My top ten breastfeeding essentials list for first time moms who plan to exclusively breastfeed
Like many new moms, I had a lot of bumps in my breastfeeding journey. It took me a while to get used to breastfeeding, and to find the items that truly helped me along the way. I kept this breastfeeding essentials list narrowed down so you can focus on what matters without needless spending.
When I look back at the beginning of my breastfeeding journey, I get so sentimental! I really miss the early days even though sometimes it got hard. It was so foreign to me at first, it truly was a learning curve! But trust me, it really does become like second nature along the way. Don’t give up!
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted be a breastfeeding mama. And now that I am, I’d love to share my top ten essentials for breastfeeding a baby from newborn stage to 4 months.
1. A lactation consultant
Before you start buying anything, make sure you find a lactation consultant that you like. If you’ve read my Breastfeeding Journey post, you’ll get a flavor for how crucial mine was for me. Even if you have experienced mama friends or your own mama or MIL to give you advice on breastfeeding, the work of a lactation consultant who comes to your home is priceless! They exist for a reason!
Breastfeeding may not be second nature to you. There is so much a lactation consultant can pick up on to help improve the experience for you and your baby. Even if you think you know, you’ll find that there is always more to know! My insurance covered this service 100% which was truly a godsend because I think I saw mine around 10 times.
2. Breastfeeding cushion
The Boppy cushion is the most common one you will find in the market. It’s in a horseshoe shape that fits around your middle. When baby gets older, you can use it for tummy time and to prop them up when they can sit on their own!
Until that point, you can also use it as a lounger where you just place baby in the middle and rest their head on the cushion. This is useful when they’re still tiny so they are snug and stay in one place!
I received one as a baby shower gift from my dad’s girlfriend who is a grandma to two little babies. She told me that when she was breastfeeding, she would just use pillows because nursing cushions didn’t exist back then.
We are lucky today to have these tools that were made for our breastfeeding success! I like the Boppy because it’s so easy to use and the stuffing stays firm for a long time.
Plus the cover comes off easily and is machine-washable. Since I had an oversupply, milk would get everywhere and all over the Boppy, so it was nice to be able to easily wash it.
I also got a My Breast Friend cushion. This was recommended to me by my lactation consultant and a friend.
It clips onto you like a seatbelt. It allows you to get up and move around without holding the cushion because it stays attached to you. This is great because you can align it to your nipples, so it makes it very easy for the mom.
There’s a little bump on both sides to serve as a pillow for the baby’s head. It also comes with a pocket to hold burp cloths or a waterbottle. I personally didn’t need it because I always sat next to a table with all my supplies on it. And of course the cover is removable for easy washing.
I didn’t get as much use of the My Breast Friend cushion. Since I preferred to have the convenience of using one hand because I always had a baby in the other, I used the Boppy more often.
There are lots more on the market. I highly suggest that you go to a baby store and try some on before you buy. Every body is unique, so find what works for you.
3. A really good pump
I heard on a breastfeeding podcast that a pump isn’t necessary because women have been fine for thousands of years without one.
In my experience, since my son had oral ties that restricted his ability to drain my breasts, I needed my pump.
Complications are possible, so I think it’s safe to have one as a back-up. Some of us have to return to work, or go out and be separated from baby for any reason, so it’s nice to be able to pump.
While I was pregnant, I had a vision that I would pump once a day to let my husband feed the baby. This never happened because I had an oversupply and I built a freezer stash naturally. Plus, it was easier for me to breastfeed on demand because it felt natural.
Still, I would not have been able to last this long in my breastfeeding journey without having a pump. Try to get a good one and get it from your insurance. By law, every mom in America is entitled to get one for free.
I got the Ardo Calypso pump because it is super quiet so you can pump at night, and it is a compact size for easy storage.
4. Haakaa & Breast shells
You will find that new moms like to include the Haakaa on their breastfeeding essentials list. So after watching a number of YouTube videos that included the Haakaa, I put one on my registry and got one.
Personally, it didn’t work for me. I found that my son would always kick it off because it would hang right where his little feet were!
There are hacks on how to tie it to your bra strap with hairties to prevent the milk from flying everywhere, but I just used my breast shell to catch the letdown from my other breast while nursing. I would pour the milk from my breast shells into the haakaa. And from there, after the nursing session was done, I’d transfer that milk into a breastmilk storage bag.
It’s just easier to pour the milk from your breast shells into a haakaa because it was more hygienic to use than a random cup for instance. The haakaa was my dedicated milk collector. And I had an oversupply, so there was a lot of milk that came out during the letdown from the breast that the baby wasn’t on.
Later on when I had a clogged duct, I used the epsom salt in the haakaa trick to help release it. Add 1-2 tbsp of epsom salt to a haakaa, fill it with warm water to the top, and suction it onto the affected breast. Wait until the trapped milk comes out to release the clog.
5. Burp cloths and washcloths
When I was still pregnant, my hubs and I went over to another friend couple’s place for dinner. They had a 7 year old and a toddler, so they had a lot of baby things they were ready to let go of! One of those things was a stack of burp cloths. I wouldn’t realize until after I had my baby just how useful these things are!
Burp cloths are a savior because they protect your clothes from getting spit-up when you burp your baby. And remember, you will have to do this every 2-3 hours! My son didn’t ever have a lot of spit-up, but I had an oversupply so I would get milk EVERYWHERE. A stack of burp cloths and small washcloths quickly became a mainstay in my nursing basket because they have multiple uses.
Cleaning up after your baby and yourself is going to be a constant especially if you have an oversupply. I recommend the Burt’s Bees burp cloths because they are made of organic cotton and are SO SOFT! You wouldn’t want anything that isn’t soft because baby’s skin is so delicate!
6. Himalayan salt lamp with dimmer
If you’re like me, you’re going to be breastfeeding a lot on your bed. Our bedroom became a nest for our newborn. We put the bassinet next to my side of the bed, so I would nurse on our bed and baby would inevitably fall asleep. It would then be easy for me to place him in his bassinet without waking him.
Having a Himalayan Salt Lamp with a dimmer switch was so helpful because it gave just enough light for me to operate this maneuver at night. The pink glow was soothing enough to prevent me or baby from feeling too awake.
This is why I recommend the salt lamp rather than a regular lamp. At night you’ll want to get as much GOOD sleep as you can because you’ll be waking up every 3 hours anyway. The dimmer gives you control over how much light.
7. A large waterbottle with straw and a handle
Did you know that breastmilk is about 80% water? Do you know where that water comes from? You!
In the beginning, I would get so parched while I was breastfeeding. I would be guzzling down water like it was my second job. First job was breastfeeding of course!
The straw is helpful because you want to be able to drink water without taking your eyes off of baby. The handle on the waterbottle is essential because it offers a good grip. You don’t want to risk dropping a heavy waterbottle onto your little newborn!
My midwives told me I need to be drinking at least 3 liters of water a day while nursing, so I still try to do this. I have not had supply issues to this day.
8. A cute basket to organize and carry stuff
I have two of these, one to hold all my breastfeeding essentials and one to use as a diaper caddy. It comes with a detachable wall to help you organize. You can remove it if you don’t need it! I love a good basket and this one is cute, made of 100% cotton, and has handles so it allows you to carry it all with one hand. It will hold everything on this list and more!
9. A really comfortable chair
Breastfeeding is a very physical job. One of the most important things I learned about how to sustain my breastfeeding journey is to be very comfortable. If you’re not comfortable, you will hate it because you have to stay in one position for quite a long time. As your baby gets older and more capable of holding their own head up, this rule will change.
To set yourself up for long-time success, I highly recommend that you invest in a super comfy armchair that will fit both you and your nursing cushion. I got a glider from Graco which is great for rocking your baby to sleep. I thought it would be great for nursing as well, but this wasn’t the case. The chair did not fit my nursing cushions, so it was always a juggle nursing my baby in there.
10. A partner
Please don’t get me wrong – there are lots of mamas out there who are breastfeeding while single-parenting and they are crushing it. (Honestly, since having a kid I give so much kudos to single parents). In my case, I needed all the support I could get.
When you are breastfeeding, you are giving your ALL to your baby. Your body, your time, your energy, your nutrients. It took me a while to get used to taking care of a baby on top of caring for myself. This is where the partner comes in. It is their job to take care of you. They make sure you are fed, hydrated, rested, comfortable and happy.
From newborn to about 3-4 months old, babies take a while to nurse. My son would take about 20-30 minutes to finish. Sometimes less, sometimes more. You are sitting there for a while, so it can get boring or lonely sometimes.
Your partner can support you by keeping you company, give you foot rubs, a neck and shoulder massage and go fetch things you need.
Breastfeeding can also be emotional. You body is being flooded with new hormones and give yourself some credit, you just had a baby! Since breastfeeding is such an intimate act of care, your partner may feel like they are missing out on that special bond that you are creating with baby.
Letting your partner help you and the baby as much as possible while you’re getting used to breastfeeding is not selfish on your part, it’s including them in the care of the most beautiful thing you two created together.