Lucu's Top 10 Nursing Mama Essentials: From the Right Reading to the Must-Have Gear

So here I am, seven weeks out from baby boy’s due date. When I was this far along with my daughter (almost 5 years ago!), her nursery had been ready for weeks. Every detail of the room had been considered (colors were, to be specific, chartreuse and smoky teal), and exhaustively researched ("Hello, customer service? Was there any glue used in the construction of this rug?). The beautiful convertible crib my daughter never slept in, the curtains I made, the fabric I selected for the accent pillow on the glider- it was all pretty much perfect.

As for this time around...well. Let’s just say that baby’s “room” is still a guest room. (More sleeping spaces for grown-ups = less sleeping spaces that only suit the smallest family member.) The only noticeable “theme” of this nursery is “sleeping place.” There is no glider, no changing table. And there’s not even a rug in there for me to fret over.

The good news is, this time, I’m more at ease. With exception of a minor Cyber-Monday-Product-Panic due to our car seat being expired, I’ve been comforted by the memories of the simplicity of the needs in those early days. (The sleeplessness- that’s real, too. And less comforting.) But the simplicity of a newborn’s rhythm those first few weeks allows for some downtime to figure it all out: nurse, sleep, change diaper. Rinse and repeat.

While I'm okay with the nursery looking more prepared for a mother-in-law than an infant, one thing I can't skimp on is preparing for the breastfeeding relationship. Though some mamas and babies skate through the first weeks of nursing, many struggle to maintain their expectations and goals amid the challenges of new motherhood. Having a few of the right things in reach can help.

1) La Leche League - The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding

The first time you observe a nursing mother and voice your questions about the relationship should not be gazing in the mirror immediately postpartum. If you’ve never observed the breastfeeding relationship in person, La Leche League is your friend. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is essential reading to prepare you for the ups and downs of the nursing relationship. Reading it should also give you the confidence to attend a LLL meeting in your area prior to birth. This will give you a special window into the breastfeeding relationship- the meetings are a great place to bring anything to the table- your questions, fears, excitement- they're all welcome at a LLL meeting. But this book is the place to begin.

2) Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter

Lanisoh, Lanisoh, Lanis-NO. Everybody will tell you to use Lanisoh. Everyone will buy you Lanisoh. Just don’t. The thickness of it alone can be painful. The best incarnations of Lanisoh are single-ingredient, pure lanolin. However, lanolin itself is a fatty substance extracted from sheep’s wool. It’s basically sebum, much like the oil that causes breakouts in your skin. Seems like a strange thing to slather on and feed to baby in tiny doses, no? Add to that the fact that sheep are regularly sprayed directly with pesticides to treat mites and pests (it’s called a “sheep dip”), and then a mystery chemical cocktail is required to “refine” the lanolin into a product usable on the breasts. Overall, lanolin gets high marks from me- for grossness and potentially toxic content. So let’s just pass on that.

Earth Mama Angel Baby Nipple Butter is a 100% organic alternative to traditional lanolin creams. It glides on with little effort (unlike thick lanolin which requires rubbing into skin that’s already painfully sore). It doesn’t cake on the skin when layered over itself a few times in a day, and with an olive oil/ cocoa seed/ shea butter base, at least the ingredients are part of a normal human diet and/or approved for consumption.

3) A Breastfeeding Support Pillow

Five years ago when I was pregnant, the best-selling Boppy seemed to be the only essential nursing pillow. The game has changed, my friends. Ergo’s new Natural Curve nursing pillow appears to be leading the pack this year in providing the right positioning for breastfeeding. The Natural Curve’s shape is optimized for the “tummy to tummy” position, which should also reduce the mother’s tendency to hunch over the baby. The bulkier sides (as compared with the Boppy, which is pretty much uniform in width throughout) form a natural spot for your arms to rest. And since your arms won’t be doing much resting at all for the forseeable future, it’s pretty important to get some R&R where you can.

4) A Ring Sling- Or Other Carrier That Permits Nursing

Seems obvious enough- but many baby carriers don’t allow for nursing in the proper position, especially when baby is tiny. A Ring Sling can often do the job that many other carriers can’t. In fact, one of my first “I’ve got this mothering thing down” moments with my daughter was when I successfully cooked a lovely dinner, using both of my hands, while she ate her meal. You’re going to need all the multitasking help you can get, girl. Etsy has plenty of cute slings (they're a cinch to make, just make sure start with the right rings!) but my favorites are at Sakura Bloom.

5) A Hospital Grade Pump

“You don’t need an electric pump,” she said.  “I never had one and I was fine with you kids,” she said. Folks: my mama, who is right about nearly everything, was wrong on this one. After only one frustrating afternoon with a manual pump, I became aware that a quality breast pump, is an essential.

And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, all insurance plans must cover the cost of a breast pump. This might be a rental, or a new one for you to keep. The cost must be covered by the insurance company without cost-sharing- which means that you should not pay any co-insurance, deductible, or co-pay. Note that some plans might provide guidelines regarding the pump, for instance, whether it will be manual or electric, the duration of rental coverage, and whether you get the pump before or after baby arrives. The National Women’s Law Center has some stellar guidance on this issue, so be sure to consult their online ToolKit to solve any problems you might have arranging your access to a breast pump.

6) Storage Bottles/ Gear

This might not be an immediate need for everyone, but even for babies who will be primarily fed from the breast, it's great to have a stash of milk for emergencies, etc. Which ones to pick? Baby’s bottle preference will determine all. My suggestion is to get just a couple of bottles to start with from two leading brands. Many babies will show a distinct preference for one bottle type over another, as well as one nipple type over another. So don’t gear up on the multi-pack just yet. Take a little time to figure out which one works best for baby and results in the least fuss. If you have a baby who seems to refuse most bottles in all circumstances, you'll thank me for not letting you drop a couple hundred bucks on a bottle stash. I like this guide on Lucie's List regarding bottle types and nipples. There's even some information on glass or stainless steel bottles if you're going that route.

7)  A Drying Rack

The bottles might be a little bit of a gamble. But one thing you can be sure of: you’ll want a Boon Countertop Grass Drying Rack. How do I know this? Because there just aren’t any other drying racks that are nearly as cute, or as easy to clean. Boon’s got the market cornered with their cute and affordable accessories, such as the Twig insert for the drying rack. Unless you find your zen in the time-consuming act of balancing all the tiny parts of the bottles in layers on top of one another (spoiler alert: they all fall over and end up on the floor, requiring re-washing), this is a $5 investment you won’t regret.

8) Nursing Pads: Reusable and Disposable

“I’m only buying reusable nursing pads,” I said, before my daughter was born. Oops. Little did I know that in those early days, it would be less of a “leak” situation, and more of a “somebody grab this soaked pad and bring me a beach towel” situation. Do yourself a favor and grab at least a box of disposables. At minimum, you’ll save yourself a couple of costume changes. When your supply settles down, you’ll find the reusables do the job just fine. But if you plan on leaving the house in those first few weeks, you may need both at once.

9) Nursing Bras

If you can help it, don’t skimp on the nursing bra budget.  I went through about five low-quality nursing bras (from Target and the like) until I realized that, um, my bra budget was showing. They were quickly falling apart with regular wear, their ease of use decreasing rapidly (snaps malfunctioning, closures weakening, etc.). So get yourself properly fitted, and be on high alert for a great sale.

But, there's a catch: be mindful of the timing of your bra fitting. I did start with a couple of nice nursing bras, but I had been measured for them in my last trimester instead of postpartum. So they were about two sizes two large by the time I was coasting out of the early phase of the nursing relationship. Since your breasts go through about a million changes in the 3rd and 4th trimesters, it’s best to let them settle down postpartum before getting the fitting and making the investment.

10) A Lucu NEST

Wearable, washable, reversible, baby-soft and responsibly made in the U.S.A., the Lucu NEST encourages women to “think outside the cover." Our inspiration was rather simple- while waiting on a plane in San Francisco, I was nursing my daughter with maybe a bit of coverage from a scarf. Several seats down from me was a woman who had her entire head and upper body covered in a blanket to nurse her baby (like a Halloween ghost costume). Several seats down from her was a woman struggling to feed her baby while keeping her wide, tent-like nursing cover within the confines of her own seat, prompting her repeated, uncomfortable apologies to neighbors.

While I give props to mamas making things happen however they can (yay! for nursing in public whenever/however/whatever), it seemed to me that there had to be a simpler way to have a range of coverage and discretion for breastfeeding. I was comfortable with the minimum coverage, but clearly most moms weren’t. There had to be a balance between the scarf and the full-body tent.

That balance is exactly what we’ve created in the Lucu NEST!  It’s possible to cover baby’s head with the NEST, but there are several ways to nurse discreetly without needing to. And as an added bonus, we made it a cozy and adorable piece of clothing you’d want to wear anyway.

The NEST by Lucu. A cute and clever alternative to a nursing cover.

The NEST by Lucu. A cute and clever alternative to a nursing cover.

What do you think? Did we miss a breastfeeding essential? Or are there any products you bought and found no use for? Let us know!

Posted on December 9, 2015 .