Pumping and Breastfeeding Necessities

This is part 1 of a (who knows how many parts) series that I’m going to write regarding different “essentials” we have bought/used over the past year. When I was making my baby registry and trying to feel prepared for bringing a baby home, I scoured the internet for lists like this from real Moms (and not compiled by companies trying to sell you a bunch  of useless shit). It was hard to find complete lists anywhere, so hopefully this helps someone!

What I Use(d):

Pumping Related

  • Quality Double electric pump (a true necessity if you are working outside the home / plan on pumping with any regularity)
    • I love my Medela Pump in Style ($300). I got the Metro Bag because I like the detachable motor feature while traveling, but any of the PIS or Freestyle models would work. Watch for sales on Amazon – they randomly drop $50+ all the time. This is not something to skimp on. Seriously.
  • Hands free pumping bra
    • I have 2 kinds. Simple Wishes ($32) I use at home in the mornings – it keeps the nursing flanges securely in place and I like it. It’d be hard to get on with some of my work shirts though, so at work I use the simple Pumpin’ Pal strap. ($13) It’s cheap (thanks for the recommendation Natalie!), and it’s SO simple to toss over your neck and hook up. I use that exclusively while pumping at work (and sometimes at home if my other one is in the wash). This has allowed me to blog, check email, etc. while pumping, and since I have pumped probably 600-700 times already (every morning first thing and 2-3x/day when I’m at work), that is a lot of internet time!
  • Pumping accessories:
    • I bought 1 of these kits. However, I did end up buying additional set of larger breast shields (27mm) and the personal-fit connectors separately because the standard 25mm chafed my nipples, and it helped a LOT with pumping comfort and output. Make sure you look at the diagram while pumping and you have the correct size flange for your nipple size. FYI – nipples are MUCH LARGER while pumping, so it’s not like you can measure your nipples ahead of time to guess what size you’d need. 🙂 Even so, it’s now nice to have a backup set of everything in case I forgot to wash/dry my main set, because I can use either in a pinch.
      • Also, a game changer for me was the realization that you don’t have to sanitize the pump parts between every pumping session. Just pop the breast shields, valves, and membranes in a Ziploc bag and toss them in the fridge until your next pumping session that day. It helped me a ton with the (non)convenience of pumping at work to only sanitize once at the end of my work day.
    • Set of bottles to pump into. Stella wouldn’t eat from the brand I bought, but they work for milk storage in your fridge before you transfer to either a freezer bag or to the bottle the kid will drink out of. I didn’t like pumping straight into the Medela freezer bags because I found it difficult to get a good measurement on the ounces. I actually just tossed the entire bottle in the freezer for awhile in the beginning (thanks to a plethora of bottles sent to me from a blog friend of mine who shall remain nameless unless she wants to out herself – thank you!!!), but now I usually use actual breast milk storage bags because I’m freezing for longer periods of time hopefully (up to 6 months instead of a few weeks) and space is more of a priority.
    • Lay flat breastmilk storage bags. I had the Medela stand up ones originally, but they take up SO MUCH SPACE in my freezer, so I’ve switched to Lansinoh and love them. I never put more than 4oz in a bag since Stella has never drank more than that at once, and I’d cry if I had to throw away ounces that weren’t drank.
    • Bottle/pumping paraphernalia drying rack you love (both in functionality and looks – it will be on your counter non-stop)
      • I have one by First Years ($11), and it works fine. It gets grody fast though and the bottom needs to get cleaned out. Not sure if I’d buy it again.
    • Cleaning wipes. These are not a necessity, but nice to have when you’re on the go. I’ve pumped in the car during road trips before, and you can use these to clean the pump parts and be able to pump again in a couple of hours without needing to have a sink and microwave around to sanitize. (Nice when you want to give the baby a bottle but keep driving.) These can also be used to clean high chairs at restaurants, etc. I bought 2 packs of them and am still on my 2nd pack at 10 months.

Breastfeeding & Bottle Related

  • Nighttime nursing bra
    • Oak sent me a link to this one and I love it. ($35) It seemed pricey at the time, but I have worn it nearly every day since Stella was born, and my only regret is that I didn’t buy two. I got it in black. FYI, I got a Medium (at 5’8″ and 160#, medium build), and the band was a little tight in the very beginning, but between my rib cage retracting post-delivery and the band stretching just a bit with washing and wearing, it fits great now.
  • Daytime nursing bra
    • Buy QUALITY. Also, wait a couple weeks until your size is more established (once your milk comes in and regulates a bit). I bought the Bravado Bliss ($50 – again, on Oak’s recommendation) and it’s great. The $20 ones I bought = not so great. You get what you pay for.
  • Lanolin cream for your nipples
    • I got a tube from the hospital, and I ended up buying a 2nd tube, so that I had one downstairs (where I hung out with Stella) and one upstairs (for night time nursings). I only used this the first few weeks, but it was a lifesaver when I needed it to help prevent/heal dry, cracked nipples. I liked the Earth Mama better than the Lansinoh because it wasn’t quite so thick and sticky. It’s probably just personal preference though.
  • Nipple pads (I used all 3 types below for the first few months – I don’t use any now. Some people never leak, some people let down on both sides every time the baby latches on one side, so it’s good to at least have a few of these around PRE-baby being born while you figure out what your body is like.)
    • Gel – Pros: Reusable. Nice for preventing nipping out under shirts. Stay in place. Don’t let any moisture leak through. Cons: don’t let your nipples breathe (which they NEED to prevent a plethora of issues). I used these sparingly with certain shirts. I liked LilyPadz ($35). My 2nd set from that box has just finally lost their stick after 10 months.
    • Disposable – Pros: I kept sets of these everywhere (purse, diaper bag, car, etc) because I went through them constantly in the beginning. Cons: you go through them quickly.
    • Cotton – Pros: Reusable. Super absorbent.  Cons: they are a little thicker and show through your bra/shirt pretty easily if you are wearing anything even slightly fitted.
  • Burp Cloths & Bibs
    • I bought pre-fold diapers by the dozen (literally – I think I bought 2 dozen) to use as burp rags. Stella was a HUGE spitter/puker for months and months, and we used these for everything.
    • Bibs – we liked the bibs that had a waterproof backing on them – something like this. Otherwise you have a wet bib AND a wet outfit and kid.
  • Bottles
    • Even if you don’t plan on pumping much, you will probably use at least a hand pump to have couple of bags in a freezer/fridge stash for emergencies (the hospital gave me a hand pump, free of charge, which I now leave in my trunk for emergencies). This allows you to leave the baby / not nurse for more than an hour or two at a time – nice for dentist appointments, grocery shopping, and drinking. Not necessarily in that order. 😉
      • DO NOT BUY a ton of any one kind of bottles before the kid is here. We tried multiple kinds with Stella before we found one she liked (Dr. Brown’s).
      • We introduced a bottle at 4w – breastfeeding was well established (so I wasn’t worried about nipple confusion), but she wasn’t so old that we were too worried about her being stubborn about accepting a bottle. The first few bottles we tried the flow was just too fast / nipple wasn’t shaped in a way she liked. Once Charlie tried the Dr. Brown’s with the Level 1 nipples (which she still uses at almost 10 months old!), we were set though!!
      • KEEP offering the bottle every couple of days once you find one the baby likes, because babies have been known to “forget” that they liked the bottle, and for Daddies who want to be more involved and Mommies who want a break at times, it’s good if the kiddo can drink out of a bottle.
    • We throw most of our bottles in the dishwasher (top shelf) but it’s nice to have a bottle brush as well for hand washing when need be.
  • ETA – A breastfeeding pillow!!!
    • I can’t believe I forgot this in my original post. I LOOOOOVE my Boppy. LOVE. My Mom actually bought me a 2nd boppy when she got here 4 days post-birth. My bottom was so sore that I used one as a donut pillow and one for nursing. Then once I healed up, I kept one boppy downstairs on the couch and one upstairs in the nursery. It’s just in the past month that I’ve quit using it while nursing, but for a long time I used it EVERY time I nursed. I’m a taller person with a long upper body, and that thing SAVED my back and arms as Stella got heavier and heavier. Make sure you get one with the cover’s zipper seam along the outside edge instead of along the bottom so that you can use it flipped either way (only one of mine is like this).
      • Boppys are also great for propping up kiddos that are learning to sit on their own, for reclining them if they’re holding their own bottle, etc.

One final note, we cleaned out a drawer in the kitchen for all breastfeeding/pumping supplies about two months in. I finally realized that it’s nice to have one drawer to be a catch-all for that kind of stuff. It’s right by the sink and dishwasher since everything in that drawer is used on a daily basis!

I hope this helps!! I know that everyone’s baby(ies) and experience is different, so if you have something you totally disagree with me about or want to add to the list above, please do so in the comments!


  1. not sure if it’s the same everywhere, but in Iowa you can get a script from your doctor for a breast pump, insurance will pay for pretty much all of it, but you have to have a medical supply shop in your area to give them the script. Would be worth checking it out, saving a few hundred dollars!

    1. GREAT point. My insurance is shitty and didn’t cover it anyway, but I have a lot of friends who that did work for. I bought mine with my HSA account, so at least it was with pre-tax dollars.

      1. My insurance in stellar (no co-pays, no premiums, no co-insurance) and I live in Iowa and they wouldn’t buy me a breast pump even with a prescription. My insurance required your baby to be in the NICU to buy the pump. Not complaining, just pointing out that even in the same state, plans are different.

  2. Great, GREAT post!!! I’m going to have to save this post for future reference.

  3. Awesome job, Josey! I agree with nearly all your lists. I wish I had found a list like this when I was planning for my breastfeeding/pumping adventure.

  4. “Also, a game changer for me was the realization that you don’t have to sanitize the pump parts between every pumping session. Just pop the breast shields, valves, and membranes in a Ziploc bag and toss them in the fridge until your next pumping session that day.” You mentioned this in your PAIL post and I give this tip to EVERYONE. This one is a major game-changer!

    I am almost out of my freezer stash – 24 ounces left. If not for Lansinoh bags, we would never have been able to store the amount we did. Those Medela bags are crap. I won’t even give them away to people because they’re so useless and take up too much space.

    I said in my PAIL post, and I’ll say it here, that it is worth looking into buying a hospital grade pump (yes – it’s very expensive) because you can legitimately resell it on Ebay for 3/4 what you paid, getting it down to the cost of the PIS. (I called Medela before buying it and they ENCOURAGED me to resell it on Ebay since it’s a closed, sealed unit). Much better suction and is stated by Medela that it’s built to last and last several pregnancies. I swear by this! Big investment, but serious payback in ease, comfort, and resale!

    GREAT LIST! I needed this when we were gearing up to nurse. I absolutely love the hand pump and believe every serious nursing mother shoud have one. It saved me at the airport, on the interstate, at friends’ houses, etc. Best $35 ever spent!

    1. I should have said, thanks for the game-changing advice. Will save me so much washing next time!

  5. Great info… I wish I had this before having Alidia so I am sure it will be helpful to others. I ended up barely ever pumping so I just have a hand pump and a couple bottles (for boozing nights) but if I had to work outside the home I would definitely be pumping much much more!! I am going to check those nursing bras out now though!

  6. Do you realise how many things you bought? I just need my breasts and a pair or three nursing bras. And, if you have to come back to work, an electric pump and bags…the rest is consumism. Thousands of years of breastfeeding to find that someone tells us that we need all this stuff to nurse our babies…, amazing.

    1. I do realize how much I bought – I’m not saying you HAVE to have these things to nurse, but if you are going back to work outside the home, the things above definitely make life a lot easier, and considering how much time of my life has been spent pumping in the past 10 months, YES, it was necessary for me to have these things. Without that ease, I doubt that Stella would still be receiving breast-milk from me. The only things I added to your “electric pump and bags” list was a hands-free nursing bra. Those “accessories” i noted above are part of the actual pump, so yes, you need them.

      As for only needing your breasts and nursing bras – ya, of course – but when your nipples are bleeding and cracked, lanolin is AWESOME to have and worth every penny of the $10. Same for nipple pads – that saved me from leaking through SO many shirts and a ton of laundry. I guess I don’t get how that is consumerism – it was just extremely helpful to have nipples that weren’t in pain while breastfeeding, since I know that is a huge reason women struggle with breastfeeding.

      Basically, I feel like my list above is pretty basic. If it doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. But this is what worked for me.

      1. I have pretty much all the exact same things you bought (just more of some of them, like bottles). Everything was ESSENTIAL, even if just for a short time! I think anything that gets you through those (occasionally hellish) early months of breastfeeding is worth buying, especially if you can use it for future kids and/or pass it off to friends to help ease the cost on them (like my pump– it came from a friend of a friend!)

  7. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am currently 32 weeks and have been searching for breastfeeding essentials! This has helped me a lot! I look forward to future posts!

    1. I totally spaced a breastfeeding pillow – going to add that now! I’m glad the list was helpful for you!

      1. mcmissis · · Reply

        I came back to say the Boppy. It’s so essential we don’t even think about it!!! My girlfriend has a 3 week old and someone just gave her a handmedown. She had no idea she needed one and feels a million times better! I can’t believe I failed to tell her the importance of it.

  8. I was one of the “lucky” ones that let down on both sides when my son nursed. So the pads were a MUST. I went through boxes and boxes of them throughout the 13m he nursed. I wish I could have saved all that milk I wasted leaking from one side when he was nursing on the other!

    1. Just wanted to say that you actually CAN save all that milk that leaks when nursing on one side. It’s not the most glamorous of products, but these are made just for that purpose:
      I got them as a hand-me-down from my older sister and they ended up being really useful in those early months (after that my body adapted).

      1. Sheesh, Amazon, could the picture be any bigger? Sorry, Josey!

      2. Oooh – I’ve never heard of these!! What a great way to not have to let all that milk go to waste!

  9. I bought my pump through awaybabyessentials.com and found it to be the best price at the time, not sure if that is still the case. I added a bundle to my pump (can be found here http://awaybabyessentials.com/item_165/Medela-Breast-Pump-Accessory-Bundle.htm ).

    I support the Metro Bag as well. I refused to get the pump built into the bag because I wanted a little more freedom sans the bag.

  10. I’m really glad you were blessed with Stella, Jos. And not just because she’s cute and perfect. Selfishly, if I’m ever ready and able to have my own little Stella in the future, you’ll have all the deets to offer me opinions on!! 🙂 Thanks for being you.

    1. LOL, thanks little sis.

      Have I mentioned how excited I am for your wedding in February? Because I am. I AM!!

  11. I finally just opened this in one window and my registry in another and made sure I had everything covered. Thanks so much again for this list Josey!

  12. Great list! Nice nested bullets 🙂

    I didn’t have a registry or a shower, but this list would have been useful to have instead of BJB blindly choosing items at the shop and texting me choices when HGB was 4 days old and my supply was becoming a MAJOR issue. Because yeah – I didn’t think I would need *anything*.

    I do not work outside the home, but I have a double electric pump. I have PCOS and have had a breast reduction, so pumping was a necessity for me in those early weeks when supply was a major issue and it looked like it might not happen. The hands-free pumping bra was a GODSEND because I just lean my head back and close my eyes for ten minutes. I was also NEVER able to feel “letdown” on either side, so pumping helped me feel confident that milk (and how much) was actually coming out.

    On the supply issue – I’ll add this: http://www.motherlove.com/product/530-More-Milk-Plus.html
    These herbal drops SAVED my supply. One shot, four times a day. Tastes like death, but you get used to it. When I ran out once, my supply tanked. Check with your LC, but I HIGHLY recommend them if you have low supply issues.

  13. Josey, I just want to thank you for this list. I bookmarked this months and months ago and I’ve referred back to it repeatedly. I’ve just started the pumping and storing process and your list and explanations have been a tremendous help. Thank you!!

    1. YAY! This makes me so happy. That’s exactly why I wrote it. 🙂 It can be overwhelming to figure out, and I couldn’t find a good, comprehensive list about it all anywhere!

  14. […] Pumping and Breastfeeding Necessities […]

  15. Great post! I’m posting a 10 week breastfeeding blog series starting Monday and I’d love for you to follow along and comment with additional advice!

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