Most people think breastfeeding is “free” or “frugal” . As a breastfeeding mother of an almost-9-month-old, I assure you, it’s not free. Not even close. What’s an even bigger shocker, you do have to buy things in order to breastfeed.
Well, that’s not entirely true. You don’t have to buy anything, but I will attest that there are a few things you can buy to make breastfeeding easier.
I filmed the above video a few months ago, but recently took a look at it again after a pregnant friend asked me what she needed to buy to breastfeed (that friend is Alyssa of Mixed Up Money if you’re looking for more personal finance moms to follow!).
Make Breastfeeding Easier
Here are my favorite accessories to make breastfeeding easier:
The NatureBond handheld silicone pump ($20)
I still rank this in my top 3 purchases for having a baby, and it’s the least expensive of all. This silicone handheld pump is small and mighty. I used this DAILY and it really helped build my milk stash those first few months I was breastfeeding.
I used it primarily for two things:
- To catch the letdown of milk on the opposite breast than you’re feeding from. Since nursing your baby will trigger a letdown in both breasts, catching what’s being produced on the other side is a great way to not let even a drop go to waste. The handheld pump is perfect for this.
- To relieve engorgement. When your body is still regulating your milk supply or your baby is starting to sleep longer stretches at night (or you’re super unlucky and get mastitis like I did), you might end up painfully engorged. You don’t necessarily want to pump everything out — since that will train your body to continue to overproduce milk! — but you might want to take 1-2 oz off just to relieve the pain.
Because the pump comes with a lid, you can even store the milk directly in the pump in the fridge and then transfer it to a bottle to feed your baby. No surprise this was one of my gifts to Mixed-Up Money at her baby shower!
When you don’t have the handheld breast pump on hand, you’re going to rely on nursing pads to catch any extra milk leaking from your breasts.
Of all the nursing pads I tried, these were far and away my favorite for three main reasons:
- Reusable. I think we’re all producing enough waste that we don’t need to add to the landfills when we don’t have to, and one of the easy ways to do that is to not use disposable nursing pads. I run these through the wash with my regular laundry and they have held up great!
- Waterproof back. Regular nursing pads without a waterproof back can become soaked with milk and then get your bra and shirt wet — exactly what you’re trying to avoid in the first place. The waterproof back of these ensures that no matter how much milk your body is producing, your clothes stay dry!
- Super soft organic cotton. Those early weeks of breastfeeding aren’t easy, and often they are downright painful. One of the reasons is because your nipples are sensitive and even bruised or blistered. You need the softest nursing pads possible not to irritate them further. The organic bamboo cotton these are made of is perfect!
I also love the little waterproof travel bag they come in!
Speaking of those super sensitive painful nipples, nipple cream is a must-have in those early breastfeeding days. I had both prescription cream from my doctor, and my favorite over-the-counter nipple butter.
The Earth Mama Angel Baby nipple butter was my favorite because it was organic, all-natural ingredients so I felt using it on my skin (and knowing it would get in my baby’s mouth!). It is a little oily, which again is why you want to use nursing pads as suggested above to protect your clothing. This nipple butter comes in two sizes, but I found the smaller 2oz pot was more than enough.
Nursing sleep bras
The last thing you want to do during a 3am feeding is fumble with a clasp, which is why I loved wrap nursing sleep bras ($25) that let you just pull to one side to feed your baby. They’re also extra-comfy, which you need because your baby will be keeping you wake enough all on its own.
Nursing day bras
IMO nothing about maternity and nursing bras is sexy, and I hate virtually all styles. However, there are two that minimize how frumpy I feel giving up sexy lingerie for the better part of two years:
The Bravado Original Nursing Bra in leopard print ($44) and The Bravado Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra in Sea Glass ($50). The sea glass color was a special edition so it doesn’t look like it’s available anymore, but they always are making new limited edition colors so you can always get something special that isn’t the typical black/white/grey variety.
A good double electric breastpump + pumping bra
If you’re committed to breastfeeding for 6 months or longer, it’s worthwhile to invest in a good pump — preferably a double-electric one. This is faster and more effective than a manual pump and/or one you can only use one side at a time.
I got the Medela Pump-In-Style Double Electric Breastpump ($280) which has made pumping easy. Keep in mind that I HATE pumping and will do virtually anything to avoid it, but for the times when I’ve needed to, this breastpump was my saving grace. I never though much about the “discreet” black tote bag until I actually took my breastpump with me on a 3-day work-trip, and LOVED that it drew absolutely no attention at the airport. I realize that the $280 price-tag makes the breastpump the most expensive item on this list, but if you think about it on a cost-per-use basis, it is a lot easier to swallow. To make it easier to afford, many health insurance providers recognize it as a medical device that can be claimed so check to see if it will be partially or fully covered for you!
Medela also makes a hands-free pump but charges over $100 more for it. You can make the Pump-In-Style hands-free by simply investing in a $30 pumping bra. Again, not glamorous, not great, but it works.
You should also consider picking up a pack of extra milk storage bottles ($12) and the correct size breast shields ($10) for the pump. The latter is especially important because having the right pump accessories will make pumping easier and let you pump more milk!
Breastmilk storage bags, labels, and trays
If you’re going to be pumping and storing milk, the first thing you’ll need is breastmilk storage bags. I love these Philips Avent Breast Milk Storage Bags ($13) for storing milk in the fridge or freezer. You can also safely reheat the milk in the bag by placing it in a bottle warmer or in hot water.
The bags have a place on them to write the date the milk was pumped and how many ounces are in the bag, but it’s hard to write on the bags without puncturing them. For this reason, I just bought a cheap set of office labels ($6) and use those to label my bags with dates and ounces!
To organize, store, and rapidly freeze breastmilk, I bought the Milkies Freeze Breastmilk Storage System ($26). I didn’t really appreciate how well this works until I went on my 3-day work trip and was freezing my milk without it — it takes FOREVER! With this storage system, when you lay the milk bag flat on the metal tray, it freezes really fast, so you can store or transport it easier. Next time I travel without my baby I will be taking the metal tray with me! Super fast metal freezing tray aside, the actual storage part lets you stack your milk bags from oldest to newest, so you’ll use the oldest milk first. I find it fills up pretty easily (it’s not very big) but still really kept my freezer orderly while I was building my milk stash.
Breast gel pads ($13)
One of my worst experiences breastfeeding was a bout of mastitis in the first 2 weeks after my baby was born. One of the things I was told to do to treat it was to use cold compresses (to relieve pain) and warms compresses (to express milk and push the infection out). These warm or cold compresses were wet towels, which was… messy. After I was tired of being sick AND soaked, I ordered the Lansinoh Thera Pearl gel pads and used those instead. I kept one in the fridge and the other I microwaved for 15 seconds whenever I wanted to heat it up.
Bonus: using a warm compress when pumping helps with your milk letdown, so these became a lifesaver once I started pumping regularly.
Comotomo Bottles ($40 for two)
How many bottles you need depends entirely on how often your baby will take a bottle. My baby only has a bottle when she’s with her dad or her nanny, which works out to only a few per week. Because of this, I was able to get away with owning only one set of the 5oz Comotomo bottles and then, as she got bigger, I bought a set of the 8oz bottles.
I chose these because they’re designed for breastfed babies and they worked great! I know many parents have to try a number of different brands to find ones their baby likes, but I didn’t — these worked right from the start.
Hope this helps you with your baby & breastfeeding shopping, mamas!