As a lactation consultant and childbirth educator, my Facebook feed is full of articles with “lifehacks” for moms-to-be. I read them regularly so that I know what information my families have access to. Unfortunately, sometimes the online advice isn’t written by someone with much experience, which can be misleading or confusing for new moms.
When it comes to “must-have” items for breastfeeding, the truth is that as much as we try, we just don’t need a lot of stuff to make breastfeeding work. One of the best parts of breastfeeding is that it should be low maintenance and cheap (the milk is free; it’s the other “stuff” that costs money!). But some items can definitely make your breastfeeding experience easier or more comfortable.
Here are my six “must-have” items for breastfeeding:
1. Nursing Pads
Most moms, especially in the early days of breastfeeding (first 2 weeks,) will do some leaking of breastmilk as their body adapts to how much milk to make for the baby. Since your body is very sensitive to the baby’s needs during this time, the hormonal response can be pretty unexpected at times, and your breasts may leak, even if the baby is not at breast, or even in the room!
Breast pads protect your clothes from unexpected “milk spills”. Since some moms leak more than others (and some not at all), leaking is NOT an indicator of how much milk your body is making, so do not panic if you are not leaking milk.
Nursing pads can cut down on your laundry, can protect you from having to wear wet clothes, and save you from an embarrassing moment in public. Many moms will choose disposable pads for the early days when leaking tends to be a bit heavier, and then change to a washable variety after milk production settles down after the first couple of weeks. There is a large variety to choose from—and some in really fun colors and patterns, and super soft fabrics like bamboo.
2. Nursing Bra
Maybe this isn’t an item you want Aunt Martha to buy you off your registry, but it is an item you will want to have as your milk starts to come in. You may have noticed some breast changes happening during pregnancy, and for some women, the change is more dramatic as their milk comes in. Breasts become heavier and more full as milk production occurs, and they need support, while your frequently hungry baby needs easy access to the breast. A good nursing bra will provide for both.
Getting fitted properly is a good idea, because a good nursing bra isn’t cheap and you want to be comfortable (the Mom and Me Boutique is a great place to get fitted). Some women will want support around the clock, and a sleeping bra is a really soft, yet supportive option. If you are able, having one of each is great.
A nursing tank can also be a good option. Although not as supportive, it can give mom an extra layer during the cold winter months, or some moms will wear them alone.
A word of caution: When it comes to nursing bras and tanks, you get what you pay for. Bras of a lesser quality will not hold up to the washing, wear and use of better quality bras. If you aren’t sure if you are going to stick with breastfeeding, a less expensive bra can work for awhile, but you may find that the longer you go, the better support you need
Tip No. 2: A sports bra is NOT a nursing bra. Although some sports bras are stretchy enough and are certainly supportive, they smash the breast and make it into a shape that does not make it easy for mom and baby to make a deep latch. Sports bras, while supportive, make breastfeeding more difficult.
3. Breast Pump
If your insurance company will not cover a good quality breast pump, then you may want to put one on your registry, especially if you plan to return to work in a few weeks. A double electric pump is a big investment, so it pays to do your research before you buy. Even if your insurance does cover a pump for you, a hand pump is nice to have for quick relief, or if you do not have access to power. As a side note: Some women never use a breast pump and have no need for one. If you plan to be with your baby most of the time while breast feeding, a pump is may not be needed at all.
Although bottles are not recommended for breastfed babies until the baby is 4 weeks old (unless needed for a medical reason before that), if you plan on leaving the house without baby at some point, you will want to have a bottle. A newborn nipple is all you will need to get started. We have found that babies are not usually too picky about what type of bottle they are given if started at this age, although the longer straighter nipples tend to work better for helping a baby that is struggling to latch. Expensive breast “look alike” bottles are not really needed.
There are a wide variety of breastfeeding pillows available today. Not a single one is required to make breastfeeding work. All you really need are a couple of supportive pillows to make sure baby can be at the level of your breast. If the special pillow you registered for isn’t helping you get your baby to breast, add a bed pillow on top to get him or her closer. In the hospital, when you are learning to breastfeed, three pillows seems to be the magic number to get it “just right”.
6. Help and Support
Having the number of a lactation consultant or breastfeeding helpline (like our Warmline number 419-291-4577), along with your own personal breastfeeding cheerleader is invaluable. And is a gift that costs nothing. Take a breastfeeding class so that you know the basics to get started, or read a book, watch a video or look online. Do anything you can to educate yourself about breastfeeding and your experience will be much smoother. Books and gift certificates for classes make a great gift!
Angie has been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Parent Instructor for ProMedica for the past 6 years. She enjoys teaching parents-to-be about labor and birth, and building confidence in a new mom’s ability to parent and feed her baby. She also spent 14 years as a Labor and Delivery nurse at ProMedica Toledo Hospital. Angie is mom to Lukas, Noah, and Adele who continue to provide her with real life experience on a variety of topics every day.