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Breastfeeding: Accessories & Accoutrements

By Amalah

Jim from Sweet Juniper has a theory on newborn babies. He calls it the Sacajawea Theory. All they need is boobs. Everything else is marketing.

It’s a darn fine theory, until you realize that Target now has an entire aisle dedicated to boobs and boob-related accessories. After Ezra weaned, I found that I had enough breastfeeding paraphernalia to fill an entire storage bin. Once you start thinking about the breast pumps and the spare tubing and the milk containers and nursing bras and nursing tanks and nursing pajamas and pads, creams, shields, soothing gel thingies…it’s easy for breastfeeding to not really be the cheaper, simpler option.

I remember standing in that aisle at Target, fruitlessly searching through DOZENS of different Medela breast pump parts for the ONE PART I needed — the ONE PART my dog had chewed up — and noticing that there are now specially-formulated wipes for breastfed babies. Designed to be more extra sensitive than…extra sensitive wipes, except that they really are exactly the same, with the Vitamin E and the aloe and fragrance-free, except that they cost a little more and say the word “BREASTFED” on them, that’s me! That’s meeee! I’m breastfeeding! My baby’s poops are SOEXTRA SPESHUL!

Oh my God, they are just pre-moistened towelettes, you guys. You are seriously allowed to just use water, if you want.
So I didn’t fall prey to the wipes, but I still ended up with a TON of breastfeeding accessories.

Let’s do a quick inventory of some of the crap I bought:

1) Nursing pads.

I grabbed the disposable Avent ones because I had a coupon and was unsure if I’d really need them. (I never leaked while nursing my first baby.) I really needed them. Or…well, I needed something better than them, something that didn’t bunch up and move around and itch like crazy. Next time (HA. HAHAHAHA.), I’d pick something reusable like Lily Padz or Itzy Ritzy.

2) Nursing bras and tanks.

Nursing tanks are GREAT for those very first days postpartum. I didn’t have to predict a bra size, expose my stomach, OR really feel like I had to wear anything else while padding around the house. (Those stretchy sleep bras are awesome too, for nights you get engorged and need to hold nursing pads in place.) Now, of course, I’m wondering why I felt compelled to buy SO MANY of them. Same with the nursing bras. Sometime around month four or five, it finally occurred to me that I didn’t HAVE to wear special bras. The baby and I had the motions down pat, my wardrobe had naturally gravitated towards nursing-friendly tops, my boobs were no longer giant engorged gazongas…I could just yank a regular bra up or down and finally ditch the full coverage bras with all the hooks and wide straps.

3) Nursing pajamas.

Totally, completely unnecessary. A gimmick if I’ve ever seen one, as finding regular stretchy v-neck gowns and PJ tops is not that difficult, and yet I will buy a pair of soft, comfy nursing pajamas for every pregnant friend for the rest of my life. I loved, loved, LOVED them. Both babies, the first thing I did after coming home was pull on a fresh, new gown or jammie set — supportive in the bust! forgiving in the midsection! — and curl up in bed with my newborn. (These also have the perk of not being *just* for nursing. I still wear mine all the time, since even though they are stretchy enough to accommodate a newly-postpartum tummy, there’s nothing about them that screams “maternity.”) (Mine were all from Aimee, by the way.)

4) Nursing clothing.

Oh, those tricky maternity stores, they don’t want you to ever leave! Had the baby? No problem! Come back for your bras, your pajamas, your specially-designed clothing with hidden panels and holes and complicated wraps! I picked up a couple of shirts here and there and…eh. Good loungewear, not exactly High Fashion Central. There are gorgeous designer brands that produce some nursing pieces, but I personally never had an occasion worth the splurge — any time I got dressed up usually involved expressed breastmilk and a babysitter. (If you DO need *nice* nursing-friendly clothing, check out Isabella Oliver.) Now, of course, this stuff is all boxed up alongside the maternity clothing.

5) Nipple care, various and sundry.

So you plan to breastfeed, so you buy some Lansinoh breast cream, as is apparently required by pregnancy shopping law. Nothing against the lanolin creams — I certainly used them by the bucketful — but if things get bad, ditch it and get a prescription for All Purpose Nipple Ointment. Lanolin won’t help heal sores and scabs, it won’t provide any pain relief or protect you from infection or yeast. The APNO does, and it’s worth the hassle of a pharmacy trip. Also, swap out your regular nursing pads for Soothies or another gel insert. Keep ’em in the fridge and oh, you will be so happy. (I cut the Soothies in half, since they are pricey and the disks were four times the size of my nipples. (OH HAI OVERSHARE.)

6) Nursing covers. Okay, so I didn’t realize that the topic of nursing covers is actually a little controversial, with breastfeeding rights advocates bristling at the idea that we should cover up in public. I can see where they are coming from, but there’s a difference between feeling like you *must* cover up…and maybe just wanting to cover up, sometimes. I didn’t have a cover with Noah and he was a terribly distracted nurser and prone to nursing strikes and so I just never nursed him in public. I bought a bebe au lait cover for Ezra and I used it a lot, especially at first, while I built my confidence and got the hang of things. Pretty soon, I didn’t need the cover any more, and then there came a point where using the cover seemed to draw MORE attention to us, what with his thrashing and kicking like a stuck pig underneath it. But for a few months, I was a big fan of the cover, and I kind of hate that women are made to feel like we’re chickening out for using one.

7) Breast pump.

I rented a hospital-grade Medela both times to help establish and boost my supply. With Noah, I kept the rental until he weaned (five months or so) because my boobs would NOT respond to anything else — particularly not the laughable Avent Isis hand pump I’d inexplicably registered for. With Ezra, I returned the rental after a month and bought a Pump-in-Style from my lactation consultant, once it was clear that things were going a little better for me the second time around. No revolutionary insights from me: It is indeed a fine little electric pump. Served its duties well. Perhaps I shall use it again some day.

8) Breastmilk storage.

Besides the plastic containers that came with the pump, I bought some Medela freezer bags. They were cheap (though hardly environmentally friendly) and stored nice and flat and were easy to label. I can’t entirely rave about them because Ezra frequently turned up his nose at thawed breastmilk. Was it lipase? Our freezer? The bags? Not sure. I was *THISCLOSE* to buying the MilkBank Vacuum system when my supply regulated to such a degree that I couldn’t pump much extra milk at all — whatever I did pump either ended up mixed in with his cereal or given to him before it hit the freezer. So I’d be interested in hearing about other people’s experiences with different storage systems.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Kate
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Kate

This was such a timely post, because I have just had a TERRIBLE experience with Gerber breastmilk storage bags, and would like to make everyone aware. I have a 5 month old, who is exclusively breastfed. She’s also in daycare so I have to pump three times during the day. For all those pumping mommies out there, you know how precious your expressed milk is. You work hard for it. When I’m able to freeze milk, I expect those bags to do their job. I went out of town last week, and the hubby was using frozen milk (in the… Read more »

Therese
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Therese

Great article. As a new mother (baby just passed the 4 month mark) I could comment on every point. I’ll try to be short though and talk about the pumping and storage. My child is 100% breastfed (at this point…) I returned back to work PT at 8 weeks and FT at 14 weeks. I was really nervous about pumping and storage and as many new mothers do, I read everything I could to figure out what was best for my baby (all before he arrived, isn’t that funny now!). Anyway, this is already getting too long so…I rented a… Read more »

Heidi
Guest

I got some breastmilk freezer bags from the hospital. I *want* to say they were Lansinoh, because the logo on the bags was purple..? They worked great for storing my milk but um yeah….I’d go to thaw my milk out, via boiling water in a pan and the ink on the logo ran, and the bag strength weakened. I went to pull them out of the pan, and the plastic gave way and I had hot breastmilk on me, the stove, and the floor. Ever smelled burnt breastmilk? It aint pretty, girls. My lactation consultant gave me a manual breast… Read more »

olivia
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olivia

I learned quickly that breastfeeding is like planning a wedding. As soon as the word nursing is attached the price triples. 1)I have been using the Ameda Purely Yours pump for 5 months (3x/day while I work) and it has worked very well. It is marketed under the Lansinoh name in stores like Walmart and Target. I use the Lansinoh freezer bags and they work fine. I think they are a tad cheaper than the Medela. 2) You hit the nail on the head with the crock that nursing pajamas are. I’m sure they are comfy, but I could not… Read more »

Sara
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Sara

I love, love the Lansinoh breastmilk storage bags. Both my husband and our babysitter handle the transfer of milk from the bags to the bottle and both are also huge fans of this bag. With my first baby I had no idea, so tried the Medela bags and some other brand that I can’t remember, but these Lansinoh bags were the best! I am still using these bags with baby #2.

Roberta
Guest

I agree 100% with most of your conclusions about nursing accessories. Thumbs down on most of the “nursing wear.” Though, I did buy one simple black jersey nursing dress from Motherwear to wear to a wedding when my baby was 2+ weeks old. More recently, I just wore a strapless dress to a wedding, and put to good use that thing you’re always worried about with strapless dresses. I do think some of the bra/tank/shirt preferences also depend on your nursing style and your, ah, physique. I was a 34D or DD pre-pregnancy, and was a 36DD during and for… Read more »

Joyce
Guest
Joyce

This is an awesome list that is now bookmarked for the next baby (that will hopefully not be needed for a few years).
I actually really wish I’d had a nursing cover and it’s great to get a recommendation for one. I hated breastfeeding in public and therefore hid in my in my cave…er, house, for a few months and it was sad. There’s enough to think about trying to breastfeed in public without worrying that the teenage boy behind you on the subway is trying to sneak a peek at your boobies.

Joanna
Guest
Joanna

Anyone who has ever had a c-section will know that a nursing pillow is a MUST !!!!
I tried the Boppy that someone gave me.
Useless. So too was My Brest Friend.
The only one that was light enough not to push against my incission and still made it possible to breastfeed was the Boston Billow nursing pillow. I write this because I really liked that pillow and want to recommend it.

Beth
Guest

I haven’t been able to use my regular bras for nursing but mostly because none of them fit my bazoombas while nursing. So for me, the nursing tanks and bras and the like have been helpful for me. Regarding: breastmilk storage, I read somewhere that the nutrients are compromised when ebm is stored and frozen in plastic so I bought a few packs of 4 oz evenflo glass nursers and I store my milk in there. It’s kind of a pain as far as fitting them in the freezer and moving them around when you take the oldest out and… Read more »

Kitkit
Guest
Kitkit

Rather than using any nipple cream, dab the breastmilk onto your nipple and allow to air dry. Breastmilk is an antibiotic in and of itself, and will help prevent cracks from becoming infected as well as helping it heal and easing the pain.

Karen
Guest
Karen

My pumping system! Let me show you it! ..uh, you know, in case anyone finds it helpful. I wish I had come up with it before I started pumping. You can pump into already-pumped, refrigerated milk! It is totally allowed, I am not even kidding. I have been doing it for months. So! Evenflo glass bottles fit right onto the Medela pumps. Every day I bring 2 8 ounce glass bottles, my pump flanges, and 2 Dr. Brown’s travel caps. (The medela caps don’t quite fit the Evenflos, strangely.) I pump. Our fridge is kinda smelly, so when I’m done,… Read more »

Olivia
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Olivia

(I hope I’m not posing twice) Regarding your list: 2) Big boobed mamas, you can convert regular, more supportive bras to nursing bras very inexspensively. As a DDD, the nursing bras I can easily afford do not support well so converting my existing bras was much cheaper. Just google instructions and nursing bra clasps. 3) Nursing pajamas are a rip-off. As soon as the word nursing is added to an item of clothing the price triples. No way would I pay that much money for something I sleep in and the baby spits up on. I have a couple of… Read more »

Sara
Guest
Sara

I breastfed my first child and it went great. Considering the fact that I was now a pro, not to mention a budget conscious SAHM I planned on doing the same with my second. I carefully inspected my pump, replaced and replenished the accessories. I agonized over the proper size nursing tank and Lilypadz. I made my own nursing cover out of designer fabric, the perfect size and color just for me and matching my diaper bag. And…then I threw out my back 3 weeks after my daughter was born and had to take Vicodin and couldn’t nurse. So the… Read more »

wallydraigle
Guest

I loved the Lansinoh bags. Hated Gerber. To the commenter who had trouble with the bag strength weakening: I never had that issue because I always thawed them under hot running water. If they’re frozen flat it takes seconds. And if you want to save water, just stick ’em in a bowl of it, and then when they’re thawed, heat them up under hot running water. I never bothered with boiling water just for thawing milk.

Nancy
Guest

Just chiming in here as a big-boobed mama (big before I got pregnant, even bigger after!): I love Anita bras. If you are in NYC, check out Upper Breast Side… they will take care of you. I was told that I should wait a month after giving birth to buy a nursing bra, so I bought a cheap one in the meantime that had crappy support but did the job. I didn’t leave the house much in that first month anyway Then, I was fitted for the Anita bra. It’s a softcup bra that provides tons of support. The ladies… Read more »

Quinn
Guest
Quinn

My son couldn’t withdraw milk effectively, so I pumped and bottlefed for six months. Because I’m crazy. But I do know a lot about pumping now!
You can buy handsfree pumping bras, but they’re expensive and crappy. Instead, just go to Walmart, pick up a cheap sports or nursing bra or two, and cut slits at the nipples. Voila! Instant handsfree pumping bra!

ECB
Guest
ECB

Ha! I am pumping right now! My daughter is 4.5mths. She nurses every 2.5-4 hours during the day and has 1 bottle of EBM each day. I work from home so I am here to feed her as needed. I pump around midnight since she sleeps through the night. I have the Medela Swing which is an little workhorse of a pump. The main problem with it is that its only a single. For storage I use the Medela Pump and Save bags. I don’t heat the milk. She’ll take it cold/room temp so that’s what we do. I like… Read more »

Maria
Guest
Maria

Am I the only one in the neighborhood who can’t seem to use an electric breast pump? I worked with the Medela hospital grade pumps and the Pump In Style, and neither of them worked NEARLY as well as my handheld Isis. I can feed twins off what I get from my handheld… I’d get barely one feed from the Pump in Style if I was lucky (thankfully it was borrowed from my midwive’s office and went back to them at 8 weeks, I was sick of it!) and the hospital pump? 6 or 7 drops. Of course, that was… Read more »

Suzanne
Guest

I would add that having a cheap, handheld breastpump can be a lifesaver EVEN IF you think you’re never going to need it. I spent several hours with hugely engorged breasts dripping milk and crying because I couldn’t get the baby to latch – until I remembered my little Lansinoh (sadly discontinued) hand pump. Voila, breastfed baby! 5 1/2 months later my son refuses to take milk from anything other than the boob and I have 100+ oz of milk stored thanks to that little pump. I also second (third? eighth?) the love for Lansinoh storage bags and APNO. Skip… Read more »

Jessi
Guest

Luckily, all of my breastfeeding gear was gifted to me from my mother, mil and sister. But, I can see how it can go overboard with unnecessary items. Everyone sees me nursing my son with a receiving blanket and they want to buy me a hooter-hider (HATE the name, concept is cool, but…hooters?). I’m trying to keep my baby gear to a minimum (because I hate having too much stuff) so I politely decline. I did buy more bottles that fit my pump (Medela) since I pump at work – it’s just easier to pump a bottle and have it… Read more »

bessa
Guest
bessa

Lansinoh milk storage bags are the best, the only, that will do. Medela suck. Gerber are not great. Go Lansinoh. I have pumped and stored 6 mos. worth of daily daycare milk for 2 kids and those bags rock. Also? Buy 3 or 4 Sterilte Ice Cube storage trays from Target for $2 each and they store the bags upright, perfectly.

Myranda
Guest
Myranda

I would have to agree that Lansinoh storage bags are tops. However, once I had a good supply in bags, I just started freezing my breastmilk in ice cube trays and putting those in ziploc bags to mix with her cereal and food. We’ve just started using them (she will be 6 mo next week) and it’s working out great. I used lansinoh nursing pads until I wasn’t a leaky woman anymore, now I use cotton pads at night because that’s theonly time I seem to have a problem. I have a love/hate relationship with my pump, but the Medela… Read more »

Bitts
Guest
Bitts

ITA with Suzanne about a hand pump helping with engorgement. I kept one beside my bed, screwed onto a bottle, and pumped a little off before the baby would latch at night — it made latching so much easier. I also ended up with lots of pumped milk to save, even though I didn’t need it since I’m a SAHM. A word about using regular bras instead of nursing bras — be SUPER CAREFUL about underwires!! They are PRIME perpetrators when it comes to clogged ducts, especially in the underarm area. Most underwire bras are not wide enough to allow… Read more »

Jill
Guest
Jill

Karen — thanks for posting your pumping schedule. I’m pumping for my 5-month old and getting stressed out with how much time it’s taking out of my work day. (I teach so I need to be available a lot of the time.) I have been pumping in the car a lot, but I’d really like to stop doing that. Maybe your “everything in the fridge” suggestion is the answer! And Suzanne – YES – Johnson & Johnson are definitely my favorite nursing pads. They don’t carry them at our grocery store. I usually have to make a separate trip to… Read more »

Heather
Guest
Heather

My son is 11 months…well, almost a year and has been exclusively breastfed. I rented (and am still RENTING) the Medela hospital grade pump. So my advice would be to buy that thing! I am such an idiot. Anyway: Hated nursing tops. The extra fabric just made me hot and uncomfortable. I loved nursing pjs though. I bought a cute Bebe au Lait nursing cover and used it ONCE. My son just kicked it while trying to nurse and I found it to be too voluminous for either of us! I bought the requisite Lansinoh cream and never used it.… Read more »

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

@Bitts: you are right about not using underwire bras for nursing bras. Forgot to mention all the bras I’ve converted are non-underwire.

Michelle
Guest

Great Post! I couldn’t agree more about the nursing cover. I still sometimes will pull it out but my little monkey has absolutely no desire to be covered while she eats and also flails around like a made women whenever I do try to use it. I did use the lanolin cream but I never paid for a tube, I just made sure with every nursing change that I asked for a new tube of the stuff. And since I had a c-section there was plenty of little tubes stuffed into my bag! Although I am sure I paid for… Read more »

Susie
Guest
Susie

I’m just back to work p/t after 3 months, and so we only need bottles a few times per week. Going back to work was unexpected though, so I don’t have much of a frozen supply built up, and I’m trying to work on that. So, here are my questions… For pumping at work, do you wash & sterlize the pump between every session? I have the microwave steam bags at home, but is doing it just at night ok? And, I’ve been working with the manual Medela pump they gave me when I left the hospital. It actually works… Read more »

Elizabeth Eaton
Guest
Elizabeth Eaton

I have to say, I did find nursing bras to be the best option. And I loved my nursing tanks, but not right away. I had trouble getting a good fit (because my boobs were huge but I am not). They are definitely a good investment if you end up nursing a long time. We’re still nursing at 2.5 years, so I’ve gotten my money’s worth. I also didn’t buy them all at once. They’re nice in the summer when it’s really hot because they have support and you don’t show your tummy when you’re nursing and they’re all you… Read more »

Olivia
Guest
Olivia

@Susie: try the Lansinoh double electric breast pump for $160 http://www.walmart.com/catalog/product.do?product_id=10924275
I have the same pump in the Ameda brand (with bag, bottles & cooler it was about $250) and it’s been going strong for 5 months. Plus, unlike the Medela, it has a “closed system” so no moisture gets into the tubing or motor.
I only rinse and dry the pump parts with a towel during the day and wash at night.

Ruth
Guest
Ruth

Just wanted to add two cents — (1) I could not have survived without a My Brest Friend nursing pillow. Hate the name, but it is the only thing that spared me hideous back pain until my son was about 5-6 months old. I don’t know why this doesn’t seem to be a problem for other people, but if you find that you have back pain while nursing, My Brest Friend is the way to go. (2) The nursing pajamas were awesome for me, because I live in Wisconsin and the house was very very cold at night, and I… Read more »

Bitts
Guest
Bitts

@Susie, YMMV, but I bought my Medela P.I.S. used from Ebay. It says right on the thing not to do that, and people do get awfully alarmist & germophobic about it, but IME it was a great moneysaver. I know many, many people who bought used pumps and have never heard of ill effects. You can buy all new accessories & tubing, so nothing that touched the previous owner’s baby or skin will touch yours. They usually auction for under $100.
Props to your husband, btw. What a great guy!

Jae
Guest
Jae

I haaaaaaaaate Lily Padz. Such a waste. As one person mentioned above, they trap moisture like crazy and, if you wear them in the summer, they get soooo stinky even if you wash them every frakkin’ day. I highly recommend a box of washable, re-usable cloth nursing pads-really soft, easy to get clean by washing the crap out of them in hot water and drying them in the hot as hell dryer. The only downside is that they can make other things that are washed with them funky and that if you wear a bra that doesn’t have much padding… Read more »

geek anachronism
Guest

I’ve got a manual pump courtesy of my sister-in-law and nursing bras. That’s about it. I don’t even have nursing clothes! I’m a big-boobed kind of girl – L cup nowadays. So it was vital to get a real nursing bra because a bad one can give you all sorts of problems. And there is no way I’m getting a boob out of anything that doesn’t have a clip. I was so jealous of te women in hospital who could slip their bra strap down and get their boob out. I bought three bras – enough to cycle through the… Read more »

Margie
Guest
Margie

My two cents: * I have frozen my milk in half pint canning jars, and that worked great. They’re totally stackable and easy to thaw. * I LOVE the hands-free pumping bra as well. * I bought enough sets of parts so that I could use a clean one each time at work and not have to worry about whether I’d be able to rinse or wash in between, and I’m glad I did that (I pump sometimes three times a day, and don’t always have time to clean up in between). * Lilypadz made my breasts look weird in… Read more »

wallydraigle
Guest

AMEN to the nth power to the My Brest Friend (which I have to abbreviate MBF because the name is just too embarrassing to keep saying). I’m pretty sure it’s the reason I kept nursing instead of throwing in the towel at 3 months. My daughter went through a phase where she’d nurse for three seconds, pull off, freak out, twist around, nurse, repeat the process eleven times, and by the time she was done eating it was 2 hours later, and I was crying. So not awesome. But it prompted me to finally get a better nursing pillow than… Read more »

Elizabeth
Guest
Elizabeth

I love having a nursing wrap. While I fully support a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, I prefer to be covered. It makes me more comfortable, so my bebe au lait wrap has been fantastic. I was a full-time student when I was nursing my first son and used a Medela Pump In Style, but I HATED it. I never had a good supply and the pump didn’t seem to help. Now, I’m a SAHM, so I don’t have too much cause to pump. I bought the Avent ISIS which has been fantastic for me. I can get more… Read more »

Margie
Guest
Margie

P.S. I received a MilkBank storage system as a gift, and while it’s a lovely idea, I find that because it doesn’t fit my Medela PIS to pump straight into, I don’t use it. The transfer just means one more bottle to wash. I pump into the Dr. Brown’s bottles most of the time. So easy!

nocturnistswife
Guest
nocturnistswife

Perspective from a working mom with three kids (ages 5 yo, 3 yo and 5 week old). 1. I tried all sorts of nursing pads for my first child, and felt that the Avent disposible nursing pads were the best. I used these for my second child and they were fine. However, for my third child, the nursing pads are sticking to my nipples and peel off a little skin when I take them off. I might have to try something new. 2. I have used Medela pump in style for all three of my children. It works well for… Read more »