Must-Have Breastfeeding Tools of the Trade

Photo courtesy of, but, unfortunately, this is not a “nursing” shirt ;).

Fellow blogger Latonia of Suckled Sunnah wrote in her post “National Breastfeeding Month 2012” that “August is National Breastfeeding Month and Surgeon General Regina Benjamin is promoting a social media campaign, [focused on the idea that] ‘Everyone can help make breastfeeding easier’, to support the removal of barriers to breastfeeding.” So in honor of the first day of National Breastfeeding Month, I publish this post with the intent to make breastfeeding easier for those new and struggling in the Milk-Making-Mommy Marathon. It’s all about getting comfortable in the breastfeeding two-step. For new and new-to-be mamas out there, I’ll have you know that breastfeeding is like a dance. It’s give and take, and sometimes your toes get stepped on as you find your way. It’s actually a bit painful in the beginning (breastfeeding causes contractions that last about a week after a birth as well as sore nipples at first) and you may not have the support system you need (how quick others are to suggest a bottle!), but stick with it and you and baby will enjoy miraculous rewards–you’ll both be healthier, stronger, and have a great bond. I’ll have you know that I am a public breastfeeding mom–even with an orthodox view of modest attire–and I hate to give babies bottles (Noora has had a bottle a total of times less than the fingers you have), so this is how I do it! There’s no better time than the present to get started–the first day of National Breastfeeding Month! Inquiring minds have been wanting to know what my favorite tools of the breastfeeding trade are…so here they are…

      1. Motherlove Nipple Cream-this is a must have ladies, spend your $9 on this little jar which goes a long way (it’s lasted me more than a year), and you and your nipples will thank me later. This is a natural, organic cream that I began using when I went into labor (before baby came out), and I used it between feedings in those first weeks of life with both of my girls. I’ve never had the kind of bleeding, cracking, crazy-dry nipples that other women complain about and I think it’s because of this cream! Plus, you can use it on your lips, on the baby’s bum…use it like Vaseline! You don’t have to wash it off before feeding baby (unlike some nipple creams which are full of chemicals–if you’re putting a non-edible substance on an always suckled spot, how can that be good or easy for you or baby?!). And while you’re at it, make sure you have some Motrin 500 or 600 at home for those contractions that are still coming while nursing baby even after you’ve left the hospital. But don’t worry, these contractions only last a week and then breastfeeding will feel as normal as you combing your hair!
      2. Milk saversSo, no one tells you this either, but when you are breastfeeding on one side, milk comes out on the other side (it’s called letdown), making your clothes wet (thus, the need for nursing pads–another must have! go ahead and get 2 of those packs), but instead of wasting all that milk, you can use this REALLY COOL invention called a MilkSaver. Basically, you put your nipple through this hole and the milk that lets down on the other side gets saved instead of soaking your clothes. You can then put that milk into bottles or Medela Pump and Save bags and freeze it for baby’s cereal or a bottle feeding later on down the road…I use this nifty invention every day :). (By the way, your milk won’t let down forever…just for the first couple of months, but my freezer is full of milk…ask my husband why we can’t get more stuff in the frozen food aisle and he’ll tell you all about the milksaver…and get those Medela Pump n Save bags…you and your husband will thank me for having space to fit some stuff in your freezer 🙂 ). Because of the Milk Saver and nursing on demand, I never use a breast pump. In fact, I’ve used a breast pump twice in my 32 months and counting of breastfeeding…during a road trip, while my daughter was drinking from a bottle so that my breasts would stay in tune with her feeding schedule. Yeah, your breasts tingle and start to leak when it’s time for a feeding for baby–amazing, huh? If you can’t be with baby when baby’s drinking your breastmilk, then pump or express at this time to keep on that amazing schedule. Meanwhile, check out the MilkSaver video here (and don’t worry, you don’t actually see this letdown process).
      3. Nursing bras-no way around this unless you want to go topless and have your nipples show through your shirts with milk stains, making them very apparent :S. Most women don’t want that kind of display, so get some nursing bras. They either pull aside from a wrapped form, or clip down. I like simple, wireless, cloth ones for sleep and lightly wired ones with some padding for going outdoors. Please note that your bra size will change when nursing. Your breasts will get bigger when the milk comes in and you’ll need a bigger bra when you first start nursing…fast forward to two years later and you’ll be able to fit into your regular size bra. For now though, try on those nursing bras at the store and give yourself a full cup size of room and 2-4 inches growing room in width if you’re still pregnant.
      4. Nursing clothes–including nursing abayas (Basically anything buttons/zips/snaps down will go, think work shirt, tank top, maxi dress, jilbab, and shoulder-closed, snap-down, and wrap abayas, but there are also some clothes made especially for nursing moms. If you are really good (and you will be in a couple of months), you’ll be able to nurse in anything, including wide-sleeved short-sleeved caftans and up under t-shirts). I must say that I’m a big fan of those designers who make nursing clothes not look like nursing clothes, like Boob and Japanese Weekend, but that kind of style comes with a hefty price tag and for the most part, nursing clothes are unnecessary. By no means do you need to have nursing clothes. In fact, recently, I was asked where I got nursing nightclothes from and the answer is I only have one pair! And they were a gift! These nursing pjs are from Motherhood Maternity, but actually, I don’t wear nursing night clothes. I just wear a tank top and a wrap-style nursing bra and pull down at night. And I prefer to use a shelf-bra tank, so that I don’t have to wear a  bra at all–then it’s just nursing pads! I’ve found nursing to be so much easier with a regular tank top because when you wake up every 2 hours or even every 4-5 hours to nurse a child, clasps are a little tricky and sometimes its hard to do in the dark when you’re halfway asleep yourself with a demanding screaming wriggling child in your arms! In fact, I usually pull down the nursing tank rather than unclipping it when I do wear it! I save my nursing clothes for the ones I actually wear out in the street (though I’m also famous for just getting regular maxi dresses and pulling them down or to the side for nursing; this would be perfect to do under an abaya or in conjunction with a work shirt or cardigan–think Target and Old Navy, and not necessarily their maternity sections!)…but check out:
        • Milk Nursingwear – I like to get dresses that come to the knee from here and then put pants or a long skirt on under. It’s also nice for when family and female company visit. Here are some coupon codes in case you are interested.
        • Destination Maternity -I like to get my tank tops from here, but check out Target too! (Look through everything on Target in the maternity section both in-store and online–sometimes nursing-worthy clothes aren’t labeled as such).
        • Motherwear -These were my first bought nursing clothes. They are reasonably priced, and I like that they offer bamboo and many nursing opening styles. However, I’d say the colors and styles are limited and not so chic. They are having a sale RIGHT NOW on nursing pj’s!
        • Expressiva-this was the second place I bought nursing clothes, but the quality is lacking. Some of the shirts I bought from there already look worn…I now just wear these around the house…
        • Figure 8 Maternity-they are currently having a nursing dress and pajamas sale! These clothes are on the high-end, but they are chic, and oh-so-fashionable! Your skin will love to be in these clothes and you won’t feel frumpy. Plus, they sell a lot of long, ankle-length dresses–perfect for the modest mama on the go!
        • Al Mujalbaba’s Baby-Friendly Jilbabs with an urban flair (a lot of denim, zippers, and hoods here)–reminds me a bit of my Silk Route jilbab that I use for nursing convenience.
        • SunnahStyle has butterfly (farasha) and bisht-style abayas that zip and snap down for nursing mothers. They are simple, but who says you can’t bling it up?
        • Reflections of Iman has bisht, butterfly and umbrella style abayas all with zippers and even zippered Yemeni khimars with style. You want bling or embroidery, you’re covered. Check it out, I already did the search for you. 🙂 But do look through all the abayas–the collared jilbab ones that button down would also work…
        • ModestMama (Canada) has simple shirts and abayas that are especially for nursing moms, but if flare is your thing, you might want to look elsewhere or embellish them yourself!
        • Aab (UK) is always highlighted for nursing clothes, so take a peek and see if they are in stock. Here simplicity rules as well, but you are treated to linen and other fiber candies…
        • EastEssence has now joined the trend with stylish maternity-nursing abayas…of course, it’s their own take on nursing clothes sold elsewhere like ahem, German-based company Imzadi Couture. But I’m not complaining…it’s certainly a whole lot cheaper to buy them from EastEssence than to import them from Europe!
        • IslamicAttire has a white nursing abaya with hidden zippers…I couldn’t find anything else on the site though under the maternity categories.
        • Adrinis (Malaysia) has colorful abayas and shirts with embroidery that are right up my alley. My favorite part is that they are made with nursing openings that are standard in the West like empire and side openings (rather than just zippers), thus eliminating the need to use tank tops under them. The worst part is that they are a Malaysian company and it would cost some serious dinero to both buy and import.
        • And then there’s Zaifaa’s Muslimah and Nursing Blouse Boutique I found on Facebook with the same location problem as Adrinis…I’m still trying to figure out how to order these lovelies. If you figure it out–holla! (And yes, I already did the obvious and clicked on the ordering link…I speak a little Bahasa, but not enough to get myself this!)
      5.  Boppy Pillow with 3 slipcovers (cuz you know babies spit up a lot, right?) or try My Brest Friend. While I haven’t personally tried My Brest Friend, both products work in the same way, it’s just about your taste. Baby needs some lifting to feed at your breast, and these pillows take a lot of the work out for your arms. The Boppy Pillow doubles as a newborn lounger seat (just stick that baby in the hole there!), and My Brest Friend is raved about by women who have had c-sections–it snaps closed, has a backrest, and a pocket! There’s even an inflatable travel Brest Friend pillow! So look at them and decide for yourself, and while you’re at it, get some of those Gerber trifold cloth diapers that hardly anyone uses anymore…use them as cheap burp cloths (you can also embellish them!), and then use them as rags later on…or for extra absorbency at night when potty training…multiple uses people!
      6. A Nursing Cover, Blanket, Dupatta :), what have you...I currently use and enjoy the Bebe Au Lait a.k.a Hooter Hiders (you can find some cheaper nursing covers at Target online and most baby stores, as well). Sometimes you need to go a little Tahitian for the babies to latch on…especially in the beginning, and these covers cover all the right places when the slits in those nursing clothes need to get extra opened for your and baby’s nursing convenience!
      7. Prayer. There is a Muslim prayer to be said after drinking milk, “Allahumma barik lana fihi wa zidna minh. Oh God, bless us and increase us in it.” I’ve said this prayer for both girls while they were nursing at my breast, utilizing all options to keep that milk flow coming. While some people swear by fenugreek (an herb which is used to promote lactation in mothers all around the world), I swear by prayer. And on fenugreek…recently, I discovered the delicious Middle Eastern treat called helba. It’s made from fenugreek and if you know fenugreek, you know it’s pretty strong smelling and has a love-hate relationship with most people. In this household, we love it…as the sweet treat of helba. I’ve had Yogi Tea’s Mother’s Milk Tea (which has fenugreek in it) on days when I was fasting and thought I needed to up or support my anty, but now my newest love is this helba and I’m not eating it for the lactation either! I’m eating it cuz I’m addicted…so treat yourself and promote your milk flow simultaneously by trying out this recipe for yourself! And who knows? Maybe it will help your milk supply increase! Women have been eating this stuff forever…and we’re around, aren’t we?
      8. A good diet. My babies have acid reflux and have sensitivities to dairy, milk, onions, and tomatoes until about one years old. If your baby is particularly fussy and gassy, having a hard time sleeping, and always spitting up and choking on your good milk, think about changing your diet before anything else! The Subtle One equipped you with all that you need to take care of this baby, so just start eliminating things (I’ve even eliminated fish and mayo at times…sometimes oatmeal had a laxative effect) and see if that helps. Also make sure that you are eating well for yourself–stay hydrated and eat iron-rich foods–your baby is depending on you for their own survival! And when mama is happy and well cared for, baby is also happy and well cared for (though we all know that baby is usually happy and well cared for even on mama’s bad days, right?).
      9. Educate yourself. Don’t let anyone make you do what you don’t want to do (unless of course its breastfeeding, which is the best option for you and baby, even if you don’t want to do it–listen to me people! did you know that breastfeeding is equivalent to running on a treadmill during each nursing session? Yeah, people wonder how I lost the baby weight so fast–breastfeeding! And breastfed babies often don’t have to go to the doctor so much–the baby is getting immunity from you superwoman!). Just don’t give up before the dance even starts. Read books and articles and do what feels right for you. And if you’re Muslim, know that breastfeeding is a light that is a part of our sunnah–come on! It’s mentioned twice in the Qur’an to nurse your babies for two years if you can! And the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was sent to the desert as a child just to get the benefits of nursing…think about it!). Meanwhile, I’ll be educating myself up on how to become a La Leche League Leader (an idea I’ve been toying with for the past couple of months). And if you haven’t checked out the Suckled Sunnah blog, hop on over there for great tips on keeping up your nutrition while nursing (including fasting while nursing) and the latest breastfeeding policies and merchandise. Then you–savvy, educated, super momma that you are–can tell me:
        what are your favorite tools of the milk mothering trade?


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