Okay, so that's really the only "MUST-HAVE" when it comes to breastfeeding. But there are actually lots of "NICE TO HAVES" that can make the process easier.
I know, I know. The point of breastfeeding is that you can be lazy and not have to buy a bunch of stuff. And the truth is, it DOES get easier. There's a steep learning curve, but after the first five weeks, it's awesome. I'm so glad I stuck with it.
But let's be real. Unless you live in the wilderness and walk around with no shirt on all day so your nipples are weathered and tough (Naked and Afraid, anyone?), you might need a few pain-relievers and maybe some other accessories. So just in case someone out there is wondering what they should stock up on to start their breastfeeding career, here's what worked for me.
(After this, I'm totally done talking about boobs.)
(For at least a few weeks.)
- Nursing pads. A friend of mine recommended the Johnson & Johnson pads in the pink box, and I agree that they are the softest and most soothing on sore boobs. I also like that they are not individually wrapped (ain't nobody got time for that). They are also uber-absorbant, which was good for my crazy milk supply in the early days--the boob not in use would not just leak, but spray while Zuzu nursed on the other side. These pads kept it in check. The downside is that they are kinda big, so wearing them under a tank out in public is noticeable. I also got some of the Lansinoh pads, which are not as soft but are more subtle under clothing, and since they are individually wrapped, they are good to toss into a diaper bag for a switch. For the first several months, I had to change pads after every single feeding. My supply finally slowed down toward the end of her first year, but it took a while. I'd originally purchased a few washable organic cotton nursing pads, planning to be crunch and cloth-diapery about it. Hahaha. I leaked right through those puppies. And right through the ultra-absorbent hemp nursing pads. And through the $30 wool nursing pads. And then I finally said "eff this sh*t" and went back to buying box after box of the disposable Johnson and Johnson pads.
- Lanolin. I smeared this on like nobody's business. Just keep applying it even though it doesn't seem like it's working and then--finally--one day you won't need it anymore. Although I have used it on diaper rash, blisters, and even small cuts. It's kind of amazing stuff, and you don't have to wipe it off before the baby nurses again (which is great, because the idea of "wiping" sore nips is pretty awful). I think one brand of Lanolin is much like another, but I'd say I preferred Lansinoh over Medela because the opening in the tube was slightly larger and easier to squeeze out (picky, picky, I know).
- Breast shells. So there was a huge yowch-factor when I started breastfeeding. And by "yowch," I mean cracked and bleeding nipples. Which was absolutely horrifying (not to mention rather painful). A lactation consultant at the hospital gave me these shells, and they were great because they keep anything from touching sore nipples, which allows them to heal faster (thanks to air circulation) and keeps the Lanolin from coming off onto your bra or tank. These things look super weird in your bra or tank and you can't leave the house with them in, but they are a great break for your poor, painful boobs.
- Soothing gel pads. Speaking of relieving pain, slapping a couple of soothing gel pads on was the best thing I ever did for my boobs. They offer instant relief (pro tip: keep them in your refrigerator!). They are resuable for a couple of days, then you want to toss them and use new ones. I sighed with relief every time I applied this, and I think they helped tremendously.
- Milkies collector cup. This is super weird, but kind of awesome. I got one too late for it to be super useful for me, but I wished I would have had it in the beginning when one boob would spew an ounce or two of milk while the baby was nursing on the other side. (Well, not the very beginning--I'd wait until it didn't hurt anymore and I was ready to mess with it.) You just stick it in your bra and let it collect the milk that would otherwise be absorbed by a nursing pad. An ounce or two per feeding adds up quickly over time, and you can easily have extra milk on hand for a bottle or even to freeze without the bother of pumping. Things to remember: Don't bend over or you'll pour milk out of it! (This might have happened to me.)
- Burp cloths. I made a bunch of these by sewing a thick strip of cute flannel material down the middle of an old-school Gerber pre-fold diaper. I don't know how they would work as actual diapers, but they were great for wiping up breastmilk. In fact, if I got caught without a nursing pad, I'd just stick the end of one of the burp cloths in my bra while Zuzu nursed on the other side. I had lots of them so I could easily toss them in the wash, and keep several on rotation near the recliner and in the diaper bag.
- Big water cup. I recommend investing in two big Tervis cups with lids (one for use, one for the dishwasher) and keep the refills coming. I was soooooo thirsty, which I guess is nature's way of keeping you hydrated enough to produce plenty of milk. I drank water like nobody's business. I probably drank a 16 ounces of water during/after every single nursing session there for a while (multiply that by 8 times a day and you get: a LOT of water).
- Trail mix. Nursing made me SUPER hungry. I would get those big containers of trail mix and just keep them next to the recliner so I could shove handfuls of nuts and raisins and chocolate chips into my mouth while the baby ate. Hungry = cranky for me and for Zuzu, so trail mix did a great job of keeping us both happy.
- Resources. The advice I would give for breastfeeding moms is this: Trust your instincts, and don't be afraid to ask for help. I consulted my doula, our pediatrician, lactation consultants at the hospital where I delivered, other moms, a nursing mom's support group at the hospital, breastfeeding experts at a local "hippie" resale boutique, and La Leche League leaders with a zillion different questions about breastfeeding. Eventually I learned to ignore the advice that didn't jive with me (like my old-man-pediatrician's suggestion to pump a lot in the early days when I had an oversupply) and I got over my trepidation about LLL and discovered they are not no-formula-Nazis but just super nice women who want other women to have a good experience with breastfeeding (in my opinion, they are as knowledgeable as any lactation consultant, will take the time to come to your house and meet with you one on one, and are doing so as volunteers so they don't charge you $60 an hour). Sure, they're kinda crunchy, but I found their advice about plugged ducts to be invaluable.
- Kellymom.com. It's a breastfeeding support website, with well-researched information and has links to other sources to help with everything from expressing the maximum amount of milk while pumping to what color your baby's poop should be. Sometimes it can be information overload, and I am not sure how their search function works because it didn't always connect me to the most relevant articles right away, but Kellymom.com is what first clued me in to the fact that I had an oversupply and could adjust could just feeding Zuzu on one side per feeding. LIFE CHANGING. (Of course, I confirmed that with a lactation consultant and then went to a LLL meeting to ask other moms about it because I'm a little crazy, but you do what works for you.) It's a great resource when you need reassurance that your baby's neon yellow poop is totally normal.
- Nursing cover. One of the best things about breastfeeding is that is super convenient. You wear the right kind of shirt, and you can nurse your baby anywhere. I have nursed Zuzu at Busch stadium, at the Arch, at the zoo, at Grant's Farm, at the mall, in many restaurants, and at church. I remember one of my friends stressing out about meeting her mother-in-law for lunch and having to go home and nurse the baby first (who was also going to lunch with her). I just couldn't handle that kind of inconvenience. After a while, I was comfortable enough that if I had on a scarf or loose shirt that would hang down, I didn't care about a nursing cover, but for a long time it was easiest to cover up with a cute Bebe au Lait cover and let Zuzu have a snack, wherever I was. Keep the baby happy! I never had anything but neutral or positive responses to breastfeeding in public. (Although David's seventeen-year-old brother turned bright red and bolted from the room when I started nursing Zuzu at David's dad's house at Christmas time). I don't think anyone should feel uncomfortable nursing in public, but I also get that not everyone wants their boobs (or postpartum belly) hanging out. So a nursing cover is a nice way to have some privacy without having to leave the room.
- A pump. It's worth spending money on a good pump. Says the girl who borrowed a good pump from a friend. Borrowing pumps is somewhat controversial since it is possible that you could exchange fluid (read: breastmilk) with another user of the pump. I borrowed a pump from a friend whom I am confident is HIV negative and with whom I'd feel comfortable sharing dessert. Anyway, I bought my own tubing and attachments and never thought twice about using the same pump motor that she had used. I also used Medela's steam bags at work (in the biology lab's microwave--much cleaner than the faculty lounge) to sterilize pump parts and the Medela wipes for a quick clean up when I was pumping twice a day at work. I liked Lansinoh storage bags.
Because I was using a borrowed pump, I took it to a local boutique that sells pumps and had them test it to make sure the pressure was still where it was supposed to be. They also fitted me for the flanges. That was kind of a funny moment because the lady asked me if my nipple was larger or smaller than the tip of my pinky finger. I stared at my pinky finger in bewilderment and she asked me if I'd be comfortable letting her look. By this point I was over being shy and I would pretty much show my boobs to any woman who seemed the slightest bit maternal, so I stripped down and she recommended a size that didn't come standard with the pump. I later ended up buying one size down because after Zuzu started eating table food and my supply slowed down a little, my boobs quit getting engorged before pumping and I needed a smaller flange. Having the correct size made all the difference in how much milk I'd be able to express while pumping, so I highly recommend getting a professional opinion or just ordering a couple of different size flanges so you can experiment with what feels the best and gets the most milk for your money.
- Hands-free-pumping-bra. This thing is a must-have for the mom who's pumping at work. Because there's no time to sit around holding flanges up to your boobs when the bra could be doing it for you while you check your email or eat your salad. One of my friends loved the simple zipper, but I personally thought it was worth having the hook and eye closure because as my supply adjusted I was able to move from the furthest hook to the tightest closure. And the polka-dots are super cute -- I got the red.
Finally, and perhaps the only thing on this list that is actually a "MUST-HAVE":
- A supportive spouse. David was totally cool with me breastfeeding. I think because he'd read enough about benefits of breastfeeding, but mostly because he was stoked about saving money by not buying formula (haha, after this list of accessories I purchased, I'm starting to wonder if we actually saved any money at all...). He showed his support mostly by bringing the baby to me when she woke up in the middle of the night for a feeding. That way I could just lay in bed and whip out my boob, I could nurse lying down, and then when Zuzu was finished and milk drunk and I was sleepy from my relaxing hormone hit, David would put the baby back in her bed. It was an awesome system.
So there is my comprehensive and materialistic list of Breastfeeding Accessories. Have I overlooked anything?