Breastfeeding a newborn can feel like a full-time job. Feed, diaper change, sleep, and repeat day and night. Creating a breastfeeding station, or stations, around your home can help support you in your breastfeeding journey. After all, support is the #1 key in having a successful breastfeeding experience! With that said, find out below what breastfeeding essentials you’ll need to improve your breastfeeding journey as a new mom!
Breastfeeding station: Setting the scene
You can begin preparing for breastfeeding in pregnancy or once the baby has arrived. Find a comfortable, accessible place to designate as your breastfeeding nook. I personally had 2 favorite spots. My bed and my favorite corner of the couch.
You’ll want a place where you can be comfortable for extended periods of time, and have access to a light and a flat surface to place items. You can use a bedside table, end table, roll-away cart, or whatever you can to place things within arm's reach. Arms reach is the key.
Having foot support is also helpful. Using a footstool or ottoman can help elevate the legs quite comfortably.
What do you need?
A boob and a baby! ;) Just kidding, you need more than that or else this post would be really short!
Breastfeeding essentials: Hydration
Breastfeeding triggers a thirst instinct right around the time that your first letdown happens. You’ll feel unbelievably parched right about the time that you and baby are settled in for a feed. Having a glass of water, or my favorite water bottle with a bendy reusable straw, within reach is key. Keeping hydrated will also help with milk production. I had a personal preference to keep my water on my nondominant side as it was more comfortable for me to reach for it while holding my baby with my dominant hand.
Other breastfeeding essentials: Snacks
A lactating body needs approximately 500 calories more per day than a nonlactating body. As a reference, during pregnancy, the body needs around 300 extra daily calories. You’re hungry all of the time while breastfeeding!
Having good sources of fats, protein and other healthy nutrients will help you feel your best while breastfeeding. Keeping a stash of easy to eat, one-handed items on your breastfeeding station will keep your energy and calorie intake up.
It’s also a really delicious way to keep track of how many times you’ve fed your baby within a day. As a lactation counselor, I recommend that clients feed their babies 10-12 times within a 24 hour period. Keep a stash of 10-12 snacks at your feeding station and you’ll know if you’ve hit your goal.
Nursing station ideas: Bits and bobs
Have your phone, a charger with a long cord, and your favorite things on your side table. I found it helpful to keep my wireless headphones nearby to allow me time to catch up with friends and listen to an audiobook or music.
In the early days of parenthood I felt guilty that using my phone would disconnect me from the experience of bonding while feeding my baby but I also really needed the mental respite from the 24/7 focus on the baby. Your mental health matters too! Especially in the middle of the night, I enjoy listening to a podcast or music to connect to the world or listen to something soothing.
I also recommend keeping nipple balm on your side table. If you have any damage to your nipples first seek out the help of a skilled lactation professional. Pain and damage should not be a part of the experience and they can help with adjusting latch or positioning.
Image Source: IngridandIsabel.com
If you are healing from any damage, keeping a gentle and breastfeeding safe nipple balm-like lanolin or a salve can help to heal more quickly. I had quite a bit of damage in the first week of breastfeeding so I used Silverette cups to speed up the healing. If you’re using Silverette cups, shellies, nipple shields, or any other accessories, keep them at each feeding area if you can.
Burp cloths, a swaddle, and a cozy blanket are nice to have at your breastfeeding station. Most newborns spit up after feeds. Their digestive systems are still maturing and milk can come back up quite easily. Having a burp cloth already draped over your shoulder or near your side can make a quick save all the easier. My son spit up often and I kept a burp cloth or 2 nearby.
Swaddles can double as burp cloths or a light blanket to cover your baby. When establishing breastfeeding, I recommend undressing your newborn to help keep them awake and get in more skin to skin time. Skin to skin helps with milk supply and has the added benefit of helping baby regulate their body temperature. If the room feels a bit too cool, the light swaddle can help warm them up.
Baby nail clippers and nail files are bonus items to keep at your feeding station. A sleepy baby is an easy baby to tend to those tiny talons!
Get all of the pillows that you need to comfortably support your body. You can use a nursing pillow (popular choices are Boppy, My Breast Friend, Frida Baby) or simply pillows that you already have around the house. I personally did not like using a Boppy and my cat promptly took it up as her own cozy nook.
Support your own body first to then be able to support your baby. I like supporting my clients with a low back pillow, pillows under the elbows, under baby’s body to help elevate them up to your breast level rather than rounded down to them, and another under the knees if legs are elevated on a bed.
You spend hours each day feeding your baby. When we round our shoulders, bend our necks, put strain on our arms, arch our backs, we slowly start to damage ourselves and make the experience of feeding uncomfortable and cause longer term pain in the body.
Image Source: Elvie.com
Breast pump, breast pads and accessories
If you’re pumping breast milk, have your breast pump at your feeding area as well. Pumping will also trigger thirst and hunger reflexes so having it in you same area with your water and snacks is handy!
Include clean pump parts and anything that you might need, like a hands-free pumping bra. I loved using a silicone suction pump, like the Haakaa or Elvie Curve, on my non nursing breast to passively collect letdown milk. I was able to build my breastmilk stash before I began using an electric pump. If you leak a lot of milk, having dry breastmilk pads or a silicone collection bra insert at the ready is nice too.
Having a change of clothing for your baby stashed can save you a trip for a soiled onesie. And don’t forget a spare t-shirt for yourself. From leaking breastmilk, a surprise unlatch during a letdown, an explosive diaper, and spilled food, you’ll find yourself in need of a change at some point. Add some cozy socks or slippers and a cardigan or zip-up sweatshirt in case you get chilly as part of your breastfeeding essentials list.
Your job as a nonlactating partner is to support in any way you can. Words of encouragement are key especially when challenges arise or exhaustion takes over. Keep your partner's spirits up as they stare at you in the middle of the night with your useless nipples.
Refill water bottles and snack stations often and without being asked. Clean pump parts, bottles, nipple shields, and anything else that requires regular cleaning and sanitizing. Take on the chore of storing and freezing pumped milk.
By removing the extra tasks you’ll free your partner up and be able to participate in the feeding experience. I encourage you to also burp the baby, change diapers, and get them back to sleep whenever possible to give your partner the space to take care of their own needs, including going back to sleep, eating, taking a shower, etc. Step in whenever possible to take over tasks to share the parental load.
Feed your partner! Remember those 500 extra calories needed daily? Make them something warm and delicious to eat. Then hold the baby so that they can eat their delicious meal while it is still hot and at a normal pace. Trust me, those little details matter.
Breastfeeding can feel overwhelming for partners too. It’s a new experience that you may not understand or be able to fully empathize with the sensation of. Continue to be a cheerleader and help troubleshoot when needed. If using a lactation professional, which I highly recommend, be an involved participant in the sessions so that you can help remember the tips and tricks in action.
You got this!
Breastfeeding can be a beautiful experience that can also come with emotional and physical challenges. Setting yourself up with a cozy space that is fully stocked with your breastfeeding essentials will help empower you to find your rhythm with your baby. Whether it’s your first or your fifth baby, each journey is unique and you are both learning to navigate the path together.
By: Erin Pasquet
Birth and Postpartum Doula
Certified Lactation Counselor
Pre/Post Natal Yoga Teacher