Before my baby was born, I read about ALL.THE.THINGS. that we would need for her. I scoured “must-have” lists across the internet and while some were helpful, others contained outlandishly expensive gadgets that I had never heard of. With the help of my girlfriends who already had kids, I eventually put together a pretty practical registry with what most moms seemed to agree were indeed the essentials. This post is not going to tell you everything you could possibly need. There are plenty of other resources for that.

What I’m going to tell you about here are the things I never knew I needed that I used EVERY. SINGLE. DAY!

These are the things that I tell my pregnant and soon to be pregnant friends- the things I buy them for their shower gifts (and you totally should to!)These are the things that above all else I will make sure are ready to go before we have another baby!

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So without further ado….

1. My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow

My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow– Before my daughter was born I had planned to exclusively breast feed, God-willing. I had looked forward to this bonding experience and also wanted to give my baby the benefits of breast milk if I was able. (If you’re unable or decide not to breastfeed, please don’t feel shamed in that- I truly believe fed is best! Everyone has to make the decisions they feel are best for their family.)

So I thought I was as prepared for this as a first time mom could be. I had the boppy nursing pillow that everyone swears by (it’s well known for its versatility- it can be used for nursing, tummy time, propping baby, and sitting support) and I had my Spectra S2 breast pump so I could start pumping at some point to store milk for when I went back to work. Anyway, nothing could have prepared me for the difficulties we faced with nursing.

While some babies come out and latch right away, we struggled constantly. Instead of the beautiful image I had in my mind of us nursing peacefully and easily, I had cracked and blistered nipples, pain every time she latched, and a sore back from poor positioning. The beloved boppy added another layer of complexity that I just couldn’t handle in my sleepless new mom haze. It never stayed in the right position, my baby was always slipping between my body and the pillow, and I would eventually chuck it across the room in frustration and just try nursing with no support.

Those early days were SOO ROUGH. I finally went to a breastfeeding support group (at first the title made me cringe- after all I’m a new mom not a former alcoholic/drug addict/grieving person etc. Turns out it is just an awesome group of moms who meet weekly and nurse their babies and get to hang out with an IBCLC- aka AWESOME!)

Anyway to get back to the nursing pillow- one of the girls at the group had a My Brest Friend nursing pillow and it looked so cool. I went home and bought one on Amazon because at that point I figured I had nothing to lose. And now, this is the single thing that I recommend above any other must have- and I used it so far beyond the newborn stage!

Here is what I love about it:

  • It CLIPS ON to your body so it always stays in place! No more baby slipping off the pillow!
  • It provides a firm surface for baby to lay on. I felt much more secure and comfortable holding her and needed less arm support. Now I can even nurse her hands free if I’m situated right up against my desk (we’ve come a long way from the early days of struggle- so hang in there!). I also like it for when she falls asleep nursing- I can let her lay there and nap and my arms aren’t aching from awkward positioning. Often times I also put one arm under her head and let it rest comfortably on the pillow.
  • There are head support pillows on each side- enough said.
  • There is a front pocket to keep things in! I always had my mom balm in there and a crystal nail file for those scratchy baby nails. Sometimes I even threw in a water bottle for easy access. Anyway, if you only buy one thing and you plan to nurse your baby, THIS is my recommendation!

2. Silicone Hand Pumps

Silicone hand pumpsThese are game changers if you are trying to store up some extra milk either before going back to work or even just for a night out without baby. They attach to your breast and extract milk via suction. I typically use this on the opposite side that I’m nursing from at a given session and usually get 1-2 oz per session (but I'm a borderline under-producer- I have friends that get up to 4oz at a time!)

You can also use it to collect let down but BE AWARE that if you have oversupply issues, this could make them worse because it does act as a pump not just a milk collector. I almost didn’t even try these because I never have a let down on the opposite side so I assumed it wouldn’t work for me. Well that’s false. If baby is latched in one side and you use this at the same time, baby will stimulate the let down and you don’t have to do anything aside from apply the pump.

Once it’s on you don’t have to touch it (but make sure you shield it from kicking baby feet! I quickly learned that after my little one kicked it off mid session and soaked us both in milk!) If you’re using it alone or when baby isn’t nursing, you just need to squeeze the bulb several times quickly in the beginning to get the milk flowing then you can leave it alone. Sometimes I would attach it and then go do the dishes or a quick load of laundry. (Let’s be honest, those times were few and far between… I usually was just watching Netflix).

The most popular brand of this is the Haaka pump. Being a bit skeptical, I decided to go for a less expensive brand and purchased these. They are amazing! Before I went back to work I used it during a couple nursing sessions a day to quickly store up some extra breast milk to freeze. (I have found now that I’ve been nursing for 10 months that my body is responding less to this pump which is absolutely devastating because it was so easy!! It still works but I have to really massage/squeeze to get the milk out).

3. The Woombie

The Woombie– This is essentially a stretchy zippered swaddle. We tried many different swaddles- the ones with Velcro, zipper + Velcro, swaddling blankets, etc before coming to the conclusion that our baby was actually Houdini. Seriously I could do the PERFECT swaddle and 10 minutes later, even if she was sleeping, she would get her hands out!! Or if she didn’t get them all the way out, she would at least loosen the swaddle enough where it would now be creeping up over her mouth and I’d have to take it off and redo it because I was afraid it would go higher and cause her to suffocate.

Anyway, one sleepless night I was surfing Amazon (I feel like my sleep deprivation single handedly kept them in business for the duration of my maternity leave…) and came across the woombie. TOTAL. GAME. CHANGER! It zips on and is the perfect swaddle. It has a dual sided zipper for easy access to diaper changes at night- no more noisy Velcro… YAY! And the best part- she couldn’t get out of it! She also looked just like a Glow Worm which was just adorable. They also make a transition model for when they start rolling too. Genius. Seriously!

So there you have it- the 3 products that I literally could not have survived those first few months (and beyond) without! If you are a new mom or looking for the perfect, useful baby shower gift, call off the dogs- the search is over! (When Harry Met Sally, anyone?!) SO MUCH about being a new mom is hard, but for me one of the hardest parts was just not knowing so many things. If you can relate to that, I promise it DOES get better! And in the meantime, I KNOW these few things will help make your life easier! And share this post with your new/expecting mom friends too- because let's just be real for a sec: mommin' ain't easy. And we're all in this together!

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