Learning how to nurse or pump breastmilk for a newborn baby is not for the faint of heart – it definitely has it challenges. However, in this post I’ll share a few of the must have products that I’ve found essential to make my experience more enjoyable. By telling you about them here, I hope to help alleviate some of the stress for any new moms tackling this endeavor. (Note: Not everyone chooses to or is able to pump or nurse for a variety of reasons. That is okay too!)
Over the past four years, I’ve been nursing or pumping for 35 months (and counting). I’m currently nursing an infant, and I nursed two other children until they were each about 15 months old. During this time, I’ve discovered eight life changing products that I’ve found to be crucial in my breastfeeding journey.
Let’s face it. Motherhood is busy, chaotic, and quite frankly, it can be difficult. I often get asked in DMs for recommendations on products so I’ve consolidated a list to make shopping easier for you. The links in this article may lead to a small commission for me. If I can help lighten the load for you by saving you time and energy though, I’ve really fulfilled my goal.
5 Products that are Nice to Have
With my newborns, I like to track feedings using an app on my phone. Blame it on my ‘Type A’ personality, but I’ve found it helpful. Because I wasn’t measuring the ounces of milk or formula I was feeding my babies, tracking the minutes they nursed gave me peace of mind knowing they “ate” enough each day by watching for trends in the amount of time they nursed. In their first few months of life, I easily spent 4-6 hours per 24-hour period nursing. That converts to a typical 40 hour/week work week.
No wonder motherhood feels like a full-time job…and then some!
However, as my babies began daycare, and I went back to work outside of the home, a lot of these hours were converted from time spent nursing to time spent pumping. I am not a lactation consultant, but I can conservatively say that I have thousands upon thousands of hours of personal experience surrounding the topic of nursing and pumping. Therefore, I’d like to share my top eight favorite supplemental products. If by sharing more information about these eight products leads you to a less stressful nursing/pumping journey, I would be humbled.
3 Must Have Products
My absolute favorite product is the Haakaa. It was introduced to me by the hospital lactation consultant with baby #3, and I couldn’t be more grateful for her recommendation. I used it from the very first days of my littlest life to now one half of a year later. How I use it looks slightly different though. Initially, I would wear it on the opposite side I was nursing my baby on. This worked great because my breasts were still figuring out how to regulate supply so there was lots of let-down happening. (For those new to this world, let-down is when your breast begins to leak milk whether desired or not). Using the haakaa as a catcher for this milk was great because I was able to begin to build a milk storage supply and avoid leaking through my bra or shirt. It also worked well because my newborn would typically only nurse on one side and then be full. As she got older and started sleeping through the night better, I would continue to wear on the opposite side while I was feeding her when she woke up at night. Because she was sleeping better and going longer between feeds, I had more milk readily available for her so she continued to only need to nurse on one side even though she was able to take in more milk at each feeding. With my older two children (pre-haakaa), I would sometimes pump on the opposite side during the night during night feeds to alleviate discomfort from full breasts. Although this worked, it was not ideal because it was continuing to send the signal to my body for milk production so eventually when my children (finally) slept through the night, my body still felt like it needed to wake up to pump. Because the haakaa doesn’t have the strong suction a pump does, it seems to be less of a stimulant, but it is still effective at catching milk in order to have for storage.
The second must have item for pumping is breastmilk storage bags. It seems rather obvious but is worth mentioning as I’ve discovered that I definitely have a preferred type of bag. The Lansinoh brand is by far my favorite. They are the easiest to open/seal. They are large enough that I can fill it with 5-6 ounces and it still freezes perfectly flat when I lay it down in the freezer. (This is important in order to store them most efficiently in the freezer long-term).
Although used by many, the Medela breastmilk storage bags never grew on me. I found it difficult to pour the milk from the bottle I pumped it in into the bag without spilling. There really is nothing worse than spilt milk for a pumping mom! They have a nifty little transfer piece to place in the bag, but again, it didn’t work well for me. Admittedly, I may not have taken the time to truly figure it out.
Lastly, the best bang-for-your-buck budget bags must be mentioned. More recently, I’ve been drawn to buying in bulk so I tried these GoGo breastmilk storage bags. Although, they are a great price, it irritates me that they don’t freeze as flat as the Lansinoh bags. However, if this isn’t a priority for you, they are a great option.
The third must have item is a hands free pumping bra or some variation of one. This made the must have list for me because of my strong need to be able to multitask while I pump. A hands free pumping bra allowed me to document notes, write up treatment plans, catch up on emails, or other productive tasks while pumping. With my first baby, I changed into a hands free pumping bra similar to this each time I pumped. I later learned that I didn’t necessary need a specific bra but I could wear any nursing bra or nursing tank top and still accomplish the hands free nursing goal. The pumping shields can be held in place with the extra piece of fabric from the clip-down feature on the front. Although this is not quite as secure, it still seems to work and it saves the time of changing bras.
Keep in mind this recommendation is for the traditional pump like the Spectra or Medela that I have experience with. When considering true hands-free pumps, like the Willow or the Elvie, a hands free pumping bra might not be necessary.
Five Nice to Have Products
A dear friend gifted these heating pads to me after my second baby was born. I give them a five-start rating for preventing mastitis during the early postpartum period. Currently for me, they are an excellent motivator to pump. Now that it’s winter, and I’m cold blooded anyways, I find myself dreading undressing, even if it’s just exposing my stomach to pump. These heating pads make it much more tolerable! You can wear them prior to pumping/nursing or while you pump. They do get pretty warm though so exercise caution. Because of this, I wouldn’t recommend wearing as you nurse.
Nursing pads can prevent a very embarrassing moment caused from leaking through your bra/shirt. Whether you’re working outside the home or tend to be a social butterfly, occasionally you may find that you aren’t always able to nurse or pump when your body is telling you it needs to. Reusable cloth nursing pads or this set of disposable nursing pads both work well.
A cleaning brush and drying rack all-in-one that easily fits in your pump bag is convenient both for overnight trips traveling or working outside of the home. This brush has a built in mini-brush inside of its handle that is perfect for cleaning out the tiny pieces.
These breast pump wipes make pumping on the go more sanitary. Of course, it is preferred that you thoroughly clean your pump parts after each use, but for convenience sake, I found that wiping down the parts briefly and then refrigerating the parts between uses saved me time but was still safe for my baby.
Speaking of cleaning pumping parts – an extra set or two, or three of pump parts is extremely helpful. There are few things more irritating or time-consuming than trying to dry the cracks and crevices of a tiny pump part. Having a spare set allows the washed parts to fully air-dry before you need to use them. I find completely dry pumping parts allows for better suction and ultimately more milk collection. Therefore, it is very important but also a frustrating chore. Extra parts can be purchased through your pump supplier or on Amazon like where I bought my spare Spectra pump parts and Medela pump parts.
My hope is that by having these eight products your nursing and/or pumping journey will be less bumpy. Don’t hesitate to reach out to an educated lactation consultant if you run into troubles. They are the real super heros when it comes to a successful nursing or pumping journey.