top 12 breastfeeding products to get you through the first year
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The BEST breastfeeding essentials checklist for baby’s first year

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A complete breastfeeding and pumping essentials checklist for baby’s first year

Ok, breastfeeding is a monster of a topic. I can think of about 20 topics I could write about that wouldn’t even begin to cover everything I googled (non-stop the entire first year) while nursing my little lady. For now, I’m just going to stick with the BEST breastfeeding essentials checklist and tips we used to get through the first year nursing. If you’re a new mom or are pregnant and plan to nurse, you’ve come to the right place. Here you’ll find everything that helped us get through 19 months of nursing!

First of all, I’d like to start by saying that although I chose to exclusively breastfeed, it isn’t the right choice (or doesn’t work out) for everyone – and that’s ok. Although I’m a huge believer in breastfeeding, I believe that fed is best. You have to do what works for you and your little person. Even though I was able to pump for 12.5 months and nursed for a total of 19 months, it wasn’t an easy choice.

Breastfeeding through the first year was HARD WORK. I don’t know what I imagined, but I think I assumed it may be challenging for a week or so but then we’d get the hang of it.

I’d just be flowing with milk and everything would be easy peasy.

If you haven’t already guessed, that didn’t happen.

This post probably contains affiliate links. That means if you buy something using one of my links I may receive a small commission – at no additional cost to you! How cool is that? It’s kind of boring, but feel free to read my full disclosure if you want more info.

best breastfeeding products for the first year nursing

Shouldn’t breastfeeding be easy?

I definitely wouldn’t have made it as long as I did without some of the breastfeeding essentials and tips I read along the way.

At first, breastfeeding was no walk in the park. Little lady was born tiny and had some latch issues. I.e. she didn’t open her mouth wide enough to latch without pain (for me) for over two months.

During those first few weeks, I cried almost every time she nursed. Yes, I know. It’s not supposed to hurt. Talk to any lactation consultant and they will tell you if it hurts, the latch isn’t correct.

Well, I tried every which way, and it still hurt. For awhile. BUT, we got through it.

The crying may have also been due to my crazy mood swings the first few weeks after she was born. Eventually, the crying was relegated to the middle of the night feedings when I was just so exhausted that I couldn’t take the stabbing pain anymore.

Finally, there were no more tears (on my end) and we settled into the groove of breastfeeding, wait 1.5 hours, repeat – which went on for what seemed like forever.

It was literally a labor of love and we nursed A LOT during those first few months. However, we came out on the other side and ended up having a wonderful nursing relationship throughout her first year. I couldn’t have done it without some of the breastfeeding supplies and products I found, or the breastfeeding tips from other new moms.

Related: Solve your breastfeeding challenges TODAY

I’ll explain how awesome each of these breastfeeding essentials is in detail below, but here’s the cliff’s notes version on all our favorite products:

Breastfeeding essentials checklist for nursing moms:

The Mamma’s List  of products that helped us on our breastfeeding journey:

  1. Baby Tracker App
  2. Earth Mamma Angel Baby Nipple Butter
  3. Leachco Back N Belly Maternity Pillow
  4. Boppy Pillow
  5. My Breast Friend
  6. Gerber Receiving Blankets
  7. Aden & Anais Swaddle Blankets
  8. Breastfeeding Shawl
  9. Medela Advanced Pump N Style Breast Pump
  10. Lansinoh Bottles
  11. Breastmilk Storage Bags
  12. Lansinoh Breast Pads
  13. A great nursing/pumping bra

Breastfeeding must-have #1: A great tracking app

I had this great app (Baby Tracker) and I don’t know what I would have done without it the first year. It might have been one of the best breastfeeding tips I found as a first-time-mom. Even though this isn’t specific to breastfeeding only, it was a game-changer for nursing.

I am an organization freak and this app let us track all our baby’s important stats. We’re using it again with baby #2 and I can’t even tell you how fantastic it is. It lets us track all of the following:

  • Nursing (which side I started on and for how long on each side)
  • Sleeping
  • Diaper changes
  • The medicine we’ve given
  • Key growth

It displays graphs so you can see trends over time, and was particularly helpful when we had our sleep regression, which you can read about here. All I had to do was open my app, and I could see exactly how long it had been since we nursed, changed, or she’d taken a nap. I was a tracking maniac and had my phone in my hand almost the entire first year. That may be why my daughter is already obsessed with selfies.

Related: Grab your Breastfeeding Schedule Cheat Sheet for baby’s first year

Since baby #2 arrived, I feel a little like a chicken with my head cut off. If I didn’t have the app I’d never remember when we fed last, or which side I was supposed to start on for my next nursing session. It’s a lifesaver.

New-mom breastfeeding essential: nipple cream

In the beginning, it can feel like you’re nursing 24/7, and depending on how quickly you and baby get the hang of it, nursing can be pretty painful for a while.

Although lanolin was a trusty standby during that period, I was truly in love with my Earth Mamma Angel Baby nipple butter. It is non-GMO and I didn’t have a second thought slathering that stuff on even if I knew we’d be nursing again in 20 minutes.

Lucky for me, I didn’t have cracked or bleeding nipples (yes, that’s a thing in case you didn’t know), but I was dealing with some pretty serious bruising due to her latch for quite some time.

Organic Nipple Butter (transparent)

Breastfeeding as a beginner can be super challenging, and you’ll need to work on positioning, your latch, and have the right supplies to make it easier. Nipple cream is a great start, but if you’re struggling and need more help, check this out.

Breastfeeding essential item: you NEED a good great nursing pillow

The first few weeks home with the baby, it seemed like all I did was nurse and work to get us in the correct position. I basically lived in my bed for six weeks and had an entire arsenal of pillows to get in a correct (and comfortable) position. I ended up using both the boppy and my breast friend pillows depending on where we were sitting. You can probably choose one or the other, but I liked them both for different reasons. I usually ended up using the boppy on top of another pillow, or even on top of my maternity pillow that I ended up using to nurse almost through our first year. It was truly one of the best things we purchased as it took me through 5 months of pregnancy and over a year of nursing.  

I do realize that I’m recommending multiple pillows, but I liked them all for different reasons. I basically looked like I lived in a pillow fort for awhile. All the breastfeeding essentials on this list truly helped make the process easier. 

Although breastfeeding is touted as much more economical than formula feeding, the accessories can get pricey. However, I firmly believe all of our pillows were worth it.

{Side note – I recommend the maternity pillow with the zippered cover. You can find one that is slightly cheaper, but the pillowcase is impossible to take off, and trust me, you’ll need to wash it with a new little one around — milk will be everywhere. See next tip.}

The Mamma’s List must-have breastfeeding pillows

Breastfeeding Tip #2: Blankets are essential breastfeeding items because milk goes everywhere

I’m sure this isn’t specific to breastfed babies, but my little lady had acid reflux and spit up a lot. It seemed like there was either milk or spit up in our vicinity at all times, so I threw these Gerber receiving blankets on top of everything. While not truly breastfeeding products, they were critical to our success the first year.  I’d put them on top of the pillows when we nursed, and under her head when we were side lying in my bed. These blankets are basically like very soft mini towels that I could easily toss in the laundry as soon as I had to wipe something up. It definitely saved me from washing pillowcases and blankets every day, and they were also great to toss over her arms or legs if she felt a little cold and we were in a comfy position.

On the topic of reducing laundry, I’d recommend the disposable Lansinoh breast pads. They worked just as well as the Bamboobies I tried, but were significantly cheaper. Changing bras and/or breast pads feels like a never-ending process in the beginning and these were a lifesaver.

Must-have products to keep it clean

Nursing covers are optional, but versatile blankets are must-haves

We finally got into a groove and were able to even leave the house after awhile, but on our two-hour feeding schedule, that meant a lot of nursing in public. I 100% support all the mammas brave enough to breastfeed in a crowded public area with no cover, I just wasn’t one of them.

I wasn’t always hiding, but I’d usually at least have a burp cloth or blanket over my shoulder if we were anywhere that was crowded. We LOVED our bamboo swaddle blankets for just that reason. They were great to have in the diaper bag in case she was cold, and they multi-purposed as a car seat cover and nursing cover all at the same time.

We’ve used multiple brands, but I’d definitely recommend these by Aden & Anais.

My little didn’t like being covered at ALL when she was nursing, so I mainly held the blanket up over my chest and let her play with it. A great way to get even more privacy is to use a nursing shawl. My friend let me borrow hers when little lady C was about 11 months old. It wasn’t the exact model linked above, and we didn’t nurse in public a ton at that point but I felt so much more covered up using a poncho versus holding a blanket. It was also great for pumping. I would have loved to have it our entire first year!

Nursing covers & Swaddle Blankets great for breastfeeding in public:

Breastfeeding supplies for pumping and bottle feeding

After spending so many hours getting the hang of nursing (10-12x per day), my maternity leave was almost up. I had to prep to return to work. By the time I went back I was starting to actually enjoy my 20+ hours a week with the baby attached to me. Along came a whole new set of challenges as we entered this new phase.

When I returned to work we were nursing about 8 times a day. I wanted to continue exclusively breastfeeding, even though we’d be separated all day. This phase brought us to an entirely different evolution of the breastfeeding relationship – pumping.

As a working and pumping mom, you’ll need an entirely new set of breastfeeding products and even more accessories. Can you hear those dollar signs adding up?! Pumping was not my favorite thing to do, but it was a critical part of my daily life for about a year.

Related: Breastfeeding & Pumping Schedule Cheat Sheets

The best bottles for the breastfed baby

As we made this transition, our first challenge popped up almost immediately. My little lady decided that she wasn’t going to take bottles the week I went back to work. We had been successfully using Tommee Tippie bottles for over two months. Once she decided she didn’t want them, we were never able to get her back on them successfully.

Next, we tried the nipples that fit our Medela pumping bottles. She wasn’t a fan of those either. Finally, we settled on these Lansinoh bottles that she ended up using her entire first year. The brand doesn’t really matter, but ensure you’re using a bottle with a wide base to mimic the feel of breastfeeding.

{Top Tip – use a slow flow nipple until you’re 100% sure your baby won’t prefer bottle feeding. We used ours for almost a year. I never moved her up to a higher flow because I was so paranoid that she’d quit nursing.}

The best breast pumps for new moms

The first time around I used the Medela Advanced Pump N Style breast pump. We used all their bottles and accessories while I was pumping. You’ll have to decide what bottle quantity works best for your family, but we had about 12 bottles to pump into, and five bottles she could use during the day when she wasn’t nursing.

We only ended up sending two or three bottles to daycare because I was able to nurse her at lunch. Since she nursed every other feeding of the day, five feeding bottles were enough.

For our second daughter, I’m using the Spectra S1 pump and I like it as well. It has more pieces but is a closed flow system, meaning there is no way milk can get back into the machine. I didn’t have any issues with it, but the Medela pump is not a closed system so I switched this time around.

Luckily, we’re still able to use the Spectra pump with Medela storage bottles with this adapter.

Pumping and breastfeeding through that first year has a lot of ups and downs, but I can say with confidence that it was a huge accomplishment and bonded me to my little lady in a way I never thought possible.

At times I had zero confidence that I’d make it to a year and certainly didn’t see our breastfeeding relationship extending beyond her first birthday.

We’re proof that if you have a goal and stick with it – it’s definitely possible to make working, pumping, and breastfeeding happen, it just requires a lot of persistence and a little luck.

What you’ll need for pumping:

Related: Newborn essentials checklist (plus printable download)

Breastfeeding tip #4: A great nursing/pumping bra is essential

A good nursing and pumping bra is a must, and a combination nursing/pumping bra is an even better feature. I did an entire roundup of the best nursing bras for every occasion, but one most functional option I tried was The Rose, from The Dairy Fairy.

It’s a hands-free nursing and pumping bra that is super easy to use, and is comfortable enough to wear all day. No more switching bras at work every time you need to pump! It also won’t break the bank.

Related: Your ultimate third trimester checklist of things to do before baby arrives

I’d love to hear about your favorite breastfeeding tips, products, and tricks to make nursing easier! Wishing everyone extra ounces and hours of sleep!

P.S. Are you struggling with breastfeeding? Check out Breastfeeding Breakthrough: From Stuck to Success to overcome your breastfeeding challenges (yes, they’re more common than you think!) and enjoy the bonding experience nursing should be.

P.S.S. If you’ve got all your gear, but haven’t started nursing yet, you should check out Milkology’s awesome online class on learning to breastfeed. You can learn everything you need to know about how to breastfeed as a first-time mom.

A complete breastfeeding and pumping essentials checklist for baby’s first year

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