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Breastfeeding Products: Must-Haves, Nice to Have and Not Needed

There are many breastfeeding products on the market! In this post, we will help you sift through what’s available, what you will truly need and what is an optional purchase.

Must-Have Breastfeeding Products

There are no products that everyone truly must have to breastfeed. Women have been breastfeeding for centuries, long before products were invented. All you truly need for breastfeeding is a mom and a baby!

Nice to Have Breastfeeding Products

While not strictly necessary, these breastfeeding products can add to your comfort.

1. Nursing bra

Nursing bras are not essential for breastfeeding but they are very convenient. You just lower a flap to expose your breast. Considering the number of times you will be feeding, we would suggest investing in one if your budget allows.

If your budget is tight, however, a regular bra will work. Simply unfasten the bra and lift the cup for feeds.

In the first few days after birth, your breasts will become larger as they fill with milk. This increase in size is temporary. Your breasts gradually adjust to the amount of milk your baby is drinking. By 2 or 3 weeks after birth, your breast size will be close to the size at the end of your pregnancy. We therefore recommend waiting to purchase a nursing bra until you are at least 36 weeks pregnant. This will help you to better judge what size you will need.

Underwire nursing bras are not recommended. Pressure from the wire can prevent some of the milk ducts from emptying, increasing your risk for a breast infection. Select a bra with soft support.

2. Nursing pads

Nursing pads are pieces of absorbent material worn in the bra to soak up leaking breast milk. They help to keep your shirt from getting wet. Both reusable and disposable breast pads are available for purchase.

Breastfeeding mothers may leak milk for a few days, many weeks or not at all. (Note: You can still have a great milk supply even if you do not leak.) Because you won’t know how many nursing pads you will need, we suggest limiting the number of pads you purchase prenatally. You can always pick up more once your baby arrives.

3. Breast pump

Not every breastfeeding woman will need to purchase a breast pump, but if you do, the type to buy will depend on your individual situation. Before purchasing a breast pump, consider the option of hand expression.  It is low cost, always available and for many moms, more effective than a pump.

Unless you know you will be returning to work soon after birth, it is best to wait to see if you will need one. In this post, we review the types of breast pumps on the market and how to select the one that will best meet your needs.

If you choose to purchase an electric pump, beware of purchasing a used pump. Single user pumps have an “open system”; there is potential for milk to accidentally enter the pump mechanism. Research has shown that some viruses and bacteria can be transmitted through breast milk. There is no way to disinfect these pumps between users, even if you purchase a new kit and tubing.

Note: Hospital-grade pumps available for rent are designed with a “closed system”. With a new kit and tubing, they can be safely used by more than one woman.

4. Breastfeeding pillow

A breastfeeding pillow can be convenient when you are learning to breastfeed, but it is certainly not a necessity. Many women choose to use bedroom pillows instead. If you plan to purchase a breastfeeding pillow, remember that all bodies are shaped differently. You may need to shop around for one that best fits your post-baby body. Women who are long-waisted may need a thicker pillow than those who are short-waisted or have larger breasts.

5. Nipple cream

Nipple creams are popular and women tell us they can be soothing, but research has shown that they do not speed up nipple healing.  A recent review of the research examined lanolin-based nipple cream and three other sore nipple products. They discovered that rubbing a few drops of your own milk onto your nipples (or using nothing at all!) was more beneficial than using nipple cream.

There is a second piece of good news in this study. Regardless of the treatment used, most nipple pain was reduced to a mild level by the time the baby was 7 to 10 days old.

6. Nursing cover

Nursing covers are popular and may be something you are considering for purchase. Before you do, you should know that you have the right to breastfeed anytime, anywhere, without covering up. Have a look at the billboards and magazine ads around you. You will see more flesh exposed than you would ever see when a mother nurses her baby.

Some mothers, however, tell us that a nursing cover made them feel more confident breastfeeding in public when they were first learning. If this is the case for you, go for it. But feel free to discard it once you are able to latch your baby with ease.

7. Prenatal breastfeeding class

When you first begin breastfeeding, there are many things that will take you by surprise. Both you and your baby will be learning. Simple things such as how to tell if your baby is getting enough and how to build a good milk supply can seem overwhelming.  

You can be more confident and prepared by taking a prenatal breastfeeding class. This is more important to the success of breastfeeding than any of the other available breastfeeding products combined.

Look for a class that focuses on the basics of breastfeeding, how milk is made and how to comfortably latch your baby at the breast. An in-person class is ideal, however, if there is not one available in your community or it doesn’t fit your schedule, we’d love to have you in our online class, Simply Breastfeeding from Day One, You can get started today by registering here.

Products Not Needed for Breastfeeding

Formula samples

If you are planning to breastfeed, we would discourage you from purchasing formula to have on hand. Research has shown that women who do not have any formula in the house are more likely to reach their breastfeeding goals.

If you receive formula samples in the mail, consider donating them to your local food bank before your baby arrives. This will help you avoid the temptation to use it unnecessarily during a long or fussy night with your baby.

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Meet Jana

As a Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant I have helped thousands of new families in the early days and weeks after delivery. Over and over, I have seen the same questions and challenges catch new families off guard. 

I want it to be easier for you!

I have put the answers to all of these questions in our online prenatal courses. I want you to have the information you need ahead of time so that you know what to expect with breastfeeding and taking care of your newborn.
Let me help you enter motherhood feeling confident, peaceful and empowered.

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  1. Bonata, Kelly, “What Should I Know About Buying a New or Used Breastpump?” 2018.
  2. Dennis, CL., et al. “Interventions for Treating Painful Nipples among Breastfeeding Women”. 2014.
  3. Rosenberg, KD., et al. “Marketing Infant Formula Through Hospitals: the Impact of Commercial Hospital Discharge Packs on Breastfeeding”. 2008.

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