When I was pregnant with my first child, I took a class to learn how to make breastfeeding more comfortable. In my mind, spending three hours pretending to nurse a baby doll was all I needed to prepare for that miraculous moment when my sweet newborn would instinctively latch on to me, as I gazed at him adoringly from above. What could be easier, right?
In reality, there was pain. Lots of pain. Toe-curling, excruciating pain that made me want to give up my plans to breastfeed. I took advantage of the hospital's lactation consultant to learn the best positions to nurse and tried to draw upon what I learned in my class, but it turns out breastfeeding an actual human is sliiiightly more complicated than a plastic doll.
I needed relief for making breastfeeding less painful, and I needed it fast. Over the course of my first month as a mom, I tried countless products to make breastfeeding easier, each promising to make nursing as effortless and comfortable as I hoped it would be. After much trial and error, I landed on the right arsenal of the best nursing accessories, and my son and I soon became nursing pros. I hate to think what we would have missed had I given up.
For any new mothers out there with cracked, blistered nipples — and the mothers-to-be who may or may not be practicing on a baby doll right now — this is for you: the 12 products that will get you to the breastfeeding promised land. It's real, and it's spectacular.
The Proper Support
My first baby was a teensy six pounds when he was born, but believe me when I say that six pounds may as well be 60, if you don't have the right support. This nursing pillow helps keep your baby positioned at chest-level, allowing easy access to the boob without Mom having to lean over. (Your baby's first manners lesson: Come to the table to eat; the table doesn't come to you.) Bring this to the hospital, so you don't have to endure a single feeding without one.
The Great Barrier Relief
Getting a proper latch can take time and patience — both things that every new, sleep-deprived mom has in reserve — but there may come a point where your baby needs a little help. Wearing a nipple shield while nursing can help ensure a great latch while protecting your cracked, bleeding, blistery nipples from the wrath of your sweet baby's tiny mouth.
Relief That Heals
There's a twisted truth when it comes to breastfeeding pain: Your poor, damaged nipples need a break, but a baby's got to eat...all. The. Time. Too many popular creams and ointments go on with the sticky ease of rubber cement, but not this nipple butter, which slides on like, well, butter. Slather it on generously (it's safe for baby), and your nipples will thank me.
Hot And Cold Comfort
Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but a nursing mama knows purple pearls are where it's at. Had it been socially acceptable, I would have worn these reusable gel packs anywhere and everywhere my first month of nursing to help ward off the constant fiery pain from engorgement. Use them hot or cold, and even try them while pumping to help aid let-down.
A Comfy Nursing Bra
When your boobs hurt so much that even showering sounds like an exercise in torture, it's time to move your pretty-but-scratchy lace bras to the back of your closet. A push-up, lace bra this ain't, but the appeal of this nursing bra lies is its super-soft fabric. You'll (almost) forget you're wearing it...until you take a shower, that is.
If nipples have passed from "ouch" into "OMG I'm dying" territory, you may find relief in a breast shell. Beyond making you feel like a lactating version of The Little Mermaid, these silicone shells collect excess milk, due to engorgement while keeping your nipples from contacting anything painful or irritating (which, let's be real, is everything at this point).
Something To Take The Edge Off
There comes a point in every nursing mom's life when she first experiences rock-boob. Maybe the baby slept longer than usual, maybe you had to step out to run an errand, but whatever the reason, your boobs are swollen, engorged and rock-hard. Beyond being uncomfortable, this can make it tough for the baby to nurse. An inexpensive manual pump will curb some of the pain, so your baby can latch on and provide relief.
A Mealtime Alternative
Sometimes, the only way to help ease the pain of breastfeeding is to not breastfeed. As long as you pump to keep your supply intact, you can offer your baby a bottle to give your nipples some much-needed R&R, while your baby still gets enough to eat. This natural baby bottle will feel close to the real thing for your baby, and anti-colic vents will help keep fussiness to a minimum.
Some moms are comfortable nursing al fresco, but others feel better with a little more coverage. Still, even the most private of moms will at some point feel the telltale discomfort that your baby needs to eat, and your baby needs to eat now. Use this stylish cover-up to keep things discreet, if you prefer. Bonus: The cover-up folds into a cute infinity scarf. This plus a shirt with easy access to the boob equals my nursing mom uniform.
Instant Soothing Relief
Healing takes time, and sometimes, a mama just needs relief ASAP. Carefully stick these soothing gel pads directly onto your nipple, sit back, and savor the cooling and immediate gratification. Note: You do have to clean your breasts before baby can nurse again, but the speedy relief makes it worth it.
Warmth for Aching Muscles
Turns out the advice your grandmother gave you not to slouch also applies to nursing, but in the wee hours of morning, curled up in my comfy glider with a baby on my boob, you couldn't have balanced a book on my head if you tried. Fortunately, I had an aromatherapy neck warmer to provide relief for the sore muscles that invariably followed.
Pain comes in all shapes and forms, and while there are plenty things to cause you physical pain while nursing, there's also the psychological pain of dragging yourself out of your warm, comfortable bed in the middle of night — and it's a pain that intensifies with each subsequent wakeup. This clever bassinet lets your baby sleep safely right next to you for easier night feedings. Your baby gets milk, and you stay in bed, which sometimes is the best cure there is.
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