I breastfed my little girl exclusively for nearly 3 months before she developed an appetite with which I just couldn't keep up. I am still breastfeeding partially and intend to do so for as long as she needs me, or as long as my body lets me; even when I return to work in the new year.
I've been planning a 'top 10 baby buys' blog over the weekend and I discovered that most of my recommended items were actually to do with breastfeeding so I thought I would do a separate blog, just for breast-feeding items.
Before I gave birth, I hadn't given much thought to breastfeeding paraphenalia - you've got your boobs, what else could you possibly need? Now I've done it once, I think there are a number of things that next time, I will make sure I have purchased BEFORE the birth! Here goes:-
- Milk Saver
This is my number one breastfeeding buy and I bet you've never heard of it! I reviewed it for the Mother & Baby awards and I honestly don't know how I coped without it! I certainly wish that I had owned one of these during the first few weeks after the birth when the milk first came in.
The Milk Saver by Milkies is a silicone shell that you place over your breast while you are nursing from the other breast. It catches the leaking milk so that you can store it for use at another time. I found that between my night feed and the first feed of the morning I could collect around 70ml of milk without even trying! Admittedly it is the watery stuff; but I could then add that to the milk that I was able to express at other times of the day.
Even once my milk supply had started to dwindle, I would use my milk saver during feeds to ensure that my free breast didn't leak all over my clothes, or waste another breast pad. I had found during the early days that I would use a whole disposable breast pad (I tried re-usables, I didn't get on with them; they didn't get on with me) during the late night and early morning feeds and it seemed like such a waste. The Milk Saver put an end to that.
- Lansinoh Lanolin
This was the number one recommendation to me by my sister-in-laws and I'm passing on that recommendation. A tube of Lansinoh's Lanolin is a must-have while you are getting into the swing of things, breast-feeding wise. I have tried a different brand of nipple cream which smelled nicer, was less susceptible to temperature differences (pure lanolin is sloppy when its hot and can be rock-solid when its cold!), and claimed to work wonders but it simply didn't help the cracked nipples. Using lanolin, my problems cleared up within a matter of days. Lansinoh's Lanolin recently won 'Best Product for Breastfeeding' at the Mother & Baby awards.
- Quality Nursing Bra(s)
I bought a couple of cheap nursing bras from a big high-street chain just before Lara was born. I had been too huuuge at that time to be bothered to search any harder. Within a week of the birth, my boobs were the size of watermelons and although the bras claimed they could accommodate me, they had lost any sort of shape or support that they had originally offered and I no longer felt confident wearing them.
I think you need at least 4 nursing bras that you are comfortable wearing, comfortable using and which make you feel great. If you have enough that you aren't stressed if your boobs leak on one of them, then you can relax a bit more when you are nursing.
I have recently tried the Cantaloop nursing bras. They are made of an incredibly comfortable fabric, provide amazing support and you'd barely know you were wearing it. I also love my Emily under-wired nursing bra because it's about as sexy as you can pull-off confidently when breastfeeding!
- Electric Breast Pump
I managed to lay my hands on a manual breast pump before Lara was born. At 4 weeks, after breastfeeding was fully established, I tried it out and discovered that (a) I needed more energy, and more hours in the day if I was going to express anything like enough milk and (b) I needed a third hand to be able to hold the pump, operate the pump and look after Lara at the same time.
I reviewed three different electric pumps for the Mother & Baby awards and all three of them worked soooooooo much better than the manual pump which was very quickly discarded! My favourite electric breast bump turned out to be the miPump by Learning Curve, The First Years. It is incredibly simple to use at home, or on the move and is comfy, flexible and efficient. You can buy the miPump from amazon, currently for around £47 which I think is a bargain.
- Microwave Steriliser Bags
I have used Lindam's ones; they take up much less space than an electric steamer or a full-sized microwave steriliser and if all you need it for is the occasional storage bottle or an emergency bottle, then they are great to tuck away in the cupboard. They also are a godsend when travelling.
- Support Pillow
I bought one of these at the baby show but it didn't (and still doesn't) fit round my middle! I only found this out once I had brought Lara back from hospital. Thankfully I was sent a Floppeze to test which is a better fit, more comfy and soft, and is now serving as a cushion for when Lara topples over from a sitting position. If you buy one, make sure it fits around you before you need to use it in anger!
- PLENTY of Nursing Tops
I don't know why it never crossed my mind to buy these before the birth! I know now that you basically need a whole wardrobe of them. The comfier the better. If you can buy some nursing tops in which you feel comfortable and confident, and which have sensible, easy access then realistically there is little need for you to purchase a breastfeeding shawl or sling. My most-worn nursing tops are all by Boob Design who you can buy from the NCT shop or a number of online maternity suppliers.
- Formula Cartons & Pre-Sterilised Bottles
OK, so you're thinking, what is formula milk doing on a list of breastfeeding best buys? Well, my Mum warned me that I should always have some formula in the house for use during emergencies... those days when you may be too ill to feed, too tired and you need Dad, Grandma or a friend to take over, or when you physically can't breastfeed due to sore or cracked nipples. At the time, I bought a huuuuuge tub of formula which we used once, and then we had to throw it away as we didn't need it again for months. I replaced it with a couple of the pre-mixed formula cartons and a pre-sterilised, sealed bottle from Boots.
Just the comfort of knowing that you have the emergency back-up with you is enough to justify the existence of this item on the list! Perhaps you'll never use it but you'll be glad it was there just in case. Take it out and about with you and you'll know that if you really can't find somewhere hygienic and accommodating to breastfeed, that you've got a bottle you could fall back on if you need it.