Have you decided to try breastfeeding, at least part of the time? Some items 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, 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 apply lanolin around the clock, 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 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," says pediatrician Ann M. Witt, MD. She's the coordinator of Breastfeeding Medicine of Northeast Ohio.
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.
5. A Cover-Up
What if you're out in public when your baby needs to be fed? You might want some privacy while your baby latches onto your breast.
Options range from simple receiving blankets to specialty nursing covers with a strap that goes around your neck, so the baby can't kick it off and leave you exposed.
"Whatever you choose [as your cover-up], it needs to be out of your line of sight, so you can view your nipple and the baby's mouth and body," Knox says.
6. A Breast Pump
When you need to fill bottles for daycare, a high-quality electric pump can be a lifesaver. But don't buy it too soon.
"In the first couple of weeks, it's really wiser for women to work on learning the technique of breastfeeding and getting their milk supply established instead of getting -- and possibly using -- this expensive piece of equipment," Huggins says.
Before you buy, think about your situation.
For instance, are you working part-time or full-time? Can you visit the childcare center and breastfeed your baby during the workday? Is the baby breastfeeding exclusively? "There are lots of variables to consider," says Amy Spangler, RN, author of Breastfeeding: A Parent's Guide and president of babygooroo.com.
You'll also need milk storage bags and bottles. But before you buy them in bulk, try them out to see if you like them.
7. Space in Your Bedroom
Having your baby sleep in your room for the first several months can help make middle-of-the-night feedings go more smoothly.
"Infant feeding cues start out softly and accelerate," Knox says. "Feeding tends to go easier if you catch the baby at the beginning of the feeding cues. That will allow for the best emptying of the breast, so you can make milk more efficiently."
You could move your baby's crib into your room. Or you could buy a special co-sleeper crib that attaches to the side of your bed.
Don't put the baby in your bed, though. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns against co-sleeping with your baby. Sleeping with your infant created an increased chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) as well as a chance that you could roll over your baby while sleeping and suffocate the baby.
8. A Drink of Water
Many lactation experts tell new moms to drink water whenever they nurse. And with good reason:
"If you get dehydrated, your milk supply will suffer," Knox says. "If your pee is dark and not very frequent, it's a sign that there's not enough water going through your body. You want pale yellow urine."
How much water should you drink? Everyone's needs vary, but many non-nursing women strive for eight 8-ounce glasses daily. You'll need to drink your usual amount, plus more to account for the baby's needs. You will probably need at least three to four extra 8-ounce glasses a day, for a total of 11-12 glasses of fluids a day.
9. An Ever-Present Diaper Bag
Babies digest breast milk quicker than formula, leading to frequent dirty diapers. So you'll need a well-stocked diaper bag.
In it, pack:
- A changing pad or towel
- A change of clothes for the baby
- Breast pads, a drink, and a cover-up for yourself
Everything should fit comfortably into a typical diaper bag.
10. A Nursing Station
At home, choose a comfortable spot where you'll sit to nurse.
Beds and couches don't offer ideal back support. Instead, try an armchair.
"Padded-arm office chairs are perfect," Huggins says. "So are dining room chairs. You'll be able to sit upright without spending $600 on a swivel rocker."
The chair in your at-work pumping station should have arms. Putting photos of your baby next to the chair may help trigger your milk let-down reflex.
"Looking at a picture or video of your baby – or sometimes, just thinking about your baby – are the more popular ways to stimulate a let-down," Spangler says.
11. A Phone Number for Help
Breastfeeding may sound like the most natural thing in the world. But it often doesn't come easily.
Having the number for a lactation expert can be a big help.
"Moms go out the door of the hospital in 36 hours, but the hard part of nursing is at 72 hours, when your milk comes in, and maybe your latch isn't what it should be," Huggins says.
Before you leave the hospital, ask the nurses for recommendations. Or call your pediatrician's office.
Many lactation consultants charge a fee -- typically $75 to $100 per hour. The expert help may be worth it. "That's what I'd rather see you spend your money on, rather than a $350 breast pump," Huggins says.