My Breastfeeding Must-Haves For A Successful Breastfeeding Journey
They say breastfeeding is free, but is it really? While it’s certainly cheaper than formula, it still comes with a lot of necessities, especially if you’re a working mom. So after successfully breastfeeding, and pumping, my son for over a year (and still going as of this writing) I’ve put together a list of my favorite breastfeeding must-have products to help you succeed on your breastfeeding journey.
PS. If you haven’t already, make sure you go and learn how to create a breastfeeding plan and download your free breastfeeding plan template!
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My Breastfeeding Must Haves
1. A Hospital Grade, Double-Electric Pump
If you are a working mom, this is probably the most important breastfeeding product you will buy or rent. If you’re in the US double-check with your insurance because many will pay for one for you.
Why do I need a hospital grade, double electric pump?
There are many pumps on the market, and for someone who only needs it on occasion so they can go out on a date or for some self-care, most likely any of them will do. But for those pumping for NICU babies or those who have to go back to work and pump more than once or twice a day, hospital grade is a must.
“Hospital-grade pumps are typically more powerful than personal use pumps and are better able to extract milk from a mother’s breasts with greater efficiency and speed,” ~Judy P. Masucci, Ph.D., owner of A Mother’s Boutique.
Not only are they usually more efficient, but when you induce a let-down on one side, it also induces a let-down on the other (hence leaking when feeding). So in order to yield more milk during your pumping sessions you want to be pumping both sides at the same time. Plus it’s faster than doing one at a time. Nobody has time for all that lol!
The Spectra and the Medela Symphony are closed system as well, meaning there is no risk for contamination and multiple people can use them. So you could often resell them later and make some of your money back. I actually bought mine used myself!
Which double electric pump should I buy?
There are many brands selling breast pumps, but the two brands that offer a hospital grade at a more affordable price are the Spectra and Medela brands.
After lots and lots of research I went with a Spectra S1 pump. I chose the S1 because it’s battery-powered. And since at one point I was pumping in my car and in the school library office in between stacks of books, an electrical outlet wasn’t usually available. If you know you’ll have an outlet always handy, then the Spectra S2 would be an even cheaper alternative.
The Spectra S1 with battery power and nightlight! If can also do one-sided pumping if ever necessary.
The Medela is also an extremely popular choice. Especially as parts are more accessible, even finding many in Wal-mart. The Medela Sonata Smart Double Electric Pump also is rechargeable and even connects to an app if that’s something that interests you. *The Medela Symphony is the one most like the Spectra S1 as it’s a closed system and so can be resold. All other Medela electric pumps are single person use only.*
What if I only need to pump occasionally?
If you are a stay at home mom, and not exclusively pumping, then you don’t really need a hospital grade pump. I still recommend a double-electric pump though, to maximize your time. I actually do have a second pump that I took with me when I traveled for a month to the states (and good thing since he refused my left side for 16 hours). The Spectra S9 plus is super portable and while not as strong as my S1, perfect for those rare pumping moments.
2. Proper Fitting Flanges And Spare Parts
Oh this is so incredibly important. When I first started trying to pump, all I had were the flanges , aka breastshields, that came with my pumps. I had a 24mm and a 28mm. It was so painful trying to pump with them. And in the case of the 28mm, I couldn’t even get anything out really. Turns out they were way too large.
How do I know what size breastshield I need?
You need to measure your nipples, both of them, and then add on a couple of mm. However with a ruler that’s rather tricky lol. So Maymom, a fabulous company out of Taiwan, has created a printable template to make your own measure guide. You can find their free nipple-measuring template here. It turned out I needed the 19 or 21mm flanges. Unfortunately, those aren’t normally carried by the big name brands. Luckily, Maymom covers us mommas that need abnormal sizes.
What other spare parts do I need?
You never want to have something happen to your only pumping parts and not have a spare. That kind of stress is not fun! So at a minimum I recommend at least 1 set of spare parts, but prefer two. I had to order directly from the Maymom website since I live in Hong Kong, but in the US Maymom ships through Amazon, making it super simple. For my Spectra I needed spare:
- Tubing- The dust and stretching can be a problem after a while(Spectra has been known to send replacement tubing if yours pop off the backflow protectors, I just used blue-tak lol)
- Back flow protectors, or at the very least the membranes. One pin-prick size hole can cause the suction to be reduced.
- Valves or duckbills I prefer the valves over the yellow duckbills personally. The little white flaps were constantly askew, which affects suction.
- Flange Adapters- I needed these because I had to use the Medela style flanges from Maymom. These allowed my backflow protectors to still fit. Have two pairs at least! I would keep one at work and one at home. I once had to have my husband drive an hour because I had forgotten them at home!
3. Bottles and Breastmilk Bags
This is only required of course if you ever plan on expressing. If you don’t plan on leaving for more than a couple of hours when under a year then this isn’t a necessity. For me, I’m gone 12+ hours a day so these were very important to my breastfeeding journey.
Which bottles are best for breastfed babies?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing. Of course any bottle that mimics the natural shape, feel, and action of the breast would be best. But as we know every mom and every baby is different, so that answer is going to look different for every mom. For us we ended up using the Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature Bottle, 9 Ounce. We never had any problems with this when we introduced the bottle, so we didn’t even try the Doctor Brown bottles we also had. We used the 9oz simply because we found it easier to hold.
Which breastmilk storage bags should I use?
Again, this is going to be a personal choice. We use the Lansinoh Breastmilk Storage Bags and loved them. There was a lot of reports going around that they were popping and leaking, but we only had it happen once with one of their old designs and it was one I had filled up 5.5oz. Since then they’ve redeveloped them to have a double seal to help prevent leaks. And for ease of use I usually only fill them 3 or 4oz.
Okay, so while they call it a pump it’s not really a pump. It will not increase your supply with use like one of the above pumps would. But this is one of those products I recommend to all breastfeeding mommas, and I recommend you get it before you give birth! This little unassuming device is so easy to use and lets you build a stash with almost no extra work or time! I didn’t get mine till J was 4 months old and I seriously regret waiting that long. I was so nervous about the flange size after my ordeal finding the perfect fit for the electric pump that I just kept putting it off.
Why do I need an electric pump and a Haakaa?
The Haakaa is best used while you’re directly feeding your baby. So if baby is on the right, the Haakaa would be on the left. Remember how I said earlier that when you induce a let-down in one breast, it induces it in the other? Well that’s why you need a Haakaa, to collect the milk that would otherwise be wasted and just leaking all over your bra, shirt, or bed. In the beginning I could easily collect 3oz from one side, but even one oz each feeding would give you a whole bottle or two a day! Towards the end of my pumping journey, when I wasn’t pumping as much at work, I would come home and get that extra ounce or two to make up for what I didn’t get at work.
Important points to note about the Haakaa…
- I said it once, but it needs said again… It is not an actual pump in that it can replace a feeding time like an electric pump would.
- Don’t trust the measurements on the Haakaa itself, it’s often off by an ounce or more. Either weigh it on a kitchen scale or use the bottles you normally use.
- Because it’s top-heavy, it falls over more easily than a bottle. Transfer the milk as soon as you can
- The normal output using the Haakaa is on average 1 oz each use. Don’t compare yourself to others.
- It can sting a little. I didn’t normally feel my let-downs, but I did with the Haakaa for the first month or so. The sting usually goes away after a minute or two.
- If it’s painful then you may need to adjust the placement. Make sure your nipple isn’t touching the sides.
5. Nipple Cream
In the beginning, nipple cream was essential to the healing of my nipples. It really helped retain the moisture and prevent cracking. I would hand-express a few drops of milk and rub on my nipples, then air dry, and cover with a good layer of Lansinoh Lanolin as recommended by my lactation consultant.
The great thing about lanolin is that it’s safe for baby so no need to wash it off before feeding and I could use it to protect the nipples while pumping later on.
I also use it on my excessively dry skin. It can be a bit tacky so I don’t recommend using it as an everyday lotion, but if you’re like me and have a few spots that are pretty dry and scaly, it couldn’t hurt to give this a try.
I loved the Lansinoh Therapearl Breast Therapy Packs in the beginning when my breasts were so engorged. You can use them hot or cold to help with engorgement, clogged ducts, and mastitis. Later when engorgement wasn’t a daily issue, I would take them to work with me and use them to help with a getting a let-down. I’ve even just used them on my neck as a heating pack lol!
I’ve definitely gotten my money out of these! The only suggestion I would make is to not use them in one of those microwaves with the turn dial. You know the ones where you have to turn it to a minute just to get it going? Yeah I used that at work, turned to do something with my lunch and accidentally let it go too long… Purple beads everywhere!
7. Hands-Free Pumping Bra
There are a few methods in my pumping journey. I’ve done the cheap zip-up sports-bra that I then cut holes in and that worked for a while, but my boobs just pulled it down a lot and the zipper kept getting stuck. I’ve tried the hair-tie method, but then was too much work. What I ended up settling with was just sitting very still and using my bra, folded over, to hold the flange. It won’t work for everyone though.
What I wish I had gotten was a bra specifically designed for this. I just didn’t want to pay double the cost due to shipping to HK and not have gotten the right size. But I heard a lot of good things about this particular bra and this was what I would have gotten-Simple Wishes Signature Hands Free Pumping Bra,
8. Nursing Bras and Tanks
Everyone has a different favorite bra or style. I love my nursing tanks for when I would want to wear a normal tank top or undershirt. Nursing tanks are also perfect for those who want to do the 2-shirt method, I personally just typically wear more flowy shirts so it doesn’t usually matter.
My nursing bras are perfect for when I want to wear normal or nursing shirts on a normal basis. You can get a really cheap and comfortable one from Wal-mart for like $8, but it does tend to bunch up a bit in the padding and separates the boobs a little more than I find flattering, but it is supportive and cheap!
Motherhood Maternity also has a great selection. Just make sure to be measured as your boobs will probably have changed… and may change again before you’re done.
9. Nursing Shirts
This is one you technically can get away with not getting. If you’re like me and typically wear more flowy shirts anyway, those are easy to just lift up and go. But to be honest, I kind of love my nursing shirts.
They come in different styles and shapes, and they’re oh so soft! It’s also much cooler in this horribly hot and humid weather than doing the two-shirt method.
I will say my least-favorite in style (functionality, not looks) is the inner panel (think empire waist v-neck with an inner panel). It just tends to not cover the breast very well when in use and gets stretched out easily.
Give me all the pillows! Some people like having a special pillow specifically for breastfeeding, others just use whatever pillows they have lying around the house in creative combinations to fit the position of the moment. Whichever you decide, make sure that your back is also supported, not just your arms. My back was so strained after the first week that I couldn’t even hold my child in one position for his newborn photos without feeling like I was going to topple over! Back support is super important.
- JHion Adjustable Nursing Arm Pillow (pictured above)
- My Brest Friend Deluxe Nursing Pillow (pictured to the right)>
- My Brest Friend 3 In 1 Pregnancy Body Pillow- Not just for pregnancy!
- Lansinoh Nursie Breastfeeding Pillow (pictured to the left<)– I wish I had seen this, It seems like it’d help pad your arm a bit and keep it from going numb!
11. Nipple Shield
So I don’t recommend this for everyone, but if you’re like me at the beginning and you’re considering giving up due to the pain (and everyone says there are no ties and he has a great latch), then a nipple shield may be what you need. I wouldn’t use it all the time, but once or twice a day for a few days to a week can make all the difference.
It allowed my nipples to have some relief and it made my son open up a little wider which led to our overall breastfeeding experience going much easier. Just make sure to do your own research first and maybe ask your lactation consultant as there is a fear of nipple confusion.
12. Nursing Pads
I’ll be honest, I didn’t end of needing these very often and I gave away most of my disposable ones. I just didn’t leak as much as other women do. But for most women, nursing pads are pretty mandatory.
Disposable or Reusable?
I’m all about spending money once and being done, so my vote is for reusable whenever possible, but the disposables sometimes can’t be beat. So it’s honestly a personal choice. I would suggest not getting the reusables with terry cloth, the ones with the little loops, that was just painful peeling those off.
My favorite disposables were the Lansinoh Stay Dry Disposable Breast Pads.
The reusables I’ve heard great reviews on, but didn’t get a chance to try, are Bamboobies Washable Nursing Pads with Leak-Proof Backing.
Breastfeeding can make you ravenous! Try to choose healthy snacks with fats and protein to keep you full. Some of my favorite snacks were almonds and lacation bites! I made my own by altering this recipe:
These are the ingredients I use:
- Ghiradelli Chocolate Chips
- Bob’s Red Mill Oats Steel Cut– I heard steel-cut was better for lactation
- Bob’s Red Mill Golden Flaxseed– I’ll be honest, I’m not sure the difference between golden and brown.
- Skippy Creamy Peanut Butter– Just more readily available in Hong Kong
- Vanilla Extract- Make sure it’s pure and not imitation
- For an extra lactation benefit and boost you could add a little Brewer’s Yeast
You will be sitting, a LOT. Might as well catch up on your Netflix or read/ listen to a good book. I’ve even heard of some moms drawing while feeding. I always needed two hands until he was old enough to move the boob on his own, so I don’t think I could do that, but I definitely have done my fair share of FB, IG, Netflix, and Scribd!
Pretty much the world knows what Netflix and Hulu are, but have you heard of Scribd? It’s a subscription service that lets you listen to audiobooks, read ebooks, find sheet music, and even read other articles and documents. While Audible has probably the largest selection of books available (2 free books with this link as of this writing), you only get 1 book a month. With Scribd, it’s unlimited for 8.99 (with this link you get two free months instead of 1).
Whatever form of entertainment you decide on, just make sure you enjoy yourself and live it up!
If you haven’t already be sure to join Amazon Prime so that you can get free 2 day shipping on all your breastfeeding must-haves and get a start on checking off number 11!
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