When I say breastfeeding essentials, I mean just the things you really need for a healthy breastfeeding experience. I receive no financial gain from any of these products. I’m just sharing this tips so you can avoid wasting money on things you don’t really need. I am all about spending my money on quality items that will make my life better without breaking the bank.
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Breastfeeding Essentials You Can’t Live Without
These are the breastfeeding essentials you really can’t do without followed by extras that you may need depending on your breastfeeding experience.
Everyone can benefit from a good lactation consultant, in my opinion. No breastfeeding experience is ever the same. Even the same mother may have drastically different breastfeeding experiences between her children. It is not something that just comes to us naturally. So if you are having a hard time with it, don’t fret. You are not the only one.
You can find a lactation consultant a few different ways.
- International Lactation Consultant Association ILCA directory.
- United States Lactation Consultant Association USLCA directory
- Request a consultation through the Lactation Network (TLN) – they help pair you with someone that is local and covered by your insurance.
- Reach out to the hospital where you delivered. They may have lactation consultants on staff that you could make an appointment with.
- Reach out to your insurance company to see if they can give you a list of consultants in your area that are covered by your insurance.
- Speak with your OB GYN or Pediatrician. They can often give some great referrals.
Good Breast Pump
I would recommend getting a breast pump well in advance of your due date. Having the option to pump even occasionally can allow you some more freedom as it allows someone else to feed the baby occasionally. This can be great for your mental health and allow you to get longer stretches of sleep. To me this is a breastfeeding essential even if you plan on staying home with your baby throughout breastfeeding.
Baby’s don’t always come on their due date so being prepared is important. Only about 5% of babies will arrive on their due date. Reach out well in advance to your provider and insurance about getting a prescription and arrange getting a FREE breast pump. Legally Health insurance plans MUST provide breastfeeding support, counseling, and equipment for the duration of breastfeeding. So don’t leave money on the table. Take advantage of the free breastpump and lactation support.
The best breast pump for you can vary, and really depends on your lifestyle. I would recommend a electric pump of some sort so you can be efficient with your time. Find a breast pump through insurance here!
A good portion of breastfeeding success is proper positioning. One thing that can really save your back and your arms is getting a quality breastfeeding pillow. This will help position your baby high enough off your lap to latch properly. I really preferred the My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow over the Boppy, but that was just my preference. There are so many great options out there.
So this is a bit more controversial of topics. I didn’t really use a lot of nipple creams because really anything you put on your skin your baby is ingesting when they nurse. Avoid anything with lanolin in it as it can contain pesticides. I was a little scared and didn’t have too many issues with my nipples cracking so I just chose to avoided it all together. There are a lot of nontoxic and all natural options out there now if your nipples are really suffering. Here are a few nipple creams that have good ingredients:
- Motherlove Nipple Cream
- Earth Mama Nipple Cream
- Honest Calm Your Nip Balm
- Thrive Market Organic Nipple Balm
Some research has shown an increased risk of mastitis with nipple cream use, so make sure you are sanitizing your hands properly prior to application.
Place to Breastfeed
Having a comfortable place to breastfeed with all the supplies you might need can make a huge difference. This doesn’t have to require a lot of money or work. I like to find a little basket or box to put all my breastfeeding essentials including an extra water bottle and snack to help keep hydrated and nourished so my milk supply doesn’t suffer. I keep this next to a comfortable chair that is easy to get to throughout the day.
Staying hydrated is a must when breastfeeding. Your breastmilk is 87% water so staying hydrated is important to keeping up your supply in the long term. One tip is to drink one glass of water each time you breastfeed. It is generally advised to drink about 16 cups of water a day. If you are thirsty there is a good chance you need to drink more water!
Just like you need to stay hydrated you need to nourish your body to heal after delivery and continue to provide nutrition for your baby. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend additional 450-500 calories while breastfeeding. Your diet is really important during this time and it can be really hard to eat a balanced diet postpartum. Here is another post with some great snack suggestions.
In the postpartum period your body is trying to recover and nourish your baby. It may be difficult to get everything you need in your diet. A postpartum supplement (prenatal vitamin) can help you to continue to give your body what it needs along with giving the baby essential nutrients through your breastmilk.
- Ritual– clean/vegan vitamin with all the essential nutrients. Comes in a subscription so you don’t have to think of buying next months supply.
- Perelel– created by OB GYN to support you through your postpartum period. Includes omega 3 for added mood support, beauty blend for postpartum hair concerns, and an anti stress blend. All products are 3rd party tested.
- Mama Bird Postnatal – is a targeted supplement for the postnatal period. Comes in a variety of formulations to fit your particular needs.
In the beginning you will be breastfeeding every 2-3 hours so you need clothing that is easy to work with. I personally love a nursing bra that is both comfortable, supportive, and easy to maneuver quickly. The best option in my opinion for small chested females (that don’t need as much support) is a nursing tank top as it can help you be more discrete if you need to breastfeed in public or have guests in your home.
- Bodily: The Everything Bra– was designed with lactation consultants to help with breast health to avoid unnecessary complications such as mastitis and plugged ducts.
- Third Love: 24/7 Classic Nursing Bra– If you want comfort and support this nursing bra gives you the underwire support with soft comfortable material.
- Motherhood Maternity: Seamless Nursing Bra– this seamless bra was votes best nursing bra by lactation consultants and nursing moms.
- Kindred Bravely: Sublime Hands Free Pumping and Nursing Bra– This bra provides comfort but also a hands free experience if you are going to pump. It will hold your pump in place so you can use your hands for other tasks.
Hot & Cold Gel Packs
These are a breastfeeding essential when your baby is changing how much and how often they feed. These changes could cause your breasts to become engorged, develop a clogged duct, or even mastitis. These gel packs can be either put in the freezer or heated up in the microwave to help to relieve some of these unwanted symptoms.
To keep yourself from being covered in spit up constantly I recommend you have some burp cloths handy. They can be used to wipe up milk dripping from their mouth or keep your shirt clean while burping in-between feeding. It’s impossible to avoid spit up getting on your clothes completely, but at least this will help you cut back laundry.
Reusable Nursing Pads
As you breastfeed you will realize that your nipples will leak at different times throughout the day. I would recommend you have some reusable nursing pads to put in your bra to ensure you don’t leak through your clothing in-between feeding (especially in the middle of the night). I prefer reusable because they are usually softer than disposable, cheaper long term, and they are much better for the environment. Whatever you choose to do is up to you.
Breastfeeding Tracking App
There are many options to choose from to organize all your baby’s activities during the first several months to help you keep your sanity. I personally chose this particular app (Nara Baby Tracker) because it was easy and helped me have all the information in one place. This helped me to have candid factual conversations with my lactation consultant and pediatrician when I had any concerns. It helped my sleep deprived brain make sense of my child’s behavior and alert me of anything alarming.
Another great option: Cubtale Baby Tracker. This can be used with your apple watch so you don’t have to have your phone with you to record data. Both apps can be shared with multiple caregivers so you can see trends even when you child is in someone else’s care.
These are items that I wouldn’t consider breastfeeding essentials, but could be helpful in some cases.
- Nursing cover– I personally have a method I prefer to use instead of the nursing cover that you can do with regular items in your wardrobe. So I don’t find this a necessity. It’s called the two shirt nursing method. You can read more about it here.
- Nursing shirts– honestly almost all the nursing shirts are one hideous, two overpriced, and three you can only wear them for so long. You really wouldn’t want to wear them any longer than necessary, in my opinion. So I don’t buy them. I wear regular clothes that are nursing friendly. The best items have buttons in the front or you can use the two shirt method.
- Nipple shields– I was recommended I use this by a lactation consultant in the hospital. It did help me to initiate breastfeeding with my tongue tied baby, but it ended up being a huge headache long term. My pediatrician also was very against them for whatever reason. So you may want to try them but I don’t think every mom will need them. I found them to be a huge hassle and got rid of them as soon as possible.
- Nipple shells– if your nipples are really sensitive these can help provide you with some relief as they can protect your nipples from the friction of your bra or shirt in-between feedings. They can help with nipple healing, but not everyone will need them. I bought some and never removed them from the package.
- Breastmilk storage bags– if you aren’t planning on pumping much I wouldn’t waste your money on these. I typically used extra bottles to store breastmilk when i needed to pump occasionally. I would only purchase them if you think you will not use your pumped milk in the next 7 days. If you plan on going back to work or want to store up some milk in case of illness or breastfeeding complications I would add this to your breastfeeding essentials list.
This breastfeeding essentials list will give you all the things you absolutely need to start out and will help you avoid wasting your money on extra supplies. There may be things you will want to add once you have started breastfeeding depending on your particular struggles, but everyone is different. Print your checklist to start putting your breastfeeding essentials kit together today.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.