Breastfeeding Gear


Nursing “Gear”

Updated 11/17/20

If you’ve got a baby on the way, you are likely contributing to our economy with lots of ‘consumer activity’ aka ‘shopping’.   If you’re hoping to save some resources for, say, college, or maybe even to support your breastfeeding goals with the right professional support (like a postpartum doula or lactation consultant, far far less expensive than college btw), we offer these suggestions for things you might want to have, and things you might want to cross off your ‘must have’ shopping list.

We’ve scored the items based on how likely you are to need/use them:

reasonable or recommend for purchase

nice, but you may or may not need it

for problems only, don't need in advance


reasonable or recommended to purchase


You’ll want to have some nursing bras.  How many do you need? Many moms find that there is comfort to be had when you have a bra to hold the ‘girls’ that are a bit heavier than you are accustomed to.  So plan on having at least a few to start.  I know some moms find they are wearing their bras around the clock.

Try to balance this with some time for airing out by dropping your flaps if not dropping the top altogether and keep the bras and nursing pads clean.  You really don’t need to add managing a yeast overgrowth to your to-do list.

It is important if you are wearing a bra that it is properly fitted, as any tight areas can lead to blocked ducts.  Consult with a professional bra fitter.   It can be helpful to have some in a variety of styles but before you plan a year’s worth, know that you’re going to need to adjust over time.   Plan on being one cup size larger in early lactation and then to be somewhat smaller in the following months.

Hands-free pumping bras… are much appreciated if you have to spend much time expressing with a mechanical pump.  You can easily sacrifice a basic sports bra to make your own.

For Chicagoland bra fitting resources, visit these retailers:

New Mother, New Baby in Northbrook – Founded by an IBCLC, this store has a great selection of nursing bras, offers pump rentals, baby gear, and breastfeeding supplies, and also hosts monthly babywearing and breastfeeding groups for mothers. They also offer bra fittings for customers.

Nordstrom’s – Nordstrom has a team of Certified Prosthesis Fitters, who are specially trained to fit women for all types of intimate apparel after reconstructive surgery or mastectomy. They carry nursing bras, but also offer an alteration service where they will convert any of their “regular” bras into a nursing bra for $15. Their store on East Grand Ave. also carries the Cake Maternity Lingerie line, which has fantastic options for nursing bras in a wide range of sizes.

Bras Galore – Most women are walking around wearing the wrong bra size. Finding the right size is confusing! We’ll take the mystery out of it. Our staff are expert bra fitters and can quickly evaluate what size and cut will work best for your body.  They carry bras for petite frames, nursing moms, brides, plus sized women, little ladies with big “girls”, transgender women, and everyone in between. They carry a wide array of strapless, sports bras, shapewear, swimwear, nursing bras, date night bras, and everyday bras for all shapes and sizes.

Tina’s Closet – In Lisle – 80% of woman wear a bra that does not fit, every day. We are your faerie bra-fitters. If Bra Woes® irritate you more than evil step sisters, then come to Tina’s Closet and we will make them magically disappear.​

Breast pads

Some women leak a lot, some very little, and many leak in the beginning, but then it eases up.  Breast pads absorb the milk to prevent the ‘wet shirt’ look, and can keep your breasts dry to prevent thrush.  There are disposable ones and a variety of cloth ones.  Feeling crafty?

I recommend the cloth both because they will not trap moisture that can lead to infection but they feel much nicer against your nipples that may be a bit tender or chapped in the beginning.  A favorite product EVER . . . fleece lined or merino wool breast pads. They ‘cushion’ any tender nipples and make wearing a bra or tank comfortable and are absorbent, but wicking.


Slings are more than carrying devices.  They can be a hammock holding your baby at breast-level for nursing (great for when you nurse while standing or sitting in a straight backed chair or on a bench at the park); they help you to nurse discreetly; they can keep your baby warm (fleece ones especially); offer protection from the sun (Solarveil) ; and can double as a blanket for lying on the grass or swaddling during a nap.  They can also prove invaluable for babies who get easily distracted or overstimulated in general or for feeding. There are many varieties, so check with friends, visit a sling class, or check out a retailer or online to see which one might be best for you.

Breast Pump

Yes, at some point you are likely to want a mechanical pump to express breastmilk. We encourage moms to learn hand-expression as well, but this is an item you’ll likely acquire.  What kind?  Look for an upcoming post dedicated to the pump question! In the meantime, feel free to talk with our lactation experts or come to our clinic to assess what you might need in your situation.


nice but you may or may not need it

Nursing tops

A variety of styles of tops designed specifically for breastfeeding are available as are easy-access fashions not explicitly created for the nursing mom but totally functional.  Think through what you’ll need not only when you’re home cuddling with your baby, but having a lunch out with friends or at your office and needing to pump. Take a look at your work wardrobe before you’re in the countdown and see that you have options that will work.

Alternatives to Nursing Tops

Another solution to buying nursing wear and nursing bras:  the shelf tank or camisole worn under shirts (t-shirts, sweaters, or larger button downs).  These provide enough support for many women, and cover your tummy while you are pulling up your top to nurse.   The breast can be slid out from the top of the tank while the edge of the shirt you pulled up creates a discreet screen.  You still can enjoy your favorite shirts and have more fashion options!


Lansinoh or Purelan are purified lanolin products manufactured for breastfeeding.  MotherLove and EarthMama have also produced plant-based nipple ointments. They help with chapping and many moms feel they help with comfort. Having it around is a good idea.  Usually, you forget all about it after the first weeks when you are not waking every day thinking about your nipples.  I’ve kept them around for a great lip balm or general moisture boost.

Another great alternative?  Simply pure organic coconut oil.

For any of these protective balms, try applying after nursing, and before hot showers.

Other ointments have more medicinal properties and will be prescribed by your health care provider if you have nipple damage or conditions such as thrush.  Do not use someone else’s prescription!  Use only as directed by your LC or your health care provider.

Do not use ointments or salves not specifically approved of for breastfeeding as they may be dangerous for your baby.  Vitamin D for instance has been frequently cited for contamination and can be too concentrated for your infant.

Nursing Pillows


Positioning baby using a nursing pillow - birthways, chicago


Once you and your baby learn to nurse, you will nurse while standing, in the bathtub, at the bus stop.  But for comfort on your furniture and bed at home, first turn to the pillows you’ve collected in pregnancy.  Firm and largish pillows work the best (although a selection of sizes can help you create your custom nest).   Ask your postpartum doula to show you how to create the mama nest!

There are the products specifically marketed for breastfeeding.  Boppies, my breastfriend, and other strap on pillows, curved pillows and even inflatable pillows are shaped in ways that can support your baby or your body as you hold your baby.  They can be helpful ‘training wheels’ for finding ways to stabilize your baby for feeding but tend to be short-lived.  Another downside- they can interfere with instinctual positioning or get in the way in some circumstances.   If you are relying on the pillow to ‘hold’ your baby, it can lead to poor positioning and even nipple damage.

Long-waisted mothers may find that when they sit and the pillow rests on their lap it’s a long ways from the breast!   That said, I had a mybreastfriend and it was helpful to address the severe numbness I had from the thoracic outlet syndrome that got out of control during pregnancy.

Check out this mom’s list.  She’s done a great job of reviewing some options

Pillow collections are good to get comfy but remember that there are other ways to help your baby achieve positional stability while feeding.


for problems only


These products are an adaptation of moist wound healing products.  They are cool to the touch, and can be refrigerated.  They cost about $12/pair and are disposable.  Recommendations allow for use for more than one day if there has not been a lot of leaking. You must follow instructions carefully to prevent the growth of bacteria and yeast.  They are basically a wound dressing that needs changing.  Are they essential? Many moms find them soothing for mild to moderate tenderness but they are really designed for nipple trauma.  Because we hope you’re going to get great support to prevent nipple trauma, these fall into the ‘wait and see’ category.

Capes or draping products

There are a variety of draping products sold to help mothers nurse confidently and discreetly.  You will in time gain your confidence by using your sling or blankets and your own clothing. Get a gorgeous pashmina or scarf that you might get more use out of.

Breast Shells

These tupperware-like devices are worn in the bra and have an opening for your nipple to rest in.  It protects against chafing (your nipple does not have contact with anything) keeps nipples dry, and was believed to help flat or inverted nipples by applying gentle pressure against the areola. This has since been dismissed -studies show no benefit in this regard.  Since it is not particularly comfortable to have tupperware in your bra . . .  you can skip these.

The Economics of Breastfeeding

You don’t really need anything other than your breasts to feed your baby!  Chairs, rockers, bed-side co-sleepers, gadgets … there are many things that might make it to your shopping list but not having it all won’t keep you from feeding your baby.

Contact us to explore support from Birthways’ IBCLCs and Postpartum Doulas to support your breastfeeding experience.

Founded in 1997

Not just another doula or childbirth education provider...

When you work with Birthways, you benefit from partnering with nationally recognized experts and the most experienced doula service provider in the Chicago area.