Have you decided to try breastfeeding, at least part of the time?
You can nurse a baby anytime, anyplace with nothing but your own breasts, of course. "Breastfeeding is a simple, beautiful, natural process, and it often succeeds without a lot of gadgets," says pediatrician Ann M. Witt, MD, IBCLC, coordinator of Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio.
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But having a few items handy can make the process easier, more convenient, and more comfortable.
Here are 11 supplies that may help:
1. Lanolin Cream
Many hospitals give new moms lanolin samples to help soothe sore, cracked nipples. It's safe for babies to ingest, too, so there's no need to wipe it off before nursing.
"You want to apply moisture," says Kathleen Huggins, RN, MS, author of The Nursing Mother's Companion. "That will help it heal quickly."
When you have sore nipples, your baby isn't latching onto your breasts properly. Rather than endlessly applying lanolin, work to improve the latch, so your nipples heal.
2. Breast Pads
Breast pads are thin inserts that go inside your bra. They are a barrier between your breasts and clothing to prevent milk stains. They can help prevent getting wet spots on your shirt.
There are disposable breast pads and washable, reusable ones.
"I like the washable ones best," Huggins says. "They're more eco-friendly, and they feel nice next to your skin."
Replace pads often when you leak breast milk.
"You need to change wet pads to avoid moisture getting trapped between the pad and nipple, which could lead to skin irritation or skin infections," Witt says.
3. Nursing Bras
Forget squeezing into your pre-pregnancy bras. Even if they fit, they won't give your baby easy access.
"A bra that's too tight and form-fitting can put a mom at risk for plugged milk ducts," Witt says. Her advice: Get fitted for nursing bras during your last month of pregnancy. "Make sure the bra is comfortable and your breast tissue fits in with support."
"Particularly in the early weeks of nursing, wearing a [nursing] bra allows you to use breast pads," Huggins says. "This is especially useful at night, so your breasts aren't leaking all over the sheets."
4. A Pillow
Using a pillow when you nurse will minimize back and nipple pain, because you are not leaning down to your baby every time he needs to eat.
"The general idea is: You bring the baby to the breast, not the breast to the baby," says neonatologist Isabella Knox, MD, EdM, of the University of Washington and Seattle Children's Hospital. That way, "Mom doesn't have to contort herself to get into the baby's mouth."
Before buying a new pillow, try using one you have. If you shop for a breastfeeding pillow, keep in mind that some of them wrap around the waist and may not fit everyone.