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.
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.
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.)
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