If you choose to breastfeed, don’t expect it to be easy. Breastfeeding is often more difficult than an expectant mom anticipates. After breastfeeding two children for a year (one while working full-time, the other while home), I learned a lot. The most important lesson: sometimes you need professional help. In addition to that, here are some items you will want to help you have a positive experience breastfeeding and pumping.
one: Nursing / Breastfeeding Pillow
These are for use when sitting up and nursing. Many people rely on the nursing pillow and feel it’s beneficial to have one on each level of their house. As for which nursing pillow to get, people really like each one for different reasons. Some people find that laid-back or side-lying nursing feels more natural and comfortable to both the mom and baby. I am one of those people. So, I didn’t use a nursing pillow much with my first two. With my third, I used the Boppy a lot.
- Boppy (Original) ∙∙∙ This is a multi-use pillow. I like that I could use the Boppy for breastfeeding but also as they got a little bigger I used it to prop them up on the ground and help them learn to sit up. And, the Boppy has way cuter covers (I got one on Etsy!) – or, at least they did when I was pregnant with #1
- My Brest Friend ∙∙∙ I’ve never tried this one but know a lot of people prefer this over the Boppy. Many of those who have used both, say the My Brest Friend is much better for the first month or two with an itty bitty newborn, but the Boppy is better after that.
- Nook Feeding Pillow ∙∙∙ The Nook pillow is organic, breathable, all natural and it looks good! Much like the Boppy, it can also be used for “tummy time” and to help prop baby when learning to sit up. It’s much pricier than the others, but if using Earth-friendly materials is a priority, this is definitely the feeding pillow for you!
- Luna Lullaby ∙∙∙ Very highly rated, especially for moms of twins and c-section moms
two: Nipple Cream
You may be told over and over again, that breastfeeding doesn’t hurt. However, even if your baby has a perfect latch, there will be some discomfort at first. If the pain is too much or is impacting your desire to continue breastfeeding, see a lactation consultant. Yorba Organics and Earth Mama both make one that is given the highest safety rating on the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database (my bible for personal care product safety).
three: Vitamin D Drops
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends Vitamin D drops daily for breastfed babies.
four: Nursing Cover
Keep it in the diaper bag for when you are on the go. I know people who use muslin blankets as nursing covers, but an actual nursing cover — made to stay in place, give you privacy, and allow you to peek at the baby — is worth the money! Bebe au Lait makes nice ones and I love their open neckline! Milk Snob also makes a nursing cover that doubles as a car seat cover.
five: Breastmilk Storage Bags
These milk storage bags worked best for me as a disposable milk storage option. They have a double seal to prevent leaking. These are extremely popular. I preferred to use those for all the milk that was going in the freezer (just remember to freeze flat) – because the baby wasn’t going to get it in the next few days. Tip: When pouring milk from a bag into a bottle, use a breast pump flange as a funnel so the milk doesn’t spill. Also, when freezing milk, freeze the bag flat. Then you can move it to whatever location in your freezer that you’d like. But make sure you initially freeze it flat so it will take up less space and be easier to store once frozen.
If you are keeping the pumped milk in the fridge, you can just pump directly into bottles and store in those. If I don’t have enough clean bottles and want to keep some milk in the fridge, I used the Ameda bags (for the fridge only) because they have a spout that makes it easy to pour into a bottle without spilling. Because of the spout, I don’t like these for freezing.
I heard that Kiinde has a cool milk storage system. I haven’t tried this one but it’s definitely worth looking at.
Many people use the Medela bags because you can pump directly into them with a Medela pump, and they can stand up. But I don’t like how you can’t fit more than 5 ounces in a bag (in the early days that is more than enough for baby, but eventually you may want to put 6 ounces in a bag). It’s also a bit trickier to get an accurate read on the number of ounces when pumping directly into a bag.
If you plan on trying to breastfeed, regardless of anything, get the free pump through insurance! You can’t order it until a month before your due date, but it couldn’t hurt to call sooner to see what options are through your carrier. Since my first daughter arrived early, I hadn’t ordered mine yet. I was able to ask the lactation consultant at the hospital for her opinion on which is best.
I really recommend having one double electric pump and a hand pump or Suction Milk Saver.
DOUBLE ELECTRIC PUMPS (possibly covered by insurance):
• Medela Pump In Style Advanced (PISA) ∙∙∙ This is a solid choice for a double electric pump. The suction is good, it’s extremely popular, and Medela parts can be easily found if you forget to bring your parts to the office. It is lacking a clock/timer that the Sonata and Spectras have. Personally, I really like having the timer to see how long I’ve been pumping. It is also noisier than some of it’s biggest competitors (Sonata, S1 and S2).
• Spectra 2 ∙∙∙ This is another solid choice. Pros: It isn’t as noisy as the Medela Pump in Style Advanced, it has better suction, it has a digital timer and it is a closed system (which means it is easier to keep clean). Cons: It is a somewhat new brand in the US so the accessories are not as readily accessible or as good quality as the Medela ones. So, if you go with the Spectra, consider buying the adapters to work with Medela products. These adaptors connect the Medela flanges to the Spectra pump. Updated: I’m 6 months in using the Spectra 2. I have not had any issues with the quality of the Spectra parts – just the availability. However, many people do complain and recommend using the Medela adaptors.
• Spectra S1 ∙∙∙ The main difference between this and the S2, is that the S1 has a battery. This means it is more portable. Because of the battery, it weighs a little bit more (about half a pound more) and the price is a bit higher.
• Medela Sonata Smart Breast Pump ∙∙∙ The Sonata is lighter weight than the Pump in Style Advanced. This pump can track milk production! It has a timer, it is portable, quiet, lightweight and has all the smart capabilities. If the battery life is a priority for you, note that the Spectra S1 has a longer battery life (but it lacks the smart technology).
PORTABLE / COMPACT PUMPS:
• Medela Freestyle ∙∙∙ With my son, insurance covered most of the Freestyle cost. It is small and has a battery so you can clip it to your belt and move around while you pump. I didn’t use their clips and instead used it with the hands-free pumping bra. It’s also great for traveling – I traveled a lot when I was pumping and this was key! I could easily pump at home, in the car, while walking around the kitchen, etc. This one isn’t quite as powerful at removing milk as some of the other bigger, heavier ones that plug into the wall. That is the only downside, in my opinion. Not only will you get less milk, but it may hurt your supply if you only pump with this one.
• BabyBuddha Portable Pump ∙∙∙ This one is new and has incredible suction power. It is extremely portable and gets out more milk than most other portable pumps. With that power comes high suction which may mean more discomfort. It is also less discreet and louder than other compact portable pumps.
• Freemie and Willow ∙∙∙ There are even more portable/cordless pumps now since I got mine. Look into these wearable pumps if they are covered by your insurance. The Freemie is awesome for discreet on-the-go pumping, but it does not have the same suction power as the previously mentioned Medelas and Spectras. This means it will take longer to get the same amount of milk, and pumping exclusively with this one will result in a lower supply than using one of the other pumps. I’m not sure about the Willow.
• Manual Hand Pump ∙∙∙ In addition to an electric pump it is very nice to also have a manual hand pump – great to stick in the purse if I’m going to be away for a few hours (with or without baby). If possible, get one that is the same brand as your double electric pump so you can use the same parts. The Medela Harmony is a good one.
• While I liked having the manual hand pump my first two times around, I skipped that all together with #3 and just opted for a Suction Milk Saver. It was multi-purpose serving as both a manual hand pump as well as a “milk catcher”.
HOSPITAL PUMP RENTAL:
• Pump Rental ∙∙∙ If you really want to build up a good supply, I recommend renting a hospital grade pump for some period of time because it is definitely the best at removing milk. Also, if your supply is struggling, this will help. You can rent through the hospital, but also through this site (which may be cheaper): http://www.ibrump.com/pages/about-us – I know people who rented one of these and kept it at their office. Then, use the free insurance to get one at home. If you are working outside the home: It is SO nice having a second pump so you can keep one at the office and not lug it back and forth every day. This is definitely a luxury so not always possible – but if it is possible, do it!
seven: Hands-Free Pump Bra
I bought two of these hands-free pump bras (one for home, one for work) and it was worth every penny! I like it because it is basically one size fits all. A hands-free pumping bra is a MUST HAVE ESSENTIAL ITEM! It is the only way you can multi-task at all while pumping (especially necessary while you are working). Many companies are now making nursing bras that double as hands-free pumping bras! Those are great if you have limited time to set up for pumping (perhaps, back at work) or if you nurse and pump a lot throughout the day and don’t want to put the pump bra on each time. Here are the images and links to a few different hands-free pump bras:
This is an awesome all-in-one bra (normal, nursing and pumping), but it isn’t one size fits all, so you’ll want to get your correct size. It feels more like a normal bra, which allows you to feel somewhat like yourself and less like a human milk machine when you wear it!
eight: Nursing Tanks and Bras
Some people prefer nursing tanks, some prefer nursing bras. Either way, you will want some of both. I recommend bringing one or two nursing tanks to the hospital. They will keep your belly covered and make you feel a little less exposed (if that matters to you) while nursing your baby. Bravado ones are amazing, but they are more expensive. I have a couple of those and several other cheaper ones. I will say that the Bravado ones are much more supportive and comfortable and totally worth the money. However, if your ribcage is a little wider, I’ve heard they are less comfortable. You can get affordable ones from Target, H&M, Gap, and many other places. As for nursing bras, check out Bravado, Target, Gap, Pea in a Pod, and pretty much anywhere that sells maternity clothes.
nine: Nursing Pads
You will leak. A lot! Have these in the house before the baby arrives, because your milk will come in a day or two after you get home from the hospital (give or take, depending on the length of your stay) and that is when you will leak the most! I liked having both disposable ones (that I keep in my purse and diaper bag for “emergencies”) and washable/reusable ones.
- Disposable: Lansinoh
- Washable: Bamboobies Nursing Pad
- Multipurpose: Milkies Milk-Saver: If you leak a lot and want to save that milk, look into these. They won’t collect as much milk as the silicone suction milk savers, but they can be worn in your bra.
Even if you are exclusively breastfeeding and plan to never leave your baby for more than 2-3 hours at a time, for your sanity you will likely want to use a bottle every once in a while. Check out my Baby Bottle Buying Guide for tips on which bottle may be best.
Meeting With an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant)!
Keep in mind that most doctors spend 0% of their residency working directly with breastfeeding. An IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) is THE breastfeeding expert. See a lactation consultant at the hospital after you give birth. Insurance should cover it. Someone gave me this advice and I am so glad they did… I have shared it with everyone since. Breastfeeding is not easy at first. If you want to have a successful breastfeeding experience, meeting with a consultant is important. Many people I know who did not meet with one, did not breastfeed for that long and says they regret not meeting with the lactation consultant. This is one of the most important lessons I learned for breastfeeding success.
Suction Milk Saver • This thing is awesome! It suctions to one breast and will catch the leaking milk from your letdown when you are feeding from the other side. It feels really good not to let that leaking milk go to waste! If you use it in the early weeks during your morning nursing sessions – when your breasts are more full – you will catch a lot of extra milk. I regret waiting until my baby was several weeks old to start using this! It can also be used as a manual pump. It is easy to toss in your diaper bag if you need to relieve engorgement when out. They make a basic one, but also one with a base and a lid. If you have older kids running around that may knock it over before you have a chance to get it in the fridge, get the one with the lid!
Gel Nipple Pads • Breastfeeding can hurt AT FIRST. While you are getting over the hump of those early painful days, your nipples may enjoy these gel pads.
Silver Nursing Cups • This is a less affordable alternative to gel nipple pads. Silver has natural anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial properties. These will help soothe sore and cracked nipples.
Quick Clean Steam Bags • While not essential, these things are great to have if you travel a lot or will frequently need to clean your parts away from home. Just add water, pop in the microwave and you can sterilize your pump parts!
Mattress Protector • In the first few weeks (and maybe months) you will likely leak a LOT of breastmilk in your sleep. In addition to this, there is a good chance that your baby will spit up on your bed at some point. Without a mattress protector, all this breastmilk will end up in your mattress and will be impossible to completely clean. With a mattress protector, you can just take that off and put it in the laundry.