Baby on a Budget: Breastfeeding Supplies

Mother nursing baby

When money is tight, you need to think clearly about every baby prep purchase. The essential shopping list for breastfeeding support is short.

Let’s start with a super short version of this post: you don’t need to buy anything to breastfeed. All you need is a baby and a breast.

On the other hand, you might find a few things useful, so I will share my experience to help you decide how to meet your needs on a budget.

Breastfeeding Supplies

The Essentials

Just you and your baby. Breastfeeding is a natural process. It requires no stuff.

Nice to Have

There are a few items that support breastfeeding that are predictably common. You will probably use them, so you could buy before your baby is born or wait until you feel the need. Once the baby arrives, though, there will be a lot of other things to think about. Items on this list would make a nice gift for a pregnant woman will plans to breastfeed.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. You will have questions about breastfeeding. You can ask in a La Leche League meeting, but sometimes it is nice to do background reading so you know what questions to ask. The Womanly Art is the classic breastfeeding book. If you talk to our staff in the store, we’ll help you decide whether this, Dr Sears’ Breastfeeding Book, or another book will be best for you as a basic how-to guide.

Nursing bra. If you are large breasted, you will probably want support, and it’s a lot easier to work around a nursing bra than a regular one. If you are small breasted, you might not need a nursing bra, but you might also be surprised when you become large breasted. For some, a breastfeeding tank can serve a similar purpose—giving a little support while making it quick and easy to unsnap and feed baby. You might want to buy your nursing bra in-store so experienced staff can help you get a bra that fits well and will work for the way you live.

Breast pads. Your breasts will probably leak. You might want to have 1-2 sets of absorbent breast pads on hand before you start breastfeeding. They are easy to wash with clothes. On the other hand, if you aren’t going out and don’t care how it looks, you’ll probably be fine using cloths or some other absorbent material you have around the house.

Lanolin. Most women experience some nipple dryness with breastfeeding. To soothe your skin without harming your baby, you need to choose your nipple soothing cream carefully. A lot of women use lanolin (from sheep), which is safe for babies when refined. There are other choices for soothing as well. This isn’t necessary until you do have dryness, but it’s a safe bet.

Tea & Cookies. Traditional herbal galactagogues (lactation promoters) can help build up your milk. Most women use the herbs by drinking tea, but cookies have been popular for the same purpose. Nice to have, but you don’t necessarily need herbal support. What you really need is a healthy diet of whole foods that nourishes both you and your baby.

Breastfeeding Station. This isn’t really a thing you buy but more a space you create. When you are going to be spending hours sitting, you might want to create a space where you have what you need: water, a book, a blanket, and a comfortable spot to put your feet up.

Depends on Your Needs

Despite being a natural process, there is a learning curve to breastfeeding. Most mothers need guidance—and sometimes stuff—to help the process go more smoothly.

You won’t know what you need until you need it, though. For this list, it’s best to wait.

More breast pads. If you find that you get a lot of leaking, you might want more washable breast pads. They come in a lot of different materials. Or, you might want to try silicone breast pads, which prevent the leaking in the first place.

Nursing clothes. If you want something more convenient than lifting your shirt, you might want to buy a few nursing shirts. Whether you need more clothes with hidden opening for nursing depends on your needs. I lived in my nursing nightgown, but I really hated the frumpy nursing tops I bought. If you buy, make sure that you can still be you while wearing the clothes. For many, a nursing tank will be enough to stretch an existing wardrobe.

Breast Pump, freezer trays, and bottles. You will probably leave your baby sometime while you are still breastfeeding. In that case, you will probably pump milk and leave it for another caregiver to feed your baby. How simple your system needs to be for saving milk depends on your lifestyle. If you will be working while continuing to breastfeed full time, you will need a powerful pump as well as a cooler to store your milk until you get home. Hold off buying these accessories until you know what you will need.

Nursing Pillow. A lot of women love their nursing pillows. I had one; I could probably have done without, though it was useful for a few months as a prop for my baby. It does help to have some support when you are exhausted, but you might want to wait to see if you can make do with what you have before you buy a pillow specifically for nursing.

Rocking Chair. It is nice to hold a baby and rock, but you can certainly breastfeed without. Another lifestyle choice.

Don’t Bother

Breastfeeding Cover. These baffle me. I do understand not wanting to bare one’s breasts to the world. It seems to me that a giant tent over a nursing baby draws quite a bit of attention, though. There are more discrete ways to cover up, such as a nursing shirt or the baby’s blanket. Still, a lot of people seem to love them. (A colleague has pointed out to me that this can help if you need to pump in a shared office. In that case, it could move up to the “Depends on Your Needs” list.)

More Baby on a Budget

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Breastfeeding While Pregnant

Toddler with pregnant mother

Whether planned or not, a lot of us who practice extended breastfeeding find ourselves breastfeeding while pregnant. This is normal and common in many cultures.

Once you address a few potential concerns, you just need to be sure that you get enough nutrition, water, and rest as your body is nourishing three.

My first child was 24 months old and still breastfeeding frequently when I got pregnant with my second child. I had some of the common issues, like nipple sensitivity and lower milk production, but we maintained the breastfeeding relationship. Even the Braxton-Hicks contractions weren’t too much to bear until the day my son was born. That day, the bedtime feeding brought on such strong contractions that we skipped a feeding, for the first time in nearly three years. My son was born a few hours later.

Once my baby was born, I nursed both children for another two years. If I hadn’t seen a photo of one of my online friends showing how she stacked her tiny baby on top of her toddler, it might never have occurred to me that it was possible to breastfeed two children at once. Sitting with a baby and a toddler on my lap breastfeeding or holding my two children in my arms as we all fell asleep as they nursed, these are some of my sweetest memories of their young lives.

I was and am so grateful for women who share their experience so others can expand their own possibilities. That is how I expanded my own possibilities. If breastfeeding while pregnant then tandem nursing hadn’t occurred to you, I hope this opens a door for you.

“In a study of 179 mothers who had breastfed for at least six months, 61% had also breastfed during a subsequent pregnancy.1 Of these, 38% went on to nurse both newborn and toddler postpartum, an arrangement known as ‘tandem nursing.’”
Hilary Dervin Flower, “A New Look at the Safety of Breastfeeding During Pregnancy,” August 1, 2011, KellyMom.com.

Nutrition Concerns

To a great extent, you control your nutrition by what you take in. If you are pregnant AND breastfeeding an infant (not a busy toddler who checks in less often), you will probably need more calories.

Health Canada estimates energy requirements for a pregnant woman increase by 340 over the mother’s basic needs during the second trimester and by 452 calories during the third trimester. For breastfeeding, the energy requirements go up by 330 calories for a child 0-6 months and by 400 calories for a child 7-12 months. At the point when a child is no longer exclusively breastfeeding, the mother does not necessarily need to boost caloric intake over her basic needs. Not adding calories can help a mother lose some of the pregnancy weight if it is still lingering.

If you have a 4-month old exclusively breastfeeding and you are one month pregnant, you will need extra calories for the breastfeeding but not for the first trimester of the pregnancy, and you might find that your milk supply decreases too much for your newborn. You should watch your baby’s weight gain closely. If you have a 9-month old exclusively breastfeeding when you discover that you are one month pregnant, you will probably need to be aware of adding calories for both your breastfeeding baby and your pregnancy by the second trimester. That will mean about 740 extra calories a day. Your lactation consultant, midwife, or doctor can make specific recommendations.

Contraction Concerns

One of the most common worries I see associated with breastfeeding while pregnant is the possibility of miscarriage or early labor. Oxytocin released during breastfeeding does cause contractions, but these contractions are so mild that most women don’t notice them. (KellyMom)

Unless there is a specific medical reason to expect pre-term labor or miscarriage, very mild contractions during breastfeeding are not necessarily a reason to wean your child during pregnancy.

Comfort Concerns

If you experience nausea or fatigue during pregnancy, breastfeeding could potentially increase either. You will need great nutrition and plenty of rest. Fortunately, focused breastfeeding time could give you regular rest time. Keep snacks near your favorite nursing area. Eating a few crackers and having a drink while breastfeeding can take the edge off of nausea.

Many women experience nipple sensitivity during pregnancy. This is caused by hormone levels and can be mild or extreme. Breastfeeding while your nipples are very sensitive can be excruciating. Toddlers can get lazy with their latch, so be sure your child has taken a full mouthful and isn’t pulling from your nipple. You can also just ask your toddler to be quite gentle with you. Some women use this time to practice pain management techniques they learn for the birthing process.

You Are the One Who Knows

You are the one who knows whether or not you should continue breastfeeding your baby through pregnancy then continue tandem nursing both children. Watching those babies reach out and touch one another, bonding while they sit on your lap nursing, can be one of the most moving experiences of a chaotic life with young children. But, you need to ensure everyone’s nutrition, safety, and comfort before you get to that point.

Resources for Breastfeeding While Pregnant

If you plan to breastfeed while pregnant, you will probably find it helpful to talk to a La Leche League Leader who has done the same. It can be very reassuring to share the experience with someone who has been there.

For more evidence and experience, I recommend the following articles.

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Breastfeeding Challenges: Latching Tips

Breastfeeding baby

Latch is a skill that both mother and baby need to learn when beginning breastfeeding in order to be sure that the baby gets enough milk and the mother is comfortable.

This is the end of World Breastfeeding Week, which seeks to create support systems families need for successful breastfeeding. Last weekend was The Big Latch On, a fun world record event that builds community support and brings positive attention to breastfeeding. Globally, we see support not just from peers and dedicated breastfeeding organizations but from healthcare providers, employers, and governments. Benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mother are clear, so more institutions are providing services and support. That means most mothers can identify help when they need it.

Occasionally we ask our followers on Facebook about their breastfeeding challenges. Yesterday, a lot of you responded. I wrote about mastitis a couple of weeks ago, because that was the one big issue I had breastfeeding, but I wanted to back up and address an issue that has to be taken care of early on in order to start the breastfeeding relationship right. If your baby isn’t latching correctly, your baby won’t get needed nutrition and you will have pain.

Breastfeeding is a skill for both mother and baby. Yes, it’s natural, but we still have to learn how to do it well. Latching is one of those subtle skills that a mother needs to watch and adjust when it doesn’t work.

Latch refers to how the baby holds the breast in the mouth. A baby has to open very wide in order to get enough of the breast to pump the breast and pull the milk. If you have tickled or touched your baby’s chin, you know that this triggers the reflex to open wide. If your baby is sipping at the nipple alone, you will feel the pain and your baby won’t get enough milk. If you can’t see nipple and you can’t see the bottom of the areola because your baby’s turnout bottom lip is covering it, you’re doing well. That’s the latch on.

  1. Make sure you position the baby to allow enough access to your breast.
  2. Tickle or tap your baby’s chin to get a big, wide open mouth.
  3. Squeeze your breast, flattening it a bit at that start, so it fits better the wide open shape of your baby’s mouth.
  4. If your breasts are so large that the nipples aim down, hold it up toward your baby. You might find propping your breasts on a rolled up baby blanket helps you get comfortable.
  5. When you see that wide open mouth, pull the baby in close to you.
  6. If you feel discomfort as your baby is sucking, stick a finger in to break the suck and start over. Your baby probably won’t like that, but it’s worth getting the latch right.

Are there many ways to latch correctly? Absolutely. If your baby is getting milk and growing well, and if you are comfortable, you probably don’t have any latching problems.

More Breastfeeding Latch Resources

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Breastfeeding Challenges: Mastitis

Mother breastfeeding baby in bed

When it’s hot outside, the last thing you need is breastfeeding trouble that leaves you with a fever and your breasts feeling hot to the touch. Mastitis can happen to any breastfeeding mother.

Mastitis is generally caused by too little milk being removed from the breasts. This can happen if your baby is having trouble getting enough milk, if you have too much supply, you’ve skipped feedings, or you have a blockage due to pressure on a duct or due to inflammation.

The heat and ache of mastitis can be intense. It feels a lot like having the flu.

Writing the cooling summer posts these past two weeks reminded me of one of my hottest, most miserable summers with my first baby when I had mastitis. That first baby is now a 16-year old. This week she was complaining, “My bra is so hot.” So, I reached into the refrigerator and showed her the trick someone taught me to cool my breasts during that hot summer. I gave her cabbage leaves to tuck into her bra and cool off.

Cooling off was one of the most important steps for me because it kept me calm so I could deal with the other steps.

  • Cool off.
  • Rest.
  • Get help.

Cool down

When you have hot breasts and fever in addition to the heat of summer, use a fan, mist water, even use the air conditioner if you need to do that to keep from adding to the heat burden. I found cabbage leaves straight from the refrigerator gave me temporary relief, like cool packs but without quite so much shocking cold.

Don’t stop breastfeeding

You need rest and hydration. Go to bed with your baby, and feed the baby frequently, emptying your breasts each time. Keep water nearby, and continue to sip while you are resting.

See a breastfeeding professional

Call a lactation consultant or talk to your local La Leche League Leader. The symptoms of mastitis and a plugged duct are similar. A professional can help you figure out the best approach specific to you, and it is very helpful to have that calming voice telling you that what you are experiencing will pass.

More information about the specifics of mastitis and the difference between plugged ducts and mastitis at KellyMom.com. La Leche League also has mastitis answers.

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Cool Breastfeeding in Hot Weather

Mother and baby breastfeeding outdoors in summer

Baby’s first summer? When it is hot outside, your baby still needs to breastfeed—probably more often than in cool weather. How can you stay cool while breastfeeding? It’s all about hydration and air flow.

Hydration

When it is hot outside, we sweat more in order to cool off. Because we lose more fluids, we need to take in more fluids.

Breastfeeding is enough to keep your baby hydrated, but a hot, thirsty baby may need to breastfeed more than usual. You may also notice that your baby wants to feed for shorter periods of time, which means more of the thinner foremilk and less of the hindmilk. This gives your baby exactly what is needed during hot weather.

Look for cues that your baby is asking to feed more often. Do not give your baby water or ice cubes. You will probably need to drink a lot more water to meet your needs and your baby’s, but your baby does not need supplemental water even in very hot weather.

If your house is air conditioned, your baby may lose more fluids through the skin, so keep in mind that a cool house doesn’t necessarily mean your baby won’t experience increased fluid needs in warm weather.

Bring your water. Before you sit down to breastfeed, grab your own water. Sip while you feed to keep yourself hydrated.

Air Flow

One of the keys to keeping cool in the summer, whether you are breastfeeding or changing diapers, is maintaining air flow. A breeze helps us feel cooler as it evaporates sweat.

When both you and your baby are hot and sticky, you might not be eager to be skin to skin for hours a day. Your baby might hesitate to feed because of the warmth, so try cooling off before feeding then keep feeding as cool as possible.

Stay Apart. If you lie down to breastfeed, you can put a bit more space between the two of you for air flow.

Cool Off. A quick bath, a dip in the wading pool, or just a splash in the sink and a wipe down can cool off your baby before feeding time. You could also keep a cloth near your diaper changing table and wipe your baby down with each diaper change. If nights are hot and humid with little relief from daytime temperatures, cooling off with water is a good way to calm down and make bedtime more comfortable.

Stay Cool. To keep from warming one another up immediately with skin-to-skin contact, insulate yourselves. Put a cotton prefold or flat diaper between you, or dress your baby in a very lightweight cotton outfit or just a diaper and a T-shirt. If you have a fan or a breeze, make sure that it won’t cool your baby too much during that relaxed, post-feeding state. Don’t sit with your baby directly in front of the fan or air conditioning. Keep the air comfortable.

For more cool tips for hot weather, read about cloth diapering. Next week, Cool Babywearing for Hot Weather.Link to sunscreen for infants

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