Before I even got pregnant, I knew that breastfeeding was something I really wanted to do with my child. I knew it didn’t work for every mom and baby, but I wanted to give it the best chance that I could. And, I’m happy to say that I was able to nurse my daughter Gwen for a little more than a year. Part of that is just dumb luck of having a baby that took to nursing pretty well, but part of it is also because of the 15 below things. I consider them to be my breastfeeding must-haves — and something I recommend to all mamas who are wanting to nurse, too.
My Top 15 Breastfeeding Must-Haves
1. Patience. I start this list with something that (unfortunately) you can’t register for or buy: patience. Breastfeeding is beautiful and amazing and wonderful at times, but other times it’s frustrating, difficult, trying and downright painful. And it doesn’t work for every mom with every child. So, you know, be patient with your baby and yourself — and try to do what you can to accept whatever mother nature throws at you (even if that’s not breastfeeding — see no. 3 and no. 14 for sure if that’s you).
2. Nipple balm. Especially in those first few weeks, your nipples can be tender and raw as they get used to all the nursing (and if your baby is like mine and likes to cluster feed, believe me, you’ll be nursing a lot). A good quality nipple balm (the hospital gave me lanolin, but I liked a lot of the all-natural nipple balms on the market quite well, too — especially if they were food/baby-safe so I didn’t have to wipe them off before nursing) can help soothe, re-hydrate and generally give you a little relief. Use liberally and as needed, mamas.
3. Nursing bras and tanks galore. Nursing tanks and sweatpants were pretty much my mom uniform for the first three months with Gwen. You can’t have enough. After the first three months, I found regular ol’ V-necks to be great, too. Anything I could easily pull down to nurse was the name of the game.
4. A good pump that you can take here, there and everywhere. I can’t recommend a good quality breastpump, like one from Medela, enough. I got the Pump in Style Advanced (the pump was free through my health insurance so I just had to pay for the bag and accessories) and I LOVED IT. It was easy to take with me and pump on the go and was discreet enough so that not everyone knew I was carrying a pump around.
The pump was a lifesaver, too. Even before Gwen went to daycare (and obviously I used it while working away from her), I used my Medela on the rare times I was engorged and Gwen wasn’t interested in eating and it helped get things moving the two times I had mastitis. Especially now that all health insurance has to cover the cost of a pump, this is a serious must, mamas. Oh, and definitely invest in a hands-free pumping bra, too. Worth it times 1,000.
5. Breast pads. If I had a quarter for every time I leaked, I’d be a freakin’ millionaire. And almost all new moms have at least a little leakage. That’s why stocking up on both disposable and reusable breast pads is an oh-so smart idea. I used reusable bamboo ones most.
6. Burp cloths and bibs. If spit-up was a medium, then Gwen was quite the Picasso. After every breastfeeding session, I’d get tagged, no matter how hard I tried to stay clean. So please learn from my experience. Instead of dodging and cleaning up time and time again, just put a big ol’ bib on your baby — and also have a burp cloth (or 12) close by. And get yourself some of those extra large bibs that can double as a burp cloth. Brilliant.
7. Nursing cover of some kind. I really liked my nursing scarf (see top photo) — I used it both with baby and when pumping. I even used it as a cover when pumping in the back of a car before I went in to a baseball game. (Yep, Medela sells a vehicle adaptor.)
8. Breastfeeding pillow. If you have two stories in your house, go ahead and buy one for each level so that you’re never without it. Oh, and buy a waterproof cover and an extra cover. Because, spit-up. And laundry. Oh, the laundry a little one can produce.
9. An open mind. This goes along with no. 1, but as a new mom, it’s always helpful to never say never or never say always. Keep an open mind and do what works best for you and your baby — no matter if that’s what you envisioned or not. Whether that’s using a nipple shield (which I did the first few days), formula or whatever, you know your baby (and self!) best.
10. Support. I couldn’t have gotten through that first month without the support of my mom friends, lactation expert, doctor (Dr. Google and my actual doctor) and online mom groups. Find your mom tribe and love them hard. And if you’re having trouble with breastfeeding, don’t hesitate to reach out to local support groups or book an appointment with a lactation expert.
11. Water. And snacks. I never knew true thirst or hunger until I started breastfeeding. Set up a comfy nursing spot in your home where you have easy access to LOTS of healthy snacks and plenty of water. With a newborn, every time they eat, be sure to drink and have a bite, too. You need the energy and hydration!
12. Storage options. Like I said in no. 4, my Medela pump came with a to-go tote and it did a great job at keeping bottles cool for hours at a time. Other pumping accessories you’ll want? Storage bags and sterilizing bags.
13. A way to track feedings. Whether you do this through an app (there are lots!), a device or just pen and paper, have a way to record when your baby eats and for how long. Your ped will want this info — and it helps to decipher what baby needs when he/she is crying at 2 a.m. (Oh, she hasn’t eaten for three hours … time to bust out the boobs.)
14. Hair ties. I remember being so sleep deprived that I barely knew how to form sentences. So remembering what side I nursed on? Um, yeah, good luck there. That’s why the hair-tie trick is so simple and brilliant. Simply take two hair ties, and put them both around the wrist that you’re breastfeeding on. Then, the next time you feed, you know to start on the other side — and you switch the hair ties to that side. Why two hair ties? Because you’ll, no doubt, take one of them and use it to put your hair up at some point. Mamas need back-up.
15. Lots of self love. No matter what, remember: you’re doing great, mama. GREAT.
What breastfeeding must-haves would you add to my list? Be sure to also check out the Medela’s app, too! —Jenn