Thursday, September 11, 2014

Nursing Essentials

Those first few weeks of breastfeeding are magical, after all you are nourishing a little human with your own body! Of course breastfeeding is a different experience for every woman and child, but I am sure every mother has felt overwhelmed, frustrated, and uncomfortable from time to time, especially if it is your first time breastfeeding. Really, all you need to breastfeed is your breast and the baby, but whether you are someone who is nursing for the first, third, or fifth (kudos to you!) time, it is always nice to haves some additional items to help make the experience even better. We've gathered up some essentials that we have found helpful throughout our experience.

Nursing Bras

Nursing bras are great because they have a clip on the strap that allows you to continue wearing your bra while allowing baby access to the breast. Non-underwire nursing bras are highly recommended by OBGYNs and Lactation Consultants as the underwire can cause milk ducts to clog (which is super painful). Almost any store that sells maternity clothes will have nursing bras for purchase and they come in a variety of styles. We recommend actually going to the store and trying on bras before you purchase them in store or on-line. You may also choose to buy a couple nursing sleep bras, these have less support but are way more comfortable for sleeping in and those foggy night time nursing sessions.

Here are some of our favorites.

{1} Wireless Jacquard Nursing Bra (Motherhood Maternity)

Jenn:  I purchased four of these bras and found them to be very comfortable and practical. I purchased mine at Destination Maternity where I found the staff to be extremely helpful. They measured me, helped me gauge how much bigger my breasts would be after the baby came, and suggested brands that fit my figure and lifestyle (I’m pretty active and not really into fancy lingerie for everyday use). If there isn't a Destination Maternity near you, Buy Buy Baby, Amazon, and Macy's all seem to sell the Motherhood Maternity brand.

{2} Women's Nursing Comfort Sleeping Bra (Gillian and O’Malley)

Kathryn: I lived in these bras for way longer than I want to admit. I still wear them now around the house or when I don’t feel like putting on a big girl bra. Yes, I’m fully aware that it says “sleep bra.” but I in my defense I was sleep walking through most of that first year anyway so technically it was fine to wear these during the day. Plus they are very affordable so I was able to get a good amount on the cheap. Added points for being sold at Target, which will become your second home, both for shopping and just wandering around aimlessly while childless.

Jenn: I absolutely love these.  I wanted to wear them all the time and at $16 bucks they are a steal. They have lasted almost one year and are still in great shape. Now that I am done nursing, I still wear them to bed (the ladies need a little extra support) and I plan to hang on to them in case there is ever a baby #2.

{3} Nursing Sleep Bra (Gillian and O’Malley)

Kathryn: I wore these for a while at night, then they kind of stretched out after washing them a few times. But they were nice in those first few weeks when you are basically sleeping sitting up with child attached to you at all hours of the night. There’s nothing to unclip, etc. Easy as can be.

Pumping Bras

As amazing as pumps are, they have not invented one that you don't have to hold while pumping. Holding the pump set-up gets old after a while and sometimes pumping is straight-up boring and you want to read a book, peruse Pinterest for a new craft that you won’t have time to do for another year or two, or take a catnap.

Jenn: The first time I pumped, my sister was kind enough to come over and show me how to do it. About three minutes in, I turned to her and said “Do I have to hold this the whole time?”  She thought that was hilarious, but I knew there had to be a better way.  Then I ordered this and it was AMAZING!  Seriously, after I used it for the first time, I did a happy dance.  It is a little pricey, but it has a Velcro backing that you can adjust as your breasts shrink and grow-so you only have to buy one. Also you can throw it on right over your nursing bra after you've unclipped it and you don't have to get all naked in the pumping room at work!  It also comes with straps if you need some extra support. I buy one for all of my pregnant girlfriends who plan on pumping. Oh, and if you do decide to take a catnap while pumping, set a timer or you may wake up with breastmilk backing up into the tubes, breastshields, and all over you!

Kathryn: I bought this after I went back to work and couldn't believe I hadn't gotten one sooner. I was holding those damn cups on my boobs for three months when I could have been maxin’ and relaxin’ all along. That being said, I know they make way better ones, so this might not be my “favorite” but it’s one I used.

Kathryn: This one looks awesome and is on my wish list for next baby. It’s a nursing bra and pumping bra in one.

Breast Pump

Whether you plan on returning to work or not, a good breast pump is a true essential for any breastfeeding mother. There may be instances where you will not be home in time for a feeding, maybe you want to go out with a friend, or maybe you just want a little break! If you don't plan on pumping a lot, a manual pump will work just fine. But if you will be pumping a lot, you may want to get a quality electric pump. Electric pumps, however, can be quite pricey. We're talkin' $300-$400 pricey. Lucky for us, the Affordable Care Act now requires most insurance plans to provide breastfeeding equipment for nursing women. Yes, you heard us correctly! This means that depending on your plan you could qualify for a rental or a brand new pump for you to keep at NO CHARGE! Check with your doctor or call your insurance company to find out if your plan qualifies. 

If you do not qualify or do not have insurance, don't worry, you still have choices. If you don't plan on pumping a lot, and don't mind squeezing the pump, a manual pump should work nicely for you. It will run you anywhere from $30 to $50. An electric pump will run you anywhere from $150 to $400. The cream-of-the-crop is the Medela Symphony which costs over $2,000! If an electric pump is just not in your budget, ask a friend or family member who is no longer nursing if you can borrow theirs. You can purchase an accessory pack for under $50 that will have all of the parts that shouldn't be shared for hygienic reasons.

Jenn: I was fortunate enough that my insurance did cover my pump. I received a Medela Pump-in-Style with all of the accessories, including two ice packs and four storage bottles. I don't have anything to compare it to, but I had no problems with it and was always able to pump when I needed!

Kathryn: I was very lucky that my best friend still had her pump and was kind enough to give it to me to use after my daughter was born. It was also the Medela Pump-in Style and even after she had used it for both of her daughters, it still worked just fine. I just had to buy new accessories for it (tubes, flanges, etc.) When I went back to work I used for almost the whole period that I pumped. And then I bought a replacement when they were crazy on sale at Target (the same kind, just a new one) and of course then my daughter weaned herself, so I didn't use it for very long. Murphy's Law, folks. Oh, yeah and my insurance did NOT cover a purchase of a pump or rental of one. Womp, womp.
Milk Storage

If you are pumping, you will definitely want to have some good storage containers. Milk storage comes in bottles, bags, pouches and trays. If you are wondering what the rules are for storing milk, has a great printable quick reference card for Breast Milk Storage & Handling.

Jenn: This is what I asked for and received from my registry.  It came with six 5 oz. breast milk bottles and lids, six 2 oz. breast milk bottles and lids, 6 breast milk labeling lids, twenty 5 oz. Pump & Save breast milk bags, 1 storage tray and 1 breast milk storage guidelines magnet. All of lids are interchangeable which is nice, because who wants to sit there and figure which lid goes on what bottle? And they are BPA free and reusable so you're doing the environment a solid. You can also purchase the 5 oz bottles, 2 oz bottles, and bags separately. 

Kathryn: I also used the Medela milk storage accessories. I stopped using the bags when I pumped at work after I clumsily spilled them a couple times resulting in just jaw dropping disappointment of all that wasted milk. I find they are trickier to handle than using the twist on bottles so I ended up buying more of those. However, I never really had enough milk to have a huge freezer stash, I was more so just making enough for the next day.

Also available at Amazon and Babies R Us.

{2} Milk Storage Bags

If you need to store up large amounts of milk it might be more economical to purchase bags instead of reusable bottles. Don't worry, the environment will forgive you.

There are so many different brands and they pretty much sold wherever baby items are sold.
Jenn: I didn't use these until I was trying to store up milk for a work trip. They work just as well as the storage bottles, I just prefer to not use disposable items if I can help it. I used the Medela since I could purchase a pack of bags with a pump adapter so that I could just pump right into the bag.

{3} Milk StorageTrays
With milk storage trays, you can freeze one ounce servings that fit through any bottle hole. You don't have to defrost, transfer and then warm up the bottle- you can just warm up the bottle!
Jenn: I saw these the other day when I was walking around Buy Buy Baby. I didn't even know they existed or I would have been all over them. 

Kathryn: What the!?! I'm definitely getting these next time.

Having difficulty finding them on the Buy Buy Baby website, but I was able to find some by Sensible Lines  and  Fresh Baby on Amazon.

{4} Milk Storage Pouches

The only pouch storage that we have seen is by KiindeTM. Their Twist Starter Kit is an all-in-one system that comes with adapters that fit all major pump brands allowing you to pump directly into the pouch. The bag then fits into a bottle so there is no transferring of breast milk. 

Kathryn: I only say beware of the fact that your baby might not want to drink from this bottle. This is a completely different post, but speaking from experience, sometimes babies are quite picky when it comes to where they will get their milk. 

Nursing Friendly Clothes

There are a lot of really great affordable clothing options out there to make the breast easily accessible in the home or in public. Here are some of our budget-friendly favorites.

{1} The Maxi Dress

Jenn: Rachel Zoe has one thing right, the maxi dress RULES! During the summer my go-to outfit was any type of maxi dress with a V-neck or halter that could easily be pulled down for easy access to the breast. I would usually wear a nursing tank or nursing bra underneath as well. As I'm sure you know, you can find maxi dresses practically anywhere. Some more affordable stores include Target, Meijer, Discovery, and the list goes on... These will likely get stained with milk/vomit/baby food so don't spend too much money on them.

{2} Nursing Tanks

Jenn: My favorite nursing tanks are the Motherhood Maternity brand. You can find them at Destination Maternity and Amazon. These are sturdy, affordable, and have lasted a whole year of me wearing and washing them a few times a week. In the winter I wore them under sweaters, so I didn't have to take my sweater off. I could just lift up the sweater, unclasp the strap and my son could eat and I could stay warm! They are still in great condition too and I continue to wear them since I stretched out all of my other tanks when I refused to buy maternity clothes last summer.

Kathryn: I only wore nursing tanks for maybe the first week and then I couldn't be bothered with them! Thankfully I only bought two from Target.

{3} Boyfriend V-neck Shirts from Target

We both LOVE the Boyfriend V-neck.
Kathryn: I have nothing but love for the boyfriend v-neck t-shirt from Target. I wore it while pregnant, postpartum, and I still wear them now. In hindsight, it would have been nice to have some more nursing-friendly shirts. Most of my nursing took place in fall and winter and I was usually wearing a bulky sweater that had to either come off, or I was dripping in sweat and uncomfortable.

Jenn: This was my other go-to wardrobe item. These are fantastic for nursing moms and are easily manipulated for breastfeeding- just pull it down, unclasp the nursing bra and stick a boob in baby’s mouth.  And they are cheap so it doesn't matter if you get sweet potatoes or spit-up or pee on them. I had a few from before I was pregnant that fit just fine after I lost all of my baby weight. I purchased a few one size larger than I normally wear for that immediate post-partum period, when you're not quite at full-preggo size, but you're not down to pre-baby size either.

{4} Scarves

Jenn: Scarves are a great way to look nice and cover your baby during breastfeeding sessions or yourself if you happen to be sharing the pumping room with someone. I wore a lot of scarves the winter after I gave birth. Mostly because it was so damn cold here in northern Illinois, but also because of these other reasons. Charming Charlie's has an AMAZING and affordable selection with solid color Pashminas for only $10!

{5} Button-down Shirts

Jenn: I have been a big fan of button-down shirts since before I nursed so I already had a supply ready to go. Target has some really cute button-downs and pop-overs. I own a few. They run true to size and are super comfy! Check out your local thrift store or consignment shop for more affordable and/or vintage options!

Stick these babies in to help stop visible milk leakage. They are a must have and come in both disposable and washable forms. You do not want to be caught in public with huge wet spots on both of your boobs! No ma’am, you do not.
Kathryn: We both preferred to use the washable pads and those worked for us. The disposable ones just looked like I had balled up some tissue paper and stuffed it in there. Plus they were itchy. I got these at Buy Buy Baby and they were very comfortable and held up well after many washes. You can get them in a bag of five or so pairs for around $7 or $8 dollars and for the price, you can’t beat it.

Nursing Pillow

There are so many new nursing pillows out there these days, giving nursing moms plenty of options. A nursing pillow is great because it allows you to support the baby and get them to the right level to latch on and nurse. They also give your arms a break and help you feel more relaxed.  

{1} Boppy Pillow

Jenn: I was fortunate enough to get both a Boppy and a My Brest Friend. I like the Boppy because it was easier to manipulate. You can manage getting it on and off you with one hand as there is nothing to clip/unclip. It also has multiple uses. As my son got older, we could use it for tummy time and as a sitting support. When it is time for his morning bottle, my husband and I put the Boppy in between us and Weston son loves to lay in it and have his morning bottle all cuddled up in our bed for a few minutes of family time before we start our day.   

{2} My Brest Friend

Kathryn: I have never used the Boppy pillow before. I used the My Brest Friend, and I liked it. However, I think the Boppy might be nice to have in addition, since it doesn't go all the way around your back like the My Brest Friend. If the baby falls asleep, you aren't stuck with the pillow going all the way behind your back, which has gotten uncomfortable at times. I like the one I have because it's firmer material. But, for my next baby I think I might get a Boppy pillow in addition to the My Brest Friend. 

Jenn: I really liked the My Brest Friend during the first few months of nursing. Since it wrapped around my waist and was more firm,  I felt comfortable standing up or walking around nursing my son when I didn't want to sit any longer. Don't worry, I still had my arm around the baby. 

Available at Amazon, Buy Buy Baby and Babies R Us

This is a newer pillow by Boppy that has both a firm and a softer side to it. It also has a belt like the My Brest Friend, but the pillow doesn’t go all the way around. This could be a good alternative to the traditional Boppy or My Brest Friend.

Available at AmazonBuy Buy Baby and Babies R Us.

Kathryn: Boppy also makes a travel nursing pillow that is a bit smaller than your everyday pillow. I brought my big old nursing pillow everywhere. Unfortunately, I wasn't one of those wonder women who could nurse anywhere doing anything. Maybe in my next life. A travel nursing pillow could have come in handy for me.  

Available at Amazon and Buy Buy Baby.

Please keep your arm around your baby at all times while using these pillows. Babies like to squirm and the pillows are meant to offer some assistance, not take the place of mommy's arms. 

A Treat Bag

Jenn: You will spend a lot of time feeding your little one. Some days it will feel like you never leave the couch. I remember totaling the time I spent nursing on one of those iPhone apps and one day it was 10 hours! That’s a long time! It’s a good idea to put together a bag of with some healthy snacks (trail mix, granola bars, dried fruit, the occasional bag of not-so-healthy Flamin’ Hot Cheetos), a water bottle, a burp cloth, nipple cream, and  some reading material and keep it near the place where you frequently nurse.

A Support Person

Last, but certainly not least, the most important essential that you need in your breastfeeding journey is a support person. Be it your partner, a friend, sister or mother, it’s very important to have someone to support you in the early weeks (and sometimes months) of this new endeavor. Someone to gather your items, or hold the baby while you get situated (and the baby doesn’t really feel like waiting for you to get situated), or to sit and talk with you at a party if you choose to nurse in another room. Someone who understands how important the nursing relationship is to you. We truly feel like nursing works best when someone is there to cheer you on and give support.

In addition to breastpumps, the Affordable Care Act also requires most insurance plans to provide breastfeeding support in the form of counseling or a lactation consultant. If you are having difficulty breastfeeding, don't hesitate to contact your insurance company to hook you up with some assistance.

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