So, really all you need to breastfeed are lactating breasts and a baby- but honestly it is a HUGE help to have some products to make it easier on you. Those newborn months of breastfeeding are so sweet and special. I remember staring at my newborn baby girl in awe (and also occasionally binge-watching Big Love and Friday Night Lights) for hours while she nursed. Yes, hours. Newborns love to nurse. And they need to. Often. Sometimes they finish nursing on both sides and are ready to start all over again, so it’s really important that you feel comfortable and “all set” when you spend most of your days and nights feeding your new little squish. Breastfeeding a newborn is amazing, but also really hard. I am planning to write a more in depth post about our breastfeeding journey (7 months and going strong!) but I thought I could make a list of the things that were most helpful in the beginning, and many that I continue to use each day.
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1. A Good Nursing Pillow
This really has been an essential. I use it nearly every time she nurses except when we are lying in bed. I can cradle her comfortably in my arms on top of it, or I can balance it on the arms of the recliner and be hands free to eat a snack! We have been very happy with the Boppy pillow, but next time around I am definitely going to get the My Brest Friend– it has some features that would be super helpful like a strap, a phone pocket and a water bottle pocket.
2. Nipple Cream
Your nipples will thank you for this. Breastfeeding is not supposed to be painful, but for that to happen, a lot of things have to go right. For the times things *don’t* go right and you have milk blisters or cracks or are just so sore from cluster feeding, THIS WILL HELP. It’s important to use something that is safe for baby so you don’t have to remember to wash it off before nursing. This one works great and is pretty inexpensive. My personal favorite is the Motherlove nipple cream. It is lanolin free and has calendula to help with pain. Other things that help with pain are warm damp towels applied between nursing sessions, or if you’re having a particularly hard time, icing your nipples before nursing will numb it just a little bit. If this goes on for more than a day or two, make sure you get in touch with your doctor or lactation consultant.
3. Nursing Tanks and bras
These are amazing! The ultimate convenience. Most of the tanks come with built in bras anyway, so its a two-for-one! I love using the ‘two shirt method’ for nursing outside the home or when visitors are around. Pull up your shirt and unclip your nursing tank- no need to use a cover even if you usually choose to. These and these are good quality for the price! If you don’t mind spending a little more, Motherhood Maternity has some very high quality nursing tanks. I got one on sale (the one I am wearing in the photo below) and it is still in great shape after months of being worn a lot!
4. Nursing Pads
These are a MUST! Once your milk comes in, theres no stopping it! And when it comes out on one side, its coming out on the other side. Thankfully a friend told me this and suggested I get some nursing pads. I had no idea milk would come out on both sides at once! You can use either disposable nursing pads or washable ones. I found that it was nice to have both options- they are each helpful in their own way. I used these bamboo nursing pads every day for the first few months. I also keep these disposable ones on hand and have used them many, many times. It’s really a matter of preference (and your outfit).
5. Nipple Shields
Ohhh, the controversial nipple shield. Yes, sometimes women are handed nipple shields in the hospital without having been given proper instruction and guidance on how to breastfeed, and that is not okay. But some women (including me) are not able to latch a newborn without one. If it wasn’t for nipple shields, I would not have succeeded in breastfeeding. I had to use one at every feeding for the first four months. It was hard and I will write about it in more detail when I do a breastfeeding journey post, but even though I wished so much that I didn’t need it, it really did allow me to breastfeed until baby and I figured out how to nurse without it. They can also be useful if you are really engorged (this can happen a lot when your milk comes in and all of those weeks until your supply regulates). Medela and Lansinoh both have good options with different sizes.
6. Haakaa Pump
These things are seriously amazing! Who knew this little silicone suction thing could be SO helpful?! Remember when I told you that your milk would come out on both sides at once? You just put this on the side that you are not nursing on and it catches your let down so you can start your freezer stash or have baby’s dad practice giving a bottle, all without breaking out your electric breast pump! I recommend this one because it comes with a little stopper so you can be sure your milk doesn’t spill when it inevitably gets tipped over. I used my Haakaa a LOT during the first three months of breastfeeding.
7. Giant Cup With Straw
I use mine every single day and night, and I have since I was in the labor room. Breastfeeding makes you incredibly thirsty and it is so important for you to stay hydrated in order to make milk and keep yourself healthy. Using a big cup is great because you will tend to drink a lot at once, especially during nursing sessions. And the straw is great because you can sneak sips without having to move your arms by tipping up a water bottle and distracting your sleepy-eyed babe.
8. Healthy Snacks
If you’re ever home alone with your newborn, you should have a few snacks set up around your nursing station that you can leave out and eat with one hand. Almonds or your nut of choice, additive and sugar free jerky, lactation bites (I will post a recipe soon!) or an apple or banana. Anything to keep you from that hunger while you’re nap-trapped! Try to eat nutritionally dense snacks that won’t leave you hungry or jittery.
9. Swaddles and Burp Cloths
I am a huge fan of using muslin swaddle blankets for swaddling (obviously) and for snuggling. They are so light but still warm, and you can double up without baby overheating. We use this brand, and let me tell you, they are well worth the price. The quality is outstanding and I wouldn’t be surprised if they last through years and years of everyday use. We still use them every day, even though the swaddle was ditched at about 3 weeks old around here-our baby likes to sleep in the touchdown position <3. We got lucky and had a baby who very rarely spits up. But when she does, it’s nice to have a burp cloth near, (these pre-folds work great, and of course muslin is always nice) otherwise you will find yourself using your shirtsleeve or a clean blanket to clean off a tiny chin- I really do appreciate having a designated spit up cloth. It keeps baby and our things cleaner, longer. Also, you can use burp cloths or swaddles to cocoon your baby when visitors come! If a visitor asks to hold your baby, if you are comfortable with it, (after washing their hands, of course!), give them a burp cloth or swaddle to put against their clothing so baby is against something you know is clean and safe. You can’t be too careful with that sweet soft skin and developing immune system.
All of these things will make your breastfeeding journey more comfortable and relaxed. But everyone is different, and you will quickly figure out what the necessities are for you and your sweet little nursling. Are you already on your breastfeeding journey? What things have been necessities for you? Happy feeding!