You obsessively go through every item in the Babies ‘R Us/Buy Buy Baby registry recommendations. You read review after review until your bloodshot eyes won’t focus anymore. Been there, done that. Trust me, you will end up with way more of certain things than you need and not enough of others, no matter how meticulously you plan your registry. When it comes to breastfeeding, there are so many different products it can be so overwhelming! But have no fear – Here’s my list of the top 7 must-have breastfeeding products.
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Top 7 Must-Haves for the Breastfeeding Mama
A comfy spot
You are going to be spending a lot of time parked somewhere those first few weeks (or months). What type of comfy spot is really up to your preferences and budget. I started out with a set spot on the couch and sometimes moved to the bed. I know lots of women swear by some sort of cushioned glider. After a few months, my mom picked up a wooden rocking chair in great shape from Goodwill and that became my spot for a while. Once your LO gets mobile, good luck sticking to that one spot! But for those early nursing days, find something comfy that works for you. Seriously, it’s totally normal to spend hours at a time nursing in the same spot so make sure it has the right butt/back/neck support for your body so you don’t end up with extra pains.
2. Snacks and hydration
I didn’t notice a markedly increased appetite while I was pregnant. But I was a garbage disposal while breastfeeding. Seriously, there were times I ate all. day. long and was still hungry. You are recovering from the extreme physical exertion (there’s a reason labor and childbirth are often described as a marathon…), loss of blood and are continuing to sustain another human being. Now is not the time to start calorie counting. Drink, drink, drink and keep lots of snacks handy. If you like to make your own snacks, whip up big batches of homemade granola bars before your LO is due. Otherwise, stock up on easy on-handed snacks like Larabars (we love the and Peanut Butter Cookie), Kind (love the vanilla blueberry and this protein-packed one) or Clif Bars (the uber-decadent coconut choc chip is a favorite in our house), pre-bagged trail mix, etc. Have some fat-packed snacks on hand, too. Individual packs of guac are a great option, or you can make some coconut-packed treats. Fresh fruit and veggies are also great to have around and are packed with nutrition and hydration. Remember you are still basically eating for two and you want to keep your fat and nutrition content up so you can produce the best milk possible for your baby and keep your own health from deteriorating. I also found that using a water bottle with a straw I drank more often. This is the one I have and love that I can knock it over without it breaking.
Eventually you will want to leave the house. I know this may not seem likely, but trust me, the day will come when you need fresh air and the feel of sunshine on your face. When that day comes, you’ll want some sort of baby carrier to help. Basically any style of carrier (soft-structured, mei tai, woven or stretchy wrap, ring sling) are breastfeeding friendly. My personal favorite for breastfeeding (modeled above with my then 10ish month old, *photo by yellowFlower photography) is the ring sling (this is the style and brand I have on above). They come in a huge variety of colors, patterns, fabrics, shoulder styles, lengths, etc. and do have a little bit more of a learning curve than a soft-structured carrier (think Ergo, Tula, Beco, etc.) but they are seriously the easiest way to nurse and they work really well for your brand new little squish or your squirmy toddler who just needs some quick ups. Not only are they really easy to lower down to breastfeeding height and then raise back to safe height, but you can be super discreet if nursing in public makes you uncomfortable, and you can use the tail as a cover if you want. Ring slings also come in a huge variety of price points, too, so they’re great for everyone. I highly recommend looking to see if you have a local babywearing group while pregnant to get to know local mamas but also to get a feel for the different carrier options. Many have lending libraries where you can try on an array of different brands, styles and sizes to find what fits you best. You can even get a membership so instead of having to buy one carrier, you can try one each month and figure out which one(s) you need to come home with you permanently. Depending on where you live, this could also be an amazing cost savings for you, as you can borrow one carrier each month so you are never without one but the yearly membership fee is much less than buying a carrier outright. And they usually come with a wealth of knowledge. Seriously, I love my local lending library and can’t recommend it highly enough.
4. Nipple cream
I’d like to say you won’t need this, but you will. First it will be the adjustment period. No you don’t have to “toughen up” your nipples while pregnant but it will be different. I had a rough intro into nursing that required lots of nipple cream but while you really shouldn’t need much, it is worth it to have around. My personal favorite is Earth Mama Angel Baby. I love that it was cruelty-free and non-GMO and that I could literally use it for everything. It is a little expensive but one little container lasted me almost an entire year. And I used it a lot. I kept it in my purse/diaper bag and used it for chapped lips, dry skin, you name it. And I love that you don’t have to wipe it off before your baby nurses since all the ingredients are safe for consumption. If you are having severe nipple issues, I highly recommend Mama Natural’s sore nipple remedy. This was a God-send for me and I recommend it to all my fellow nursing mamas.
5. Nursing pads
Now the number you will need, how long you will need them and what kind you prefer are all going to vary from woman to woman, breast to breast. I seemed to do just fine with the reusable nursing pads you can find in any superstore. Some women only need to use nursing pads in the early days when their supply is evening out. I am not one of those lucky women. But I honestly find them barely noticeable and not as annoying as I thought I would. I did use disposable nursing pads while dealing with some thrush issues and really preferred the reusable. I tried every brand and I think these ended up being my favorite. If you can afford the organic cotton or wool, I would highly recommend it. These are my backups and work fine but I prefer the Medela ones. They do have a weird line on them but if you position it right you can’t really tell. I know everyone raves about Bamboobies but I was not a fan.
6. Nursing pillow
Nursing pillows seem to be quite controversial these days. Some swear by them, some detest them and some are kind of meh about the whole situation. From my experience, they can be really helpful in the beginning. When you and your baby are first learning how to nurse, a pillow or some kind of support can help hold your baby up to your breast while you use both hands to cup your breast and help baby get a good, deep latch. Obviously we had more issues not getting a deep latch than normal because of V’s tongue tie, so for some women this may be unnecessary. I’ve also heard great things about the added support for c-section mamas. I have a Boppy but will be purchasing a My Breast Friend for my next baby. That’s the pillow my lactation consultants used and I really liked how it wraps all the way around your torso so you don’t have issues with the pillow slipping or getting moved, or that the pillow isn’t holding your baby quite high enough to be at the right angle which results in you hunching over and killing your back. I see nursing pillows at secondhand shops and on b/s/t boards all the time so that’s a great place to start.
Do you need nursing bras? Nursing tanks? Nursing shirts/dresses/etc.? The answer is yes and no. Yes, some of them will make your life so much easier. But some are just plain uncomfortable, ugly and counter-intuitive. I bought one nursing bra and one nursing tank from Target when I was pregnant. Even going up a size wasn’t enough for me and they were way too tight to ever wear. Plus my boobs just looked funny in the nursing tank with or without nursing pads so I basically never wore it. Once I got more comfortable nursing in public, I began using the two-shirt method – wear a nursing tank under a t-shirt you can pull up. I still only have 3 nursing tanks and no nursing bras and have found that works for me. I did pick up some v-neck shirts that aren’t too flashy but make for an easy nurse when my toddler demands it. The few nursing bras I’ve tried haven’t been love. The flap rolls funny and sits against your baby’s face. I stuck with sports bra/sleeping bra types until just recently when I branched out into lightly padded wireless bras and I love them. I’ll probably switch back to my sports bra-type when I’m late into a pregnancy again just because they seem to have more give around the ribs, but I’m really happy with my wireless bra and plan to never wear an underwire again. If I were starting over, I’d recommend one nursing tank, a comfortable wireless bra (doesn’t have to be specifically for nursing), a few comfy v-neck t-shirts, a really soft sweater and lots of comfy pants. I actually picked up all my nursing tanks at garage sales but these look pretty comfy and I’ve heard really great things about Undercover Mama. I’ve seen a new product, a robe with a nursing sleep bra built in, that looks so comfy and luxurious I may beg for one next time around.
There you have it – my top 7 breastfeeding must-haves. What products did you fall in love with while nursing? Let’s chat below or over on my Facebook page.