Learn the best breastfeeding tips for beginners about what essential must-haves you need in order to successfully breastfeed a newborn. These things saved me from unnecessary pain, frustration, and confusion.
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A good breastfeeding pillow can be your greatest ally in the first few weeks of breastfeeding, especially while your baby’s neck muscles are still developing. I’ll never forget the emphasis from the lactation consultant at the hospital on making your baby feel as secure as possible while at the breast.
At the hospital, the lactation consultant instead taught us how to stack multiple pillows securely to properly support a newborn baby while breastfeeding. Having extra pillows around during the first few weeks can be incredibly useful. When we got home from the hospital, Ryan (Max’s dad) took a trip to Target to pick up 4 pillows immediately. Whenever I would breastfeed, we adapt quickly to build a pillow stack on whichever side I was feeding Max on.
The Boppy is a particularly popular breastfeeding pillow recommendation. It was the one I brought to the hospital with me when I gave birth to my son. However, the lactation consultant immediately said that she does not recommend the Boppy because it does not properly support the baby. It is not a firm pillow and because of its curve, a baby could slowly fall into the space between.
I have never used it for breastfeeding since the hospital, but the Boppy pillow has been great to have around once Max’s neck muscles were strong enough to prop him upright and for him also to practice tummy time.
The MyBrestFriend pillow, on the other hand, is one that I would 100% recommend to a new mom to make breastfeeding easier. It is a super sturdy & firm flat surface that is great for keeping your newborn aligned while breastfeeding. It clips around like a belt, which is nicely convenient for shifting the baby over if you need to switch breasts.
I used the MyBrestFriend pillow multiple times a day in the newborn stage. I even got a nice extra cover in case things got too messy, which happened occasionally. This cover was a velcro belt instead of a buckle like the original cover that came with the pillow. The velcro belt was very useful when I needed to secure the pillow fast when the baby was fussy. In the early days of breastfeeding, it felt like a scramble to try to get everything together in order to feed a demanding baby as quickly as possible.
The practical pocket around the front is another reason the MyBrestFriend pillow is so great. It was a useful spot to always keep a nipple balm in, which made the habit of applying each time after breastfeeding easy. (Later in this article, I share with you which nipple balm is truly the best one to use!)
Manual Hand Pump
There are many types of pumps, but a manual hand pump is a must. In the early days of engorgement when your milk first comes in, you will definitely want to have a manual hand pump around in case you need some quick relief from the swelling pains. (Trust me!)
I ordered my manual hand pump weeks before my due date and actually used it to express antenatal colostrum starting at week 37 of my pregnancy. Practicing a little pumping beforehand and experiencing my breasts make colostrum before giving birth gave me confidence in my ability to breastfeed my baby at birth. I would highly recommend antenatal colostrum harvesting!
I watched many reviews on Youtube of which pump to get. There are many brands that make manual hand pumps, such as Lansinoh, Evenflo, and Dr. Brown’s. However, the one I saw most loved by breastfeeding mamas was the Medela Harmony. I went with it & have absolutely loved it. It has great suction, is easy to use & works so well with this set to stay organized for pumping & storing breastmilk.
Some people are completely against nipple shields, but I would recommend having one just in case you need it! Better to have and not need it, than to wish you had it when you need it. The lactation consultant at the hospital was actually the one who recommended & gave me one. At the hospital, I was given this Medela Nipple Shield, which was sturdy and pointy. It helped my small baby have an easier time suckling, especially on one of my nipples that is flatter.
I used a nipple shield every single feeding in the first few weeks & it honestly made breastfeeding that much easier for me. I don’t know if I could have stuck it through without one honestly, especially during week 3 when cluster feeding hit hard for 6 days. The nipple shield really protected me. I was really scared that it would be a clutch, but we weaned off using it around when my baby was one month old. After a couple of weeks, breastfeeding got easier and latching was no longer a worry because of all the practice you get feeding 8-12 times a day.
I also used a Lansinoh Nipple Shield, which was soft and round. During engorgement, the soft Lansinoh one worked better because the breasts become so hard. Having two different nipple shields is not necessary, but just in case you want the option! Between the two, I would probably choose the Medela Nipple Shield as that one works most reliably in every situation.
The two downsides to nipple shields are (1) the potential introduction of air while the baby is suckling and (2) breastmilk can messily build up in it and leak if suction breaks. These two reasons motivated me to wean off using nipple shields indefinitely, which again, happened smoothly around one month when my baby was able to latch easily on his own with a strong enough suckle.
Most moms recommend the Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump, but personally, I find It way too awkward to wear and uncomfortable. It has great suction, which is ideal only if you want to encourage an oversupply. I bought it, but would not say it is essential to have.
Instead, I would recommend the Haakaa Ladybugs. They are much more comfortable and easier to wear. They are great especially during the first weeks to wear in your bra around the clock to collect breastmilk as your body regulates how much to actually produce. In my days of engorgement, I was able to collect 5 oz. a day just from wearing them. They were most helpful at night because the body produces the most breastmilk around 3 AM or so. They saved me from being covered in breastmilk, which happened on nights when I forgot to wear them.
The Haakaa Ladybugs were most helpful at night because elevated prolactin levels at night produce the most breastmilk around 3 AM. They saved me from being covered in breastmilk, which did happen on nights when I forgot to wear them. However, I no longer need to wear any collectors regularly because I did not encourage an oversupply. I do not leak often and when I do, it is very minor. In the first month, they were great though & would say those are essential while your supply is regulating.
I tried 4 different types of nipple creams. The ultimate winner that I absolutely love is the Munchkin Nipple Balm Stick! It is like a big lip balm, which is great to save your nails from the messiness of applying balm from a jar. The large surface area makes applying it quick and easy. I used it every single under the nipple shield before breastfeeding in the first month.
Baby Bottles & Storage Bags
If you choose to breastfeed, feeding your baby is the number one goal. But when you pump & have extra for storage, you will want nice breastmilk freezer bags. I really love these Lemon Baby Breastmilk Storage Bags! They are super cute, sturdy, & easy to use, in comparison to some flimsy other ones I had tried.
Two other useful storage items would be (1) this tool to freeze your breastmilk completely flat for better freezer storage and (2) this super awesome storage kit to best organize your pumped breastmilk in your fridge. The lids of the kit are so great because they help to track what day and what time you pumped. All the bottles conveniently fit with the Medela Harmony Manual Hand Pump and the skinnier tall ones are great for knowing exactly how much you pump at a time.
Along with storage, you will need to figure out which bottles your baby will take. Some babies are super picky, while others may not care as much. My baby liked the Boon Silicon Bottles and the Haakaa Glass Bottle. When introducing a bottle, be sure to feed your baby every few days so that they do not bottle strike eventually due to preference for the real thing.
This is another thing that was widely recommended in Youtube videos I had watched on breastfeeding essentials. I thought they were unnecessary the first month when I was using a nipple shield. After weaning off the nipple shield, these were however amazing to use. They protect the nipples from rubbing against clothing while cooling and soothing the raw skin. I bought this set, which worked great. One of those things that were nice to have when I needed it, though I did not need them for long.
One remedy my midwife recommended to relieve nipple pain is to use the awkwardly shaped Haakaa Silicone Breast Pump to soothe the skin with warm water and epsom salt. When searching for relief, you should consider whether or not warmth or cooling would be better suited.
For example, during engorgement, you do NOT want to use heat because heat will encourage more production. Instead, to relieve your swelling, you can use a freezer gel pack. I had two pairs during that time to always have a frozen one available. I would highly recommend preparing such.
My favorite nursing bras are these cute Momanda Lace Nursing Bras. They were very comfortable to wear and have the useful clasp option to unhook a side to breastfeed without taking the bra off. I bought multiple colors to cycle through.
It is good practice to change and wash bras regularly to prevent any bacterial or fungal risks, so having multiple options is great. The other nursing bras that I liked are the soft Auden Nursing Bras from Target. I had bought others, but the Momanda & Auden bras were the ones I wore most for their comfort & cuteness!
I got some for free in this Lansinoh kit which let me try their nipple cream & gel pack. However, I personally never used any of the disposable pads, so I’m glad I didn’t buy any. Maybe they would have been necessary if I had left home often in the first month, but I wore those Haakaa Ladybugs instead.
Education Preparation (Most Important!)
I ordered the physical items above in order of most essential to have to least essential, but the most important thing to do to prepare for breastfeeding is to educate yourself. Kudos to you for reading this article because you’re doing it! You’re preparing for a wild journey & once you start breastfeeding, you will understand why it is referred to as a journey.
Breastfeeding a newborn is a surreal experience. When your baby first latches, you will see firsthand how nature intended for you to feed your little one. Babies have a natural strong suckle reflex, so trust that your baby will be able to. It might not feel natural at first, but eventually, it will become a very natural-feeling experience. Every day for as long as you choose to breastfeed, you and your baby will share an amazing bond together.
Two things that I did during my pregnancy to educate myself were (1) book a prenatal education session with a lactation consultant through my insurance and (2) read briefly through The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding by the La Leche League. Ryan had bought me the book after I had continually expressed how nervous I was when thinking if I would be able to breastfeed my baby. Now, almost 3 months in, I’m so happy with how the journey has been so far & I hope that I can continue to nourish Max through breastfeeding until at least 1 year.
So amazing. This app is FREE and can be synced up on multiple devices (helpful for dad to track along)! It is such a great tool to keep track of breastfeeding in a data-driven way. You are able to track by breast (right versus left) in order to keep the supply production on both sides balanced. Additionally, it is helpful for tracking diaper changes, sleep, and even temperature if you need to! We track temperature when our little one had a fever from fighting a virus. The coolest tool in the app is the ability to analyze the data over time, so you can know trends for feeding or sleeping. Download it, use it, and you will be so thankful it keeps track of all the little details for you!
Thank you for reading through my breastfeeding guide of essentials to prepare to breastfeed your baby. Please let me know if you have ANY questions I could help to address or find a resource for you. Breastfeeding may come with moments of struggle, but God willing, you will gift your baby with nourishment and the bonding closeness of nursing!
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