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Registry Guide: What Do I Really Need to Breastfeed?

Updated: 6 days ago

Pink and yellow baby supplies

If you are pregnant or have been recently, the relentless marketers of the world probably have your number, your email, your address, etc. You are deeply embedded in the algorithms for endless baby supplies, must-haves, and “necessary” products, receiving emails and notifications constantly. They know that new parents are desperate to get it right and maybe find a few extra minutes of sleep. But in regards to breastfeeding, what do you actually need to succeed?

This is not my typical post. Usually, I aim to provide evidence-based information or functional advice as an IBCLC, but this post has been requested multiple times, so here we go! It is important to note that I am going over the basics of products that could help or enhance the breastfeeding experience but am not affiliated with any of these companies or products. Links have been included for reference, and if purchased through the affiliate link a portion of the sale will benefit Modern Guide to Breastfeeding and its mission of providing evidence-based breastfeeding education. “Nothing” is the answer to the question!  You do not actually need anything to breastfeed – well, except hydration, good nutrition, and some hard work. Your body will produce the milk your baby needs, and your baby will latch to the breast to obtain it. Most of these products exist to benefit the modern mother and modern breastfeeding experience. They are intended to be helpful, comfortable, and provide flexibility to the modern family. 

Pumps & Pumping Supplies

The breast pump market has exploded! There are all sorts of breast pumps on the market now – from hand pumps to wearable pumps. insurance companies cover pumps regularly, so access to a good pump is the new norm. Selecting a pump (or pumps) should depend on your intended use. The most commonly used pump is a double electric, which is also the standard insurance-issued pump. Here are a few basic pump categories with their benefits and examples of each. 

  • HAND PUMP- This pump is typically used on one side while or after the baby has nursed on the other. The disadvantage is that you have to do the work! The advantages can be convenience, control of milk expression, low cost, and for some women, a better response (more milk, faster). Here is the most common hand pump on the market. 

  • SILICONE COLLECTION PUMP- Commonly known by the popular brand, haakaa. This can be a super valuable tool in the early days of breastfeeding when you have leaking on the breast that your baby is not eating on. It can also be great to help manage engorgement or oversupply because it can pull milk out without stimulating the breast tissue and nipples as much. This type of product is something I highly recommend for this reason and because it is inexpensive.

  • DOUBLE ELECTRIC PUMP- This is typically the pump you can obtain for free or at a subsidized cost through insurance. They are most commonly used for milk expression when you are away from the baby – at work, traveling, etc. They are also most used by women who opt to exclusively pump. The two top double electric pumps on the market are typically the Spectra (S1or S2) and the Medela (pump in style). If you will be spending any amount of time pumping, I would recommend considering one of these. 

  • HANDS-FREE PUMP- These pumps are becoming more and more popular because they allow you to be up and moving around without being tethered to a machine or plugged in. The motors are smaller and historically not as strong (not as good suction), but there have been improvements in these pumps in the last few years. They tend to be more affordable than the wearable pumps, but offer many of the same benefits. BabyBuddha is a popular one that has garnered positive feedback.

  • WEARABLE PUMP- The wearable pumps are a motor and collection pod, all rolled into one. There are no wires, and they are a single unit. They have become hugely popular for the freedom they provide. They can also be excellent in certain workplace situations where having a set time and location to pump may not be feasible. The downside is that they can leak and are not the best fit for every mama. They are also on the expensive side of pumps. The Elvie was the original wearable. In my experience though, the Willow Go and Momcozy have also received excellent reviews.

  • SPARE PARTS: Depending on the type of pump you get, you may also want to invest in spare parts. That way you will not have to wash parts every single time you use the pump. This can be invaluable when you are back to work, as it will save you time not having to wash parts multiple times per day.

  • MILK STORAGE BAGS: Technically you do not need anything fancy to store your milk in. A clean mason jar in the fridge is completely acceptable. However, many women who regularly pump find that storing the milk in milk storage bags is time, cost, and space effective. These are the most common type of milk bags used (the brand does not really matter). There are also some newer milk storage and feeding systems that may fit your lifestyle well, like Kiinde that goes straight from pumping to feeding ready. 

Bras, Tanks, Nipple Pads, and Clothing

You do not have to wear anything special to be successful with breastfeeding; however, certain clothing can make it easier. Overall, these bras, tops, etc. allow for easy access to the lactating breast without mom having to completely disrobe. Many will also hold a pump flange in place. Here is a little guidance on the products available. You may want to wait prior to buying too many of these items because you will want to see how breastfeeding fits into your life. For example, if you are at home with a baby, taking your shirt off isn’t as big of a deal as if you are heading back into the office and planning to pump. Let your nursing journey help to guide your registry and purchasing. 

  • BRAS & TANKS: While nursing (especially in the early stages) you will want to wear some sort of supportive bra or tank with a built in 24/7. This can be a nursing bra but doesn’t have to be. It should provide support without being constrictive, and you should avoid underwire. Think Gap Body bra instead of Nike compression sports bra. Many of these bras are also designed to hold pump flanges in place. Here are some specific nursing friendly bras, tanks, and tops or at least some examples. The price point on nursing clothing can range from a quick click on amazon or Target to specialty order from a boutique. 

  • CLOTHING: Nursing tops or dresses often have some sort of secret pocket or crisscross in a way that you will be able to easily access your breasts without feeling completely undressed. This easy access model can also be replicated with wrap dresses or button down shirts. There are many brands on the market and lots of popular ones have started to carry both pregnancy and nursing friendly clothes. Here is an example of a nursing tee from a popular breastfeeding clothing brand, Kindred Bravely, as an example of what is available to you.

  • NIPPLE PADS: Nipple or nursing pads are used to catch leaking breastmilk, preventing it from getting your bra or top visibly soaked. Some are made of absorbent disposable material and others are intended to be washed and reused. I would not recommend over-buying these until you know how much you will leak. Some people only leak after a certain length of time between feeds or if the baby cries (triggering that oxytocin release). Some women only leak for the first few weeks and then regulate. Starting with one pack and seeing how you do is perfect. They are readily available in stores, so if you find that you need more it should not be a problem. You also might want to let your milk regulate (by about week 6) before you decide whether you need to or plan to use them. Finally, it is important to not constantly wear wet fabric against your nipples as it can cause irritation/damage, so if you are a heavy leaker they will need to be changed regularly. 

Nursing Pillows, Gliders, and Stools

  • PILLOWS: There are multiple nursing pillows on the market designed to help support the baby while feeding. Making it more comfortable for the nursing mother and taking some of the strain off her arms in holding the baby. The two most popular are the Boppy and My Brest Friend nursing pillows. In my work with breastfeeding mothers, I have found the My Brest Friend to be more helpful specifically to nursing; however, it offers no other benefits. It cannot double as a place to rest your baby like the Boppy can. I have found that the My Brest Friend is more supportive and size inclusive. These are all about convenience and not necessary. House/bed pillows, rolled up towel, couch cushions, etc. can also be easily used to support tired arms and breastfeeding bodies. 

  • GLIDERS/ROCKING CHAIRS: When setting up the baby’s room or nursery, many families opt for some sort of seating or chair. Depending on the space and your plans for newborn feeding, you may want a cozy reading chair or small couch. If you have plenty of space, you may put some sort of bed or sleeping area. Most often, though, people look to fill that space with somewhere to nurse the baby. A glider can be optimal for this. It allows for a supportive place for mom to sit while nursing. It can rock or lock into one position. Many also recline and come with supportive nursing stool attachments for your feet. They can be very comfortable for breastfeeding, but if you do not plan to feed the baby in the nursery, might not be necessary for you. They also come in a variety of price points. If you are planning for a rocker or glider, you will want to read reviews and take into consideration your body type and intended use. 

  • STOOLS: The point of a nursing stool is to provide somewhere to firmly place your feet while breastfeeding. With a stable foundation, it can be easier and more comfortable to nurse. It can also help with support of the baby to have your knees pulled in a little bit more closely to your body.  Many gliders or rockers come with these, but they can also be purchased and moved throughout the house. 

Nipple Care Products

  • BALMS/BUTTERS: Most nipple balms are essentially the same. They are designed to aid in the healing of any nipple damage or keep the nipple tissue well cared for and lubricated as it becomes more regularly used. It is very common to use nipple balm in the first few weeks of nursing as you are mastering latch and getting used to regular feeding at the breast. Lanolin is the most popular, most likely because that is what is used in most hospital settings. Though really any nipple butter or cream can help. These are all over-the-counter products. For standard nipple care or damage relief, you should not need a prescription from your provider. 

  • SILVERETTES: These are awesome registry gifts! They are more expensive than other nipple care options, so maybe not something you would automatically buy yourself, but they can be amazing with nipple damage and irritation. (there are also new brands popping up and price competing everyday) Silver has natural antimicrobial properties, and their shape gives hurting nipples a little space to heal while not being rubbed by a bra or tank. I highly recommend adding these to your registry so that a doting friend (or maybe one that has breastfed too) can gift them to you. 

The Artificial Teat: Bottles and Pacifiers

  • PACIFIERS: I would not recommend going crazy registering for or pre-purchasing pacifiers. Typically, you will not need them at the beginning of your breastfeeding journey. Here is a blog post about pacifier use if you are interested. If you are giving birth at a baby-friendly hospital that will not have pacifiers available or really want to have some on hand I would recommend starting with a pack of the Avent Soothies. Make sure to sterilize them appropriately before use!

  • BOTTLES: Since there is a good amount of pump information in this blog, it would not be fair to ignore bottles. If you are able through your registry to get a bottle sample pack, this can be a nice way to test out a couple different types. Some babies have a preference. Overall, I would recommend a wide base, slow flow nipple; otherwise, bottle type and amount should be based on your intended use. 

Products to Avoid

  • “HOSPITAL GRADE” BREAST PUMP: The terminology “hospital grade” is the breastfeeding equivalent of “low fat”. It does not have a firm meaning or criteria and is often used to market a pump. The correct terms are multi-user pumps and single-user pumps. Hospitals have multi-user pumps, so that with the correct flanges and parts, multiple lactating women can use the same motor portion. The motor portion on a standard single-user pump is intended for “standard use” by one lactating woman. In other words, the multi-user pump has a stronger motor. While this can be useful for a variety of breastfeeding situations, it is typically not necessary. Using “hospital grade” is a way that companies can try to make their pumps more attractive.

  • BREAST MASSAGERS: These little devices were designed to massage out clogged ducts or inflamed breast tissue; however, with the updated protocols on the management of inflammatory mastitis, they are no longer recommended. Aggressive massage of inflamed tissue can actually make it worse. Inflammation and clogged ducts in the breast should be managed to prevent decreased supply and mastitis, but should be done appropriately with ice and anti-inflammatory medications. Using these massagers can harm the fragile ductal system of the lactating breast, so I would not recommend using or registering for one. Plus, they can be pricey!

  • SALINE RINSES: Using saline soaks or rinse on the nipples is no longer recommended as part of routine nipple care or as a nipple damage intervention.

  • HIGH PRICED “BABY CONTAINERS”: While having safe sleep space or somewhere to set the baby is a good idea, you do not always need the highest priced one on the market. For example, my unpopular opinion is that the SNOO bassinet does not promote exclusive breastfeeding. Babies are meant to wake up and feed at night, and it is considered developmentally appropriate. If they are missing feeds, their weight gain and your milk supply can suffer. Plus, it is a very expensive bassinet that is only intended for use up to 6 months of age. Similarly there are all sorts of bouncers, swings, and seats for babies. While it can be nice to have one for your common living space, make sure you get something that works for your space and budget. Plus, some babies will like a swing while others will not. Your local mom groups or local Facebook groups can be great resources when searching for these items or a way to try them out before purchase. 

Now that you need a second job and haven’t even bought a single diaper, I want to remind you that these are all items that some people love and others hate. There is no product on the market that works perfectly for every family. Technically, you do not need any gear to breastfeed a baby – just love, support, determination, and trust in yourself. With all of the products in the world, if you do not take care of yourself by eating right, drinking enough fluids, and resting your body from the aftermath of pregnancy and delivery, breastfeeding will be harder. Trust in the natural process, just let technology help you out a little where it can. You got this, Modern Mama!

***Several items listed in this article use affiliate links to route to the products available for purchase. Modern Guide to Breastfeeding has no direct sponsorship or advertising relationship with these brands, but rather we include these links as examples of different items we have seen to be useful for breastfeeding families. While helpful for some, we do not endorse their necessity for breastfeeding success or necessarily favor any of these products over more cost-effective alternatives. Any revenue generated from purchases via these links will support Modern Guide to Breastfeeding’s mission of providing evidence-based breastfeeding education.

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