It can seem quite daunting the huge variety of products out there in particular if you are a new parent planning to breastfeed your baby. To try to make these choices a little easier I looked through the most popular parenting websites to see what breastfeeding essentials most experts and breastfeeding moms recommend.
So here is the list of the top 12 essentials you need for breastfeeding:
- Breastfeeding Pillow
- Nursing Bra
- Nursing Pads
- Nursing Cover
- Soothing Gels/ Pads
- Nipple Cream or Ointment
- Breastfeeding Tank Tops
- Breast Pump
- Pumping Accessories
- Hands-free Pumping Bra
- Nipple shields
- Breast Shells
I will discuss how each one can make breastfeeding run smoother for you and your baby. I will also include some helpful tips shared by experts and fellow nursing mothers on how to select and use each of these breastfeeding essentials. It should emphasized that you may not even need to use some of these products but they can become essential if you are experiencing difficulties in certain aspects of breastfeeding.
Basic Essentials for Breastfeeding
Most moms will experience challenges in their first few weeks of breastfeeding like tender and engorged breasts, sore nipples and leaking breast milk. You’re doing your best to provide the best nutrition for your baby, so to make the journey a little easier it’s better to seek comfort and convenience if it can be found. Here are the basic essentials that can help improve your breastfeeding experience.
A breastfeeding pillow is specifically designed to provide comfort to your baby. It is usually used to elevate baby unto the mother’s breast so that both are comfortably positioned while nursing. Improper positioning, like when mom leans forward too much towards her baby can result in neck, shoulder, and back strain. On the other hand, if your baby is raised and held too close to the nipple, it may be a cause of poor latch and sucking.
Okay, so you may have tons of pillows at home, but do you really need to buy one just for breastfeeding? Not necessarily! You can improvise if you want, but a lot of breastfeeding moms find it a good investment, especially when you are planning to breastfeed for a long time. Some mothers also use it as back and waist support when their baby is learning to sit up.
There are lots of brands on the market, but moms usually talk positively about the Boppy Nursing Pillow and the My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow. Boppy is more of a conventional design and much-sought after for being multi-purpose for example when your baby is learning to sit upright or support for him while in the prone position. On the other hand, some mothers prefer My Brest Friend due to the convenience it offers since you can strap it easily around your waist.
An additional tip when using a breastfeeding pillow is to add some soft-textured breastfeeding pillow covers, which you can easily wash when milk leaks and reflux happens.
Expect your newborn to breastfeed every 2 – 4 hours and while doing so, you’ll definitely want to have easy access. When your milk supply comes, your breasts will also feel tender and heavy. Unlike an ordinary bra, nursing bras are specifically made to support your breasts’ weight and comes with a detachable top layer so that you can easily pull down when it’s time to nurse your baby.
Depending on your personal preference, you can select from a wide variety of nursing bra’s, from the comfy sleep nursing bra to the sporty varieties. Some of the most popular brands are Kindred Bravely and Bravado. According to experts, here are some important points to look for when selecting the best nursing bra:
- Adjustable– since your size will become bigger as milk comes in
- Non-wire– the underwire can compress the tissues of the breast and may lead to plugged ducts and milk stasis
- Sturdy clasps and panels– which is used for easy access when nursing
- Made of stretchable, soft cotton– to provide comfort for sore nipples
- With extenders and removable padding– to accommodate nursing pads for milk leakage
Nursing pads are something you don’t need during the first few days of breastfeeding, but when your milk comes in on the third or fourth day, they are great for saving your clothes from your leaking breast milk.
These disc-like pads that can be placed inside your bra to absorb any milk leaking from your breasts. Most have adhesives on one side so that you can easily attach them to your nursing bra. There are disposable nursing pads like that of Lasinoh and Medela, or you can opt for the washable and reusable breast pads like that of Bamboobies.
When you go out with your baby or when you have visitors coming to your home, a nursing cover can help you be discreet while breastfeeding. If you are a little uncomfortable breastfeeding in public or in front of other people, then you can nail it with style using a nursing cover.
There are different styles of nursing covers available at present:
This is basically a shawl that can double into a nursing cover when it’s time for you to nurse. Joining the buttons provide wider coverage for your baby. Among the best picks is the Bamboobies Nursing Cover Shawl.
This is made of a single piece of fabric that you can slip over your head and cover your torso. It can be worn as part of your outfit and functions really well as a nursing cover. It can be especially when you are traveling, for example, a plane journey. The Rosie Pope Nursing Cover Up is one of the chic and practical choices around.
This type of nursing cover can be worn around your neck and complement your clothing. When it’s time to breastfeed, you can easily drape it over your baby’s head and across your shoulder. Check out the one from Nuroo Baby.
As the name suggests, this style looks like an apron so you might not wear it as part of your regular outfit but you can carry it in your bag and take it out when it’s time to nurse your little one. Some mothers prefer this style because its upper part or neckline curves a bit, allowing them to have a wider view of their baby and also provides more ventilation to your little one. Usually, there are also side pockets to hold your breastfeeding accessories. Some of the popular brands are Bebe Au Lait and Boppy.
Busy, modern moms love multifunctional stuff, who doesn’t? One good example is the Copper Pearl Multi-use Covers. This type of nursing cover can also be used as infant car seat cover, shopping cart seat cover, high chair cover and even as a scarf or poncho.
Soothing Gel Pads
Sore nipples are a part of every breastfeeding journey and it is really not comfortable on the part of the mom to continue breastfeeding with cracked or sore nipples. So here comes the soothing gel pads to the rescue! These hydrogel pads instantly provide a cooling effect to temporarily soothe moms. You can have your own pack of soothies from Medela or Lasinoh.
Nipple Cream or Ointment
Another essential for mom’s sore and cracked nipples are some organic and safe nipple creams. These creams and ointments are often made from purified and medical- grade lanolin which is proven to moisturize, soothe and eventually help heal cracked and sore nipples. Examples include the Lasinoh HPA Lanolin Cream and Dr. Jack’s All Purpose Nipple Ointment.
Breastfeeding Tank Tops
Tank tops are a nice addition to your breastfeeding wardrobe if you’re after style and convenience. These tops usually have two layers of fabric so that you can easily slip up one layer and breastfeed without getting your whole torso naked. They can be worn alone when you’re at home or can be worn along with a chic shawl, blazer or outer shirt when going out with your baby. According to some mothers, you can find a good range of this stuff at Target, while some prefer the bestsellers from ILOVESIA and Bravado.
Pumping Essentials for Breastfeeding Mothers
One of the best ways to continue breastfeeding your baby if you need to go back to work is by pumping your breast milk. So in addition to the basic breastfeeding essentials mentioned above, you might want to invest in these breast pumping essentials to help you pump with convenience and store your breast milk safely.
A breast pump is a mechanical device which allows you to extract milk from your breasts to store for future use and maintain your milk supply. According to experts, selecting a breast pump really depends on how frequently you plan to feed your baby with breast milk in a bottle. The types of breast pump include:
- Manual– This is ideal as a back-up pump to be used when you are going out on a short journey.
- Electric– Electric pumps are more reliable and convenient in pumping breast milk. Electric breast pumps may be single or double.
- Single electric breast pump- This is suitable for moms who are planning to exclusively breastfeed but needs some back- up milk from time to time. If you are only thinking about using breast milk in a bottle twice a week or less, then you can go for this kind of breast pump.
- Double electric breast pump– If you are going to bottle- feed your baby with breast milk more than twice a week, it’s recommended that you go for the double electric pump. This can simultaneously extract milk from both breasts making it more convenient for you and also more effective in maintaining a steady milk supply.
- Battery- operated– This is also great as a back-up pump as it can work just like the electric varieties even when you’re traveling.
When using the pump, it is important that you also have the right breast shield size to ensure that it expresses milk effectively. One tip is to get fitted when you are still in the hospital so that professionals can help you get the right size. It is also important to note that your shield size may become bigger as you go through breastfeeding.
Aside from the pump, you’ll also be needing a couple of accessories to help you collect and store breast milk properly. These include:
- Breast milk storage bags and containers– These are high-grade storage bags that can withstand freezing and thawing, thus helping to keep your breast milk safe and clean. Some moms prefer plastic storage bottles or glass containers.
- Cold storage bags– Great accessory for travel or if you don’t have a refrigerator nearby to keep your breast milk fresh. Some pumps are coupled with their own cold storage bags but if not, you might want to buy your own. You can choose to have a small cooler that fits snugly into your bag for more convenience.
- Micro- steam bags– These are ideal for busy moms who might have limited time in cleaning all that comes with a breast pump. These bags are designed to contain all the equipment you’ve used and then you can simply seal the bag and place inside the microwave to disinfect. Most bags are designed for multiple usage too.
In selecting pumps and accessories, it is more convenient if you buy from the same manufacturer. This is to ensure that everything perfectly fits together. Top brands like Medela and Lasinoh often offer these in sets. If you like to be more discreet while pumping, you may like the Spectra Baby USA pumps which produce fewer sounds while in use.
Hands-free Pumping Bra
Pumping can take from 10 minutes to a half hour so during that time you could be doing others tasks at your desk or table. Aside from your regular nursing bra, you might want to use a hands-free pumping bra like those from Medela or Simple Wishes. A pumping bra can help keep the bottles in place while you are holding your baby or doing some other important stuff. Definitely saves time for a mom-on-the go!
Breastfeeding Essentials for your Special Needs
Not all moms and babies go through breastfeeding smoothly, especially during the first few months. Some babies may struggle to get a good latch, while there are moms who have sore and cracked nipples that need protection and time to heal. If you and your baby are experiencing these problems, the following may help with these concerns:
If you’re breastfeeding a baby who is premature or having latch difficulties, your lactation consultant may recommend the temporary use of nipple shields. Nipple shields can also be used by moms who have large nipples to help baby latch on or those with very sore nipples. These are available from Mam, Medela or Lasinoh but it’s best that you contact your lactation consultant first before you buy and wear nipple shields to determine the appropriate size and usage.
Breast shells or milk cups are hollow plastic shells that can be worn inside your bra. It has two layers: one which surrounds the nipple and provides gentle pressure on the surrounding breast tissues, and one which acts as the enclosure.
Some may confuse breast shells from a nipple shield. The difference is that the nipple shield is used while nursing, whereas breast shells are worn either before or after breastfeeding. Among the popular varieties are that of Milkies and Mommyz Love. They can work for a variety of uses:
- To help correct inverted or flat nipples
- To collect excess milk which drips after feeding your baby
- To protect your sore nipples from getting in contact with your bra, which is quite painful
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