I’m a huge fan of breastfeeding. If you’re able to do it, I truly think it’s the easiest, cheapest and best way to feed your baby. I breastfed both my babies for almost two years each.
We talk a lot on this site about how difficult breastfeeding is in the beginning (#realstory), so I made a small collection of items (below) that I recommend you have on hand to prepare for the travails of nursing. You can usually purchase all of these things directly from your LC, but you will probably pay double (not that you give a flying F at that point about what things cost…).
The DIY Breast Care Kit
Your nipples can take a lot of abuse in those early days of learning how to latch properly. Think of the abuse your clutch took when you were learning how to drive a stick shift for the first time (if you’re too young for that, then, NM…) — same thing for your nipples.
There are four things we recommend to apply directly to your nipples:
This is an olive oil-based cream that is much less viscous than a lanolin-based cream. Applying thick, honey-like lanolin to sore nipples can, in and of itself, be painful. Use this instead.
This literally goes on like butter. It is so soothing to your sore, cracked, bleeding nipples. Best of all, it’s completely safe for baby so you don’t have to rub it off before baby — ouch! — latches again.
Neosporin ~$12 for 2
If there are open sores on your nipples, you can apply Neosporin to help them heal quickly. My lactation consultant said you can use a little bit without having to wash it off before nursing (why does it matter, you mask? Because washing your nipples hurts). If that freaks you out, consult your pediatrician. It works well, trust me!
Lansinoh Soothies ~$10 for a 2 pack
Soothies are cool, silicone pads that pamper sore (cracked, bleeding, oozing) nipples. The $10/pair price tag becomes a complete non-issue if you end up with latching difficulty and thus, a lot of pain. I suggest having one pair on hand to start; you can buy more if needed. (Each pair lasts for several days.)
- If your nipples become damaged, use breast shells ($18 for 2) to prevent them from touching… anything, including your own bra. Ah, oooh, ouch ouch ouch. So painful.
- If your baby has trouble latching or if your nipples are flat or inverted, you may benefit greatly from a nipple shield (~$9… don’t use long-term; consult a lactation consultant for more information). Many moms say this nipple shield was the secret bullet that allowed them to nurse successfully.
- For pumping specifically, a lanolin-based nipple cream (~$9) is perfect for smearing around the inside of the breast shield (see below). Like pistons in your car’s engine, your nipples also need to be lubricated while pumping or else they can become badly chafed. Think of this as Valvoline for your nipples. I don’t recommend using it directly on your nipples if they are damaged – this stuff is super viscous and may hurt just to apply it.
At some point in your nursing career you will almost certainly experience engorgement and/or blocked ducts. Trying to balance a bag of frozen peas on your sore breast will only get you so far.
A few options:
- I love these ice/heating packs (~$12) by Philips Avent that are circular shaped for your breast.
- This 6-pack of round hot and cold packs (~$15) are made of gel beads, which you can heat or freeze, and have a soft, fabric backing so they are comfortable to use directly against your skin. Reviewers love these, saying they mold perfectly to the shape of the breast (or whatever body part you want to use them for).
- You can also use cabbage leaves, which fit very nicely into your bra. Keep them in your fridge and pull one out when you need it. (Note: overuse of cabbage leaves can decrease milk supply.)
- Yet another alternative is wetting and freezing a diaper (a disposable diaper). This makes for a perfect booby ice pack.
- You can also try Lansinoh’s TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack (~$12) or Bamboobies Soothing Nursing Pillows (~$19, more expensive). The Lansinoh Therapearl Pack can be used independently or with a breast pump, which is a nice feature. The Bamboobies Pillows have a flaxseed base and are dual-sided.
*For both of these, you can throw them in the microwave for a hot press or in the freezer for a cold pack. Then, slip them directly into your bra for instant relief — from everything from mastitis, to clogged ducts, to engorgement to nipple pain. Many women report great success with these while suffering from severe nipple pain, engorgement, and/or clogged ducts while nursing or pumping.
Drip, drip, drip.
Your breasts will leak milk when you aren’t nursing, especially in the beginning – and especially during your let-down (the point when your milk starts coming out).
If you don’t wear breast pads, you will get embarrassing milk circles on your bra/shirt, which is suuuuuper sexy… but no. Some people leak for almost a year (me – ha!) and others stop leaking after a few months. You will be buying breast pads as often (perhaps) as you buy diapers, so stock up!
A couple of annoying downsides for both of these disposables are:
- They come individually wrapped in plastic, so you have to unwrap, peel the sticky tabs off, blah blah. This requires two hands. It’s kind of a pain. (Plus — what a waste…)
- They aren’t totally smooth, so you may have that I-stuffed-my-bra-with-Kleenex look. Oh well… you’re nursing. Looking smooth may not be at the top of the priority list.
I’ve tried a couple of other solutions, none of which I liked. Lilypadz ($19) are silicone cups that fit tight against your skin. It makes your nipples look like bugs on a windshield. These are washable and reusable and are supposed to last for weeks. However, I found them to be itchy and suffocating and they did NOT last very long for me – maybe 10 days or so. Meh. They are good, however, for special occasions when you need to wear a tight-fitting or tailored shirt or dress. Fine.
There are other reusable nursing pads out there, if you don’t mind the hassle of washing them, which will save you money (and landfill space) over the long-run. *I definitely do not recommend these for beginners or anyone whose nipples might be sore or damaged, as they will stick to wounds on your nipples and just make the situation even worse. A favorite is the Bamboobies Nursing Pad set (~$22).
See also: Nursing Supplements, do they work?