Breastfeeding essentials: the stuff


After my emotional outpouring yesterday about how much I love breastfeeding, today I want to take a look at the practical side, with the stuff and strategies that have been helpful. I’m dividing the stuff into a section for the new breastfeeder, and a section with the stuff we use now, 5 1/2 months in and having definitely hit our stride.


The stuff and the strategies for the new breastfeeder

-Lots of pillows! Especially at the very beginning, it’s hard to get comfortable. Holding a baby already feels so new and awkward, not to mention trying to position the baby well for an hour-long nursing session that won’t give you a cramp in your back, shoulder, torso, and liver. I surrounded myself with my body pillow and pretty much every other pillow I owned, and my husband and I constructed a pillow fortress so that my arms, neck and torso were all supported while Alice and I figured things out. Of course, this left no space in bed for my husband, so during those first weeks he kindly retreated to a blow up mattress–more on that in a second.

-Bed sharing. Not every family will be comfortable with this, but this was essential to my happiness. We hadn’t given it any thought until we were home from the hospital and suddenly we were like “wait, how are we going to do this sleep thing?” I was in so much pain from my tearing and subsequent stitches that even moving Alice from the bassinet into bed when she needed to nurse seemed like too much to handle. It just made sense to have her in bed with me. And with the fortress of pillows taking up the whole bed and my husband’s fear of rolling over on our brand-new baby, it just made sense for him to be on a blow up mattress temporarily (about 3 weeks or so, with a couple brief recurrences after that). Though at first I felt very self-conscious about this arrangement (“what if people find out we’re not sleeping int he same bed?!?!? What will they think our marriage has come to!?!?!?”), it ended up being perfect for us.


For the first 5 weeks of her life, I had Alice in bed with me (my husband joined us the last 2 or so). Within the first week or so, we got comfortable nursing in the side-lying position, so I didn’t even have to really wake up for her night feedings. “How many times is she waking up at night?” people would ask. “Um . . . I don’t really know,” I would say. Because I could snooze as she ate. Thus, I never experienced the dreaded sleep deprivation I had been so sure would turn me into Zombie-mama. My husband on his part was very happy on the blow-up mattress for those first weeks. He’s a light sleeper, so being a little further away from Alice (though in the same room) meant he didn’t wake up every time she snorted, snored, or made any one of those weird newborn noises (who knew newborns were such loud sleepers!). He slept well, I slept well, Alice ate and slept well, and we were all happy as clams.


-Lots of towels! I lined the bed under my torso with a couple layers of towels, that every night absorbed all the extra milk that seemed to constantly be soaking anything and everything. Tossing the towels in the wash was much easier than stripping the bed every morning after discovering that there were wet patches everywhere.

-Breast shells. These are basically plastic cone thingies that protect your nipples (and can collect extra milk as it leaks). Because at first, when your nipples are sore and bent out of shape in all kinds of ways, you don’t want ANYTHING touching those babies. These shells kept my nipples protected so that no fabric was rubbing up against them. After those first two weeks or so though, I moved on and was done with them.

-Lanolin. It’s a life saver and provides so much relief during the initial pain. Of course I had tons left over and wasn’t sure what to do with it, but at Christmas my sister Heidi shared that it’s a great chapstick–glossy and moisturizing and awesome! So that’s what’s on my lips these days (and here’s a link to the product I use).

-Books on breastfeeding. I particularly loved “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and have returned to it time and again for instruction, reassurance, and information. Especially at first, I found so much comfort in being able to recognize myself in its pages and say, “oh yeah! That’s totally what’s happening to me!” or “oooh, so that’s what I have to look forward to!”


The stuff for the ongoing breastfeeder

-Nursing cover. I love, love, love my nursing cover from Target. And that’s a good thing since I use it at work every day as I nurse while I interact with my boss, co-workers, take calls and send emails. It’s pretty, it provides privacy, and I can also see Alice the entire time. In a pinch though, a blanket, afghan or sweater can do the job.


-Nursing tanks/tanks that can pull down. I’ve tried  a lot of clothing strategies, and my favorite is tanks or shirts with a wide or stretchy enough neckline that you can just pull them down. I hate double layering and having to pull one shirt up and keep the other shirt down–so much easier when only one shirt is involved.

-Nursing bras. My favorites are my Lamaze nursing bras. There’s no unsnapping and resnapping and fiddling–they easily pull aside, which is a big deal when you’re feeding your baby all the time, and they look good under a shirt but are also comfortable to sleep in. For bras with more shape that unsnap and pull down, I had great success at Macy’s with the Motherhood and the Pea in the Pod brands.

-Absorbent pads to line your bra. I use cotton pads during the day when I don’t leak very much at all, and at night I use Lansinoh disposables because if Alice sleeps a longer stretch than usual, there’s definitely more leaking, which I find the disposables contain much better than my cotton circles.

-Breast pump and milk storage bags. I’ve loved my Medela electric pump (which I bought used from Rummage last year for $20–yesssss). It’s allowed me to build a stash of frozen milk that frees me up to actually leave my baby for a few hours (whoa!).

Is there anything you experienced breastfeeders out there have found really helpful that could be useful for a new mom to know about?

6 thoughts on “Breastfeeding essentials: the stuff

  1. Rowenna

    Great post, Jenna–we’re on 6 1/2 months of breastfeeding and I see so much of our experience in your post. Especially the wonders of bedsharing. I, too, was really worried about being judged for that less-than-orthodox practice but a) am finding it’s a lot more common than I thought! and b) loved this website chockablock full of research to fall back on when I was feeling insecure or judged:

    And yay! nursing covers! I tried a blanket. Once. In a parking lot. E hated it…and I was not graceful with it…and I flashed some people. True story. So…yay! nursing covers!

    1. Jenna Post author

      Ha ha ha . . . I know I’ve flashed people too. It happens. Strangely, I don’t really mind the fact that more people than ever before have seen my boobs. It’s not like I lost my modesty in other regards . . . but breastfeeding just doesn’t feel scandalous I guess.
      And I love the word “chockablock.” Must start using asap.

  2. Eve

    I totally agree with the pull down nursing shirts, they are my favorite. But I can find any long sleeves ones, so I use the regular t-shirt. I hate the two layer one, too. It is way to complicated when you are in the hurry!For the nursing cover, I love them. But as Caleb getting older, he think nursing cover is peek-a-boo toy!!So there are some accidents that happen in the public!:{ And unrelate the note, I show Caleb the pictures of you and Alice. He has a big smile. I think maybe we can make effort to pay a visit next year when two of them can talk!! 🙂

  3. Jenny @ Words On Wendhurst

    I too loved breastfeeding. I was prepared for it to be horrendous, and instead it was wonderful. I’m not quite ready to write about it yet, still a little sad from weaning Javi in January. (14 months) A few thoughts – the cover only worked until about six months, then Javi refused to have his head covered. So that took a little planning as I wasn’t up for straight up nursing in public with no cover.
    I never wore a bra at night, from day one, and I credit that with the complete lack of infections/plugged ducts/mastitis I was blessed with. I just did the towels underneath me thing that you did.
    All in all, it was awesome, and I totally cried the last few times he nursed. I loved it so, so much.

  4. Veronica

    This is incredibly helpful and useful info–I hope lots of mamas-to-be benefit from it! Random question–when you use the lanolin, does it absorb by the next time you nurse, or does baby ingest it? I’m guessing if the latter, it’s safe for baby?

    1. Jenna Post author

      It normally absorbed really quickly, but it’s safe for baby if there’s any left by the next feeding.


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