactation consultant had me use in the hospital when I first started breastfeeding. And I liked the back support and the fact that it latched on to your body. But I do have friends who preferred the Boppy. See if you can check out a friend or twos’ nursing pillows to see which you think might work best for you.
You’ll also want at least two covers for your nursing pillow. This way if one nursing pillow cover is in the wash you still have one to use. And they do need washed. They get spit up on, pooped on, and every other baby related mess you can think of.
I’m not going to lie to you, mamas. Breastfeeding will leave you with some sore nipples. Sore like you can’t imagine. I know some people say this doesn’t happen with the right latch. And I can’t speak to that. But I don’t know any moms who breastfed and didn’t have sore nipples in the first few weeks at least. And lanolin is what you need to treat it.
Choose the clear lanolin over a brand that is yellowish to minimize staining your clothes. Even the clear stuff can leave a stain because it’s greasy. I wore an undershirt or tank top between my bra and nicer shirts to avoid ruining good clothes.
Lanolin helps with nipples that are sore from both nursing and pumping. So pack some in your pump bag when you return to work.
3. Gel Pads
Still on the topic of sore nipples, in addition to lanolin to soothe soreness, you’re going to want some gel pads. I find these most useful in the early days after you first start nursing when you’re really suffering.
The gel pads are kept in the refrigerator to provide cool, soothing relief for nipple soreness. And they are reusable a few times. Read the instructions to make sure you don’t throw them out too soon (or keep them too long).
4. Nursing Bras (Including a Sleep Bra)
I’m sure it doesn’t shock you that you will need to buy special nursing bras for the time that you are breastfeeding. There are a few different reasons.
First of all, your breasts will be a different size than they were both before and during pregnancy. You may even change sizes during the time you’re breastfeeding depending on how long you nurse. So, this is probably not a once and done purchase.
The closer to the end of your pregnancy you buy your nursing bras the better for accurate sizing. If you have time to get measured and buy yours after you deliver, that’s even better. But I wouldn’t count on that. You can also have a close friend measure you at home and order bras online if that’s easier for you.
You’ll need at least two nursing bras to alternate days. And you’ll also probably want a sleep bra. Even if you don’t normally sleep in a bra, nursing may change that. Your breasts are going to feel full. And sometimes uncomfortable. A sleep nursing bra can help with that. Or even a nursing tank top with built-in support. I loved this one and wore it while nursing both of my girls.
5. Nursing Tops
If you’re going to be breastfeeding your baby outside of your own home at any time you can make things much easier on yourself by wearing nursing tops.
If you’re looking to keep your maternity and nursing clothing purchases to a minimum, check to see if any of your maternity tops are also nursing tops. Many are and it’s a great way to get more use out of these clothes.
But if you’re thoroughly sick of your maternity clothes consider purchasing some nursing tanks that provide coverage and go under a regular top. I loved these because I could return to wearing my pre-pregnancy shirts or buy non-nursing wear and be able to nurse without exposing my post-baby tummy to public view.
For Pumping Breastmilk
6. Breast Pump
The type of breast pump you need depends on how much you plan on using it. If you’re an exclusive pumper or a working mom who will be pumping in the office three times a day, you need a Medela Pump in Style or other high-quality breast pumps. This one is my favorite. I’ve owned two, one per kid. And I definitely used them.
Honestly, even if you’re a stay at home mom and only plan to pump occasionally, you still want to invest in a good breast pump. For me, hand pumps were ridiculous. Nobody has time for that.
And you may end up pumping more than you expect. Even when I was a stay at home mom, I used my pump to help increase my breast milk supply. And to have a stash on hand for any time I was not available. I also had to use it to avoid a plugged duct when I was forced to abruptly wean my youngest due to a medical issue.
The bottom line, get a good pump.
Once you start pumping breastmilk, you need a place to store it. Breastmilk storage bags are the simplest and most space efficient method.
You’ll be amazed at how much space a breastmilk stash can take up in your freezer, so use this space-saving storage method.
8. Baby Bottles
I had two very different experiences with baby bottles for breastfed babies. My oldest daughter had no problem drinking from any bottle. If this is your child, I suggest getting the cheapest easiest to clean baby bottles you can find. We used these.
My youngest daughter preferred the breast. She didn’t want anything to do with this bottle nonsense. And since she was my last and I was working from home, I didn’t push her too hard. Unfortunately, when she was six months old she had to be quickly weaned due to a medical issue.
So at six months old, I had to get my reluctant baby to take a bottle. We tried a few different bottles before finding one she would finally accept. If your little one is reluctant to take a bottle, you may have to try a few different ones to see if that helps. This is the one that finally worked for my daughter.
If you’re planning on spending any amount of time using a breast pump, get a hands free pump bra. Trust me, you do not want to have hold those cups on your breasts for twenty minutes while you pump.
I loved this hands free pump bra. It kept everything in place while I pumped. I was able to pump and use my phone, play with my baby and even keep working at my desk a few times with no problem.
10. Sterilizing Bags
If the idea of getting home from work and spending your evening NOT cherishing time with your baby, but washing and sterilizing your breast pump and baby bottles does not fill you with joy, these sterilization bags are for you.
These sterilization bags are reusable, but not forever, most can be used about twenty times before they need to be tossed out. Follow the directions on the bag to make sure your bottles and breast pump parts are coming out sterile.
A Few Nice to Have Extras
Many women consider nursing pads a must-have to prevent leaks. I was not one of them. This does not mean I never had any leaks. I did. I went to wearing bras, undershirts, tops, and sweaters in layers and still sometimes had a leak. But I hated breast pads.
For one thing, they can cause thrush if your breasts get damp and stay that way for too long. Second I found them uncomfortable. I preferred the leaks. And I could never wear them without looking like I was wearing a badly stuffed bra.
All this to say, they did not work for me. They might work for you. If you’re leaking and hating it, definitely give nursing pads a try.
Both of my kids hated nursing with their heads covered. And I hated it too. It was much easier to position them correctly to nurse, make sure they were latched, and just generally get us all comfortable if I could see them. Plus I just loved looking at them.
Nursing in public if you’re not used to it can be awkward. It doesn’t usually help to be struggling to position and feed your baby blindly under a cover. But I know sometimes you do need a cover.
They do make a cover where you can still see your baby. If your baby resists being covered while nursing, this may work for you.
If you use a nursing cover often, I imagine your baby will get used to it and it will feel perfectly comfortable and natural.
Generally, nursing in public didn’t bother me. But there were a few situations where I just couldn’t whip out my boob to nurse without feeling self-conscious. I went to an event at a church for instance and just knew I would feel uncomfortable uncovered. For those instances, I used a nursing scarf.
Need More Help with Breastfeeding?
For something that is supposed to be so natural, breastfeeding can be hard! And when you add in the challenges of latching, positioning, pumping, and everything else a nursing mom needs to know it can feel overwhelming.
What were your nursing essentials? Anything you disagree with from my list or things you want to add? Let me know in the comments!
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