Breastfeeding: Accessories & Accoutrements
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.