Have you wondered what you need to buy and have on hand to help get breastfeeding off to a good start? Here are my favorite tips and product information. I am not getting paid for any of this, these are simply my best helps after working with expecting and new mothers for over 14 years (and being a busy mom to 4 myself). All the best wishes on your breastfeeding journey.
Keep in mind that you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get breastfeeding off to a good start. Some of these are essentials & some are “would be nice-to-have’s.” Some of the extras could be added to a baby registry list or would make a nice gift if you are having a shower.
I think it is good to have at least two on hand for the first few weeks after delivery. You might wake up and leak milk in the middle of the night and leaks can happen at random times as your body is figuring all of this out – so an extra bra makes for less laundry.
You can always get fitted for the perfect bra once your milk has transitioned, any engorgement has stopped, and as your body returns to its non-pregnant self.
- Avoid underwire nursing bras. I can’t emphasize this enough! Underwire bras are extremely difficult to place perfectly. They can put pressure on milk ducts leading to clogged ducts which might eventually turn into mastitis.
- Look for soft cup or supportive, yet non-constrictive sport nursing bras. I have also seen some very cute camisole-type nursing bras. These might be uncomfortable, however in the event of a cesarean as they’ll put extra pressure on your surgery incision. But for a vaginal birth or once your incision has healed, some women really like these.
- I suggest a nursing bra with a similar cup size as you became in pregnancy. Most women go up about 1 cup size in pregnancy, so stick with this size for your nursing bra. Most nursing bras allow for about 1 cup size in expansion which will be helpful in the first week as your milk supply may be abundant at first or if engorgement occurs. Once your milk starts to regulate better you will likely be closer to the cup size you became in pregnancy. Not always, but this is a good starting point.
- If selecting a soft-cup bra, you may want to go down a band width size after a month or so as your rib cage area will get smaller after baby is born. If you want your nursing bra to last longer and not purchase a new one in a month, go down one band-width size when purchasing. For example, if you were a 34 before pregnancy and are now a 36, go with a 34 for your nursing bra.
I love the selection of nursing bras now. They used to be so hard to find. Now I seem to find cute ones at Target, Kohl’s, JC Penney online and more. I also really like Medela’s nursing products. Here is a link to learn more – Medela Nursing Clothing
- If you will be returning to work and wish to pump breastmilk while away from your baby, a hospital-grade, dual electric breast pump is best. Check with your local hospital to see if rentals are available or check your local breastfeeding store.
- If you are not able to rent a hospital-grade pump, a dual electric pump is your next best option. Dual means that you pump both breasts at the same time. Most insurance companies are covering a breast pump now, which is wonderful news! Check to see what they will cover. My favorite pumps are made by Medela. Here is a great one to use if returning to work – Medela Symphony Pump – I know a lot of moms really like the Spectra pumps, but I have heard and seen first-hand they are not as great at removing milk (a key ingredient to maintaining supply). I think both pumps are great overall, however. If you can’t afford those or your insurance won’t cover them, look for as high of quality dual electric breast pump as possible.
- Pumping both sides at the same time releases more prolactin in your body and helps maintain milk supply.
- Car adapters are an amazing thing!! Consider this feature if you think you may need to express milk in your car.
- I think a small manual breast pump is also great to have on hand for those times you might be separated from baby briefly and don’t want to take your entire pump with you. I love Lansinoh’s Manual Pump the best but there are lots of great ones out there.
Breastmilk Storage Bags
They now have zip-loc storage bags for breastmilk. Back in my day, we used twist ties. I love these Lansinoh Storage Bags – you can usually find them at Wal Mart, Target in the Breastfeeding supply section.
- I recommend storing smaller amounts of milk in each bag – perhaps in 2-3 oz increments (even though the bags will hold more).
- You will find that breastmilk becomes a precious commodity. Once you thaw it, it is good for 24 hours in the refrigerator. If it is placed in a bottle for baby after thawing, it is only good for about 2 hours. So you won’t want to fill up a 4 oz bottle and have baby only take 2 oz. It would be better to start out with a small bottle and warm up more if baby is still hungry.
- Never warm breastmilk in the microwave – it can kill the wonderful properties in the milk. Use a cup or bowl of warm water.
Medela Steam Bags
Ok I just love these Quick Clean Microwave Bags for quick, deep-cleaning of your breast pump, bottles and all the parts! You can use each bag up to 20 times. These were one of my favorite inventions.
Haaka Silicone Manual Pump
I had one mom tell me this made her life so much easier. Sometimes when you begin nursing on one side, your milk will simultaneously let down on the other breast. Rather than letting this precious milk go to waste into your nursing bra, you can place the Haaka hands-free silicone cup onto the breast you aren’t feeding from and capture some of that milk to store for later.
- I recommend purchasing SMALL packages of a few different types of nursing pads. These will capture those small leaks that can occur if your milk randomly lets down when you are not feeding your baby.
- Everyone has a different preference so go with what speaks to you. Some moms prefer washable/re-usable pads. Some like the disposable.
- Change your nursing pads frequently, especially if they become wet. The wet, dark environment near your breast can easily lead to a yeast infection if moisture builds up combining with the sugars in your milk.
- If your nipples are sore, the first thing you need to look at is your baby’s latch. That is the #1 cause of sore nipples – a poor latch.
- However, if your nipples are dry/cracked you want to make sure they heal so that bacteria doesn’t get into the breast area and cause a breast infection.
- Lansinoh hospital-grade lanolin can be applied after the feeding. A little goes a long way. Most if it will be absorbed by the time baby nurses again, however, it is safe for them to ingest if a small amount remained.
- Cost-Saving Tip: Instead of Lansinoh, try expressing a few drops of breastmilk after baby nurses and then rub this into the nipple and areola. The breastmilk will naturally moisturize the breast and is also filled with antibodies to protect against infection.
The Rest Dress
- I love this dress because it helps you rest and recover while still feeling beautiful after birth. Rest helps to increase your milk supply.
- I also love this dress as it allows for skin-to-skin with your baby any time. Skin-to-skin promotes breastfeeding and boosts milk supply as well.
Boppy or Support Pillow
- This can help baby be in a comfortable position while nursing.
- If mom is relaxed, baby will relax more while latching on and during the feed. This is our goal.
- You can use regular pillows but this is a nice extra to have if you can afford it or if someone gives it to you as a gift.
- You can also use this pillow for tummy time as your baby gets a little older (supervised tummy time of course). It will elevate their chest and make tummy time more comfortable and enjoyable as they are first beginning to do floor tummy time (around 2 months of age).
A Few Other Recommendations:
- Stool or ottoman to put your feet on while nursing.
- Favorite water bottle – you will get so thirsty when baby latches on. You should be drinking lots of healthy fluids throughout the day to help your milk supply and stay hydrated.
- Lots of easy to grab and healthy snacks. You will be hungrier when you breastfeed. You need about 500-600 extra calories/day than what you needed before you became pregnant.
- A good support group or find your local La Leche League where you can call or attend support groups. La Leche League
- The number for a great lactation consultant in your area!
Written By: Rickie Bryner, BS, LCCE, Postpartum Doula