Everything You Need for Breastfeeding

Products and Accessories to Make Nursing Easier and More Comfortable

breast pump
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To breastfeed successfully, you really don't need anything more than your breasts and your baby. That said, breastfeeding isn’t always easy, and sometimes you need some help along the way. Besides keeping the number of a lactation support person on hand just in case, it can be helpful to have some breastfeeding supplies available after your baby is born.

Some of these items simply make nursing easier and more comfortable; others are essential items to turn to if you encounter any breastfeeding challenges. As you're probably learning, there are so many breastfeeding products out there, and it can be overwhelming to consider which you actually need and which may just sit in a closet collecting dust. Don’t worry—we’re here to help!

Here is a list of the most useful items nursing moms might consider purchasing, why they're helpful, how they are used, and in what situations you may find yourself needing them.

Breastfeeding Pillow

A comfortable nursing pillow can help support your baby by lifting them up to the level of your breast. Nursing pillows may be especially helpful for moms with large breasts, moms who are recovering from C-sections, or moms nursing twins. Nursing pillows are also helpful as you attempt new breastfeeding positions, such as the side-lying position—a lifesaver for exhausted new moms!

A nursing pillow may also help reduce strain on your back, neck, shoulders, and arms so that nursing is more comfortable for you. In fact, some mothers don’t use nursing pillows to support their baby, but rather to support their own body as they position their baby at the breast.

What You Need

Look a nursing pillow that’s not too hard, not too soft, and made of material that can accommodate different breastfeeding positions. You will likely only need one breastfeeding pillow, though some moms like to have more than one around as a back-up.

Supportive Nursing Bra

While breastfeeding, your breasts will often feel full and heavy, especially in the first few weeks after your milk comes in. A good nursing bra can provide you with support and comfort. Additionally, nursing bras have cups that can be unhooked and pulled down so that it's easier to access your breasts when it's time to nurse.

A well-fitted nursing bra will help support your breasts and relieve strain on your shoulders and back. It’s important that you choose a bra that is supportive, but not too constrictive. Nursing bras that are too tight can make you more susceptible to plugged ducts or mastitis.

What You Need

You will likely be a cup or two bigger than you are during pregnancy once your milk comes in, so it’s probably best not to buy more than one nursing bra before your baby arrives. You may find yourself changing bra size during different stages of nursing, so keep that in mind as well as you plan your purchases.

Nursing Pads

Nursing pads, also called breast pads, are absorbent disc-like pads that can be placed inside your bra to soak up any milk that leaks from your breasts. Although not all women leak (and not leaking doesn’t mean you aren’t producing enough milk!), it can be very common, especially in the first few months, as your milk supply is adjusting.

You may find yourself leaking at inopportune times and the leaking can be abundant and messy. Here's where nursing pads become lifesavers. Most women will leak less or stop leaking altogether after a few months. However, some women with an overabundant milk supply may leak for the duration of their breastfeeding experience.

What You Need

You can either purchase disposable or reusable cloth nursing pads. Whichever you choose, you’ll want to have quite a few on hand for those first few weeks; you’ll likely go through several pads each day.

Breastfeeding Clothes

When you're out and about with your baby, you want it to be as easy as possible to sit down and nurse. In addition to nursing covers, clothing designed specifically for breastfeeding can be indispensable. Nursing tanks, blouses, and dresses designed for breastfeeding women have flaps or slits in the front so that you can breastfeed without having to pull up or remove anything.

Nursing clothes are available in a variety of styles, from casual to professional to formal wear. Breastfeeding clothing has really evolved over the years to include tons of cute and hip styles you can feel confident in.

What You Need

A few good nursing tanks are super helpful, since you can wear these under any shirt for discrete access. Purchase a few items before your baby arrives, but remember that you might not know your exact sizing until after your baby arrives.

Breast Pump

Breast pumps remove breast milk from your breasts. They can be used to collect milk to feed your baby in your absence, relieve engorgement, manage an overabundant milk supply, or increase your milk supply.

Pumping also allows you to provide breast milk to your baby if they are in the NICU or hospitalized. If you plan on returning to work, a good quality breast pump will be essential.

There are different types of breast pumps available depending on how often you need to pump. If you are just planning to pump occasionally, a manual pump, operated by squeezing a lever with your hand, may be sufficient. If you are returning to work, or plan on pumping on a regular basis, you may want to get a double electric breast pump.

What You Need

If you are going to be pumping often, investing in a new, high quality pump is vital. You can purchase a pump before your baby arrives—it’s good to have one available after birth in case you encounter any breastfeeding challenges that require you to pump your milk.

Breast Milk Storage Bags and Containers

Breast milk storage bags and containers are specially made for the collection and storage of breast milk. They are necessities for anyone who plans on pumping their milk. These products are designed to withstand freezing and thawing, and can safely store your milk for long periods of time.

Depending on your storage needs, you may choose to use breast milk storage bags, plastic breast milk storage bottles, food-safe glass containers, and/or breast milk trays. Look for storage containers that are BPA-free and designed specifically for breast milk storage.

What You Need

If you plan on returning to work, you will likely need a large number of breast milk storage containers (plan on pumping and storing 3-4 times per day, or every 2-3 hours). You can start with a smaller supply, though, and purchase more as you begin to get into your routine and understand your needs more fully.

Nipple Creams, Ointments, and Lotions

Almost all nursing moms experience sore nipples at one time or another. Nipple creams and ointments can be very helpful to moisturize, soothe, and heal dry, cracked, sore nipples.

There are many varieties of nipple creams out there and it can be hard at first to know which one to choose. Lanolin-based nipple creams are popular and many moms find them soothing. Other moms prefer a more natural nipple cream. You may need to try a few varieties to see what works best for you.

What You Need

Sore and cracked nipples are most common in the early days of breastfeeding, so it can be helpful to purchase at least one nipple cream prior to the birth of your baby.

Breast Shells

Breast shells are circular lightweight discs that are worn inside a mother’s bra between feedings. They have a number of potential uses. They can be used to help draw out and correct flat or inverted nipples. Breast shells can also provide a barrier to protect sore nipples from rubbing against your clothes.

It is not recommended to use breast shells during pregnancy, as they might stimulate labor. In addition to breast shells designed for flat or inverted nipples, you may also consider purchasing breast milk collection shells, which catch any breastmilk you leak between feedings.

What You Need

If you know you have flat or inverted nipples, purchasing breast shells to have available after birth is a smart idea. You don’t need to purchase more than one pair before birth; you can always purchase more if the need arises.

Nipple Shields

Not every mother will use a nipple shield while breastfeeding, and nipple shields should be used under the direct supervision of a doctor or lactation specialist. But sometimes nipple shields can be a wonderful aid to breastfeeding, especially if your baby is having trouble latching.

Circumstances where nipple shields may be useful are when breastfeeding a preemie, breastfeeding with flat or inverted nipples, or nursing a baby who has difficulty latching on to your breast. Nipple shields come in different sizes, and work best if fitted by a lactation professional.

What You Need

You may not know whether you will need a nipple shield until after your baby is born. If you want to have nipple shields on hand, it can be useful to get a couple of different sizes so you have options.

A Word from Verywell

Welcoming a new baby and starting your breastfeeding journey is such an exciting time. But it can also be stressful. You may have heard that while breastfeeding can be an amazing experience, many moms encounter challenges at the beginning, and you may find yourself wanting to do everything in your power to prepare for what lies ahead, including purchasing all the essential breastfeeding support items.

It makes sense to prepare in whatever way you can—attending a prenatal breastfeeding class, connecting with a lactation professional before birth whom you can connect with if the need arises, and stocking your home with necessary supplies.

Beyond that, though, try not to worry too much. With good support and helpful resources, most women can successfully meet their breastfeeding goals no matter what difficulties they face.  

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