Breastfeeding Accessories, Tips, Tricks, and Making Your Life Easier
I don't believe mama needs anything other than a baby and her boobs to nurse. I hesitate "advocating" any "product/item" because I really don't want to make mothers feel like they need to get this or that, or that their breastfeeding experience will get better with such and such item. I prefer helping moms feel comfortable with only their breasts and their baby vs. telling them "well, buy/make this and it will be easier." However, there are many accessories that many nursing moms love, and this post is a way to document all the ones I've come across. If I *were* to tell a mom to buy one nursing accessory, I think it would be a nursing tank because it is so versatile. It is cheap, easy to use, and has the added benefit of covering the mid-section (the main reason), while also cover the top portion of the breast while nursing. This means "discrete" nursing in public - which is not necessary, but makes a LOT of moms a whole lot more comfortable nursing, while not distracting the baby in any way - which means they're likely to nurse longer, and that's the ultimate goal.
DIY Nursing Bra/Tank - If you don't want to spend a ton of money on a nursing bra, or you just know a brand/style that you love, you can make your own (even if you're a hideous seamstress).
Supplemental Nursing System - When milk production is low, or baby needs to be away from the breast - the SNS can be used as a finger feeder by the mom or caregiver to help avoid a preference for things other than mom's breast. There is a learning curve and there is the potential of baby prefering the SNS, but there is a much smaller influence by an SNS than artificial nipples. This is also a great way for mom to stimulate her own milk production while using a supplement, getting baby used to latching, or simply keeping baby at the breast for any reason when a supplement is used.
Medela also sells an SNS which can be purchased from most stores that sell infant feeding items.
Leaky Boob Fixes - Sometimes, your breasts may leak - especially if you have a bountiful supply and when you're nursing on the other breast. If you place direct pressure on your breasts, this typically stops your breasts from leaking during a let down - but maybe you don't wish to do this, or have so much of an oversupply (which is another post for another day) that you leak a lot. Here is where something like mymilkiesor nursing pads come in handy. The pads are just what they sound like - pads to catch leaky milk. There are disposable options and reusable options. Disposable options may contain chemicals that you don't want near your body and can get costly so having some reusable on hand is beneficial. You can make your own or purchase. In my experience, many reusable options will leak all the way through when you're supply is large - so this is something to think about when shopping around or buying material. Likewise, they can contribute to thrush if they aren't breathable or not changed often enough. Mymilkies are cup-like sheilds that go over the breast you're not nursing on to catch any milk that leaks during letdown, which you can then save later for a night out, feeding at work, or to mix into veggies - wonderful for moms that don't respond to the pump well or just want a little extra without purchasing a pump.
Nipple Ointment - Typically, this is lanolin, and Lansinoh is the most popular brand. This is another product that isn't necessary, and may contribute to thrush issues. But for a mom and baby having difficulty latching, it can really help to soothe sore nipples. I found it incredibly helpful to use while pumping - even with a well-fitted flange - as my nipple just worked with the pump better this way and I expressed an exponentially increased amount of milk while using lanolin vs. breastmilk, oil, or nothing.
Breast Pump - Any Closed-System pump will work, just depends on your needs for the amount you *should* spend. Why closed-system? This means the parts that do and have the potential to come in contact with the milk can be fully sanitized. YES, it is quite common to find mold and other bacteria in open-system pumps (like the ever popular Medela personal-use pumps). Closed-system brands include Hygeia Baby, Ameda, Lansinoh. Hygeia Baby is the only company I know of that fully follows the WHO marketing code. Ameda's and Lansinoh's parent companies do not, but they do. I personally used an Ameda Purely Yours Double Electric and have loved it and loaned it to friends in need (purchased back when their parent company did follow the WHO code). Medela does not follow the WHO code.
Nursing Necklace - There are numerous companies that offer beautiful mama/nursing necklaces. Their most beneficial use is keeping a distracted baby occupied to stay on the breast for an extended period of time. Some double as teethers or are just plain beautiful and hold up to baby and toddler pulling. You can easily make your own with some sturdy rope/leather and a strong charm, or find a company you want to support. Some brands include: Mommy Necklaces, and Monkey Mama Necklaces.
Nursing Cover - Many babies don't like to be covered, and the visual connection during nursing is important for their development as well as bonding. I never want a mother to feel like she needs a cover, and I would rather spend the time having a lunch date with a mom to get her used to nursing in public. There are also a variety of tricks to nursing in public by layering clothing (like the nursing tank), or using a carrier/wrap, or just maneuvering your body, or selectively choosing where you sit. However, sometimes, moms just want a cover - and other times, this IS the make or break part of breastfeeding. In our culture, we're just not supported to nurse, especially past 6 months. You can throw a receiving blanket over you, but a "nursing cover" usually has a strap that goes over your neck to keep the cover on you while the baby tries to pull on the cover. Fun times! They are super easy to make, and there are a variety of companies that make them. I suggest supporting your local WAHM and getting one custom made.
Support Pillow - These usually don't help moms learn how to hold their baby or get comfortable with breastfeeding. They tend to make it very difficult to transition from nursing at home to nursing somewhere else, especially in public. However - especially if you're recovering from a cesarean - a support pillow (or multiple ones) can help bring baby up to the nipple level without you exerting a lot of energy. I, personally, felt like the marketed breastfeeding pillows just didn't do the trick that good ole bed pillows did - but there are many who claim otherwise. Bottom line, they aren't necessary - but if you find they enhance your breastfeeding relationship, it is an option. I like to use a few throw pillows to prop up baby when they're nursing to sleep and I need to lean back and get some work done in the office.When I discover items I find beneficial, I'll update this list... for now, my favorites are the DIY nursing tanks or bras! How have you made breastfeeding easier for you with the unecessaries?