In celebration of World Breastfeeding Week, I wanted to share my list of breastfeeding essentials with you. Of course, the only true breastfeeding essential is a hungry baby. One of the many benefits of breastfeeding is that it is so simple (once you get the hang of it!). As long as you have mom and baby, you can breastfeed anyplace, anytime! However, until you’ve got breastfeeding figured out, there are definitely some things that will make your breastfeeding journey much easier!
Breastfeeding Essentials for Nursing Mamas
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Knowledge is Power
My top recommendation for breastfeeding is to take a breastfeeding class. Knowledge is power when it comes to breastfeeding.
There are so many old wives tales about breastfeeding (read about the top 5 myths about milk production here). You may have well-meaning friends and family who give you faulty advice about nursing.
I’ve even heard of some old school doctors who are simply not up-to-date with the latest breastfeeding research and give their patients severely flawed advice that may hurt or even end breastfeeding prematurely!
Doing your own research, in the form of a breastfeeding class, is the best way to empower yourself, understand what is happening in your body and your baby’s, and develop a successful nursing relationship. I absolutely urge you to take a breastfeeding course and learn as much as you can about this skill. I truly believe it is one of the very best things you can do for your new baby.
Many hospitals offer these classes free of charge, so be sure to check with yours. I still remember attending mine, with an big belly and aching back, imagining holding my little one in my arms.
If you are not in an area with a free breastfeeding class (or don’t want to attend), there’s another alternative. Stacey Stewart, a certified lactation educator, offers a terrific online course that is full of great information about breastfeeding. It’s in video format, so you can watch while curled up on the couch! I highly recommend it! Click here to check it out for yourself.
Whatever the format, a breastfeeding course will give the education you need to be prepared for breastfeeding your little one. Don’t miss out on it.
Hydrogel pads are gel pads that you apply over your nipples after each feed. Hydrogel pads are absolute lifesavers during the first week or two when your milk comes in. Things get so sore and these pads provide cooling and promote healing (great if you have a cracked nipple, but even if you don’t and you’re just adjusting to breastfeeding).
I discovered hydrogel pads in the early days of nursing and I wish I had known about them sooner! If we have another baby I am ordering A TON of these the minute I get pregnant! Can’t recommend them enough!
Lanolin or Cream
Another essential for those early weeks is some cream or ointment for when things get sore! I used Dr. Jack’s Nipple Ointment (which must be prescribed by your midwife/doctor), but also tried Lanolin, which I found very helpful as well. I have not tried Earth Mama Angel Baby’s Nipple Butter, but I’ve heard great things about it from friends!
Breast pads are another staple for day and night! Make sure your pads are cotton and breathable. Be sure that your cotton pads are not plastic lined, because they will also trap moisture. I loved these ones!
If you’d like to try some breast pads for free, you can click here and enter my promo code, Sunshine, for five pairs of breast pads for free (just pay shipping and handling). They have so many different options in cute patterns, and of course, classic nude as well!
I would recommend buying several sets of breast pads (I had about ten sets). For the first month of breastfeeding, I was constantly washing the pads and could barely keep up with the laundry!
Disposable pads are not optimal, though sometimes I used them when I was going to be out in public for long stretches, as I found them a little more discreet with thin nursing bras. Don’t rely on them all the time though, because they trap moisture, which can make things sorer!
I personally love having a nursing bra with an underwire. I didn’t get much use out of wireless nursing bras, but if you have a smaller chest and don’t mind not having underwire support, these ones are also very popular.
Although I had several nursing bras, I also found I could use some of my old bras and just pull down the cup when I nursed. It would be pretty easy to skip nursing bras all together, if you wanted.
I would recommend using an old bra you don’t care about, or you may want to buy a new cheaper bra that will fit you if your breast size has changed.
Nighttime Nursing Bra
Nighttime nursing bras (and several of them) are definitely essentials in my book! Most moms tend to leak more at night, as your little one is nursing less frequently (hopefully). No one likes waking up to a sopping wet shirt, or worse, having to change the sheets in the middle of the night!
Even if your babe nurses every two hours consistently, one day they will surprise you and have a longer sleep (yes, it WILL happen one day!).
Invest in several of these babies! I have a bigger chest and found racer-back styles fit better!
You will be spending many hours each day and night nursing, especially in the first few months. A nursing pillow can make things a a lot comfier and just works better than a normal pillow, or cradling the baby all day and night. They can even help adjust your posture!
I loved this one when my babes were newborns, but found that this one was comfier as they got bigger. Tip: if you have a long torso, put a regular pillow underneath the nursing pillow so you don’t have to slouch!
If you’re looking for an inexpensive option, you can click here and use my promo code, Sunshine, to get a printed breastfeeding pillow for free!
Vitamin D Drops
Vitamin D drops are important for any breastfed baby, especially in this day and age where we are vigilant about keeping babies out of the sun. Here are the drops I used for both my girls.
Breastfeeding Essentials? Think Again: 5 Items You DON’T Need
In my opinion, nursing shirts are a waste of money. It is just as easy to pull your shirt up. If you’re in public and don’t want to expose your stomach, just buy some cheap tanks. Pull your shirt up and the tank down, and your stomach is still covered.
Obviously you don’t need to cover up at all if you’re comfortable with nursing in public without a cover. If you do want a cover, definitely get one that have a rigid neck so you can see the baby when they latch (sooo helpful in the early days when latching is tricky!). You can get a free nursing cover here using my promo code, Sunshine.
In the early days, it’s also easy to throw a muslin blanket (I looooove these ones) over your shoulder (or tie two ends together to make a loop) to cover up instead of using a cover. Warning: when baby starts moving a grabbing more, they’re likely to pull the muslin blanket right off you! This may have happened to me #aboutamilliontimes
I used a nursing app for both my girls. Honestly I should have just used a pen and paper. Especially because I would always either drop my phone or forget to stop the timer on the app (Once it stated I had breastfed for 10,582 minutes!).
I also lost all the data my app collected when my phone got drenched and ruined during a beach trip with my daughter!
Using an app is kind of neat, but pen and paper are just as good (and can make a neat souvenir to add to your baby book!).
I wouldn’t bother investing in special teas or herbs, unless they are recommended to you by a lactation consultant, midwife or doctor. When I was a first-time mom, I wanted to have everything prepared in case of any emergency. I stockpiled several supplements when I really didn’t need any. Trust that your body will be able to provide for your baby!
Many moms start doubting their milk supply needlessly. Read this post on milk supply myths if you’re feeling uncertain.
One thing you CAN do if you have any concerns, is to look into food-based lactation recipes. You can make many of these recipes ahead of time and if you don’t have a problem with your milk supply (and you probably won’t), they are full of healthy ingredients that will nourish your body either way!
These posts will give you some scrumptious ideas!
Breast Milk Alcohol Test Strips
Alcohol leaves your breast milk as you sober up. If you have one drink, wait approximately two hours before breastfeeding. You don’t need to pump and dump, the alcohol will leave the breast milk as it does your bloodstream. There’s no need to test your breast milk; just use common sense. These test strips are a marketing ploy for moms who want to alleviate guilt.
Kellymom.com has a lot of great information on drinking while nursing here.
Well, these are my breastfeeding essentials that every nursing mama should invest in, and five items you definitely don’t need to spend your money on! If you are pumping either exclusively, or to build up a stash, be sure to check out my list of pumping must-haves. Good luck on your breastfeeding journey, moms!
Do you have any other breastfeeding essentials for new mamas? Any items you wish you had skipped in retrospect? Share your knowledge below!