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Congratulations! You’re pregnant! You’ve been educating yourself on all things baby and have come to the decision you want to breastfeed. Good for you! Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to ensure your baby has the best nourishment, but also a great way to nurture all her emotional and physical needs.

You’re probably wondering though, What all do I need to buy to have a successful, long nursing relationship?

Well since the dawn of day, women have nursed without all kinds of fancy gadgets, so really? You need nothing but what the good Lord gave ya. But let’s be real. It’s 2015! You’re a busy woman, and maybe even going back to work soon… you need gadgets and gear.

They make a thousand products from pumps, to pads, to shields and more. They even have breastmilk dipsticks to test your milk for alcohol before feeding baby. Amazing!

However, every woman does not need every product. The following are some products that almost all breastfeeding mothers will find useful:

  • Breast Pump
  • Breast Pads
  • Nipple Cream
  • Nursing Bras

Breast Pump

There are many kinds of breast pumps out there. You may be thinking We’re going to exclusively breastfeed, why do I need a pump?

A pump is great for when you’re engorged in the beginning. Maybe you will have an oversupply and need to pump. Maybe you want to donate milk. Or maybe you just want to have an emergency freezer stock if for any reason you were no longer able to breastfeed. You might need to pump bottles for when you’re working. Pumps can even be used to increase low supplies. There are all kinds of reasons you will want to have some kind of pump (manual, or electric) on hand.

There are many options, but I will tell you about my experiences as I can only speak for what I’ve used.

       Medela Pump In Style Advanced

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I have the Medela Pump In Style Advanced electric pump that I got from Target. This pump typically does a great job at getting milk out, for me. It is the only electric pump I have used. It has a great reputation and lives up to it. The kit you buy comes with everything you need to start out. As long as you clean and replace parts properly, the Medela PISA is a wonderful pump.

It comes with a battery pack (4 AA batteries needed) that in my opinion is a joke. Suction is much weaker with battery use. And the batteries (I’ve used all different brands) die quickly.

Also it is marketed as “hands free” but that is only if you have a bustier (theirs or homemade). The bustier, however, is not included in the starter kit.

       Manual Pump

I also have a yellow Medela plunger that attaches to the back of the “horn” for manual pumping. This little device was given to me when I first met with my Lactation Consultant. It works really well to shove in the diaper bag just in case I might need to relieve a little build up for any reason. I had an oversupply problem for a while so I was making more than Critter could eat and I needed relief.  On some occasions I get more with the manual than the pump because the suction is a bit different.

       Hand Expression

Of course there’s always good ol’ fashioned hand expression. This takes a bit of practice, but almost any time I pump with the above products, I finish up with hand expression and get another 1/2oz -1oz out. Hand expression can take time, and practice and be messy sometimes, but it is way more effective (though maybe less efficient) than using a pump.

        Breast Pads

There are many, many different nursing pads out there from washable to disposable. I personally have only used the Medela disposables and LillyPadz, and this is what I thought:

       Medela Disposables

I used the kind that had a sticky back to hold the pad in place in the cup of the bra. I loved them. I really didn’t have any issues with them except that I went through them too quickly! After 2 boxes of 60pads (less than a 30 day supply per box) I found out that Target sold these in a box of 120, and that is how I recommend you buy these.


These were recommended to me by another mom. They are a silicone shell that cups over your nipple and can be worn in the water and more, which makes them great for swimming. They are a great concept and very comfy and natural feeling. You don’t feel any bulk in your bra. They are marketed to be leak free, yet my biggest issue was leakage. However, this may have been due to using them when I was still engorged and battling oversupply and strong, frequent let downs.

This product needs proper cleaning and storage, which is easy. However, if you fail to do this, they will get very yucky. I let mine sit on the counter once and they were covered in dust and dog hair because EVERYTHING sticks to them.

Also, be aware that products like this can NOT be used if you are prone to or are dealing with Thrush. The moist environment is prime real estate for that nasty yeast.

Nipple Creams

I’m going to tell you right now, you NEED nipple cream. Especially if you have as sensitive skin as I do. I started out with the Lasinoh Lanolin Ointment… It did nothing for me. Many moms swear by it and other commercial ointments, but for me the only thing that has worked well is Organic Extra Virgin Coconut Oil. The Coconut Oil has not only been soothing and relieving, it also helps prevent and treat thrush, which I believe we have battled (undiagnosed). As soon as I start noticing symptoms, I make sure I’m using Coconut Oil and the symptoms disappear in a day or two.

Nursing Bras

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From Motherhood Maternity

Nursing bras are important for easy breast access. I love the Motherhood Maternity bras. They have a soft, sports bra looking one that is very comfortable. I only have 2 qualms with it. 1. It’s FULL coverage, so I can’t wear it with everything (and I’d love to because its soooo comfy!). 2. The cup pads inside tend to fold and come out in the wash and I find that very inconvenient and frustrating.

I also have Motherhood’s fancier underwire nursing bras. These are nice because you still feel sexy and you can wear them with almost anything. The problem is with the underwire. You MUST be cautious with underwire when nursing, as underwire has been linked to an increased risk for developing mastitis.

I briefly used a weird combo of a soft cup and underwire bra and it was horribly uncomfortable. The only good thing was this particular style had a piece of material covering the top of my breast, so I didn’t feel totally exposed when nursing. I would love if Motherhood added this feature to their awesome bras!

Of course there are many, many more products and brands out there, but these are the basics with my personal opinions attached. Hopefully, this insight can help you find product that will work for you!

What items could you not survive nursing without? What items did you think you would love, but ended up not needing? Comment below to let us other moms in on your product favorites, tips and secrets!

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Jaimie Zaki

Jaimie Zaki

Jaimie is a mom, an Air Force wife, and nurse who grew up in rural Maryland. She has faced many challenges with the transition to motherhood. These challenges however, helped her find her passion for educating and supporting other women throughout their journeys and challenges in breastfeeding, relationships and motherhood. She is really excited to find her voice again by writing for Breastfeeding World and helping spread the good word!
Jaimie Zaki

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