Ask the Mamas: Breastfeeding Essentials




MSW reader Francesca J. asks:

“I plan on breastfeeding and was wondering, what do the mamas think are the five most essential items to have on hand?”

  • The most essential breastfeeding items for me were:
    1. My Breast Friend nursing pillow

    2. Nipple cream
    3. A nursing cover to make me comfortable in public
    4. Nursing tanks/bras
    5. Really, for me the most essential things that helped me be successful in breastfeeding those first days were knowledge and support. So my advice would be to educate yourself and your partner and be prepared by having the phone number of a good lactation consultant on hand if possible. ~Laura K.
  • Congratulations on your decision to breastfeed! Like Laura said, the best thing you can do is educate yourself and your partner. It truly can make all the difference in the world. Find local breastfeeding groups like La Leche League and search for a local lactation consultant with a 24-hour phone line.
    That being said, these are what I think are the most essential items to have on hand in the early days of breastfeeding:

    1. A good nursing pillow. This could be the My Brest Friend or the Boppy Pillow. We had both, and used both in different circumstances; both were excellent.

    2. Lanolin nipple cream. Breastfeeding hurts at first, but the nipple cream helps a lot!

    3. A good breast pump. I personally have, and love the Medela Pump In Style. In the beginning, I used the Playtex Double Electric pump and while it was great for pumping a little bit here and there, it just didn’t cut it when I started to have milk supply issues. You never know where there could be a problem and your baby’s nutrition is one of the most important things in your life, I suggest spending the extra money from the get-go and investing in a quality pump.

    4. Comfortable nursing tanks and bras. Buy a few and see what you will like the best. Try the soft sleep-bra types too. For me, they were the most comfortable when my nipples and breasts were sore in the beginning.

    5. Breast pads. Whether you choose to use disposable or reusable pads, these were a must-have for me in the beginning. I randomly leaked here and there, and it was pretty humiliating to realize I’ve been walking around a store or somewhere with a milk stain on my shirt! Eek! Wear them also at night for the first few weeks. It’s so uncomfortable to wake up in the morning and feel a wet spot on your chest.
    ~Cassie W.

  • I don’t know if I found any items in particular to be essential. Simply put, the best thing that helped me have a successful breastfeeding relationship was knowledge and support. I had my local La Leche League leader’s information and she came over the day we left the hospital. Her knowledge and support was invaluable. Surround yourself with positive information and people.
    As far as useful items, I did use the following breastfeeding related items in the newborn period:

    1. Nursing pads

    2. Nursing tanks
    3. Nipple cream
    4. The Nursing Mother’s Companion and Kellymom.
    5. Handouts from my La Leche League- I referenced these multiple times a day in the beginning. ~Jessica S.
  • 1.  Comfortable nursing tanks (or any tops with easy access)
    2.  Boppy Pillow
    3.  Large bottle of water to keep you hydrated while you’re actually nursing and also throughout the day
    4.  Breast Pump - along with plenty of bottles/bags to pump into
    5.  Nipple Shield - I know a lot of people may advise against this, but it was really a lifesaver for us, and she eventually latched on beautifully without it.~Debbie F.
  • This is such a tough question to answer because I truly believe that each mama has her own breastfeeding journey. The biggest advice I can give is don’t stress about the things you need! And while it may be great to have all these things on hand, you may or may not need them. For me, the most important essentials were:
    1. Support from my husband!!!

    2. Easy access nursing tops
    3. Breast pump - I also loved my Medela Pump In Style
    4. Bags/bottles to pump into - I personally pumped into the Medela bottles that came with the pump and then poured them into the Lansinoh milk storage bags which I loved because they laid flat in the freezer for easier storage
    5. I also agree that large bottles of water and snacks are essential as well! ~Corey P.

  • 1. An awesome support team, starting with your husband or partner. This includes something as simple as staying up with you and rubbing your shoulders when you’re struggling and reminding you that you’re doing a great job… and that it will get easier.
    2. Nursing tank tops. I know some of them tend to give us uni-boob, but since I had absolutely no idea how big the girls were going to get when my milk came in, I wasn’t comfortable buying any nursing bras. The tanks were perfect. Plus, if I wanted to leave the house, I could just throw on a t-shirt or sweater over the tank and I felt dressed enough.
    3. Breast pads. I tried to use some nice cotton, reusable pads, but I leaked right through them. The Lansinoh Ultra Soft disposable nursing pads where simply the best. They had to be the Ultra Soft ones. These things could be used to repair a broken levee in the event of a flood if anyone tried, they seemed to hold THAT much milk.

    4. A breast pump. I debated whether to include this, but ultimately it was an essential item for me, as much as I loathed pumping. My son was a really sleepy newborn so I often had to pump simply to relieve engorgement because he didn’t nurse long enough. Then it was essential when I returned to work. I used a Medela Pump-in-Style. I know many lactation consultants advise against having a breast pump when your baby is a newborn because it can cause undue stress if a mama obsesses over the ounces she can pump, worried she’s not making enough milk for her baby and supplementing when it’s not always necessary. I had complete understanding that the amount I pumped was not an indicator of how much milk I was making, but I still pumped more than I should have and gave myself a painful oversupply. Sounds great when you think about it, but an oversupply comes with its own troubles.

    5. A comfy nest. In the very beginning, spending as much skin-to-skin time with your baby, letting them nurse on-demand for as long and as often as they can, I believe, is a fantastic way to start a breastfeeding relationship. So I had my little nest set up in our living room with a group of pillows set up and my Boppy Pillow within reach. If my baby and I wanted a nap, we could nap. A bottle of water, some snacks, my mobile phone and the remote control were also within reach with a bunch of TV shows stocked on my DVR. My son and I were camped out on the sofa for quite a long time within the first few weeks as we worked out latch and bottle preference issues.
     ~Alex T.
  • 1. Boppy Pillow - This was a life saver in the hospital, especially after my c-section.
    2. Nursing tanks - I lived in these for three months at home!
    3. Breast pump - Couldn’t have lived without this as I had a HUGE oversupply of milk and it was great to save my milk in the freezer.
    4. Milk storage bags
    5. Breast pads - Couldn’t leave home without them. ~Heidi C.
  • I breastfed my daughter for 13 months and the five most important things during that whole time were:
    1.  Boppy Pillow

    2.  A good breast pump
    3.  Nursing tank tops
    4.  Breast Pads, I liked the ones by Lansinoh
    5.  A really good support system, the beginning can be VERY tough. ~Lindsay P.
  • I nursed my son for nine months, and while it wasn’t easy, it was very rewarding! Some important things for us were:
    1. A Boppy Pillow - we actually had three. One for his room, one for the living room, and one in the car for when we went to visit family and friends.

    2. A double electric breast pump - around two or three months old, I started pumping at night before I went to bed to build a stash. I wanted to have milk for days that I went to the gym, went shopping, did errands and finally when I went back to work part-time.
    3. Breast milk storage bags - We used several kinds, but liked Lansinoh the best.
    4. Nursing tanks - I owned three or four Target-brand nursing tanks and wore them every day. They were so comfortable! I didn’t wear nursing bras much, just the tanks.
    5. Girlfriends who have been through it before. While my husband was supportive, his kind words were nothing compared to the advice and tips I got from other friends (in real life and online) about nursing. There are sooo many questions, especially in the beginning, and it can be lonely at 3 a.m. when you’re not sure what to do. If you don’t have people you can talk to about it, invest in a book like The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding or The Nursing Mother’s Companion. ~Mary Ellen M.


The advice given here is solely based on our individual experiences and in no way is it going to be perfect for every mama, every baby, and every situation. None of us are medical doctors. If you have a question regarding a medical topic we can give our opinions, but please consult with your doctor. We are not liable or responsible for the results of following any specific advice in any given situation.


By Alex T.

Alex is a native of the San Francisco Bay Area currently living in Utah with her hubby where she's a work-at-home-mom to her rambunctious son TJ (born Oct 09). She loves to travel, loves art and art history, soccer, photography, and is a little bit of a foodie. When she's not chasing after her son or working for Mama Say What?!, she's running her graphic design and illustration business. Check out her website ( and her Etsy shop ( to see the most recent projects she's done.

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2 Responses to Ask the Mamas: Breastfeeding Essentials

  1. I didn’t have a great 1st time mom experience with BFing but this time around (I am 35wks preg) I have some more products to hopefully help, plus knowledge and experience! I did buy a nipple everter, Motherlove nipple cream, and I am going to do some DIY booby tubes, and underbreast pillows to help as well!!!

  2. I love the new Medela pump and store bags. They come with an adapter so you can pump directly into them. I love not spilling while trying to transfer from bottle to bag :)

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