Being Prepared To Breastfeed: The Essentials

I have heard SO many women say that they wanted to breastfeed, but once baby arrived they felt so unprepared or under-educated that they eventually ended their breastfeeding journey before it even started. It is so easy to give up when you are unprepared- especially when you throw hormones and pure exhaustion into the mix!

To each their own, and some women are not able to breastfeed due to a variety of medical conditions, NICU hospitalizations or personal choices- and that is OKAY! Don’t stress out mama, your little babe will be okay regardless of what route you take. But, if providing breast milk for your little one is a goal of yours then continue reading. I will highlight a few of my favorite products to make your pumping/nursing journey easier with a few pro-tips and tricks along the way!

Clothing

  • Ollie Gray is hands down the BEST pumping and nursing bra out there. They are pricey, but oh so worth it! I only bought one, and I literally wore it every day during the work week. If you can afford it, I would suggest you buy two right away- one to wear and one to wash. They have plain colored ones to wear under work clothes, and cute pattern ones for the weekend! I recommend sizing up, because they can be on the tighter side (and you don’t want a bra that is too tight because it could decrease your milk production!)
  • I also liked this hands-free pumping bra for just around the house on the weekends when I was not wearing my Ollie Gray. It’s kind of annoying to take on and off, but it’s better than holding the bottles while you pump! Both hands free means more time to scroll Insta while sipping your coffee with the other hand…priorities people!
  • These sleeping bras are awesome. I wore them my entire maternity leave, and I still wear them to bed. They easily slide over to nurse in the middle of the night or throughout the day if you are home with baby. They are definitely lacking in the support department, but they are super comfy and breathable which I loved.
  • Lastly, these bras are a great go-to option. If you are anything like myself, your bra size will explode once your milk comes in, so my normal bras were definitely not going to fit while breastfeeding. They are nice because they are stretchy and comfortable, but also functional for work. They are padded, so they work nice when you are wearing normal clothes, but they have straps that unhook for easy access for nursing.
  • I never bought any fancy clothing for nursing. I know they make a ton of shirts that are easy to nurse in, but I had already bought a TON of maternity clothes and it made me sick to buy another wardrobe just for pumping/breastfeeding. But, I did invest in a few good nursing tank tops. They were great to wear in the hospital after my c-section, as well as maternity leave, and eventually back to work under my work tops. These were the ones I ended up buying, but I think any brand would do as long as it has the strap clips for easy access.

Support & Education

Education:

  • I strongly recommend you sign up for a breastfeeding 101 class during your pregnancy! I know they sound kind of cheesy- but they are worth your time. My local hospital offered a crash course on breastfeeding that was only a few hours long and was less than $30 to sign up. They are typically taught by a Certified Lactation Consultant or a nurse from the Labor and Delivery unit. My husband joined me for the class and he learned so much about the benefits of breastfeeding, the importance of skin to skin after birth, and the dedication it takes to breastfeed a newborn. Make sure you ask your OB about local classes in your area.
  • I found the following websites to be super helpful:

Support:

  • This is so important, but often forgotten! You can’t do this alone, and you definitely shouldn’t try. Your support people can be any of the following: your mom, your spouse, a girlfriend who has prior experience breastfeeding, a lactation consultant, your OB, a doula, etc. Make sure you lean on your people during this time in your life; doing so will help you be successful in this journey that is not for the faint of heart. 

Personal Care

  • These gel hot/cold packs were a lifesaver! I used them whenever I got clogged ducts. Just warm in the microwave for 15 seconds and apply to breasts for a few minutes. You can also heat and use before pumping to stimulate milk production. You can also pop them in the freezer and use to reduce swelling during engorgement.
  • Lanolin is also a must. Whether you are nursing, pumping, or doing a combo of each, it will become your best friend! Pro-tip: It also works great as a lip balm. They usually give you a few free samples in the hospital, but if not, make sure you ask!
  • Disposable nursing pads are also great for the first few months. They are essentially a panty liner for your bra. I personally always started leaking when I heard a baby cry (remember I work in a pediatric hospital) so I definitely needed to have these on hand when I went back to work.

Pumping

  • Most insurance plans cover the cost of a breast pump. Make sure you call your insurance company to find out how to order one, and order it as soon as you can- just in case baby decides they want to come a little bit early!
  • Did you know that you should be changing out your pump parts every few months, and more frequently if you are exclusively pumping?! I found these on Amazon and they work great for a fraction of the price of the name brand- plus you can put them on auto-ship so you don’t forget to replace them! **I had no idea you were supposed to replace your parts every few months! It wasn’t until I was telling a coworker that I felt my supply was taking a dip and she recommended I change my pump parts that I even discovered that was a thing! And she was right- my supply came right back after I replaced the parts. Who would have known?!**
  • Breast milk storage bags. I love the Medela ones because I thought they were the sturdiest. I went through so many of these that I eventually added them to my Amazon Subscribe and Save list (You can save 15% by doing this). I’ve also tried the Lansinoh bags, but I wasn’t a fan of those. 

Miscellaneous

  • Support Pillow: The original Boppy pillow is a great option, and it can be used for more than just nursing (like tummy time and floor support). We had the double Boppy for the twins (HIGHLY RECOMMEND!). A fellow twin mama also gave me a hand-me-down twin Brestfriend pillow, which I thought was a great product for the support of feeding two babies, but it was big and clunky- and took up a lot of space. I prefer the products that I can use for multiple purposes!
  • Nursing Cover: This one is a personal preference, and is definitely not a must. I found them super convenient, and cute. I honestly used it more as a carseat cover than a nursing cover, but it works for both (again, I love products that have multiple purposes!)

I would love to hear about your favorite products that made your breastfeeding/pumping journey a little bit easier. Comment below to share your must-have products!

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