Bras to Breast Pumps: What do you really need for breastfeeding?
There are many products on the market for breastfeeding women. In this post, we will help you wade through the available accessories and give you guidance on what you will need to purchase.
If your budget is tight, we have good news! There is nothing essential that you MUST purchase. All you truly need for breastfeeding is a mom and a baby.
Here is our take on 7 commonly purchased products:
Nursing bras are very convenient but they are not an essential for breastfeeding. If your budget is tight, you can wear a regular bra. Simply unfasten and lift the cup for feeds.
If you plan to buy a nursing bra, we would suggest waiting until you are at least 36 weeks pregnant to better judge what size you will need. In the first few days after birth, your breasts will become larger as they fill with milk. This increase in size is temporary. Your breasts gradually adjust to the amount of milk your baby is taking. By 2 or 3 weeks after birth, your breast size will likely be close to the size at the end of your pregnancy.
Underwire nursing bras are not recommended for breastfeeding women. Pressure from the wire can prevent some of the milk ducts from emptying, increasing your risk for a breast infection.
Nursing pads are pieces of absorbent material you can wear in your bra to soak up leaking breast milk. They help to keep your shirt from getting wet. There are both reusable and disposable breast pads available for purchase.
Some breastfeeding mothers will leak milk for a few days, others will leak for many weeks. Still others will leak very little or not at all. (Note: You can still have a great milk supply even if you do not leak.) Because you don’t know how many nursing pads you will need, we would suggest you limit the number of pads you purchase prenatally. You can always pick up more once baby arrives.
There are many different breast pumps on the market. At prenatal breastfeeding classes, we are often asked what type to purchase. It is important to know that a breast pump is not a nursing essential. Maternity leaves vary in length and every family’s situation is different.
Even if you have to return to work soon after your baby’s birth, hand expression is a great option for your to explore. It is low cost, always available and for many moms, more effective than a pump.
If you are more comfortable using an electric breast pump, beware of purchasing used. Pumps designed for single use have an “open system”; there is potential for milk to accidentally enter the pump mechanism. Research has shown that some viruses and bacteria can be transmitted through breast milk. There is no way to disinfect these pumps between users, even if your purchase a new kit and tubing.
Note: Hospital-grade pumps available for rent are designed with a “closed system”. With a new kit and tubing, more than one woman can safely use them.
To learn more about breast pumps, read this post.
A breastfeeding pillow can be convenient when you are learning to breastfeed, but it is certainly not a necessity. Many women choose to use bedroom pillows instead.
If you plan to purchase a breastfeeding pillow, remember that all bodies are shaped differently. You may need to shop around for one that best fits your post-baby body. Women who are long-waisted may need a thicker pillow than those who are short-waisted or have larger breasts.
Learn some basics about breastfeeding BEFORE baby arrives with our FREE email series, Getting Ready to Breastfeed. Get started here.
Nipple creams are popular but recent research has shown that they are not effective and may even delay nipple healing! A recent study tested lanolin-based nipple cream along with 3 other products. They found that rubbing a few drops of breast milk onto your nipples (or using nothing at all!) was more beneficial than using a cream.
A second piece of good news from this study was that no matter what treatment was used, most nipple pain was reduced to a mild level by the time baby was 7 to 10 days old.
Nursing covers are popular and may be something you are considering for purchase. Before you do, we want you to know that you have the right to breastfeed anytime, anywhere, without covering up. Have a look at the billboards and magazine ads around you. You will see more flesh exposed than you would ever see with a woman nursing her baby.
Some mothers, however, tell us that a nursing cover made them feel more confident breastfeeding in public when they were first learning. If this is the case for you, go for it. But feel free to discard it once you are able to latch your baby with ease.
If you are planning to breastfeed, we would not recommend purchasing formula to have on hand. Research has shown that breastfeeding women who do not have formula in the house are more likely to reach their breastfeeding goals.
If you receive formula samples in the mail, consider donating them to your local food bank before your baby arrives. This will help you avoid the temptation to give formula unnecessarily during a long or fussy night.
Learn more about preparing to breastfeed in these posts: Preparing to Breastfeed during Pregnancy and How to Prepare to Breastfeed When you Have Inverted Nipples.
**If you’d like to learn even more, sign up for our Prenatal Breastfeeding Class.**
Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.
- Download their FREE ebook: 5 Crucial Ways to Prepare for Breastfeeding.
- Download their FREE video course Getting Ready to Breastfeed.