Sore nipples: Some mild soreness is common in the first week or so and can be soothed by applying a touch of expressed breast milk, medical-grade lanolin (unless you have a wool allergy) or an all-natural ointment such as Motherlove Nipple Cream. But severe pain, bleeding or cracking are signs your baby isn't latching on correctly—so get help from a lactation consultant ASAP.
Don't Go It Alone
New moms who get plenty of support and guidance tend to breastfeed longer than those who don't (and experts recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding for at least one year). The best time to seek help? Before you need it. While you're in the hospital, spend time with the lactation consultant on staff. If your hospital doesn't have such an expert on-site, your nurse or pediatrician may be able to help.
After heading home, attend a breastfeeding support group (offered through some hospitals and La Leche League International: 800-525-3243, ilca.org). In addition, the International Lactation Consultant Association (919-861-5577, ilca.org) can provide valuable information or help you find a board-certified lactation consultant in your area.
You don't need a lot of fancy equipment to successfully breastfeed your baby, but you may find it easier or more comfortable with these helpful products, recommended by certified lactation consultant Corky Harvey, R.N., co-founder of The Pump Station, a breastfeeding resource center in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Calif.
Nursing pillow: One of these specially designed pillows can help you position your baby correctly and stay comfy. For longer-waisted women, Harvey suggests the Bosom Baby Nursing Pillow (bosombaby.com), as its V-shape fits postpartum moms' waists well. If you're short-waisted, My Brest Friend (mybrestfriend.com) may be a better fit. And with its new stretch waist panel feature, Boppy (boppy.com) is still a favorite of many. Got two on the way? Moms of multiples swear by Double Blessings' EZ-2-Nurse Twins (doubleblessings.com).
Nursing bra: A good nursing bra eliminates the need to undress every time you breastfeed and provides crucial support. For the first few weeks, a soft, stretchy "transitional" bra, such as Bravado! Designs Original Nursing Bra (bravadodesigns.com), offers comfort and room to grow. After the engorgement period, a more supportive bra, like Elle Macpherson Intimates Maternelle Nursing Bra (pumpstation.com) or Medela's Seamless Maternity/Nursing Bra (medela.com), or a nursing camisole such as Glamourmom Nursing Bra Tank (glamourmom.com) is a great option. Don't wear underwire bras during the first few weeks, as they can cause plugged ducts.
Nursing pads: You never know when you'll spring a leak, so load up on these babies. Opt for disposable (like Lansinoh Disposable Nursing Pads, lansinoh.com) or reusable (such as Medela 100% Cotton Washable Bra Pads, medela.com).
Glycerin gel pads: For sore, cracked nipples, nothing's better than Soothies glycerin gel pads (soothies.com), which provide cooling relief and can help speed healing. Just slip them in the fridge before you start nursing, then reinsert in your bra when you're done.
Nursing coverup: If you're nervous about public displays, a chic nursing coverup like Bebe au Lait (bebeaulait.com) is for you.