When you start your breastfeeding journey for the very first time, it can be hard to know where to begin. Everyone seems to have an opinion on the right and wrong way to breastfeed, things to try, things to avoid and a whole host of techniques to achieve that perfect latch, and it can be more than a little overwhelming. You can also be bombarded with a list of essential items you must buy for breastfeeding, but how many are really essential? What breastfeeding items can you manage without?
Having breastfed both my daughters (and still currently breastfeeding a toddler) here is my low down on the breastfeeding supplies you do and do not need.
My breastfeeding essentials:
- Nipple Cream / Lanolin
In those early days of breastfeeding a newborn, cluster feeding is incredibly common, meaning that at times you can spend what feels like a whole day sat on the sofa feeding, with very little time for your nipples to recover between feeds. This can leave your nipples feeling cracked, red and sore. Applying a small amount of lanolin after every feed can help reduce this, and a small bottle goes a very long way! If you buy only one thing for the start of your breastfeeding journey, in my opinion, this should be it.
- Breast Pads / Disposable or re-useable
Before I started breastfeeding, I had no idea that leaking milk was even a thing. Feeding from one side can stimulate the other, leading to a big wet patch on the other side! If your baby starts to go longer between feeds you may also find that your breasts become a little engorged and release some milk to take off the pressure. If you aren’t prepared this can be a little embarrassing, and mean that you have to change your clothing more often than you would like (and who needs a bigger washing pile when you have a newborn at home?). I would recommend always have a good supply of disposable breast pads or invest in some re-useable ones. Pop them straight into your nursing bras and swap them when they get wet. I tried a few different brands until I found one that seemed to work best for me and my milk supply.
- Breast pump
If you are planning to express milk or share feeds with a partner, then investing in a breast pump (electric or manual) is a must. Again, depending on your milk supply and preference, you may prefer a manual pump which gives you control over your expressing technique, however generally electric pumps are a quicker and more efficient option, especially if you intend to express regularly.
- Muslin squares / burp cloths
Whoever said that breastfed babies don’t get wind is a liar – quite often your newborn will posset milk, dribble up a small amount or occasionally bring up their feed. As a result it is always handy to have a good supply of burp cloths and muslin squares as you will get through them pretty quick! Having enough so you can always have some clean whilst the others are in the wash is a bonus!
- Breastfeeding storage bags
If you intend to express and freeze your milk (perhaps if you are going back to work or leaving your child with someone else during the day), breastfeeding storage bags are an easy and practical way to store your frozen milk without taking up your entire freezer! They can be labelled and dated, meaning you can organise your milk supplies and ensure you always have a steady supply ready to go.
Chances are you may need to experiment with different bottles as depending on how efficient your baby is with a teat, they may need to practice with different flow speeds and materials. I personally looked for anti colic bottles (that prevented additional air being swallowed as they fed) as well as ones with a super soft teat that replicated the shape of the breast. There can be some challenges to encouraging a breast fed baby to take a bottle but definitely persist.
- Nursing Bras
Nursing bras with an easy release clip that can be detached one handed can be a life saver, as feeding on the go and trying gain access to your breast whilst holding a wriggly and hungry baby can be quite the challenge. Nursing bras aren’t like they used to be – you can still get some really feminine and beautifully designed nursing bras which are both practical and attractive to wear!
Breastfeeding Supplies you DON’T need:
- Breastfeeding Pillow
When I had my first child I invested in a curved breastfeeding pillow to help support the weight of your baby as you moved them into that perfect latching position. It can also help prevent cramp in your arm when supporting their weight during long breastfeeding sessions. Whilst I did use the breastfeeding pillow and it was helpful, it really wasn’t necessary – a traditional V pillow is much cheaper, generally more flexible to adapt to your seating / lying position and can have the same benefits.
- Nursing cover / apron
There are many nursing covers and aprons on the market, which can be a great way to provide reassurance and make new Moms feel more comfortable when feeding in public. However, I found that not only did these become frustrating for my baby (she would quite often try to bat them out of the way with her hands), there are also far easier ways to feed discreetly (such as the one up one down technique with two vest tops). It’s also worth remembering that Moms are legally entitled to feed in public, so covering up is not a requirement!
- Expensive Maternity / Nursing Clothing
Why pay a premium for specialist items? Check out my ideas for breastfeeding friendly non maternity clothing, as these can be a big cost saving at the time when funds are in demand! As lovely as some of the nursing clothes can be, they are generally a big expense, and something that you can easily avoid.
What were your breastfeeding essentials?