This post contains affiliate links.
I have been breastfeeding for the last 50 months straight. I wanted to count by months cause that’s how many years it’s felt like.
So yes, I’ve been nursing for the last four years, through pregnancy and then nursing a baby and toddler at the same time, and now I’m just nursing Dacky, my two year old. There have been a few breastfeeding items that I deemed absolutely essential for me. Or at least essential for making my breastfeeding life easier!
I definitely think these are a necessity. I mean, does anyone really argue with that? My absolute favorite place to buy nursing bras and tanks is at Target. They are made with quality, they’re cute, and they’re not expensive.
My favorite bra for the little baby months – my chest was huge and just didn’t even hardly fit in normal type “cup” bras, so I loved this one, Basics Women‘s Stella Maternity & Nursing Bra. It’s comfortable and only $24. The straps are wide which I loved and it’s really supportive, another must when you’re carrying around gallons of milk in your chest! I lived in this one, literally.
My favorite bra for older babies/toddlers (when your boobs have returned to a semi-normal size) – pretty much any bra by Gilligan & O’Malley, but this one was a favorite (which I bought more than once) Women‘s Nursing Full Coverage Lace Bra by Gilligan & O‘Malley. This bra also has a wireless version.
And just to quickly touch on the often asked question: should you wear underwire while breastfeeding? Yes and no. While there is no actual evidence that underwire is harmful while nursing, the concern is that they can potentially restrict blood flow and cause milk supply issues, as well as cause clogged ducts (I have never experienced any of these issues). If you have a properly fitting underwire bra and can easily nurse from it, you’re good to go. But in the first 6-12 weeks after your baby is born, your breasts are likely changing in size drastically from day to night, which would make it impossible to properly fit in an underwire bra 24/7. This is why I wear wireless the first few months when my breasts are all over the Richter scale, and then once my supply is established and my breasts have settled down, I go and get fitted for an underwire nursing bra. I also never sleep in them.
Here are a few other highly rated bras at Target currently – Women‘s Nursing Comfort Sleep Bra – Gilligan & O‘Malley (soooo cute and comfy looking, wish this had been around when I needed it) and Women‘s Nursing Seamless Bra – Gilligan & O‘Malley (wireless and cute with several different colors and patterns).
Also, nursing tanks! I lived in these – Women‘s Nursing Cotton Cami – Gilligan & O‘Malley. They have a built-in bra and wow, so easy. I remember a friend telling me to just go buy a ton of these and I’d be set and that they make public nursing super easy. I don’t think nursing tanks are a necessity for public nursing, because all tanks pull down really easy. But, they are super comfy and awesome for at home when you feel like you need the support of a bra but don’t want to wear a bra! Best of both worlds.
Nursing apparel I wasn’t thrilled about: my “nursing” pj’s. Um, I paid like $40 for a nursing gown that I could’ve bought for $15 somewhere else that didn’t have the word “nursing” in it’s description. If you can easily pull it down or over, it’s nursing approved. I also bought one expensive nursing bra and wasn’t impressed. In fact it agitated me and back to Target I went. My husband says I’m a cheap date so I may be a cheap bra wearer too, but hey if it’s comfortable and does it’s job, that’s all I care about!
Your nips are going to take a beating if you’re a first time mom. Maybe even if you’re a second time mom and have had a break between nursing (second time moms who had breaks between nurslings, was it as painful as the first baby?).
The best way to help your nipples heal is air, your own breastmilk, and a protecting butter/salve/cream. After nursing, I’d leave my top down for a few extra minutes (just remember to put it back up before the UPS guy rings your doorbell!), and you can also express some of your milk and put it on your nipples (breastmilk has a lot of healing properties in it!) and then I’d put this on – Lansinoh HPA Lanolin. I actually really loved this product; it’s thick, healing and not harmful to your baby.
Another highly rated cream that I would’ve definitely tried had I known about it is Earth Mama Angel Baby Non GMO Natural Nipple Butter Lanolin Free Nursing Cream. The main ingredients are olive oil and calendula. I love Earth Mama Angel Baby; I used a few of their products not breastfeeding related and they’re amazeballs.
After your milk comes in and for a few months afterwards, you’ll likely leak milk like a faucet. There are lots of options out there for nursing pads, some disposable and you can also get reusable ones. And if you’re crafty, you can make your own, here’s a tutorial.
I used Lansinoh Disposable Pads. They got the job done and they weren’t expensive, and were also easy to find. After my second baby, my breasts adjusted super quickly and I never leaked. So it’s been almost 4.5 years since I shopped for nursing pads, but I now know they sell washable pads and they aren’t expensive. They also look really comfortable. These organic ones by Mother-Ease Cloth Nursing Pads (I don’t know why they look so dirty in the photo! Maybe that’s their natural hue? Organic always looks a bit dreary…), have 168 reviews with a 4.5 star rating on Amazon and they’re less than $20 (for 3 pairs).
I don’t know why, but there’s always a debate about the need for nursing pillows in breastfeeding groups (is there anything that’s not debated in the mommy community??). A lot moms believe all you need is the crook of your arm. I agree, but the crook of my arm sweats (I live in Arizona) and it also falls asleep, so I’ve always preferred some kind of pillow. When my babies were small, I used both of the two most popular choices, My Brest Friend Pillow and the Boppy Pillow. They’re both awesome in their own ways.
I loved My Brest Friend because it gave me some back support since you wrap it around your waist. It also gave my arms a break and provided a nice little holding place for my baby while he was nursing. I used to love sitting in our nursing glider (looooved LOVED this glider, I wanted to marry it) and holding my babies using this pillow while nursing them to sleep.
The Boppy pillow was also awesome; I literally alternated the two because I liked different things about each of them. The Boppy is easier to grab and just start nursing the baby. I also used my Boppy pillow for other things, like sitting on it after I gave birth (such an ingenious idea, thank you midwife!), putting a blanket over it and using it as a propping device for my baby and it also makes for a great laptop desk!!
For older babies and toddlers, I would just use bed pillows or blankets bunched up to support their head (if I knew I was in for a long nursing session) and it’s also easier to nurse older babies while you’re both laying down.
For me, a pump was ESSENTIAL. So essential that if I could only have one breastfeeding item, it would be a pump. I am an over-producer and I quickly back up and am prone to get mastitis. And before you tell me that pumping just creates more milk, please don’t. I could not do block breastfeeding or anything else you’re supposed to do to even out milk supply. No, it was a force of nature that couldn’t be reckoned with; I was in intense pain with large, engorged breasts and red streaks all over (mastitis sucks). My midwife was the one who ordered me to start pumping to avoid mastitis again, in addition to a few other things we did to bring my supply down a bit.
Okay so now that I’ve gotten that out of the way (dang, I’m so defensive today! Picture me in a martial arts stance ready to chop at the moms who will be debating me) I will say that I am a stay-at-home mom who never had to pump at work. The pump my mom bought me, which was a Playtex double electric pump from Target and only $80 (that withstood the test of time through both of my babies) is no longer sold. So freakin lame. So I did some research on pumps to see which ones were the highest rated.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you can get away with a less expensive pump because you aren’t going to be trying to maintain your milk supply with a pump while at work. And that’s what’s most important if you are going to be pumping a lot…you need something strong that’s going to mimic a baby’s strong suckling as much as possible so that your supply is maintained. That being said, even if you’re a SAHM, you might definitely want an electric pump. I never used a manual pump and I’m so glad! My hand would’ve fallen off.
Call your insurance, you may be eligible for a free pump! If you’re a working mom and in need of a hospital-grade breast pump, definitely find out if you can get a free one through your insurance. Try and do this before baby arrives if possible. Read more here about how to best choose a breast pump.
If I were going to be working and needing to pump, this one would definitely be at the top of my research list: The Ameda Elite (you can rent it for as low as $40 a month). What I really like about this one is that it’s a hospital-grade, FDA approved pump and it’s a closed system, which means there is a barrier that protects the milk from the air being drawn through the tubes. An open system that is really popular with working moms (and highly rated) is the Medela Pump In Style Advanced Breast Pump. It seems like it’s not super common, but some moms have reported milk getting into the tubes and causing mold to grow. If you’ve used an open system like Medela, let me know in the comments how your experience has been. This is a very popular pump amongst my working mom friends though.
If I were to accidentally get pregnant again, I would purchase this pump, the Lansinoh Signature Pro Double Electric Breast Pump. It has great reviews on the breastfeeding sites, it’s affordable, you can plug it in (huge plus), it has different pumping speeds, and it has flexible flanges which make pumping more comfortable. This pump is almost identical in looks and features to the one I had and loved. And I pumped gallons of milk with that trusty pump.
I also couldn’t have survived breastfeeding without:
Support: I can’t count the number of times I sent a text or called my midwife (who is also a lactation consultant) in the first few weeks/months of breastfeeding. Unfortunately, most pediatricians aren’t truly knowledgeable (even if they think they are) in how breastfeeding actually works. So many common and fixable issues like tongue and lip ties are overlooked by healthcare professionals and moms are just told they can’t produce enough milk for their babies (only 4% of women truly cannot produce enough milk). So it’s super important to have a lactation consultant certified by the IBLCE on stand by in case you run into any problems. Click here to quickly and easily find LC’s in your area.
Knowledge: my midwife recommended this book, So That’s What They’re For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide, and I learned so much about the mechanics of breastfeeding and the common pitfalls that ensnare so many moms! This book really educated me on what is normal, how milk supply is established, and what to really watch for. Amazing book.
A breastfeeding station: I think every new mom automatically creates one of these out of necessity once you realize that you get stuck nursing a new baby for what seems like hours on end, but things I kept on mine were water, snacks, my pump, books, the tv remote (crucial), diapers, wipes, and a change or 20 of onsies (it’s amazing how fast they go through those!).
I hope you found this post useful, if you have any further questions, I’d be happy to try and help – just leave me a comment below or shoot me an email! Here are some of my other breastfeeding posts for further reading: