Nursing mothers need few breastfeeding accessories. However, you may find some that make breastfeeding easier and more comfortable for you and your baby.
There are many products available for nursing mothers, including nursing pillows, cold and heat packs for the breast, creams, breast pads, breast shields, nipple enhancers, nursing veils, nursing canopies, nursing bibs, nursing scarves, milk-leaking inhibitor, pump-free attachment kits, tote bags, backpacks, carryalls, electronic scales and hand-expression funnels. There are also bras that fasten on the breast pump attachments, enabling you to express milk without having to hold onto the pump. Do not purchase these items right away; instead, wait until the baby is born and you have tried breastfeeding. Once you understand what breastfeeding entails, talk about your experience with your lactation consultant and other mothers, who can help you determine which of these products might be useful to you. In fact, you may find that you need very little equipment.
When considering what to buy, remember that the baby will be eating frequently, so you may want shirts that allow for easy access during the day and night. Also, get fitted for a good nursing bra. As your breast size increases with breastfeeding, the breasts need good support.
If you plan to practice an "attachment" parenting style, the purchase of a sling and/or carrier that enables the baby to be worn by both parents will be most beneficial. If you are sleeping with the baby, there are several co-sleeper beds that attach to your bed or are put right next to it, keeping the baby close for easier middle-of-the-night feedings. You will need a comfortable chair that supports the arms and back, and a small footstool to support the feet while you are sitting in the chair. This prevents straining the back, especially during those early weeks, with long breastfeeding days and nights.
The following explains some commonly available products.
- Nursing pads are used to protect clothing by absorbing the milk that may leak from your breast. They can be disposable or reusable. Avoid plastic liners and synthetic materials because they do not allow air to circulate, putting you at risk of infection.
- Nursing pillows come in many different styles and shapes. The pillow helps to hold your baby in the proper position for breastfeeding and needs to be a good fit for both you and your baby. These pillows can be especially helpful for mothers of twins, mothers with disabilities who need more support to hold the baby, mothers with babies who have poor muscle tone, and mothers with preemies. Ease of cleaning is important in choosing a pillow. If you don't want to buy a nursing pillow, a regular bed pillow often works just as well.
- Breast shells are used to bring out flat, inverted or retracted nipples. Talk with your health-care provider to determine if these are needed.
- Breast shields are small latex, silicone or rubber nipples that mothers put over their nipples to assist the infant in latching on the breast. This product should be dispensed by a professional lactation consultant, and the mother needs to be followed very carefully to avoid a loss in milk supply as a result of the baby's not stimulating the breast directly.
- Lanolin products specifically made for breast-feeding mothers can be used if there is a crack in the nipple. Speak with your health-care provider about which brands to use. (Note: Other creams or ointments are not encouraged for breast-feeding. Mother's milk can be used as a moisturizer for the healthy nipple.)
- Electronic scales generally are not generally necessary for the normal nursing infant. If there are health concerns about possible weight loss in your baby, your health-care provider can refer you to a consultant to discuss the scale and how to use it correctly.