As my soon-to-be-new-mom friends are approaching their delivery dates, they will each have to decide if they plan to breast or bottle feed their new babies. It is a personal choice, but highly recommended by pediatricians and budget conscious parents. I was only able to give Sammy mother’s milk for two months, the majority of it pumped and fed to him through a bottle. Sophie is now six months old and almost exclusively nursing! I’m not sure how much longer we will continue, but as long as both of us are still comfortable, I see no need to start buying formula and washing bottles.
I have compiled a list of items that I think every Breastfeeding Mom should have. Even if you buy every item on this list, I believe it is still less expensive than a 6-12 month supply of formula, bottles, etc.
1. Nursing Tank with Shelf Bra – I bought one of these from Motherhood Maternity. I liked it so much that I bought several more in different colors. I like them because they offer belly coverage when pulling up shirts to nurse. The modest nursing mother is no longer limited to expensive nursing clothes if she doesn’t want to expose a lot of skin while nourishing her baby. I wear mine under maternity shirts, button down shirts (leave the top buttons closed for more coverage), or any loose fitting top.
2. Nursing Bra – While I usually wear one of my many tanks, I have several nursing bras. I use the traditional nursing bra when I need more support, want something less bulky, or am wearing a nursing shirt. I don’t recommend buying nursing bras online, unless you are already familiar with the specific item. I purchased several that had inconvenient nursing openings or simply didn’t fit right despite a sizing chart on the website. I prefer nursing bras that have one hand cup closures, no under wire, and wide shoulder straps. Keep in mind that the nursing bras that slip over the head with no back closure make for more comfortable sleeping.
3. Washable Cotton Nursing Pads – These nursing pads are supposed to be better for your skin than the plastic lined ones because they allow the skin to breathe. Plus, you can just wash and reuse them! I toss mine in the washer in a mesh laundry bag and hang them to dry. The only drawback is the occasional leak through the pad. Sometimes I use two if there’s a chance I might soak through the first one. These have no adhesive to hold them in place, but I have not had a problem when using them with nursing bras or tanks.
4. Disposable Nursing Pads – These are very thin, absorbent nursing pads with a plastic backing and an adhesive strip. While they may prevent embarrassing wet spots on shirts, these will leak along the edges when full. In a bind, I have been known to substitute a diaper cut in half (one half for each side) -very absorbent, but bulky. Pantyliners or maxi pads would probably work too, if necessary.
5. Nursing Shirts – These are cleverly designed shirts with nursing openings for easy access to breastfeed or pump. Just like the nursing bras, I have not had much luck shopping online for nursing clothes. The sizes posted are often not accurate, and the nursing openings are not always as described. For some reason, the same maternity stores that carry up to size 4x for pregnant women do not even carry XXL for nursing women. Nursing clothes can be fairly expensive, especially if buying an entire new wardrobe. If you can sew, look for patterns to make your own nursing clothes.
6. Nursing Gowns – These are basically over sized t-shirts or sleep shirts with two slits cut down the middle for easy access to the milk supply in the middle of the night. I have several of these that I wear every night, and sometimes I even change into them before napping with Sophie. I love them because there are no buttons or clasps or anything to mess with in the dark. One of my nursing gowns even came with a matching infant gown!
7. Lanolin based breast cream – I was very lucky to have been given several samples of Lansinoh cream in the hospital. (Be sure to ask your nurse or lactation consultant for some!) I applied it liberally after every nursing and pumping session for the first few weeks after delivery. It soothes sore or cracked skin and does not need to be washed off before baby nurses again. Lansinoh.com has a very informative website, and also offers free weekly e-mail messages of breastfeeding encouragement and advice tailored for you and your baby.
8. Breast Pump – Essential for any mom planning to go back to work, pump milk for Dad to bottle feed, or even to pump and dump after consuming alcohol, medication, or other things baby might be sensitive to. Since Sammy was premature, we had to rent a hospital grade pump by Medela. (Incidentally, our insurance refused to pay the rental fees.) For Sophie, we were fortunate enough to borrow a Medela Pump In Style from a friend. Though they recommend not sharing the accessories such as the pumping kit between babies, I sterilized all of Sammy’s old pieces and had no problems.
9. Nursing Necklace – These are necklaces designed to be played with and pulled on while baby is nursing. Why on earth would you want that? To keep baby’s hands busy so he or she doesn’t constantly push up your shirt, pull off your nursing blanket, or worst of all, pinch you! While I don’t have a traditional nursing necklace, I use the Tiffany platinum necklace and cross pendant I received for my very first Mother’s Day from Sammy and Marlo. As an added bonus, I also hang my wedding ring on the chain for Sophie to play with, since I cannot yet fit back into it.
10. Pacifier – I don’t believe in “nipple confusion,” nor do I like people who condemn new mothers for trying to pacify their screaming infants. I used to work as a nurse with premature infants who were very sick. Sometimes swaddling, feeding, or even holding the infant was not possible, leaving a pacifier as the only option to soothe them when they were in pain or upset. Many of these babies were able to successfully nurse from their mothers without any hint of nipple confusion. More important than my own opinion, the American Academy of Pediatrics is now endorsing routine pacifier use to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The Parent’s Choice Wee Soothie Pacifier is the brand our children prefer.