It's often said that the only things needed for breastfeeding are a breast and a baby, and for the most part, that's true. In it's simplest form, breastfeeding is a free, ready-to-eat, built-in system that works simply and naturally without the need for anything extraneous. There are, however, some fantastic, don't-know-how-I-could-survive-without items that can help support and enhance the breastfeeding experience. Not all parents will appreciate and utilize the same items, but most parents will find a least a few of the following items helpful.
Breastfeeding Supplies that Aren't
Sometimes, the best breastfeeding "accessory" is a person or resource. Of all the breastfeeding supplies listed on this page, the following are the only two I would call "must-haves."
- Supportive partner, family, and/or friends (breastfeeding relationships thrive best with a village!)
- Access to a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counselor (even if you never use it, have the number ready)
Other Optional Breastfeeding Supplies
The following items are meant to serve as suggestions and resources, not a registry list. I would advise waiting until baby arrives to see what you need and buy as necessary. Or, if you do put items on your registry, keep the receipts nearby.
Breastpump - Necessary if you are going back to work! Also, it's a nice-to-have for times when you want or need to be out of the house for any extended time.
Nursing bras - Not absolutely necessary (regular bras can be pulled to the side and adjusted as necessary), but can be helpful, comfortable, and convenient. I would suggest not buying any nursing bras until your milk comes in and even then, to wait until your milk regulates and you are not engorged. Your breast size will likely fluctuate considerably from pregnancy to early postpartum to later postpartum.
Nursing-friendly clothes - Not necessary, but can be helpful and convenient. Regular clothing can be adjusted, pulled to the side, lifted up, etc. Layering regular clothing also helps too.
Breastfeeding pillow - Not necessary. It can be helpful, but it can also make breastfeeding more challenging by placing your arms in an unnatural and uncomfortable position. Even better than a designated breastfeeding pillow are small throw pillows and rolled up baby blankets that can be arranged as needed to support your arms once you are in position.
Nursing cover - Not necessary, but can be helpful for those who feel like more coverage will allow them to breastfeed with more confidence and comfort.
Nipple ointments - Not necessary, but can soothe moms whose nipples experience trauma due to poor latch. Even better than the lanolin-based ointments frequently sold in stores, many lactation consultants recommend coconut oil.
Nursing pads - Not necessary, but can be helpful for those who experience a lot of leaking. Some breasts never will leak while others will do so profusely.
Nipple shields & shells - Nipple shields should be used under the guidance of a lactation consultant. They can be helpful with certain breastfeeding issues, but often are over-prescribed. Nipple shields can help protect sensitive nipples that have experienced trauma from poor latch issues.
Gel packs - These can help soothe engorgement, but are not necessary. Soft, wet cloths in the refrigerator work well too.
Milk saver - Not necessary, but this is a helpful-for-some, relatively new product that collects milk from the other breast while feeding or pumping. When let-down happens initially, the breast that's not being used often will leak out milk, and for some, the amount is significant. This product collects that milk for later use.
You will find that the breastfeeding supplies aisle in your local baby store or superstore is chock full of gadgets, contraptions, devices and so on. It's easy to feel overwhelmed and compelled to buy all the things. If being over-prepared helps boost your confidence, go ahead and prepare accordingly. Rest assured that when the time comes to breastfeed, you'll be able to tap into the resources you need to be successful.
What breastfeeding products did you put on your registry? Or, if you're an experienced parent, what products did you find most useful while breastfeeding?