Required: 1-2 breastfeeding shawls or covers, lanolin cream for sore nipples
Highly Recommended: Breast pump (electric highly recommended over manual), milk collection bottles or bags
Recommended: breastfeeding pillow, a selection of breastfeeding aids as issues arise
Breast is best or so says an army of health care agencies and workers – and there is indeed compelling evidence that breastfeeding lowers the risk by 20-30% of your child developing middle ear infections, gastrointestinal infections, lower respiratory tract diseases, eczema, asthma, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, and SIDS. The evidence is less firm, but the fatty acids in breast milk may also slightly boost your child’s intelligence. What is clear is that breast milk provides your baby with all the vitamins and nutrients they need and is the only food source 100% naturally designed for your child. In addition, it is thought to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes as well as breast, uterine and ovarian cancers. It is the cheaper alternative and convenient to boot.
While in theory breastfeeding comes naturally, many women struggle physically in the initial stages of breastfeeding, struggle to maintain it due to sheer exhaustion, and even find it alienating if they have little support from others. There are a number of accessories which address these issues and which we highly recommend in sustaining breastfeeding if that is your choice. Breastfeeding shawls, aprons or covers are essential in allowing you to feed in public – it simply isn’t practical to plan to be home for every feed no matter how inhibited you are. We highly recommend buying a breast pump and starting the expressing of milk early – this will allow your partner to do one of the night feeds and also enable you to continue breastfeeding after you go back to work. Lanolin cream is a life saver in the early days – frankly, breastfeeding is painful for many women and latch assistants, nipple shields, inverted nipple formers, and cooling pads can all help enormously depending on the issue. Finally, while stacking pillows can help, an ergonomically designed breastfeeding pillow is beneficial in maintaining correct posture and supporting back, neck, shoulders and arms during each feed. Many women swear by them.
It’s not required and some women won’t want to use them at all, but we highly recommend starting the expressing of milk at an early stage. You will need to use a breast pump if you want to offer your baby breast milk when you go back to work, but it’s also a good idea just for your own sanity – so you can have the odd hour or two to run errands on your own or to allow your partner to do a night-time feed so you can sleep. Here are our main tips for choosing the model best for you:
Quality of pump: You should be able to easily adjust speed and vacuum strength.
Portability: If you need to express when at work, an additional discreet and travel-friendly breast pump may be worth considering.
Comfort: Look for pump with adjustable vacuum settings, cushioned cups, sensors that quickly work out your optimum pumping rhythm and pumps designed to encourage a quicker ‘letdown’.
Speed: Dual breast pumps allow you to express milk from both breasts simultaneously making the process quicker and potentially increasing your milk production.
Power: A mains-operated breast pump means you will need to be near a power socked so you may require a battery operated model if you need a breast pump on the go.
You will require bottles to store breast milk in your refrigerator for use within 2-3 days and storage bags on which you can clearly mark the date of expressing for the freezer if you want to store for longer. Breast milk properly stored in the freezer can be used for up to six months.
While it is certainly feasible to stack pillows or blankets underneath your elbows and behind your back to make breastfeeding more comfortable, it is much better to use an ergonomically designed breastfeeding pillow to support your back, neck, shoulders and arms while also maintaining your baby at the correct height and position. These pillows are filled with micro-beads that adapt to your body, providing comfort and relief.
Stock up on disposable breast pads if you are planning to breastfeed – these are a worth their weight in gold item whose use you just can’t envision until you start nursing. Lanolin cream is another must have item for the early stages of breastfeeding and should be applied after every feed whether your nipples are cracked or not. Nipple protectors take this one step further in offering an odourless, taste-free silicone covering over cracked and bleeding nipples that still allows baby to feed. Latching assistants are useful for flat nipples in drawing out the nipple so baby can establish a good latch. Niplettes again take this one step further by drawing flat or inverted nipples out through gentle suction into a thimble like cup. We are the first to admit that none of this sounds very glamorous, but each can be a life saver for women desperate to soothe their sore breasts in order to allow them to continue breastfeeding.
You may be a naturally inhibited person or may just be concerned about exposing yourself in public, but either way, breastfeeding in public can be quite awkward – and it is made worse by a public that is still not entirely comfortable with women nursing in open spaces. These are stylish, functional options for breastfeeding on the go – offering yourself and your little one privacy while still enabling you to maintain eye contact.
Whether breast or bottle feeding, muslins and cotton bibs are two essential must-have items. While the muslins we typically picture in our head are of the plain white square variety and are still perfectly useful, there are a number of extra large muslins on the market that double as stroller covers, nursing shields, tummy time blankets, changing station covers and portable crib sheets. The Aden + Anais large muslins or swaddle blankets – already well known to yummy mummies everywhere – have skyrocketed in popularity since Prince George of Cambridge was carried out of St. Mary’s hospital swaddled in one for his first trip to Kensington Palace.