Planning to breastfeed? Super! (We also support those moms planning to formula feed; so long as you’re feeding your kids something, we’re happy! #fedisbest) So, you already have the real essentials: the baby and the boobs. You’re nearly done! Er, not exactly. As a mom of two who works full-time, six weeks of maternity leave comes and goes pretty quickly. Here are a few must-have items for breastfeeding (in no particular order) that made it possible for this busy (and stressed) mama to exclusively breastfeed each kid for six months.
1. Nursing Pillow
This oddly-shaped cushion saved me from discomfort and newborn meltdowns more times than I can count. I kept one at work while another was always with me – at home or in the car. So maybe it should be on here twice for must-have items for breastfeeding! Personally, I used the Boppy, but there are many other brands available.
2. Breast Pump
In my case, “breastfeeding” was synonymous with “pumping”. As a working mom, I had to pump constantly both to maintain my supply and to feed my kids when we were apart. A good breast pump was absolutely essential for this! My Medela Pump In Style Advanced breast pump was amazing. My advice? If you plan on doing a decent amount of pumping, spend a few extra bucks and buy a reliable electric double-pump with good reviews. Also, check with your insurance because they cover certain types of breast pumps as well.
3. Medela Quick Clean Wipes
Take it from a mom who spent the better (that’s questionable) part of her nursing days hooked up to a pump – the only thing you might despise more than the act of pumping is the constant need to clean its many parts. These handy little accessory wipes are great when you’re at the office or just too exhausted to hand wash everything for the fifth time that day.
4. Lanolin Cream
Regardless of what your relationship with your boobs was like pre-pregnancy, you’ll probably delve into the love/hate territory now that you’re breastfeeding. The bond you form with your baby is priceless, but the pain and soreness that accompany your sandbags – well, you could do without that. What you can’t do without is a steady supply of lanolin cream to treat said sandbags. I loved Medela’s Tender Care Lanolin, but there are plenty of options from other brands such as Lansinoh and NUK and they are definitely one of my top must-have items for breastfeeding.
5. Nursing Pads
“I won’t need them,” she said. “I’ll be fine,” she said. That was before she experienced the volcanic replica of Mount Rushmore that emerged on her chest overnight. Trust me, buy nursing pads, it’s definitely one of the top must-have items for breastfeeding. Wear them. You don’t want those babies to start spewing at the worst possible time. (Hint: there’s not really a good time for them to leak either.)
6. Nursing Bras
They provide the easy access you need and come in many different styles so find ones that are comfortable. Keep in mind that these will replace your current bras as long as you’re nursing; buy the ones you want or you’ll regret it later.
7. Pumping Bras
So, you could spend upwards of $40 on a bra designed to allow for hands-free pumping. Or you can do what I did (after taking the advice of another savvy mom). Get a comfy sports bra and cut two holes in the front. You can then push the narrow part of each breast shield through the opening. Sports bras work well because they fit snugly against you, they’re comfortable, and they’re much cheaper than many pumping bras.
8. Nursing Cover (maybe)
I say “maybe” because my children were much like gremlins when it came to nursing covers. Cute and sweet ordinarily, they turned into wild, thrashing beasts under the confines of a restrictive nursing cover. Your child may not mind it and it may give you a sense of privacy when nursing in public. This one is up to you.
9. Nursing Tops (1st kid)
You may not know it, but there are clothes designed specifically for nursing mothers. Wearing clothing suited for breastfeeding wasn’t even a thought during my first pregnancy. It wasn’t until after the baby was born that I realized I needed easier access to the goods. Nursing tops come in a variety of styles and can provide different levels of discretion. From pull-downs to empire lift to side pleat, you’ll be shocked at just how many choices you have. Where can you find this mythical gear? From companies like Amazon, Old Navy, Motherhood Maternity, BumbleWee Nursing Wear, and Seraphine, to name a few.
10. DIY Nursing Tops (a.k.a. “t-shirts”) (2nd kid)
By my second kid, I had ditched the nursing cover and stopped hiding in the backseat to feed my baby while we were out. I opted for comfy t-shirts that could easily be pulled up for nursing sessions. I found that my son’s body covered my stomach while his head (and the pushed up section of shirt) blocked what little breast was exposed. Plus, opting for ordinary t-shirts made me feel more like myself and less like a milk factory.
11. Fenugreek/Nursing Tea/Etc
(Always check with your doctor before taking any type of supplement while pregnant or breastfeeding.) For moms who struggle with milk supply, it’s said that taking supplements like fenugreek or nursing tea (or chowing down on lactogenic foods) can help increase your production. But be sure to follow the dosage instructions.
12. Warning Signs for Work
If you plan on pumping at work, take appropriate measures to prevent the emotional scarring of both you and your co-workers. You don’t need anything fancy, but creating a simple sign (placed at eye level) to let others know the room is off-limits will benefit everyone. Trust me. Check with Human Resources at work too, they may have a designated space for nursing mothers.
13. Lactation Consultants
Many hospitals have Lactation Consultants who continue to make themselves available to new moms once they return home. Don’t be afraid to call them with questions! They can be an invaluable resource as you juggle new information (like how to properly store breast milk).
14. Support from Your Spouse
Breastfeeding, like parenting, is hard work. You and your spouse need to be on the same team if you’re ever going to make it out alive. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and keep an open line of communication with your husband. Understanding that you’re having a tough day (or week) will allow him to pick up the slack elsewhere (and maybe even let you get a nap). But don’t forget to drop your supermom facade long enough to tell him you’re struggling (or that you just need a hug).
15. Realistic Expectations
Breastfeeding can be a wily thing. It’s wonderfully rewarding, but it can also be difficult and unpredictable. It’s important to remember that all you can do is your best. Sometimes we run into obstacles that change our plans, regardless of our passion and dedication. Health issues can arise making it impossible to breastfeed. Maybe your milk supply dried up before you were ready. Perhaps cluster feedings proved more than you (or your boobs) could handle. Remember that you can’t control everything. If you stop breastfeeding before you had originally planned (either by choice or circumstance), don’t beat yourself up. You know what’s best for you and your family. Besides, there’s so much more to motherhood than what you feed your kids!