As of right now, I have nursed for a total of 30 months of my life. Six years into this gig, I’ve certainly amassed a few favorites and while 2020 presented some new gadgets, many items are my tried and true favorites from 2015. I hope you find some things that make those early days of breastfeeding even a little bit more bearable below.Early Days:
I always make a Nursing Bin when I pack my hospital bag toward the end of pregnancy. You’ll likely be nursing all over the place-especially if you have siblings in the house- but try to choose the spot you’ll frequent most often and make that your nursing station. In the bin I always have milk pads, cooling gel pads, nipple balm, hand sanitizer, a nipple shield just incase and most importantly, snacks. I’m not able to eat oats but an oat based snack is fantastic for increasing milk supply. Most lactation cookies and bars are oat based and this is a great place to start. I’m so much hungrier while nursing than I am while pregnant so having non-perishable snacks like dried fruit, trail mix, organic jerky and granola bars is essential. I also always used to keep a batch of these in the fridge back when I ate peanuts and oats. Make a batch of these easy, no bake lactation balls ASAP!
I also find these things to be absolutely crucial in the first days:
Multiple Reusable Water Bottles: I do my very best to avoid plastic at all costs so while having plastic water bottles at the ready is simple, having water bottles you absolutely love and that keep your water ice cold for hours makes it even easier. I love knowing just how much water I’m getting by using the same cups all day long. Being even a little bit dehydrated makes for a very weak and low milk supply so hydration is absolutely crucial. I use this one and this one for water and smoothies all day long, but have my eye on this self-cleaning bacteria killing water bottle everyone is raving about. Here are some other favorites that you can scoop up:
A pump when you’re engorged. I used to use the Madela and didn’t have too much success with it but nearly everyone recommended this new pump for me and I am here to say it’s the BEST. I haven’t had to recharge it since she was born and I’ve used it about 10 times. I love watching videos on YouTube to get all the tips from the pumping experts.
A vibrating tool for clogged milk ducts. This is one of those things you don’t know you need until you use it. My goodness has this thing saved me so many times! When your milk first comes in and you’re engorged, when the baby sleeps for longer than 3 hours for the first time, if they don’t have the greatest latch…there are so many scenarios where this tool saves the day. I like to use it on the opposite side while she’s nursing so I have a let-down that makes things get movin’. Also, never underestimate the power of hand-expressing in the shower or stuffing actual cabbage leaves in your nursing bra.
Mother’s Milk tea morning and night to help establish and keep your milk supply. I like the consistency of having this tea as a good support. I’ve had it every day and I prefer it with a little honey and a splash of coconut creamer.
And last but certainly not least, the MVP, the Haaka. In those early days, oversupply is real and leaking on the opposite side during the letdown is SO wasteful and tragic. When Oshiolema and Keogena were babies, I used to just soak all that milk up into a towel. This time around, I let it collect into the Haaka during every feeding and poured it into a bottle in the fridge. By the end of the day it almost always wound up being 5oz and I would use some to give her a probiotic, briar rose and vitamian D in a syringe and put the rest into the freezer. I’ve build up quite a stash by literally doing zero extra work. Can’t recommend this thing enough!
Breastfeeding friendly tops/dresses:
In the first few months, nursing is more frequent and more unpredictable. I find in the later months I can schedule outings for after the baby is due to eat but in the beginning, you have to have easy access at all times. During my first breastfeeding experience, I thought I had to only wear tops labeled “nursing tops.” I was so uncomfortable and just didn’t feel like myself so the second time around, I decided from then on I’d just wear whatever I wanted and make sure it was nursing friendly instead. I prefer either button down dresses and blouses early on or looser, wider fitting tops that I can lift up to nurse in without showing everything. I shared my favorite tummy wraps and support tanks in this post as well as some favorite tops to nurse in, but here are more late summer/early fall favorites:
Once You’re in a Groove:
These are the essentials once you’re in a bit of a groove after the first month or so: pumps and milk supply support.
Pumping Essentials: I am not even close to a pumping expert, but I do rely on it when my littles get older and I want to keep up a good milk supply. I will never use a pump besides this one again. I prefer buying a whole extra set of the pump pieces (linked below) so one is always clean and ready to go. I also love a hand pump to use for busy days away from baby when they’re a little bit older, for road trips and travel. A special shout out to the milk bags. Every other bag I have used has failed me (holes, leaking milk, etc.) These bags are hands down the BEST. Here are the other pumping essentials I absolutely love.
Milk Supply Support: I always have a severe drop in supply around 7 months. Oshiolema and Keogena were exclusively breastfeed and didn’t wean until 13 months (I was pregnant with K) and 16 months respectively. These are the tools that allowed that to happen:
We let all those pump parts dry on this rack since its by far the most aesthetically pleasing and sterilize everything in this machine. With Oshiolema and Keogena, I sterilized their bottles and pump parts in microwaveable bags but our new sterilizer feels much more safe and I love how simple it is. It’s absolutely worth the investment.
Fed is best is one of the truest statements in the world. But, if in the first few days you just feel like giving up because it’s too much, try some of these tools out and see if you change your mind. Am I missing anything? Let me know your favorites in the comments!