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Breastfeeding Checklist & Must Haves

November 2016

Planning to breastfeed? Go, mama! Here's a checklist to get you started, plus a round-up of some of our editors' favorite brands and products for breastfeeding!


Note: We developed this list by summarizing TotScoop parent favorites and adding a few hand-picked editor favorites and new releases. Our picks are 100% unbiased — we never accept compensation in exchange for coverage. That said, this page may contain affiliate links, meaning we may receive a small commission on any purchases that you make (at no cost to you); see our full disclosure.

Breastfeeding checklist

Here's a quick list of everything most moms need to get started with breastfeeding!

Nursing pillow: A must-have to help with positioning baby properly, especially for first-time moms! (our favorites below)
Comfortable place to nurse: Make sure there's somewhere in your house where you will be able to comfortably nurse (with good back support). You may be able to do this on the couch or in a recliner that you already have, or you may want to get a dedicated glider that is nursing-friendly for the baby's room.
Nursing footstool (optional): Depending on the chair, you may or may not benefit from a footstool to help elevate your knees and get baby up high enough to nurse, especially as a newborn.
Nursing pads: You may or may not need these for the duration of your nursing career (moms vary), but almost everyone needs them for at least the first few months (before your supply regulates), so stock up on a bunch before baby is born. Disposables are more convenient and lock away wetness better, while reusables are more eco-friendly and usually also softer on your nipples. (our favorites below)
Nipple cream: Breastfeeding can be tough on your nipples, so nipple cream is an essential for most moms for the first couple of months. (our favorites below)
Breast care: Other breast care items, such as gel pads, hot/cold packs, supplements to encourage lactation, and so on aren't essentials for everyone, so you can probably hold off buying them until you need them. (a few of our favorites below)
Breast pumps: For working moms and other moms who plan to pump regularly, a double-electric pump is a must-have. SAHMs who will only be very occasional pumpers should be able to get by with a single electric or manual pump, though we still recommend a double electric (especially if your insurance will cover it) as it will make even minimal pumping much easier. If you plan to travel a lot (with or without baby), consider getting a manual pump (much more compact and lightweight than a normal pump) in addition to your primary pump. (our favorites below)
Nursing cover: Optional. Many moms feel more comfortable nursing in public with one. (our favorites below)

Best nursing pillows

Popular pick: Boppy Nursing Pillow

The Boppy ($30) is the nursing pillow many moms swear by because it’s comfortable to wear as well as versatile: it can also be used for tummy time and to help to prop baby up into a seated position. One big perk of the Boppy is that the entire pillow (not just the cover) is machine washable. And believe us, you will want to wash your nursing pillow! One downside is that the pillow is contoured rather than flat, so newborns and smaller babies can sometimes wiggle down between your belly and the pillow. Boppy also sells sells a two-sided model ($45) with one flatter, firmer side and one soft side.

Lactation consultant pick: My Brest Friend

The nursing pillow most often recommended by lactation consultants is the My Brest Friend ($31). It’s particularly great in the early days, when baby is a squishy little thing and you’re still figuring out how to nurse. It provides a flat, stable, supportive surface for baby to lie on, and has a belt that clips around mom’s waist to provide back support. The foam pillow is not washable so we recommend investing in the waterproof cover that can go under a softer cover to protect this nursing pillow. Many moms only use this pillow for a few months, but it makes those early months much easier.

Non-toxic pick: Blessed Nest Nesting Pillow

If you are willing to pay more for all-natural materials, the Blessed Nest ($94) is our top choice. This crescent-shaped pillow is covered with 100% organic cotton fabric and filled with organic buckwheat hulls that mold to your body and can be rearranged to provide support wherever you need it. For example, in the early days you can move the filling to one side for more support, then as your child grows let it spread out to support their body better. This pillow can also be used during pregnancy to support your legs or keep you from rolling onto your back while sleeping. The cover is machine washable, but the pillow is spot clean only.

Best nursing pads

Disposable pick: Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads

If you’re looking for performance, convenience, and value, Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads ($9 for 100-pack, or $0.09/pad) are our top choice. They are extremely absorbent and lock away wetness effectively, so you can be totally confident about not leaking through to your shirt. They are pretty thin and also have adhesive strips to help keep them in place. If you prefer something more natural and eco-friendly, we also love the ultra-thin disposables from Bamboobies ($10 for 60-pack, or $0.17/pad), which are softer and in our experience perform almost as well.

Reusable pick: Bamboobies

Not only are reusable Bamboobies Ultra-Thin Regulars ($6-8/pair) effective at keeping your shirt dry, the soft and thin fabric won’t make you feel like you’re stuffing your bra with a sanitary pad. Keeping more waste out of landfills is easy when it means using these cute heart-shaped pads to soak up any leaks. They’re thin, so may not be sufficient until after your supply regulates. Overnight Bamboobies ($6/pair) are available for the early days, heavy leakers, and overnight.

Best nursing covers

Popular pick: Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover

For keeping the girls covered in functional style, we love the Bebe Au Lait Nursing Cover ($36). It has rigid boning embedded in the neckline to allow you to maintain eye contact with baby, and two terry cloth pockets for wiping his face or storing a pacifier. The cover is large enough to provide good coverage, but not bulky so it can be tucked in your diaper bag.

Multi-use cover pick: Covered Goods Multi-Use Nursing Cover

Multi-use covers are cool because they, well, have multiple uses. We love this one from Covered Goods ($35). They can be used not only as a nursing cover, but also as a car seat cover, shopping cart barrier, and a scarf for mom. They are made of a rayon spandex blend and are machine washable.

Best breast care

Nipple cream - early days pick: Lansinoh HPA Lanolin for Breastfeeding Mothers

A tube of Lansinoh Lanolin ($9 for a 1.4oz tube) is a girl’s best friend in the early days of breastfeeding to soothe sore nipples. This thick product is safe for baby and thick enough to protect nipples from rubbing against clothing. However, some super raw nipples may be too sensitive for it. It also has a sticky feel and will stain clothing or breast pads.

Nipple cream - natural pick: Motherlove Nipple Cream

Motherlove Nipple Cream ($11 for 1 oz.) is our top pick for occasional use after the very early days. It may not have quite the same repairing power that lanolin does, but it is easier to apply and a lot less sticky and messy. Some lactation consultants also recommend it over lanolin in the early days since it goes on thinner and so it won’t pull at especially sore and cracked nipples. It’s made from natural organic ingredients and is safe for baby so it doesn’t need to be washed off before feeding. Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter ($9 for 2 oz.), which also uses natural ingredients and has a similar consistency (but a more noticeable scent), is another mom favorite.

Relief for mincemeat nipples pick: Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads

In the early days or breastfeeding (and even beyond), it’s common for your nipples to get a bit torn up, usually as a result of poor latch. Every feeding can become a torture session that causes additional damage, perpetuating what can seem like an endless cycle. Gel pads like the Soothies ($8 per pair) are recommended by lactation consultants to soothe and heal between feedings, so you can continue to breastfeed. Soothies (like most gel pads) can be reused for a few days before needing to be replaced. Another great option is the gel pads from Ameda.

Breast discomfort relief: Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Hot or Cold Breast Therapy

They’re not an essential item for all nursing moms, but if you run into issues, these Lansinoh gel pads ($8) provide good bang for your buck. They're able to be used hot or cold: use them cold for sore nipples or discomfort from engorgement; or hot to help relieve plugged ducts or mastitis or just to encourage milk flow. If you're willing to pay more for all-natural materials, we also love Bamboobies Boob-Ease Soothing Therapy Pillows.

Best breast pumps

Double electric - best value pick: Medela Pump in Style Advanced

The Medela Pump in Style Advanced ($187 on Amazon), probably the most popular pump on the market, is a solid choice that checks all the boxes for a standard double-electric pump. A dial allows you to adjust vacuum strength/speed, a button lets you toggle between stimulation and expression phases, and you can pump either one or both sides at a time. Another plus is that, because the PISA is such a popular pump and Medela is such a major brand, there is an immense selection of accessories available; parts are readily available at most retail stores; and the parts interoperate with other Medela products (for example, get a PISA as well as a Harmony, and the bottles, caps, membranes, valves, etc. will all be interchangeable).

Double electric - top performance pick: Spectra

The Spectra S1/S2 (MSRP $199-345, Amazon $123-177) seems to be the new darling within breastfeeding circles. It's not only very efficient at extracting milk, but it's easy to carry around and quiet to operate. Many moms also report that it is gentler on their nipples than the PISA. It's also more customizable than the PISA: you can adjust not only the suction level, but also the cycles per minute. The Spectra also has some bonus features such as a nightlight and timer.

One downside to the Spectra is that fewer accessories are available, however there are a number of third-party solutions available and there are also adapters available that will allow you to use widely available Medela parts. The S1 & S2 are functionally identical except that the S1 includes a rechargeable battery (making it portable), whereas the S2 must be plugged into the wall to work. Both are usually covered by insurance, though the S1 may require an upcharge.

Handheld manual pick: Medela Harmony Single Manual Breast Pump

If you already have a double electric pump you are unlikely to need a handheld one but the Medela Harmony ($20) is the one to get if you are buying one. This pump allows you to have a manual stimulation and expression phase with its ergonomic design but you may find that your hand does get tired trying to pump as long as you might be able to with an electric pump.

Hospital grade pick: Medela Symphony Breast Pump

For moms that need to pump very often with the best possible efficiency the Medela Symphony ($1432, but usually covered by insurance with a prescription) is the hospital grade pump lactation consultants most often recommend. Moms who need to use one of these heavy duty pumps often rent them but they are also available for purchase at a steep price. It’s absolutely worth it, though, for the pumping pattern that mimics baby’s suck, quiet operation and adjustable vacuum strength.

Best milk storage & accessories

Freezer storage pick: Lansinoh milk storage bags

The Lansinoh bags ($15 per 100 bags, or $0.15/bag) are the gold standard for moms who are freezing milk thanks to their excellent design: they feature a tear-away top for security; a double “Click 'n' Secure” seal and double-sealed side seams to prevent leaks; and freeze flat for space-efficient storage. While these bags don’t connect directly to a pump, many moms have figured out how to use an adapter to make them fit so that you don’t have to pump into a bottle and transfer the milk later. Leaks are rare with these, but we recommend always defrosting a bag of breastmilk in a cup or dish just in case the bag springs a leak.

Cooler for pumping on-the-go: Medela Breastmilk Cooler Set

If you are pumping away from home you’re going to want a way to keep your milk cool for storage and transport. The Medela Breastmilk Cooler Set ($18) is a basic cooler bag that also includes the contoured ice pack and four bottles that work with other Medela parts. This little bag is a great workhorse but if you need to cool bottles that are bigger than 4 oz., the Skip Hop Grab and Go Double Bottle Bag ($11) is a great alternative that can fit two larger bottles and can also be used to transport bottles with the nipples on.

Must haves for frequent pumpers

Pumping bra pick: Simple Wishes hands-free pumping bra

If you are going to be spending time pumping, ahands-free pumping bra such as the Simple Wishes ($28) is an essential — if you are busy holding the flanges, how are you also going to browse TotScoop while you pump? In addition to keeping up to date on the latest and greatest products, many moms need their hands free to play with baby nearby, do compressions while pumping, or even work on their computer, and this is all much easier if you have a hands-free pumping bra.

Schlep-your-pump-to-work-in-style pick: Sarah Wells "Lizzy" Breast Pump Bag

If you’re going to be commuting to work or traveling regularly with your pump, or even if you just anticipate needing to pump in different areas of the house regularly, you may find it worthwhile to invest in a specialized breast pump bag to keep everything (pump, bottles, flanges, connectors, valves, membranes, tubing, hands-free pumping bra, ice packs, milk…) contained and organized. We love Sarah Wells pump bags such as the Lizzy ($100) not only for their style, but also their functionality: they can easily be wiped down and even have pockets for ice packs. The bag fits all portable pumps which are the kind that most insurance covers. Plus, once you’re no longer a pumping mom, you can continue to use the bag as a laptop bag or purse because it’s cute enough to keep carrying!

No-sink-access-at-work pick: Medela quick clean wipes

It’s not always possible to thoroughly clean all of your pump parts with hot water and soap after every pump — for example, when you’re traveling, or if you don’t have access to a sink at work. For those instances, Medela quick clean wipes ($5 for 24-pack, or $0.13/wipe) provide a quick and a convenient way to clean your pump parts and accessories. They’re also handy for cleaning high chairs, tables, cribs, and anything else your baby might mouth.

Tip: Check with a lactation consultant, but we know that lots of moms also bypass the need to wash pump parts after every pump by simply storing them in a ziploc bag inside a refrigerator or cooler bag with ice packs.