One of the best parts about breastfeeding is technically it can be done absolutely anywhere with absolutely nothing. This certainly doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Breastfeeding does have the potential to be a simpler and more frugal choice (not to mention the health benefits for mom and baby.) However, theses breastfeeding must-haves can certainly make it easier, simpler, and more comfortable, especially in the early days.
The 10+ Best Breastfeeding Must Haves
1. Healthy Snacks
Even if your breastfeeding journey is totally smooth and you are a minimalist mom, healthy snacks are truly a necessity for any breastfeeding mother!
Most research agrees that breastfeeding mothers need an extra 300-500 calories per day to maintain their pre-pregnancy weight. This can come in the form of an extra small meal or healthy snacks. Breastfeeding has certainly kept me much hungrier than pregnancy ever did and having healthy snacks is a necessity for nursing mommas.
2. Water Bottle or Tumbler to Stay Well Hydrated
My hospital sent us home with a huge 32 oz tumbler that my mom kept a constant supply of water for me in the early days. There isn’t necessarily a set fluid goal for breastfeeding moms, but they should drink to satisfy thirst. Buy a favorite water bottle or tumbler and keep it handy! This Ello Glass Tumbler is my favorite cup ever. My husband and I both have one and use them ALL THE TIME.
3. Nursing Pads
I used a combination of these organic cotton nursing pads and some nursing pads a friend made me from flannel. I tried the disposable ones like these, but found them terribly uncomfortable and preferred the soft reusable ones 10x more. A small wet bag for your diaper bag is handy to store them in. Or you could try a set like these nursing pads made of bamboo that come with the wet bag.
Ok, nursing pads, of all of the breastfeeding must haves, really are a necessity… even for a minimalist! They can definitely save you from sticky and embarrassing situations.
4. Breastfeeding Bras and Camis
Good nursing bras are also at the top of the list for breastfeeding essentials. There are tons of different nursing bra options available.
Here are some of the best ones I tried at every millennial mom’s favorite store, Target:
- Auden Nursing Bra at Target – Favorite for everyday wear/wearing out.
- Auden Nursing Sports Bra at Target – Favorite for exercise and active days at home or out.
- Maternity Seamless Nursing Bra by Ingrid & Isabel – Prefer for comfy days at home and do wear out occasionally.
I also found breastfeeding camis very useful. My preference were Jessica Simpson Clipdown Nursing Cami as they include cups and feels like 2 in 1 (bra + cami = win for any new mom.) They are great for wearing around the house postpartum as well as under sweaters and nursing tops when out and about. Plus, I find they work for maternity too (I’m wearing one as I type this at 27 weeks pregnant), so buy them early and get loads of use out of them!
5. Breastfeeding Clothes (Nursing tops, pajamas, bathrobe)
Obviously, specific breastfeeding clothes are not essential. But, clothing that make nursing easy and accessible is. Many women opt for a 2 shirt method which is also a favorite of mine, especially after we got through the early days.
However, while not necessary, breastfeeding shirts can make it much easier and more comfortable to latch (especially if you have a baby that is still learning HOW to latch – it took my son a good week of tears and fighting. That sweet boy is determined for sure!) I also found that they can make it more comfortable to nurse in public especially without a cover.
Some breastfeeding shirts are really convenient for nursing on the go. I found a couple of sweaters especially nice to make it more convenient when you might otherwise be normally bundled up in the winter. Amazon has great options for nursing tops and even dresses!
Nursing Pajamas and Bathrobe
Breastfeeding camis work for pajamas as well as nursing gowns. A good bathrobe or housecoat was especially a necessity for me in the hospital and the one thing I was really, really glad I packed along!
6. Nursing Pillow
A nursing pillow can be really helpful in the early days and nights. During the first week when my son had trouble latching, a breastfeeding pillow helped me hold him in position since latching took him a while initially. Even after the early days, I found it made things more comfortable when he would nurse nonstop or during the night.
I have this Leachco pillow a friend gave me and liked it. It does not come with a removable cover, but we found that the Boppy covers do fit it and make it more convenient to clean and actually made the shape a bit more comfortable for me when it was in the cover too. I ended up preferring the Boppy pillow I used at a breastfeeding clinic so I got one of those too and kept my extra nursing pillow at my parent’s house! Once the baby was bigger and breastfeeding was more established for us, I never picked up the pillow anymore, but I definitely found it helpful in the early days.
7. Breast Pump & Accessories
Even if a mom plans to stay home, some kind of breast pump can make it easier to get out of the house or for mom to take a break (AKA an extended nap) when the time comes. If you plan to go back to work post-baby, then at the top of your personal breastfeeding must haves list would probably be an electric pump. However, there are several different kinds of pumps that could be useful depending on the situation including silicone pumps like the Haaka.
My insurance approved ~8 different pump options so I chose the popular Spectra S2 as it was the best-reviewed hospital-grade pump on the list and is well-loved among breastfeeding moms I knew. The only difference between it and the Spectra S1 Rechargeable Pump (which my insurance did not cover) is the lack of a battery pack. I’ve heard some moms buy a battery pack for it, but I got by with just a car charger for when I was on the go.
Update: Unfortunately, my Spectra S2 didn’t turn on when I went to fire it up for my second born and was 1 month outside of the 2 year warranty. I ended up forking an extra $40 over this time for convenience of the rechargable S1 and I’m glad I did. Now, I can walk around with it since it doesn’t have to be plugged in.
Hakkaa pumps were just gaining popularity when I had my son and I was glad I bought one before he arrived. I found it most useful to relieve engorgement and help with heavy letdown by removing just a little milk before he would nurse to help him handle the heavy flow. I used it in the early days on the opposite side while he was nursing to pump a few ounces and found it to be a really easy way to start saving back milk without having to get out my electric pump all the time. However, after the early days, I did not find it useful or helpful.
A Pump Bag
I splurged on this beautiful Sara Wells Lizzy Breast Pump Bag for my days away at meetings and work. Even though I was primarily home with my son, the bag was incredibly useful for toting both breastfeeding supplies (including a cooler pocket for milk and ice) and work supplies (laptop, lunch, notebooks, wallet, etc) when I did work away from home or attend meetings.
The bag really helped me minimize the amount of bags I needed to tote around and kept my things organized. I received so many compliments on it as well and it didn’t scream breast pump when I went to larger meetings.
Don’t forget a picture of your baby or something that reminds you of your little one packed in your bag can make a huge difference in the amount of milk you are able to pump while away!
Check with your insurance company. Many pay for extra accessories like tubing, flanges, etc every so often. I’ve been told by IBCLCs that keeping the pump accessories up to date is important in continuing to pump a good amount of milk.
I love this hands free pumping bra. I held off from buying one of these for a long time and when I finally did I was so glad! It made pumping so much easier and feel like less of a chore! Anyway, this is the one I have and I loved it. I would just slip it over my other bra and pump away (hands-free.)
Some sort of milk storage system is a breastfeeding essential if you plan to leave your baby at all or want to be prepared for emergencies. Freezing milk in plastic bags like these lansinoh bags is the most popular method for milk storage and what I did for Baby R since I had limited freezer space.
Another option would be freezing in silicone trays like these and then popping out to store in freezer bags using this system.
If you’re pumping then your baby will need bottles. I got these silicone Comotomo bottles, but Baby R preferred the glass Dr. Brown’s bottles. Every baby is different so the advice I was given (that seemed to ring true) was not to invest too heavily in any particular bottle until you found what your baby took to best!
8. Lanolin Cream or Coconut Oil
I hand lanolin on hand just in case but just used coconut oil in the end. I didn’t experience any dry or cracked nipples, but some off and on soreness (that disappeared with a tongue tie revision) was remedied easily with coconut oil.
9. Nursing Cover or Poncho
A blanket can work just as well in the early days, but when your little one gets more active and able to grab the blanket, more coverage may be appreciated.
For infants, swaddle blankets worked just as well. I used a combination of flannel receiving blankets and lightweight muslin swaddle blankets.
10. A REALY Good Support System
A good support system is extremely beneficial in breastfeeding. Having key caregivers involved and supportive of moms breastfeeding goals is instrumental in continuing a breastfeeding relationship once mom goes home from the hospital. Dads, grandmas, friends, and other key caregivers/helpers involved in postpartum care can support mom by understanding the importance of establishing the breastfeeding relationship in the early days. Rather than offer to feed baby a bottle (which can be helpful at times), caregivers can bring mom a healthy snack, water, and offer to bring baby to her when he’s ready to feed.
Having a well known and highly experience IBCLC who is familiar with a variety of issues including tongue tie can also be instrumental in success when problems occur. My son was gaining weight at a rate that astonished our pediatrician, but his continual fussiness and need to burp led me to an IBCLC who helped uncover a tongue tie. Many pediatricians, no matter how supportive of breastfeeding, are not well versed in breastfeeding issues like a good IBCLC. Still yet, finding a pediatrician who does support breastfeeding is also important.
Breastfeeding Extras (Might Be Helpful Items)
Soothing Nursing Heat Pads or Cold Compress
I simply used my regular heat pack made with flax seed or a washcloth heated in the microwave to help with letdowns, but they also make these nursing heat packs/cold compress which could be handy if you need something like this more frequently.
I had to use these several times for about a week to help get Baby R latched. Honestly, they were a lifesaver when he wasn’t latching! He was able to latch much more easily at first with them and they definitely helped us persevere with breastfeeding. An IBCLC can help you determine if nipple shields could be helpful for you and how to use them.
Breastfeeding Must Haves FAQ:
What products do I NEED for breastfeeding?
What you need varies from mom to mom. In fact, if being technical, you may likely need no equipment at all. However, there are many items including breastfeeding pillows, nursing clothing, breastfeeding covers, a breast pump and supplies, and lanolin that can make the experience easier, more comfortable, and even more fun.
What to buy BEFORE breastfeeding?
My top recommendations for things to buy BEFORE baby arrives are a basket of healthy snacks, a decent water bottle, nursing pads, nursing bras and camis, coconut oil, and a breast pump. You can easily purchase other items that you may find useful or needed later.
How can I make breastfeeding easier?
- Build a support system before you have the baby. Let family members and friends that will be caregiving and visiting know that you plan to breastfeed.
- Have the contact info of a reputable IBCLC (International Breastfeeding Certified Lactation Consultant) ready in case any problems arise.
- Have healthy snacks available and ready.
- Know where and when local breastfeeding groups meet (oftentimes local hospitals or LaLeche Leagues will have this information).
- Be ready to ask for help if problems do arise. I didn’t expect to have any problems breastfeeding, but my babe was tongue-tied and we had our fair share of issues initially. I used the hospital lactation consultants non stop.
- Know that it may not feel natural or easy at first, but for most women, it does get easier.
I hope this list of breastfeeding essentials helps you prepare for your journey as a new mom. Becoming a mom can be hard. One of my biggest surprises as a mom was that breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging.
I’m thankful we were able to overcome our initial struggles and continue nursing. While I was incredibly excited to nurse my sweet baby before he was born, I did not enjoy it initially. However, after the first few months, it got easier for us.
Eventually, I absolutely loved nursing and the bond it helped to develop with my baby. My heart is with every momma who struggled in their breastfeeding journey, whether they hit their goal or not.
Disclosure: I am not an IBCLC or expert on breastfeeding. I have huge respect for this profession and their incredible knowledge base. This list of must-haves is based on my own personal experience breastfeeding my son. Please reach out to your local lactation consultant or support groups if you have any questions.