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Must Have Breastfeeding Essentials for Nursing Mothers
Breastfeeding,  Motherhood,  Pregnancy

MUST HAVE BREASTFEEDING ESSENTIALS – ALL OF THE NURSING AND PUMPING ESSENTIALS YOU NEED FOR SUCCESS

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Every woman’s breastfeeding journey will be different from the next. It will even be different from baby #1 to baby #2, but the most important breastfeeding essentials will be mostly the same.

I’m going to go over everything from nursing attire, breast pumps and pumping accessories, bottles, and more – and at the end of the article I’ll add some situational items that you might need if you’re struggling.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link and then choose to make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. You can read my full disclosure here. Thank you for your support and understanding!

BEST BREASTFEEDING BOOK

When I was expecting my first child, I did SO much research on how to give birth naturally and avoid interventions, that I didn’t end up reading the breastfeeding book I had purchased…

This was a serious mistake.

I thought breastfeeding would be easy… natural… and for many women it is.

I ran into some serious issues, and there are MANY women who do. But if you’re prepared for what to expect and how to handle it, you will have a much easier time, and these situations will not have a chance to get worse.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding Book

Out of all the breastfeeding essentials, this is the most important in my opinion. Buy this book… and read it BEFORE you have your baby if at all possible. You’ll be glad you did.

It goes over everything from latching, to best breastfeeding positions, to troubleshooting issues, to what to expect when baby hits certain ages.

MUST-HAVE BREASTFEEDING ACCESSORIES

As somebody who fought HARD to breastfeed, through a lot of pain and problems (that I hope you don’t have to deal with), here are some items that really made life breastfeeding easier.

1. Brest Friend Nursing Pillow

Ok so when it comes down to nursing pillows, I am very passionate about my recommendation… and I’ll tell you why I DON’T recommend the Boppy “nursing pillow”.

When I had my first baby, Boppy Nursing Pillows were EVERYWHERE. It was as if they were the only ones that existed.

So that’s what I registered for. I actually ended up getting 2 of them at my baby shower.

As soon as my baby was born, I tried using it for nursing, and I realized…

This thing is USELESS FOR NURSING A NEWBORN.

I was actually shocked. My 7 pound newborn baby litterally disappeared into the crack between my belly and the pillow, and it did nothing to keep him at breast level.

So I ended up holding him with my arms anyways, which is the whole point of a nursing pillow, so that you don’t have to do that.

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I did some quick research and I found the Brest Friend Nursing Pillow. It was an absolute lifesaver.

For newborn breastfeeding, it is DEFINITELY a must-have baby registry necessity. Once baby is older, you can really use any pillows you want to prop them up, but when they’re tiny and fragile, you NEED this.

So for this, I only have the one recommendation.

Breastfeeding must haves - Brest Friend nursing pillow

I used it for the first part of my sons life, a time when I went through a LOT of breastfeeding struggles. I can’t imagine having to struggle along with a Boppy on top of the (literal) pain and anguish I was dealing with.

Once baby is older, you can usually just grab any pillow laying around and it will do the trick.

That doesn’t mean a Boppy isn’t useful for ANYTHING though… It is good for helping baby to learn to sit up on their own, so you can certainly use it for that. But I would not call it a baby registry necessity.

Trust me, go with the Brest Friend. They also have a waterproof slipcover, and additional plush slipcovers if you need them (I recommend having 1 extra slipcover waiting in the wings because newborns spit up pretty often).

1. Organic Nipple Butter – You Will Need 2+

Breastfeeding must haves - Earth Mama Nipple Butter

This is an absolute must. In the beginning baby nurses OFTEN, and sometimes very long stretches at a time.

Your nipples can get very raw, very fast. Sometimes they crack and even bleed. You use this to prevent and heal damage to your nipples

I recommend buying at least 2 different high quality brands (I had 4), and keeping one in the diaper bag as well as one to use wherever you nurse at home.

The trick to not having issues with paint is to USE THIS RELIGIOUSLY AFTER EVERY SINGLE NURSING SESSION, even when you don’t feel like it.

Here are my favorites:

2. Haaka Silicone Pump / Milk Collector

Breastfeeding must haves -  Haakaa Silicone Pump

I am putting this item with the nursing stuff because it is more commonly used while nursing a newborn than it is as a traditional “pump”.

As most of us have heard, breast milk is extremely valuable, and should not be wasted if at all possible. So this silicone suction “pump” is used to catch the excess flow from the OTHER breast while you’re nursing, instead of wasting it into a nursing pad.

Once baby is a little older, you might not need this any more, but in the beginning, when your body is still trying to regulate your milk supply, many women leak milk on the opposite side every time they nurse.

It is not uncommon for this simple device to gather 1-2 or even more ounces in a single nursing session.

In addition, you CAN use it as a pump in a pinch, but ideally you would use your electric pump for that purpose.

3. BabyBliss Reusable Nursing Pads

Breastfeeding must haves - Nursing pads set

For on the go and nursing in public during the first few months with baby, it is really embarrassing to have your breastmilk leak through your bra.

Trust me, don’t let this happen to you.

This set includes a washing bag so they don’t get lost, and pairs in many different colors (to match your bra color, I’m assuming)… although I found that it didn’t matter because they didn’t show through my bras anyways.

If you would prefer to use disposable nursing pads, these Medela nursing pads are well rated and inexpensive.

BREASTFEEDING ATTIRE

As you begin your breastfeeding journey, it just makes sense that you will want COMFORT, and EASY ACCESS.

As you go on and start going more places with baby, having comfortable nursing clothes that you feel good in and flatter your postpartum figure can be huge for your confidence.

I’m not going to show you a thousand items here, mainly just basic necessities that you will get a ton of use out of.

Your style may change after baby, and that’s ok. So you might want to wait before spending too much thought on a new wardrobe. So here’s what you’ll need right away.

NURSING BRAS – COMFY AND STRUCTURED

At this stage, the comfort and easy access of a bra should be above looking cute or “put together”, but as you get into your groove as a mama and begin healing, you will want to get out of the house more, and your appearance might start to be a higher priority for you.

Especially when you start going back to work, it’s annoying to have to switch bras halfway through the day, so it’s good to have a nursing bra that you can wear to work.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Your bra size: if you are an “average size” (think 34C or 36DD ish), you have WAY more options than someone who is a 32F (like me) or a 40A.
  • Your style will most likely change in the postpartum period, and what you think looks good on you.
  • Some women choose to simply go with nursing camis for at home, but some women don’t feel as “normal” without a bra on.
  • GOOD, structured nursing bras are usually VERY expensive ($50-$100), and you typically get what you pay for… especially for “uncommonly sized” mamas like me.
  • The underwire bras that you might have worn your whole life might be very uncomfortable when you first have your baby, but they WILL get more comfortable and feel more normal again as your body heals.
  • You went up a bra size or two most likely when you were pregnant, and you may go up another size once baby is born (I went up 2 sizes in pregnancy, but stayed the same when my first baby was born).
  • Sports nursing bras are rather hard to find, and the reviews vary, as everybody is different and has different workout needs.
  • During the third trimester, your regular bras might get much less comfortable, or stop fitting. I recommend buying some of the “comfy bras” below ahead of time so that you can wear them during pregnancy too.

1. Kindred Bravely Pull-Aside Nursing Bras

Kindred Bravely Pull-Aside Nursing Bras for your breastfeeding essentials list

These are ultra comfy, pull aside easily, you can even wear them when you’re sleeping. This one comes in a racerback style (my fave) and a tank style, and they have a variety of nice colors for each.

They have helpful size charts to help you find your size, and they show models if different sizes with their measurements for reference.

Oh! And I almost forgot to say that although these bras come in S/M/L/XL size structure (I typically find this annoying and they don’t fit me correctly), Kindred Bravely has come up with a “busty” small, med, etc. and the “busty” Medium size worked very well for me.

2. BRAVADO! DESIGNS Seamless Nursing and Maternity Bra

BRAVADO! DESIGNS Seamless Nursing and Maternity Bra

This clip release style bra is also very highly rated. I prefer the clip style during the day, but the comfort of the pull aside bra above is much better for sleeping.

3. Kindred Bravely Sport Clip Nursing Bra

Kindred Bravely Sport Clip Nursing Bra

I haven’t tried this bra myself, but it is a moderate support bra that has clips for easy access.

Before you say “why would I need to nurse in a sports bra?”, I will say this:

As your baby gets older, you will need to find time to exercise, for your physical and mental health. Here are some scenarios that have happened to me many times, when I wished my sports bra was good for nursing:

  • You might exercise while baby is napping, but he wakes up in the middle of your workout wanting milk.
  • Maybe you’ll go on a long walk with the stroller and stop on a park bench to nurse baby.
  • You’ll be starting off with low impact workouts that focus on toning your core back up, NOT working up a sweat. So you might just not want to change your bra after working out.

NOTE: I was NOT able to find a full support, high impact sports bra for nursing that was good enough to recommend. If I ever find one, I’ll definitely update this post and link to it.

MY FAVORITE STRUCTURED BRAS

1. Exclare Seamless Full Coverage Underwire Nursing Bra

Exclare Seamless Full Coverage Underwire Nursing Bra

This one is a highly rated option that looks amazing for both small and busty ladies.

This bra has wide straps, which definitely makes it more comfortable for bigger bust ladies, and it comes in 4 colors.

2. Auden T-Shirt Nursing Bras with Underwire

Auden T-Shirt Nursing Bras with Underwire

This was a SUPER exciting find for me, because my go-to style is full coverage underwire with small straps. I wear a 32 F size nursing bra which is very hard to find, and they carry this bra in my size AND IT ONLY COSTS $17!

Wait, WHAT???

Yes, I said $17.

RELATED: WHAT EXPECTING DADS REALLY NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF TIME ABOUT PREGNANCY, BIRTH, THEIR NEWBORN BABY AND POSTPARTUM WIFE

I have one in nearly every color (5), for the price of ONE specialty brand of nursing bra. And I LOVE that they come in grey, because it’s a color I wear a lot of.

This is a fantastic option once your body starts to feel more “normal” again, but you’re still nursing.

BREASTFEEDING STAPLES
(NURSING CAMIS / TANKS / NIGHTGOWNS)

When it comes to nursing clothes, if you are determined to nurse (you should be), and plan to nurse long term (1-2 years and beyond), you should not skimp on these items because they do truly make life a lot easier.

Some women like just layering a nursing cami underneath a flowy top that they can lift up easily, and some prefer an all in one nursing top. I have a mix of both.

Many of these are great for pregnancy too, so you might want to grab some up now instead of adding them to your registry.

Here are some recommendations for some basic nursing attire:

1. Flowy Nursing Cami with Clip Access – Set of 3

Flowy Nursing Cami with Clip Access - Set of 3 for your breastfeeding essentials list

I absolutely love these tops, and I own 6+ of them. The price is very reasonable for a 3 pack.

They are really flattering over a postpartum tummy, they offer enough support for me to wear at home braless (I am a 32F size, and I’m not as comfy when I’m braless), and they come in a BUNCH of color and pattern combinations.

I’m currently around 135 lbs and 5’4″ and I wear a size medium. They offer very decent bra coverage for me so I don’t have to have anything over top.

2. Fitted Nursing Cami with Pull-Aside Access – Set of 3

Fitted breastfeeding Cami with Pull-Aside Access - Set of 3for your nursing essentials list

These are more fitted than the first set, but still can be used for maternity, and are super stretchy. There are lots of color combinations, and for $30 for three, you can’t really lose trying them out.

3. Nursing Tank with Flap Access – Set of 3

 Nursing Tank with Flap Access - Set of 3 for your nursing must haves list

These are great basics to have for your postpartum wardrobe! They are long enough to wear with leggings, are highly rated and offer easy access for baby.

3. Flutter Tops with Flap Access – Set of 3

Flutter Tops with Flap Access - Set of 3 for your baby registry necessities list

These are cute, super comfy and long enough to go nicely with leggings or a skirt. I am 5’4″ and around 135 lbs currently, and I got a medium. It’s just a tad loose, but I like how they fit for now.

3. Nursing Nightgown with Clip Access

Breastfeeding must haves - Nursing nightgown

This nightgown comes in 6 different colors/patterns, and gets great reviews. especially for postpartum care, it is easier to go to the bathroom with less fuss in a nightgown rather than pants.

5. Nursing Pajama Set with Pull Aside Access

Breastfeeding must haves - Nursing pajamas

This set comes in a BUNCH of different colors, gets fantastic reviews, and looks super comfy. I haven’t tried them yet, but if I have another baby I’m buying some for sure!

6. Nursing Nightgown with Button Down Access

Breastfeeding must haves - Nursing nightgown

Here is a very highly rated nightgown with button down access for baby. I’ve never used a button down one, but I’ve heard many women who say they love them.

7. Nursing Dress with Pull Aside Access

Breastfeeding essentials - Nursing dress

Ok, so this one is NOT marketed as a nursing dress. But it was so cute and has so many great reviewers, including people saying they used it for nursing, that I thought I’d include it.

It comes in a ton of colors (like so many I didn’t even look at all of them), and is very reasonably priced.

8. 3/4 Sleeve Tummy Control Dress

Breastfeeding essentials - Nursing dress

Again, this does not say it’s a breastfeeding dress, but the stretch and criss cross front makes it pull-aside accessible.

This dress comes in a ton of colors and patterns and looks really flattering.

9. Criss-Cross Tank Maxi Dress with Pull-Aside Access

Breastfeeding essentials - Nursing dress

Here is a nice flowy dress that would be great for summer parties or any semi formal occasion. It comes in several colors and patterns, and this is a nice amount of coverage for summer if you’re not comfortable in a camisole style strap.

BREAST PUMP AND PUMPING ACCESSORIES

After researching HEAVILY when I was first pregnant, the two primary brands that were recommended to me were Medela (most popular in the US) and Spectra.

In almost every review where someone compared Spectra vs. Medela, They almost always said that they preferred the Spectra pumps.

Here are a few reasons that the Spectra pump wins.

  • Quiet in operation (great for avoiding loud, embarrassing workplace pumping sessions)
  • More total milk expressed. The efficiency of the pump to actually get the milk out is the MOST important thing! This will extend your breastfeeding longevity, because it will keep your supply up.
  • The backflow protection device prevented mold buildup in the Medela pump (ewww).
  • Spectra pumps use a much better kind of “duckbill” style valve that doesn’t need replacement parts all the time. They do eventually wear out and need replacing, but with proper use, they will last years.
  • The Spectra S1 has a unique “massage” mode that is not as strong, and you use that mode first to mimmick how the baby gets milk to flow.

That being said, Medela pumps are very highly rated as well, so I will show you my favorites from each brand. I will also go into the attachments and accessories needed for these or other pumps.

Extra Pump Parts

It is important to have a second FULL SET of replacement parts always waiting in the wings. Trust me, if something breaks, you can NOT wait two days to have a functioning pump again.

ALSO, if you pump at work, I HIGHLY recommend a third extra set to keep at work, just in case you forget your pump bag one day, or leave a certain part at home.

For me it was always the valves… I had to drive home in tears more than once because of those little jerks… LOL.

1. Spectra S1 Pump, the hands down favorite.

Spectra pump - best breast pump for your must haves list

This is a cordless, rechargeable pump (there is a pink version as well that is NOT cordless, the Spectra S2).

Check first if your insurance will cover it. If it will not, buy it or put it on your baby registry anyways. You will be happy that you did, it’s not worth the money saved to have an inferior pump.

This pump comes with all parts needed for pumping, and includes 2 sizes of flanges (the part that goes over your ariola), a 24mm and 28mm size.

The Spectra pumps are all made to go with a wide mouth bottle, but if you need or want to use standard size bottles, you can use this adapter.

IMPORTANT NOTE: YOU WILL NEED TO MEASURE YOUR NIPPLES.

Don’t assume that these flanges will fit your nipples. It is super important to have a correctly fitted flange, otherwise you will not get as much milk, AND/OR will cause yourself pain.

For example, MY nipples measure around 15mm which is MUCH smaller than the spectra parts provided. I had to buy separate off-brand Maymom 17mm flanges made to acommidate smaller nipples.

Here are the links to all replacement parts:

  • Breast Shields / Flanges (make sure to measure and use the size charts provided). These flanges come in sizes from 15mm all the way up to 36mm from what I can find.
  • Duckbill Valves. These allow milk through in between pumps while still closing to allow suction.
  • Backflow Protectors. This is the funny looking part that stops moisture from getting into the tubes.
  • Bottles (most widemouth plastic bottles will work. Glass is too heavy).
  • Tubes
  • Here are full sets of compatible pump parts. If you are buying them all together, you can save some money and make it easy.
  • Oh my goodness, I just saw that they have these special clip adapter thingies so that you can pump right into a breast milk storage baggie if you want… they didn’t have those when i was pumping.

2. Medela Pump in Style Advanced

Breastfeeding essentials - Medela pump in style advanced

I’ve not used this one personally, but this pump gets a 4.5 star average review rating, and many, many women who love it. It is definitely the most tried and true brand out there, even if the Spectra is more preffered.

Like I said before, you’ll need to measure your nipples, and make sure you have the correctly sized flanges for you, to maximize milk output, and to prevent unnecessary pain. This is SUPER important.

This pump uses standard sized bottles, unless you have a wide mouth adapter.

The set is really nice because it comes with it’s own tote bag (or they also have a version with a backpack or a messenger bag).

Here is the list of replacement parts for the Medela Pump In Style Advanced

3. Hands Free Pumping Bra

Breastfeeding essentials - Hands free pumping bra

To someone who hasn’t entered the world of pumping yet, the picture above might make you blush, or feel wierd. But to anybody who has been there, they know that this is an essential tool.

This particular pumping bra is the one I use, and it is extremely adjustable to most sizes.

IT IS NOT THE KIND THAT YOU CAN WEAR UNDER A SHIRT. THIS ONE IS FOR PUMPING ONLY.

I’ve never tried the kind that you can also use as a regular bra for under clothes… I just don’t trust that they will look right under a shirt. Call me crazy.

You don’t need a super tailored pumping bra, you just need something to hold those suckers on comfortably while you eat your lunch at work or whatever.

3. Breast Pump Tote Bag

pumping tote bag for your breastfeeding necessities list

You will definitely want one of these when you’re on the go, be it to work, or on a vacation or anywhere else you might need your pump. The Medela Pump in Style Advanced comes with a tote bag, but the Spectra S1 does not.

Also, this bag looks much nicer and more functional than the Medela bag in my opinion, and you might not want plain black.

This one features a bunch of pockets (you definitely need lots of those), and a convenient big zipper hole where you ca easily access your pump.

4. Best Plastic Breast Milk Storage Bags

Plastic Breast Milk Storage Bags for your breast feeding necessities list

There are several different types of plastic storage bags on the market. I only use these for travel, because freezing milk in plastic can leach the toxins into your milk (YES, EVEN IF IT’S BPA FREE).

So most of the time I use my silicone freezing trays, and then I put the milk “cubes” into a quart sized zip lock bag after they’re frozen, to save space in my chest freezer.

Since I don’t prefer one brand over the next, here are the top rated and best priced ones that I’ve personally tried:

There are a ton of lesser known brands that are well rated and less expensive HERE.

9. Silicone Baby Milk Freezer Tray – You Will Need 2-3

Silicone freezing trays for your breastfeeding necessities list

I use these for freezing my breast milk. I do this because freezing liquids in plastic is known to leach chemicals into the frozen liquid (YES, EVEN BPA FREE), and you don’t want that in your milk!

Once they are frozen, I transfer them to a quart ZipLock freezer bag marked with the date, which fits all nine lumps of frozen milk perfectly. Since the milk is already frozen, plastic is ok at that point.

They are great, I have 4 of them. You can also use them for freezing homemade baby food, and the silicone tray linked above even comes with an e-book of baby food recipes.

I chose the square ones because they fit better in your freezer, and I know freezer space is an important consideration especially as your family grows.

5. Don’t Laugh… A Chest Freezer.

Don’t let this scare you off. Breastfeeding is worth it in SO many ways, but if you are going to have to return to work, you will probably need one of these.

If you don’t have one, the milk stash will very quickly take over your regular freezer. You can get them fairly inexpensively, and if you have the space, you should seriously consider it.

I don’t have a specific recommendation, but just a quick look at bestbuy.com and found them as low as $149 for a 3.5 cubic foot freezer and $239 for a 7 cubic foot size.

At one point, I completely filled my 7 cubic foot chest freezer with ONLY breast milk, and had some in my regular freezer. Just saying.

BREASTFEEDING TROUBLESHOOTING AND HEALING ITEMS

Here are some breastfeeding essentials that you might NEED BADLY at certain times in your breastfeeding journey.

If you get clogged ducts, mastitis, milk blebs, or your baby struggles to latch or has extremely long nursing sessions, more than likely you’ll need one or two of these.

Speaking from personal experience, dealing with extreme pain while breastfeeding can be absolutely horrible for the nursing mother, and can seriously jeopardize or even end the breastfeeding journey all together.

So trust me when I say, if you run into issues, work to handle them RIGHT AWAY. Don’t wait until the situation has worsened.

1. Nipple Shield – 2 Pack with Case

Breastfeeding essentials - Medela nipple shields with case

This item might seem strange at first glance, but it can be an absolute lifesaver. I dealt with a TON of pain for the first few months of breastfeeding because my son had a poor latch and I struggled to get effective help early on.

I ended up using one of these for several months because it added a barrier between baby’s mouth and my nipple, allowing them to heal a little easier.

RELATED: WHAT EXPECTING DADS REALLY NEED TO KNOW AHEAD OF TIME ABOUT PREGNANCY, BIRTH, THEIR NEWBORN BABY AND POSTPARTUM WIFE

They are also used at time to help baby to latch, especially in the case of inverted nipples. I hope you never need one of these, but they are an inexpensive tool that might just be a godsend for you like it was for me.

If you do end up using these, you’ll probably want to get an extra case for it (like this one). That way, you can toss one in the diaper bag or wherever, and it’s less likely to get lost.

Trust me, it can be DEVISTATING if you forget this at a time when it’s needed. It’s worth it to have extras.

NOTE: Before you order one, you will need to measure your nipples and make sure that you are getting the right size! You’d be surprised at how different nipple sizes can be.

2. Microwavable Breast-Shaped Cold or Warm Compress

warm and cold compress for breastfeeding

This is an item that every breastfeeding or pumping mama should have handy. I have never heard of a nursing mother who had never had a clogged duct before.

Sometimes a clogged duct can cause mastitis, in which case you sometimes will have a fever and feel like garbage, resulting in needing antibiotics from your MD.

Clogged ducts can also cause bilk blebs, which is like a tiny blister on your nipple. You can have several at once, and they can become extremely painful.

So the moral of the story is, if you feel any sort of hard or tender spot develop on your breast, start warm compress, massage, and nursing as frequently as possible right away!

This one is nice, because it has a fabric side and regular side, which will make it less or more warm. It also has a hole in the center so that you can multi-task while pumping… a feature I used frequently. It also comes in gray.

3. Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads for Healing Sore Boobies

Breastfeeding essentials - Lansinoh healing gel pads

I’ll be the first one to say that these are a little pricey, for an item that you can only reuse for up to 72 hours. I cheaped out, and didn’t buy these for a LONG TIME, when I really should have, and I desperately needed them.

THEY ARE AMAZING when you are having nipple pain. They are SO worth the money, and I recommend having one pair waiting in the wings if you need them (hopefully you don’t).

That’s it for now!

If I remember any more items, I will keep updating this post for you! If you think of anything that maybe I haven’t used or don’t know about, please leave me a comment or shoot me an email!

Also, if you haven’t already, you might want to check out my list of what you ACTUALLY need on your baby registry, and my list of the Best car seats, strollers and travel systems.

Thanks so much for reading, I hope this was very helpful for you!

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