Buying equipment for breastfeeding

I’ve been breastfeeding for 7 weeks now, and I’ve been purchasing my breastfeeding equipment along the way. I thought I should share the list of what I have purchased, when I purchased it, and how long I’ve used it for. The reason I didn’t buy everything at once is because I wasn’t sure I was committed to breastfeeding. I don’t get a pump through my insurance, so there is no buying or renting of fancy hospital grade pump to start.

Before baby arrived

  • A set of Dr Brown’s newborn feeding bottles

This came with 2 x 4oz bottles, and 3 x 8oz bottles. I bought into the hype of the special Dr Brown anti-colic bottles – they are designed so that the baby doesn’t suck in as much air while feeding. Why would I buy feeding bottles if I’m planning to breastfeed? Well, these will be useful if I decide to switch to formula. I also wanted the option of pumping and giving a bottle for the times I will be away. What is very nice about the Dr Brown bottles is that they are compatible with the Medela system, so you can use a Dr Brown bottle with the Medela pump instead of transferring the milk.

  • Sterilizer

The pump parts and feeding bottles need to be sterilized. The old fashioned method is to boil them in hot water, but it’s a lot of hot water to boil. I chose a steam sterilizer – one button to turn it on, and it’s auto-turn off. The microwave bags are just too expensive. With the actual sterilizer, you can hit the button whenever, and keep on using it – it happens to me that I forget to sterilize some part, or find that I sterilize the wrong number of components, so I need to sterilize just one more thing. We have used it a lot, and will continue to use it often even after she starts solids.

  • Bottle warmer

I wasn’t planning on buying one since it’s not hard to boil water, and then mix with cold water to get the right temperature water bath for heating up milk. But my cousin had his old one, and he’s done with the kid-rearing, so we got this for free.

We haven’t used it much, and we don’t find it that much more convenient. I think we may use it more when I start working, and grandma will have to heat up the milk to feed.

  • Medela Harmony – the manual Medela pump

I actually bought 2 of these because I wanted to ensure that I have a spare of all the parts at home. The manual pumps are fairly cheap, so I thought it was a good place to start when I was unsure of how long I would be breastfeeding for. There are people on Amazon who say that they used a manual pump quite frequently because it’s very quiet and portable – meaning this initial buy will still be useful if I decide to breastfeed for a long time. Some also claim that the manual pump gives them more milk than the electric (which seems true in my case.)

What’s nice is that each box comes with 2 bottles, so I have plenty of bottles for storing milk in the fridge, without buying a separate set of bottles. Also the Dr Brown bottles work for storing in the fridge too.

I initially thought it would be a while before I needed to pump, but it turned out I needed to pump pretty early on when my baby wasn’t feeding well due to sleepiness (Day 4), and later when she was warded for phototherapy for her jaundice (Day 5). It was good to have these ready to go at home – I easily managed 3 pumping sessions (just need 1 oz) for the first afternoon, and then 4 more involved sessions when I needed to supply her milk while she was in the hospital. (I borrowed the hospital pump a couple of times, and I was allowed to nurse a couple of times, so it wasn’t 8 pumping sessions.)

  • A pack of 10 wash cloths from Ikea

These looked generally useful, and were cheap. I ended up using them a lot – as a bib for my boob when I breastfeed. The baby gets her mouth dirty, but the excess milk tends to run down my boob instead. I tuck these into the bra, and they are super absorbent. I rinse them out before laundry because there is so much milk in them.

  • A galactagogue

In my case, I’ve always had seaweed in the freezer, and it works for me. You probably own oatmeal (which is also a galactagogue). In case you don’t, you should get a galactagogue for the times you need a boost to your milk supply. Besides seaweed and oatmeal, fenugreek capsules seem popular among breastfeeding mothers.

  • A cooler bag

I got a cooler bag for groceries a long time ago, and this has been repurposed for breastmilk. I use cool packs from CVS (meant for iceing injuries) that I had in the fridge. This has been useful for when we go out, and I want to bring milk along with me to feed my baby (I bottlefeed when we go out because I can’t figure the breastfeeding in public thing out). When I go back to work, this cooler bag is coming with me to keep the pumped milk. I’m not trusting the office fridge.

Along the way

  • Breast pads (disposable and washable ones)

The morning after the milk came in, I woke up to a wet t-shirt. I somehow thought that only the women with oversupply will be dripping in their sleep, and I didn’t expect to be one of them. Fortunately we had some disposable breastpads at home (samples from the hospital), so I used those and went out to get washable breastpads. You definitely want these. The washable ones are very absorbent, and are good enough to soak up the letdown while you breastfeed with the other side. After 6 weeks, my 4 pairs of washable ones are starting to look a little used although they still work. I think they will make great gifts if your friend decides to breastfeed. Can’t get enough of the washable ones. The disposables are much thinner and nicer, but pretty expensive. I use them if I am going out and wearing something nice.

That said, some women on the internet have mentioned that breastpads are not sufficient for them.

  • Breast shells

When your milk first comes in, you’re likely to be engorged. This means that you’re probably going to be leaking milk from the side you are not feeding your baby with. I read about breast shells, and some people think these are super useful because you can collect letdown milk and store them (you should sterilize the shells). Their official purpose is to help air out the nipple, and prevent them from rubbing against fabric (which can use useful if you have sore nipples).

In my case, I initially had about 0.5 oz of letdown milk, so it was a great way to collect milk for the freezer stash. However, your body stops over-producing milk, and I stopped leaking so much from the unsuckled boob by the end of the second week. There wasn’t any point in collecting a couple of drops of letdown (leave it to the breastpads), so I stopped using them.

I’ve also been fortunate not to have sore nipple issues, so I haven’t used the breast shells for this purpose. So I guess these have not been very useful for me, even though others may find them useful. It kind of sucks that they were so pricey…makes a good gift though.

  • Nipple cream

I probably should have purchased this at the beginning, to prevent my nipples from chaffing. Instead, I spent 6 glorious weeks with no issues, and then developed chaffing, and it’s taking forever to go away. I bought Palmer’s cocoa butter nipple cream because it’s lanolin-free. Most nipple creams are pure lanolin, but some of us are allergic to lanolin.

  • Milk storage bags

Because I was collecting all this letdown milk but not using them, I had to buy milk bags for freezing. I delayed buying them since I wasn’t committed to breastfeeding, but these are definitely essential. It’s good to have a freezer stash that you can use for the random trips or absence those first early weeks.

  • Medela Swing pump (single electric pump)

I only recently bought this (at 6 weeks) now that I know that I am committed to breastfeeding. This is the portable cheapest Medela pump that is only for single side, which is probably all I need till my baby hits 6 months. It may not be what you should get after you commit to breastfeeding depending on your work situation, and you may already have a fancier double pump from your insurance (which I don’t get).

Just so it’s out there, I’m committed to breastfeeding for 6 months for now. I only intend to work at most part-time for the first 6 months, so I’ll only need to pump once while I’m working part-time (I also block feed, so only one boob needs to be emptied). After 6 months, I’m not so sure about breastfeeding (I’m nervous about feeding a baby with teeth). While I’m happy to continue pumping after 6 months, it’s hard to maintain my supple with pumping alone. I’ll consider a double electric when the time comes.

The nice thing about the Swing is that it is compatible with the Harmony (manual) system that I have – just replace the manual lever with the vacuum tubing and pump, and it’s good to go. I usually have to pre-express my engorged boob in the morning (which makes for an easy start to a freezer stash), and I use my manual pump for this. It usually takes a quick 5 min. I’ve switched to using the electric pump instead, and the vacuum is much more gentle, but it takes me 10-15 min to pre-express 1.5 oz these days. While it does take longer, I don’t have to use my hands so I’m happy to sit for longer. It also makes me worried that I was being too rough with my manual pump previously. In case anyone was wondering, the pump is promised for 275 hours only, so it’s not a good idea to use it if you pump multiple times everyday.

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