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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Nursing Essentials

Howdy friends!

I took a mental break yesterday and instead of blogging I made an effort all day to take a nap after Sunday night aka the night from hell (Am I alone in loathing daylight savings now that I have kids?), but I swear Craft can sense it when I'm close to being asleep because it never fails that he's ready to wake up and eat play.  Luckily for him, he's cute.

I have been meaning to write a post on things that I've found helpful related to nursing, and I have had several requests for this over the last few days alone so I figured it was about time.  I hope that this list will be helpful for nursing mamas as well as mamas-to-be who are trying to figure out what to put on their registry.  Who knows, maybe it will even help a few gift givers!  If I have any male readers (unlikely), you may want to skip this one, ha!

I've broken the post up into "for nursing" and "for pumping" to make it easier to follow.  Below are the list of my favorite items related to breast feeding - things that make my life easier and more comfortable on a day-to-day basis.

1 & 2:  A good nursing bra.  I cannot stress this enough.  When I was nursing Lilly, I bought a bunch of cheapy nursing bras from Target and they did the trick, but I HATED them.  They offered no support at all and really did not fit well.  I felt like I didn't want to spend a ton of money on a good nursing bra in case breastfeeding didn't work out, and if you recall, for the first three months with Lilly  it did not go well, so I just used what I had and then after that for the most part I just wore normal bras and lifted them up when L nursed - also not ideal.  This time around, I knew I needed to do something differently.  The two brands that were the most highly recommended by girlfiends (and also had the best reviews everywhere I looked) were Bravado and Anita.  After I narrowed down the brands, I just went on Amazon and read reviews to determine which bra to get.  I purchased Bravado style #1401 and Anita style #5068 (hyperlinks in numbers above) to start with and I really like both for different reasons:

  • The Anita that I chose has underwire so I chose that as a "dress up" bra for when I am going in public (read: changing out of my yoga pants or PJ's and leaving the house, ha).  I like it - it is very well made and very comfortable and has good support - but I will note that there is NO padding to this bra, so I can't wear it without wearing nursing pads.  Also, I find it to be a little more difficult to maneuver nursing with the underwire but it's the price you pay to feel a little more like a normal person I guess. 
  • I LOVE the Bravado.  There is not one thing that's sexy about it, though - just want to put that out there up front - but it is so comfortable, has plenty of padding (there is a removable/washable nursing pad included but I am a cow so I typically supplement with a disposable anyway) and plenty of support.  This is my go-to bra and hands down the one I choose to wear most of (like 99.9% of) the time.  I can't recommend it enough.
I realize that both of these bras are on the pricey side, but I am telling you they're worth the investment.

3: Nursing pads.  TMI alert: I am not sure whether it's because I'm practically a cow or what, but I would never have a dry shirt without these fellas.  I prefer Johnson & Johnson's disposable version because I've found them to be the  most absorbent and I don't have to worry about washing them all of the time, but I know plenty of women who love the reusable ones. To each his own, I say.

4:  Nipple cream.  I don't need this as much now, but when my girls and I were getting used to nursing again this came in handy.  I swear by Lickety Split Healing Balm, which I bought on recommendation from a girlfriend (thanks Michelle!) at A Milky Way in Charlotte, NC (you can order online or call the store and they'll send it to you, or you can send your poor father to the breastfeeding store with a list before he comes to Raleigh to meet your baby - thanks and sorry Daddy!).  This balm is all natural, so you don't have to worry about what baby may be ingesting, and if there is a "flavor" to it, it doesn't seem to bother Craft (it didn't bother Lilly either).  I'm not sure whether it's the lavender in it or something else, but I found this cream to be so soothing, especially if you refrigerate it.  It's not too greasy like many of the other creams, and I've used it on a number of other things not related to nursing as well (dry skin, chapped lips, etc.).  Bonus: it smells wonderful!  Again, a little pricey, but worth the investment in my opinion - and it lasts forever because you don't need to use too much at a time!  I have started giving this as a gift to girlfriends after their babies are born and I've had nothing but rave reviews so far.

5:  Soothies.  I would not say that these are a necessity, but I think they are very helpful in making you comfortable in the first weeks of nursing, especially if you keep them cool by storing them in the fridge. I think that most hospital lactation consultants will give these to you, and I think you can buy them most anywhere.  I knew what I was doing this time around, and C latched and nursed like a champ from the very beginning, so I didn't see a lactation consultant this time around and didn't even think to ask a nurse for a set.  I (read: my Dad, ha) purchased mine at A Milky Way and I store them in the fridge at all times.

6:  A nursing pillow.  I have both the Boppy and the My Brest Friend.  Again, personal preference here, but I prefer the Brest Friend hands down over the Boppy, at least in the beginning.  When babies are little I've found that the Boppy is more slouchy and they can kind of fall down in between your body and the pillow, where as the Brest Friend straps around and sits up higher.  I do recommend the Boppy, though, for propping baby up and for tummy time.  

7:  A good nursing cover is helpful to have on hand.  The second time around, I have not been NEARLY as modest and rarely cover up when I'm in my home no matter who is here visiting (ha!), but these are good to keep in the diaper bag for when baby is hungry and you're in public.  I've tried a few and prefer the bebe au lait covers.  They're roomy and provide enough room at the neck so that you can still see baby easily.  Plus, they have cute patterns. Unfortunately for Craft, ours is left over from big sister and is purple and pink and floral patterned.  :-)

8:  I like to wear nursing tanks at night and around the house.  I typically still wear a nursing bra with them (especially if we'll have company, ha) because I have found that the tanks aren't super supportive, but they're comfy and easy and actually they are pretty good for layering if you're going to be out in public.  I just have a few of the Gilligan and O'Malley brand from Target, and they work fine.  Anita and Bravado both make nursing tanks, but I didn't see the need to spend $50 each on those when I'd already invested in good bras.  Again, personal preference.

9:  A breast pump.  I have the Medela Freestyle, and I can't say enough wonderful things about it - I hate pumping, but love this pump.  If you are going to be pumping at all, it is worth it to invest in a good one - it will make your life so much easier in the long run.  I think that Medela makes the best pumps on the market, hands down.  I like the Freestyle because it's small and easily portable, and it helps I am not chained to an outlet because it's easier to multitask while pumping.  I have also heard great things about the Pump In Style, which is slightly cheaper (apparently the suction is also slightly better, but I've never used one so I can't speak to that).  I can also speak from experience when I say that Medela's customer service is phenomenal.  Plus, how happy does that lady look in the picture, pumping and working?!  If only it were that glamorous, ha!  

I should note here that under the Affordable Care Act your insurance will currently provide you with a pump - it may not be a Medela, but any pump is better than no pump for sure.  I've been surprised at how many people don't know about this - so call your insurance company and see what they have to say!

10:  A pumping bra.  When I was first pumping with Lilly, I just had a generic Medela bra and it was fine, until Jen changed my life with the discovery of the Simple Wishes Hands Free Breastpump Bra.  I promise you, ladies, this bra will change your life.  I like the fact that it is adjustable as well - the velcro is the strongest ever - and it helps to maintain a snug fit.  You do not have to have a hands-free pump to use a hands-free bra, either, FYI.  If you are pumping at all, no matter what pump you have, do yourself a favor and go buy this bra right now.  I'm serious.  You can thank me later.

11:  Milk storage bags.  I have used both the Lansinoh and the Medela.  The Lansinoh are bigger and cheaper, so in theory, I wanted to like them more, and I did at first.  HOWEVER, when I used them with Lilly, I had problems with the Lansinoh bags leaking milk everywhere when they thawed, and I know that anyone who has ever nursed for any period of time will understand me when I say that the leaking caused me to want to light a house on fire.  I never had any leaking issues with the Medela bags, so this time around I've stuck with them so far, although I do wish they made a bigger bag.  Allegedly you can pump straight into the Medela bags if you have a Medela pump, but I've never done that - mainly because I can't figure out how to do so but also partially because most times I pump more than the bag will hold.  Cow, I tell you.

Just a few more helpful tips before I go:

A note on pump parts: make sure you have at least one extra set.  I think I have 4 or 5, which may be overkill but it's nice to be able to leave a set at work, or to not have to wait on the one set you own to be clean before pumping when you can just use your spare set.  And speaking of cleaning, you don't have to wash/sterilize pump parts after every use.  Make sure to check out my post on pumping for more helpful tips.

Also, a note on what you don't need: any sort of fancy milk freezing storage kit.  When I was pregnant with Lilly, I registered for and received this set and it wasn't until I was actually pumping that I realized what a waste of money that was.  For starters, those beaker things are pretty small, and I know this isn't the case with everyone but I always pumped more than they would hold so I was always having to try to figure out how to change them while pumping and making a total mess (and wasting precious milk!) in the process.  Additionally, those little bottle/beaker things take up a lot more room in your freezer than the storage bags, which lay flat and can stack on top of each other.

Lastly, if you are registering, test out whatever bottles you're thinking of buying in the store to see whether they'll fit your pump parts.  Dan did that when we were registering for L and I thought he was insane, but we went with Dr. Brown's bottles partially because we opened the pump parts and realized that the Dr. Brown's bottles will fit the Medela pump, so I can pump straight into them.  Double win for double usage.

Whew, this was a long one but I hope that someone, somewhere will find it to be helpful.  I love things that will make my life easier and I also love trying new things (even nerdy breastfeeding things), so if I missed anything or there is a product you love that I haven't mentioned, make sure to let me know!  I should also note that this post is not sponsored, and all opinions are my own and are based on my experience with nursing and pumping.

I am off to enjoy the sunshine on another day of glorious weather, I am so ready for it to warm up permanently that I can't stand it!



  1. Thanks for posting this! I have so much anxiety over breastfeeding this time around. Fortuantely, I have just about everything you mentioned so I feel well prepared. If you have any other nursing tips (like, where can I find the patience to practice with a screaming/hungry baby??) I'd love to hear them!

    1. I honestly was not as anxious about it this time as I thought I would be given the issues I had with Lilly. I think I felt a little more confident that I would figure it out, and as a result I was more relaxed and made it easier on both of us. It makes it hard for sure when the babe is screaming, and I am short on patience, but hopefully baby will get the hang of it in the hospital and nurse like a champ for you!!! Good luck, and if I think of anything that might actually be useful I'll for sure send it your way. :-)

  2. I'm so nervous about breastfeeding #2. It just didn't work for me with Mac (despite me really really trying) and I so want it to with Mim. Hopefully just having more experience and being more relaxed will help out significantly this time. Now I just need to figure out to make chocolate milk, like you do! :)

    1. I think you are going to do great! I honestly think I had a whole different experience this time because I just tried to really consciously relax. Almost like it was a mind over matter thing. Or, maybe it's just because I had a huge fatty baby and he knew what he wanted. Either way, I just know that you and Mim will do GREAT! Good luck mama! AND if you're worried about production I SWEAR by Fenugreek. I haven't used it this time around yet but I stocked up for when I go back to work, I noticed a several ounce difference when I used it while I was pumping last time around. People have mixed results with it I guess but I love it!

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  4. I have read this post (and your other pumping ones) at least half a dozen times in preparation for beginning again with baby #2, because I have forgotten basically everything in the two years since last time. I just wanted to say thank you for putting this together! It's been so helpful!


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