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What Do I Need for Breastfeeding?

Updated: Sep 28, 2022

What You'll Need on Your Breastfeeding Journey

  • A great support group

  • Muslin swaddle blankets

  • Giant water bottle

  • Portable fan

  • Nursing pads

  • Postnatal vitamins

  • Breastfeeding pillow

  • Cream or balm

  • Pain relief

  • Nursing bras

From your grandma to some childless lady on Facebook you've never even met, if you're about to welcome a new baby it's guaranteed that they're all gonna come out of the woodwork with a very strong opinion on how you should feed said baby.

I said what I said.

Just know that feeding your baby is the most important thing, nothing else matters or should be used to gauge whether or not you're succeeding as a parent. But, if, like I once was, you're hellbent on exclusively breastfeeding your little one until you don't want to/can't anymore, then this guide is for you! It turns out, breastfeeding isn't as simple as just sticking the baby on there like velcro. Nope, breastfeeding is a ton of work but just like anything else in parenthood, if it's important to you and fits your vision of how you want to care for your kid then the work is worth it.

Here's the things that helped me successfully breastfeed my daughters for a combined 3.5 years and why I think you should consider them too.

A Great Support Group

And I don't mean your BabyCenter birth board.

What It Is

A breastfeeding specific group that supports and encourages breastfeeding while openly answering questions without judgement. This might be an in-person group through your local La Leche League, Zoom meetings with a lactation consultant or peer-to-peer online support (I honestly really love the BabyCenter Breastfeeding Support group for on-demand Q&A's, they're a great group of experienced moms who nurture without sugarcoating).

Why You Need It

Breastfeeding, like pregnancy is incredibly physical but it's also surprisingly emotional. Having an experienced group of breastfeeders to connect with is encouraging during those first long weeks of feeding your new baby and as time goes on, having somewhere to unload all of those questions about baby poop, nipple pain and blocked ducts is a real sanity saver.

Photo by Timothy Meinberg via Unsplash [photo contains person sitting down and breastfeeding an infant who has brown hair and is wearing a light-colored, striped onesie]

Muslin Swaddle Blankets

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, someone who already had three kids and a decade of mothering experience gave me a package of Aden + Anais muslin swaddles that I definitely didn't have on my baby registry. I smiled warmly, pretending I wasn't both flattered and a little offended that she thought I was clever enough to wrap a baby burrito and thought to myself "Lol, why tho?" Oh, baby Kierstin! If only I'd known then, what that woman did, I probably would have clenched a lot hard when the doctor told me to push. But I digress, this lady really knew what she was doing.

What It Is

Breathable blankets that are bedsheet-thin-enough to safely wrap or cover your baby, among other things.

Why You Need It

As it turned out, no, I never actually swaddled my baby with these things (though you might!), but I did use them nearly every waking hour as breastfeeding covers (my babies got so distracted nursing that I had to shut out the world around them to keep them focused) and giant burp cloths for their exorcism-level spit up. When they weren't in use as breastfeeding-aids I threw 'em over car seats and strollers to protect my girls from the sun, wind and grabby strangers and on laundry day they just went in with the rest of their pukey, poopy clothes and washed up beautifully. I too now enjoy gifting these to first-timers with a little wink. Just kidding, I can't wink very well.

A Giant Water Bottle

Just like pregnant people needs tons of water to keep up with the extra blood production that happens during those nineish months of miracle making, breastfeeding folks also need a boat load of hydration to produce milk.

What It Is

A big ol' honkin' sturdy bottle for containing copious amounts of water to keep you and your baby well hydrated.

Why You Need It

Breastfeeding peeps need almost an entire liter more in fluids each day than non-lactating ladies. Keeping a water bottle filled and close by ensures you'll be sipping enough to stay milky all day. If it's hard to suck down that much water throw in an electrolyte packet or a splash of fruit juice to shake things up.

Portable Fan

You probably already know all about hormonal hot flashes from your time baking that bun in your hot, sweaty lil oven of a bod. Unfortunately, if you go the breastfeeding route, those hormones just keep on soaring even after baby is thrown screaming and bloody onto your chest. So, if you weren't already utilizing a portable fan to help you keep your cool, now's a good time to invest in one.

What It Is

A rechargeable or battery-operated handheld fan that can be propped on your bedside table while you nurse or thrown in your diaper bag to keep you cool during never-ending pediatrician visits.

Why You Need It

Once the bump is on the outside it can get a bit sweaty having constant skin-to-skin contact with your little bundle of joy.

Nursing Pads

Whether you go the disposable or washable and reusable route, nursing pads are a non-option for nursing parents.

What It Is

It's basically a pantyliner for your nipples and shaped like a circle. Instead of catching menstrual blood these pads, which attach to the lining of your bra, soak up any excess milk that might dribble out before or after you nurse or while you're sleeping. Often, if your baby starts crying, or you hear another baby cry while you're lactating then your body will begin expressing milk when there's no mouth there to catch it. They're also handy for the random times your boobs decide to just start gushing milk out of nowhere like mine did that time I was simply standing in my in-law's kitchen trying to get lunch ready.

Why You Need It

Because if you don't, you too will get very sad and confused looks from those around you trying to gauge whether your suddenly soaked shirt is some kind of emergency, magic trick or normal post-partum thing. Also because if you don't wear these then all of your clothes will smell like the trash at the Dairy Queen drive thru.

Postnatal Vitamins

Not to be confused with the prenatal vitamins you take during pregnancy.

What It Is

A vitamin that contains the nutrients you need to keep both you and baby on track through the breastfeeding phase.

Why You Need It

It's hard enough to keep up with eating healthy when you're in the throes of newborn madness, yet alone keep track of whether you're taking in enough vitamins and nutrients to pass along to your baby. Postnatal vitamins bridge the gap between panicked meal choices and keeping you and baby sustained with enough iron, vitamin D and all of the other good stuff you both need to be your best selves (which admittedly may not feel like the best all of the time).

Breastfeeding Pillow

If you haven't welcomed your babe yet and are trying to think of "must haves" for your baby registry, a breastfeeding pillow is a sure bet (I prefer Boppy brand because they're washable and I like the shape best, but there's others out there too).

What It Is

A "C" shaped pillow that's firm enough to rest baby on to help you get the just-right position for latching while leaving at least one arm spare to shove graham crackers into your mouth when nursing hunger hits.

Why You Need It

They're portable, washable and have tons of different slip-on cases to keep your style fresh and cute. Besides that, they really are a secret weapon when it comes to making breastfeeding more comfortable for both you and your baby. I brought mine with me to the hospital both times I had a baby so I could nurse my girls with less effort while I recovered from labor and delivery.

Whichever Pillow You Go With, Here's How to Safely and Comfortably Place It

Baby Safe Cream or Balm

I had my first baby back in 2013 and even then I don't feel like people were being real about the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding. Or, they were and I just wasn't listening. If I were to actually listen, I might have heard that breastfeeding can be painful. Some will say that if breastfeeding hurts, you're not doing it right.

And while sure, yeah, there's some positions that might make it more painful, writing off the physical discomfort of creating food with your own body and then shooting that food from your body into another person's mouth is just another way moms get gaslit hardcore instead of being comforted and validated. So let me validate you if you're searching for "why do my nipples feel like they're burning off while breastfeeding."

The answer?

Because breastfeeding requires a barrier between your skin and your baby's spit.

Enter: nipple cream.

What It Is

A cream or balm that you can smooth over your dry, cracked (and possibly bleeding) nipples to both heal and protect them from chapping.

Why You Need It

Because. Just trust me. You need it.

Pain Relief

Like we just went over, this stuff is complicated and yes, painful. From chapped and cracking skin to painful engorgement and blocks milk ducts, breastfeeding ain't an easy trip and sometimes you need a little pain relief.

What It Is

Ice packs, heat packs or a dedicated therapy pack.

Why You Need It

Just like you might use hot and cold therapy on your aching back, there'll be times your ladies are so sore that you need to soothe them.

Nursing Bras

Admittedly, I was very confused about why I would need a nursing bra my first go-around. I was like "why do I need a special bra to do this thing?" Admittedly I was also not someone who thought about bras a lot because I basically just don't need one. When you're breastfeeding though, you definitely, for sure need one no matter your size.

What It Is

A bra where the cups clip and unclip so you can fold them down to get your boob out for nursing and fold them back up when you're done.

Why You Need It

Besides your breasts being larger when you're lactating (and in need of support) you'll also need a bra that makes it easy to access the milk makers in a hurry when your baby is having a total cow over being hungry even though they just guzzled a bunch of milk 20 minutes ago.

Questions About Breastfeeding

Do I need lactation tea? Cookies? What are those things?

Treats and drinks that claim to stimulate lactation (in the hopes to produce more milk for baby) are a great concept but they're honestly just unnecessary and pricey. If you're looking to increase your milk supply you can accomplish the same results by incorporating the ingredients used in these goodies (like oats and garlic) into your everyday snack and lunchtimes. Two tablespoons of oats thrown into your morning smoothie or a heaping spoonful of garlic stirred into your spaghetti sauce gets you those ingredients and the calories you need to produce.

If you still want to try these products just be aware that some of the less common ingredients used in them, especially fenugreek can have unpleasant side effects for both you and baby, including diarrhea and blood sugar drops and can't be taken while you're pregnant. Because you definitely need more to deal with when you're already trying to juggle breastfeeding. Personally, I felt super shaky and weird after steeping my first - and last - bag of Mother's Milk tea.

Does my baby need to learn to use a bottle?

The answer to this depends on your future plans. If you'll be exclusively breastfeeding for the entirety of your baby's first year then no, it's not absolutely necessary for your baby to learn to use a bottle.

However, if you'll be returning to work in person and planning to pump or supplement with formula then at some point you'll need to introduce a bottle. Although I breastfed both of my kids there were rare occasions that they did need to take a formula bottle (like the time my husband had to take our firstborn into her hearing test solo because I was having a panic attack. Fun times!) and I found that Dr. Brown's Original Baby Bottles were our best bet.

Do breastfed babies poop more?

The uncomplicated answer here is, probably not. Newborns, no matter how they're fed, poop a lot, period. As your breastfed baby grows and your breastmilk changes with them, however, your breastfed baby may be more prone to constipation since the milk that you produce during the newborn phase contains a natural laxative that decreases as baby grows.

Does it matter what I eat when I'm breastfeeding?

Yep! Breastfed babies eat what their moms eat, and just like no two babies are the same, neither are their food sensitivities. With my first, consuming dairy wasn't a huge problem but with my second, every time I scarfed down a mozzarella stick she was spitting up after our feedings. Over time, you'll learn what works for you and baby and what doesn't and just take comfort in knowing that if you have to avoid your favorite foods, it's temporary.

This post may contain affiliate links. That means when you make a purchase through one we might make a little bit of money, but not really enough to make you jealous of us.
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