Breastfeeding Basics – What You Need to Breastfeed Successfully

Nipple cream and nursing pads, breast shields and Boppys, shells and storage bags.  Take a quick walk down the breastfeeding aisle at any baby store and your head is sure to spin.  Do you really need all of this to breastfeed successfully?

On the most basic level, you need two (three?) things to breastfeed: a baby and breasts.  So before you take the scanning gun and register for the entire breastfeeding aisle, let’s talk about the necessary “extras” and how they would make breastfeeding easier.

Breastfeeding “Necessary” Extras

breastfeed necessities

  • A Water Bottle – Staying hydrated is so important when breastfeeding!  There is no “magic amount” of water you should drink when breastfeeding and most women are able to produce enough milk by drinking to “satisfy thirst.”  That is easier said than done for most new moms as so much is on their minds!  If you can aim to drink each time you sit down to breastfeed, that’s great!  If you need a little reminder throughout the day, I love this water bottle that I found on Amazon.

breastfeed reusable breast pads bamboobies

  • Breast Pads – Your breasts (obviously) don’t have an on/off switch for releasing milk and it is not uncommon for women to leak.  While it can be embarrassing for some (most?) women when they leak, it also makes extra laundry.  With disposable breast pads costing about $7.99 for 30
    pads, the cost is sure to add up quickly!  My choice?  Reusable breast pads from our friends at Bamboobies! They quickly pay for themselves, are cute, and good for the environment.
  • Support – Breastfeeding can be hard!  It is important that you have a strong support system (both informal and formal) to encourage you when you’re struggling.  While not every woman will need professional support to breastfeed successfully, I definitely recommend having the name(s) and number(s) of one or two lactation professionals on hand, just in case.  Sometimes you just need someone to tell you that you’re doing everything right, and other times you may need more targeted support.  If you are struggling, ask for help early on – your body and your baby will thank you.
    Blissful Birthing offers in-home prenatal or postpartum lactation support throughout Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties, as well as Greenwich, CT.


Things “Everyone” Has, But You May Not Need to Breastfeed

  • breastfeeding pillowNursing Pillows – Yes, they can be helpful, but you don’t really need them.  Some women find them to be too bulky, hard to get comfortable with, or inconvenient for nursing in some positions.  Some women who use a nursing pillow to breastfeed become ‘dependent’ to the point that they won’t leave the house because they don’t want to bring their nursing pillow along!  Or you’ll end up buying 2 or 3 so you can have one in each of the rooms you’re in the most.  It gets expensive!  If you find you need a little extra support when nursing, grab a pillow from the bed or couch.  They’re less bulky and easier to put into the position that you need.
    • If you want to try a nursing pillow, I LOVE this one that Boppy makes. You can use it with either the firm or plush side up making it very versatile.
  • breastfeed nipple creamNipple Cream – Some women swear by nipple cream! Nipple cream can be used to soothe sore, cracked nipples.  However, it doesn’t address the cause of the sore, cracked nipples (which is usually a latch issue).  Not to mention, it can be pricey.  Coconut oil can be used as a barrier, or even a little expressed breast milk.  It is best to let your breasts dry after feeding if they’re chapped, instead of slathering them with lotion and putting them back in your bra (warm, moist environments are favorable for bacterial growth, especially if there is a crack in the skin).
    • For our clients who ask about nipple cream, I like this lanolin-free cream from Bamboobies.
  • Nipple Shields – I often see nipple shields recommended in Facebook mom groups when women who are experiencing pain while breastfeeding ask for help.  A nipple shield may help with some of the pain, but do not address the underlying issue, and thus, are not necessary to breastfeed successfully.  If you are experiencing pain (beyond discomfort) when breastfeeding, speak with a lactation professional as your baby may not be latching correctly, or may have a lip/tongue tie.

Additional Readings

5 Ways for Non-Breastfeeding Family to Bond

Early Breastfeeding – 10 Tips for Success

Common Breastfeeding Myths Busted

This post is for informational purposes only and should not replace consultation with a medical provider. The above information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.




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