After trolling countless websites and Pinterest, I’ve gathered more than a few ideas of what to keep close at had for the early days of breastfeeding. And after several months of cuddling Amelia closely and having her reach up to me asking for milk, while yawning and nudging at my chest, I can say that I’ve now got my own personal favourite items, found below. Please do comment and let me know what nursing essentials you’ve relied on! 🙂
1. Lay out all your breastfeeding clothes – before baby arrives
My absolute number one tip for nursing, which I tell all my expecting friends (and came up with all on my own), is to put aside all your tops that you can feed in (defined as tops or dresses you are able to pull down under your breasts, those which have a cowl neck, are super stretchy, have a very low v-neck, etc) and put them in an easily accessible place. Then pack away ‘non-breastfeeding-friendly’ tops for days when you’re away from baby or stop breastfeeding. This way, you won’t be caught trying to figure out what to wear when you’re in a rush or end up cursing your outfit choice and resort to going to a bathroom to take your top off to feed baba (#notideal).
Without a doubt my favourite item to have on hand is my Kindle Paperwhite. From evening feeds to early morning ones, this little gadget has seen me through hours and hours (and hours!) of cluster feeds with Amelia.The long battery life is a bonus, as is the gentle backlight – which I’ve found to be perfect for early morning feeds, so you don’t wake your partner when moving around the room.
3. My feeding pillow
When you start out nursing, the first few feeds will be a leisurely dream, leaving you gazing at your precious little life, mesmerized by their nose and eyelashes … that is until your arms start to ache from holding your growing little one in this new and awkward position. A feeding pillow helps to keep you both comfortable – especially if you wound up with a C-section. I’d also like to recommend that you check out a variety of breastfeeding positions as often you’ll find some are much more comfortable than others (in fact, one of my favourite ones was the ‘rugby ball’ hold).You definitely don’t need one that’s top of the range as they’re all pretty identical, but do get a spare nursing cover for whichever one you pick as they can get grubby. When baba’s a bit bigger and starts sitting, it will double as a safe sitting doughnut for her.
4. A full water bottle or lunchbox-sized juice
The often talked about ‘great thirst’ is a real thing, especially when feeding at 3am and you wake up with a parched throat. A full water bottle or small juice box somewhere close by will ensure you don’t have to disrupt or delay your feed and go wandering through the house.
Like ‘the great thirst’ mentioned above, if you’re anything like me, you’ll start to find yourself getting cranky after waking just after midnight. A small snack like a healthy muffin, a block or two of dark chocolate, a handful of nuts, or some dates in an easy to open container (bonus if you can open it one-handed), worked wonders at making me less cranky early in the morning.
6. A cosy blanket
Regardless of the time of year, having some kind of blanket (or blanket scarf!) nearby is quite useful when breastfeeding, to snuggle underneath together if the fan makes you a bit cold during nap time. It’s also great if during the day you have unexpected visitors pop by to visit and you don’t have a feeding cover* close at hand. In summer I used my BabySense muslin blankets for Amelia as a feeding cover, blanket, spoegdoekkie (spit rag), peek-a-boo tent, teething rag, etc, while now as autumn creeps up and it’s getting chilly, my cosy plaid blanket scarf from CottonOn has become my best friend and I wear it almost daily, while at night it doubled as a light blanket for baba and I.
*I dropped using a feeding cover at home in the first week, and only really used it when out and about in public (as our society still thinks having a nipple peeking out from an infants mouth is somehow scandalous, while one seen under a sheer top or at the seaside is ‘sexy’ … #gofigure).
7. A breast pump
I don’t know what I would have done without my breast pump in those early days (and I still use it quite often). When Amelia was fast asleep I would pump any milk that came in (and I have to say that the milk coming in during the early days was not a gentle letdown, it was a full-on prickling-bordering-on-painful experience). So having a pump to save myself being very uncomfortable or soaking through my nursing pads was a huge plus. I picked the Medela manual breast pump (and Medela bottles) for a number of reasons and can highly recommend it! What reasons? Firstly, it’s more discreet than an electric pump and can easily fit into my handbag when out and about away from baba, secondly, Eskom turning the power off and on at random means I don’t want to be stranded in a power outage with milk leaking out that could be saved for my little girl for later. Thirdly, while I’m sure electric is great for some, I don’t really want to view myself as a milking cow just yet, and the manual pump ensures my dignity at least in this regard. I did have to size up the actual funnel attachment as the one which came with the pump was quite painful to use, but with a size up (bought from Toys R Us) I found it far more enjoyable.
8. A hairband
When you’re on your umpteenth feed of the night and you wake up with both breasts full of milk, it can be a bit tricky to remember which one was the one you last fed baba with. A hairband on your wrist will help – I used to keep mine on the wrist of the side I last fed from, and would swap it over before feeding Amelia again. It was a much simpler way to remember than some options on the market (thanks to my sis-in-law for this tip!).
9. Breast pads
While I now absolutely love my re-washable cotton breast pads (as they’re far more cost-effective for long-term breastfeeding), in the early days before my milk settled, I’d end up soaking through them in a 5 minutes once my milk started and I’d be left with embarrassing wet splotches on the front of my tops and dresses for the first few weeks, until I figured out disposable ones hold more thanks to the gel inserts, and they’re quite easy to keep in your bag (though as a price point, they are quite expensive).
10. Sports Bras
While I have four cotton nursing bras that I do use often, the Mr Price sports bras, with padding in the front, were for me an absolute lifesaver in the early days and anytime I go out. I found I could pull them down to feed Amelia very easily, and if I did leak a bit, the absorbent insert in the bras soaked up the excess milk, giving me time to quickly change out of my drenched pad before it becomes obvious to everyone what was happening (smelling like cheese for the rest of the day though … not so great). That said, they are far less breathable than cotton nursing bras and I found myself becoming quite hot while wearing them (which now the weather is becoming chilly is lovely, but it was far less enjoyable in summer).
Things I didn’t use:
My fancy-schmancy infant schedule tracking app
After buying and almost religiously filling in Amelia’s feeding times, poop times, awake times, et al, I didn’t once practically use the app for anything – not even my pediatrician (as he never asked about those things on checkups) and after a month I just stopped using it and reverted to a paper system. I used that to check off her feeding times, until even that fell away and we just settled into our own rhythm of wake, sleep, play, etc. For those curious, I never fed her on a set schedule, rather trusting her to know when she was hungry or not and feeding her according to that.
While some women swear by nipple cream (and prefer one brand over another), I haven’t ended up using the one I got at my baby shower. It has, however, made a lovely emergency lipgloss / lip-ice in my baby bag when I forgot my Labello at home. I also like that you don’t have to wash off, should you use it and your baba wakes up needing to feed. 🙂
While I invested in two nursing-only tops, I have to say I could very easily do without them, since I already have a variety of tops that work for nursing my little girl in.
I’d love to hear what your favourite nursing items are, and I’d love it if you’d share my post if you found it useful. 🙂