Expert Advice: Nursing Must-Haves


The best way to ensure breastfeeding success is to set yourself up with prenatal breastfeeding education and on-going support. Education can come in many forms - from a breastfeeding class, from a local breastfeeding support group (like La Leche League) or from breastfeeding books. Some of my favorite books are The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding. The most helpful on-going support usually comes in the form of a postpartum doula and lactation counselor or consultant. Pro tip: begin your search for postpartum support while you’re still pregnant so that you have it lined up once baby arrives.


Nursing pads are one of my go-to recommendations for things to have on-hand before baby arrives. Not only do they help protect against leaks, but they also help to protect against chafing and discomfort from bras and clothing. You can choose between disposable (convenient) and reusable (more comfortable). I especially love the reusable ones from Creekside Kid and Marley’s Monsters.


Hydration is key to health. While there's no need to drink excessive amounts of water or other liquids while breastfeeding (it actually doesn't have any impact on your milk supply), it is important to stay hydrated and drink to thirst. Keep an eco-friendly water bottle near you at all times to make sure you're getting the water you need. I love glass bottles by Soma, the glass bottles by bkr, and the stainless steel bottles from S'well.


While a nursing pillow isn’t necessarily a ‘must-have,’ it is a very-nice-to-have and think it’s worth being on this list. The one I recommend most is My Brest Friend. Silly name aside, this pillow is usually the most helpful for nursing babies in those first few months.


Another absolute breastfeeding must-have is nursing salve or nipple balm. It’s the best way to protect, soothe and heal sore or cracked nipples, especially in those first few days and weeks when your nipples are still adjusting to frequent suckling. One of my absolute favorites is Min.Erb's nursing salve because it's all natural and safe for mom and baby.


Breastfeeding should not be painful, but there is a range of normal discomfort that comes with it. I always recommend keeping a toolbox of comforting and relieving products on-hand should any discomfort arise (this is not the time to do an emergency run to Target). Keep things like Lansinoh soothies, a warm/cold compress and ibuprofen. But also keep in mind: experiencing any pain while breastfeeding is a sign that something needs to be fixed and you should contact a breastfeeding expert for help as soon as possible.


Breastfeeding moms burn about 500 extra calories a day. The hunger is real. During those early weeks and months, it can be challenging to make sure you’re getting enough to eat or that you’re eating well. I recommend always keeping some healthy, nutrient-dense snacks on-hand to stave off hunger and keep your energy levels up. I love Oat Mama bars for their insanely delicious flavors and commitment to maternal and infant health, but snacks like fruit, granola bars or nuts are all great options.


The choice to cover while nursing is completely yours. I advocate for and believe you should breastfeed your child whenever, wherever, however and around whomever you want. If you do choose to cover up, I recommend an all-purpose cover that can be used as a car seat cover, shopping cart cover and more. A few brands I love are Native Wilds, Covered Goods, KB Cute Designs, and Nuroo.


Being able to nurse on-the-go (especially when you have multiple children) is an insanely valuable skill. I always recommend all moms - especially breastfeeding moms - to have a few baby carriers. The type of carrier you choose - whether it’s a wrap, a sling or a structured carrier - will be based on personal preference. Structured carriers are slightly easier to nurse smaller babies in, and wraps and slings are great for slightly older babies. I love the Tula and Ergo for structured carriers, the Solly for a wrap and Wildbird for a sling.


For the first few weeks (or, maybe months or, okay, maybe years) as a mom we spend a substantial amount of time in our pajamas or ‘comfy clothes.’ I recommend stocking up on nursing-friendly loungewear to wear during the ‘lying-in’ period or during those all-night nursing sessions. I’m a big fan of Belabumbum, Target and Boob Design for comfortable, boob-accessible loungewear.


The right nursing bra can make a huge difference in your comfort and confidence. I recommend choosing bras that do not have underwire (at least for the first few months as your body adjusts) and that fit properly to avoid any risk of clogged ducts. I love Target’s seamless nursing bra for overnight use - they’re not sexy but they’re exceptionally comfortable and easy-to-use for overnight nursing. For daytime use, I love Bravado, Cake, and Kindred Bravely.


The pump (or pumps) you choose will depend on your reason for pumping. I recommend all women - regardless of whether they plan to pump or not - have a manual pump before giving birth. Manual pumps are great to help relieve engorgement and are quite effective at removing milk if you choose to feed baby with a bottle. My favorite is the Medela Harmony. Because most insurances are now required to cover breast pumps, I recommend using your benefits to get one. Again, the type you get will depend on your pumping needs - how frequently? for what purpose? In general, I recommend the Spectra S2.


I always say the best bottle for your baby is the one he will take. There’s no real secret when it comes to choosing a bottle. My biggest piece of advice here is this: don’t stock up on one type of bottle right away. I recommend purchasing a few different types and seeing which type your baby responds best to. For some, it may be the first one offered. For others, the road to bottle acceptance may be much longer.

Cristina Toff lives in Hoboken and is mom to a toddler son, Noam, and another little boy on the way. She is a lactation counselor and educator, doula, local La Leche League Leader and loves helping expecting and new moms navigate the beautiful yet often tumultuous times during pregnancy and the postpartum period. You can find her regularly oversharing baby stuff at @cristinatoff.

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