After breastfeeding five babies for a combined total of over 78 months (over six years), I’ve been to the races when it comes to nursing! And one thing I know for sure is that breastfeeding is a serious commitment. Like many things it takes hard work, dedication and is often just plain difficult, especially when it’s your first baby, and especially at the beginning.
But trust me on this, with the first few weeks under your belt, breastfeeding gets easier and easier and easier, so hang in there! It’s worth it, and being properly prepared can help set you up to have a successful nursing experience, whatever that means for you.
Here’s my list of essentials that no breastfeeding mom should be without. (I also have a list of Pumping Essentials)
Breastfeeding is like boot camp for your boobs. It’s painful for everyone at the beginning, and your nipples can get sore, cracked and even bleed. Don’t give up! The pain only lasts a few weeks, and an ounce of prevention goes a long way. (If you have severe or longstanding pain, consult your doctor or lactation consultant). In most cases, this pain is totally normal, actually.
I always applied a heavy dose right AFTER breastfeeding but all of these nipple creams are safe if ingested, so you don’t need to wash them off before nursing.
- Lansinoh HPA Lanolin 1.41 oz: This thick, lanolin-based cream is free of preservatives and hypoallergenic. ($7.21 for 1.4 oz. jar)
- Earth Mama-Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter This plant- based cream includes ingredients like cocoa butter, olive oil and calendula extract and is very healing and lubricating. ($7.18 for 2 oz. jar)
- Motherlove Herbal Nipple Cream Motherlove’s cream is certified organic and has the highest rating on the Environmental Working Group’s database, and they say it doubles as diaper rash cream! ($8.26 for 1 oz. jar)
I’ve also found that one of the best treatments of all comes right from your own breasts. After you finish nursing, hand express a small amount of breast milk and rub it on your nipples. Hopefully you don’t have any guests visiting and you can let your breasts air dry for a while! This is nature’s tried and true remedy for sore nipples and it really works.
Another thing you don’t think about until you have a baby: when you’re nursing from one breast, milk will also be leaking from the other one! In fact, you’ll be leaking a lot in general in the early days — you might wake up to find that your shirts and sheets are soaking wet. This is why you need nursing pads.
There are disposable and washable options — in the beginning you probably need some disposable ones when you’re soaking through them quickly. Over time your body will start to regulate, but nursing pads are something you may use during the whole duration of nursing. Make sure to bring some with you to the hospital.
- Lansinoh Ultra Soft Disposable Nursing Pads, 36 Count ($4.99 for 36 count box)
- Medela Disposable Nursing Bra Pads ($10.98 for 60 count box)
- Simplisse Disposable Breast Pads($9.99 for 60 count box)
- Bamboobies Super Soft Bamboo Washable Nursing Pads in Lingerie Bag These soft organic nursing pads are very absorbent and washable, and heart-shaped! ($29.99 for four)
You might be thinking, what do I need a bra for? I’m going to wear pajamas and never leave the house when I bring home baby! While I’m no Mae West, I actually found that I couldn’t do without a bra, day or night. I needed the bra to hold in nursing pads, and I got used to wearing one of these 24/7.
I recommend that you get at least four nursing bras, because even if you use nursing pads, your bras will get wet. You can buy these during the third trimester of pregnancy when your regular bras become too tight, but you might want to wait to stock up until you’re sure what size you’ll be. You’ll be washing them frequently, so make sure to use a gentle detergent and let them air dry to preserve the elasticity.
My favorite brands are stretchy and soft. Comfort is key!
- Medela Comfort Nursing Bra ($33.99)
- Medela Seamless Soft Cup Nursing Bra($32.60)
- Elle Macpherson Intimates Maternelle Maternity BraThis is one of the sexier options on the market, but the inside is still super soft. ($28.73)
- Bravado Designs Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra ($44.10) My colleague Katie has been wearing the same Bravado bras for 14 months of breastfeeding. She says they’ve held up wonderfully in the wash! ($43.73)
Just because you’re a nursing mom, it doesn’t mean fashion necessarily goes out the window. I’m all about comfort and practicality, but it’s always nice to feel good at the same time. So you can think fashion AND function! When you’re nursing, you definitely need a new wardrobe that gives baby easy access to your breasts. A dress that zips up the back or a turtleneck sweater is just not going to work for breastfeeding!
Here are my picks for a nursing wardrobe that’s both fashionable and functional.
You want to find ones with a lot of stretch so you can pull them down to nurse easily. You don’t want something that will get stretched out of shape and ruined. If it’s chilly you can throw on a cardigan sweater.
My favorites are from Anthropologie, and although they are pricey, they last forever and come in an amazing array of colors. I have quite a few and they really last.
You can achieve a lot of different looks without having a lot of different clothes by wearing a button down shirt over a camisole. You get a lot of bang for your buck by purchasing a few versatile button downs and varying the camisoles you wear underneath.
Most of my shirts are from J. Crew… they can get pricey but I get them on sale and find that they really last.
- J. Crew Stretch Perfect Shirt ($69.50)
- J. Crew Natasha Sleeveless Top ($88)
- Express Short Sleeve Essential Shirt ($39.90)
- Old Navy Women’s Lightweight Button-Front Sleeveless Blouse ($19.94)
If you’re anything like me, this is a time of your life when you’ll want to emphasize your face, neck and shoulders and keep the attention away from that postpartum belly. When you have a newborn baby who isn’t grabbing things yet, you can dress up your outfit with a chunky necklace or dangly earrings. Once your baby starts tugging at things, of course, this no longer works.
Consider getting a nice soft Boppy pillow. Many moms find these helpful in getting baby elevated off your lap and into the right position to nurse. Some people also swear by My Brest Friend (love the name!)
- Boppy Pillow with Slipcover, Sweet Pea($36.99)
- My Brest Friend Deluxe Pillow, Light Green ($40) They also make a version specifically for nursing twins: My Brest Friend Twins Plus Deluxe Nursing Pillow, Green ($50)
Amazon.com prices are subject to change.