Is breastfeeding hard? Sometimes. Some women (and their babies) have zero issues with breastfeeding. For the rest of us, it will be hard, and I want to acknowledge that because before I had my baby, everyone made breastfeeding seem like it was easy; that they had chose breastfeeding because it was the easiest option. For some, it is. I did not have that luxury; breastfeeding was a nonstop battle. But even losing that battle, I chose to pump because I do feel that breast milk is best. If you can't produce milk, by all means use formula. But it is my choice (which is based on my opinion, which is formed via research) that if breast milk is an option, then it's the only option.
Despite the battles that can come with breastfeeding, there are many items that I think make breastfeeding easier. Do you need these items to breast feed? No. You need a baby and your milk to breast feed. Everything else is extra.
Photos coming soon.
1. My Brest Friend Pillow ($20-$60; varies by cover and type)
I am such a fan of this product that I included it in my Newborn Must Haves list. The Brest Friend pillow is secured to the body at the waist with an adjustable strap. You can get the width exact with velcro, but attach it silently with a clip. There are several options to suit any specific needs of the mother or baby; waterproof covers, organic covers, an inflatable version for travel, and a double version specifically for moms who are nursing twins. This pillow was invented by a man who wanted to create a solution for his breastfeeding friends. He gathered their complaints about the nursing pillows that were available at the time, and addressed those issues. Everything that was wrong with other pillows I tried was definitely missing from this option, and I'm so glad I bought this pillow, even if I gave up on nursing shortly after. I still let my baby nurse from time to time, but his latch just isn't good enough to effectively nurse. When we do nurse, we have this pillow, and I will be happy to pass it on to a friend when we don't need it anymore.
2. Medela Pump In Style Advanced ($139 for the starter kit; $299.99-$359.99)
If you are breastfeeding, you need some sort of pump. Even if you don't need to pump in a workplace, there will still be times that you will need a pump. You can use a pump to help increase your supply, to help remedy plugged ducts, to help with nipple and latching issues, to pump off any extra milk to store, and even create a small stash for emergency reasons or so that your partner can help with bottle feeding so that you can get some much deserved sleep! That said, if you won't need to pump often, there are certainly cheaper options on the market, both from Medela, as well as several other brands. From my research during pregnancy, I decided the Medela PISA was the pump I wanted. I also purchased a secondary "backup" pump. I have an unopened Ameda Purely Yours Carryall that I found on clearance. As an exclusive pumper, I get a lot of peace of mind having a backup pump, but most moms won't find it necessary, especially if they are exclusively breastfeeding.
2. Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump ($20 NZD - $36 NSD; about $14 - $26)
This option is becoming more and more popular among breastfeeding moms. You can use this to express milk like any other manual pump would, but it's most popular application is to actually latch it on with light suction while breast feeding from the other breast. The pump then catches any milk that would usually be lost during let down. This can make or break a new breastfeeding mom's spirit if she's struggling to produce milk, but feels like she's wasting so much each time she feeds. It's also an affordable option in comparison to the more expensive electric pumps, and a much easier investment for moms who aren't planning to pump much.
3. Boob-Ease Organic Nipple Balm ($12.99)
During our struggles with breastfeeding, a giant cavern of a crack formed on my nipple. Each time my son latched on, I had to grip the side of the pillow and bite down to keep from crying out and scaring him. I am moderately tattooed and handle pain well, but this was unlike anything I had experienced. This crack in my nipple was eventually the reason I accepted that my son just can't latch and it was time to find a solution other than suffering through it. Both nipples were wrecked, but I was legitimately concerned that my right nipple needed stitches. I started using Boob Ease under the recommendation of a friend because the nipple cream I was using was coconut based and stayed hard in my 74 degree apartment, making it extremely difficult to work with; something I had no patience for. The Boob Ease made a difference right away, and helped heal my nipple. I would also slather it on before pumping as a lubricant to prevent as much rubbing on my poor nipples as possible. The company that makes Boob Ease does also make a pumping lubricant, but this worked just fine for me.
4. Lansinoh Thera Pearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy ($13.99)
I put these on my registry early on because they seemed like a good idea. My childhood friend Lacey got them for me because she is brilliant and also a nurse. She could see the logic and practicality behind them, and I'm so happy that she did. I used them cold once during my engorgement period when my milk came in, but I also have used them hot several times to help unplug ducts while pumping. The fact that they're designed to be worn both on the breast directly, and also over a flange, makes them a must have for breast feeding (and pumping, for that matter).
5. Wee Essentials Nursing Pads ($3.50 - $3.75)
I was already using Wee Essentials reusable menstrual pads before I got pregnant. Then when my best (and breast) friend got pregnant with her little one, I ordered her a mommy set of nursing pads, reusable menstrual pads, and a babymoon shell for the heavy bleeding phase after delivery. When I found out we were expecting our own baby, I immediately put in an order for my own set of nursing pads and babymoon shell. She makes them in a variety of sizes and prints (which vary by material). You can buy ready to ship, pre-made ones in her shop, or you can place a custom order. I have done both. The owner of the shop is an amazing human being who is a mother herself. She has always answered all of my endless questions with patience and grace, and I am so thankful to her for that because I'm sure some of my questions were a little dumb. I truly can't recommend her enough.
6. Nursing Bra
There is no one nursing bra that I personally recommend. I do recommend finding something wire free, as the wires can contribute to plugged ducts and breast soreness, which can lead to mastitis. When shopping for a nursing bra, you want something that is big enough, offers enough coverage, and doesn't compress the breast in any way. Anything that "cuts" into the breast can also lead to clogged ducts. I personally prefer the soft "sleeping" style bras. I got my first one for a few dollars on clearance at Target. I also ordered some off of Amazon. The nice thing about this style of bra is that the lack of cup means you don't have to get the size exactly perfect, which is great because your breasts will constantly change with breastfeeding.
7. Glow Baby App (free version; premium version available)
Following my c-section and long labor, I was a mess for about a week. I couldn't keep track of the days or hours, and when I did fall asleep, I was extremely disoriented when I woke up. None of this works well with trying to keep track of a tiny human, when they're eating, and their bodily functions. They had me tracking on paper at the hospital, and I think the nurses filled out that paper more than I did. Fortunately I started using the Glow Baby App, and it became a lot easier to keep track of things because I always had my phone with me. Once I was home, the app is what made it possible for my lactation consultant and I to pinpoint that my baby just wasn't effectively nursing, and that's why he wasn't thriving. Now that I'm pumping, the app is absolutely necessary to me to track why I pump as well, and keep track of what he's eating versus what I'm producing. Also, now that my son is teething (at six weeks!), it also helps me keep track of his medicine doses. In my permanent state of sleep deprivation, it has become an absolute must have.
8. Nursing Cover
You may not need a nursing cover. If you are comfortable whipping it out to feed the baby around others, I fully support that decision. For those who are less comfortable, nursing covers are a great option (while baby is still small enough to not pull them off anyway). I can't recommend a particular brand because mine was handmade by my childhood best friend. I recommend getting something that doubles as a carseat cover if you have a pumpkin seat.
9. Traditional Medicinals Mother's Milk Tea (price varies by source and region)
If you have any concerns about your milk supply, this tea is an easy way to increase your output. It has fenugreek in it, which is a known herb for increasing your milk supply. It is tasty with a spot of milk and some sweetener, but I have also drank it plain. Be warned, if you're supplementing with fenugreek, you will probably develop a maple syrup body odor. I noticed it in my sweat and my milk.
10. Lularoe Irma ($35)
The Lularoe Irma, which is a specific kind of high low tunic, is fantastic for breast feeding. I would throw it behind my head without pulling my arms out of the sleeves. If I needed to cover up, it was easy to toss the front of the shirt back over my head and over the baby. I wear an XS Irma, and it was still plenty stretchy to use for this reason. The Irma is available in a large range of prints and sizes, and I tend to get mine second hand so I can get them at a good price.
This one seems fairly obvious, but it's so important you drink enough water. Dehydration will decrease your output immediately. There are a lot of cute water bottles on Etsy to help motivate mommas, but the best thing I've found to do is drink a glassful (ie: 1-3 cups) of water during the 20-30 minutes I'm pumping. More is of course better, but one big glass is non-negotiable.
12. Belvita Breakfast Crackers (price varies by source and region)
Most of the time, I am lucky to have one hand free, and even less likely to have both hands. I have found that Belvita Breakfast Crackers are my jam. They have oats in them, which have also been tied to increasing your output, but are much more convenient than making a bowl of oatmeal, or even whipping up a smoothie. There are a ton of different options, and between my boyfriend and I, we tend to get a box of each kind.
13. Rachel Rene's Vegan Deodorant Sticks ($5.50 - $16.50)
I switched to aluminum free deodorants long before I was expecting, but I feel like it's especially important while breastfeeding. Now that my milk is in, I can tell how far over my alveolar cells are in my armpit. I can't imagine putting a deodorant on that had aluminum in it; I would be extra paranoid. This deodorant is also vegan, paraben-free, alcohol-free, and free of bactericides.