Like all parenting topics, the subject of breastfeeding tips for moms is a hot one! Throw that in with the other topics a mama dwells on during pregnancy. It’s overwhelming in no time.
I felt so bombarded by the birth of my first child and knew nothing about breastfeeding. It led to a frustrating journey before I got the hang of it.
Then my second child came. I knew I had no choice but to gather up all the wonderful breastfeeding tips and tricks I learned along the way.
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Mom Wins Too
We all know that the benefits of breastfeeding a baby are numerous. What about the advantages for mom? Some are immediate, while others are long-term.
Our bodies go through some whacky changes during pregnancy and childbirth. Weight gain is a dreaded one, but it doesn’t have to feel that way forever.
After the initial weight loss postpartum, breastfeeding encourages a 1–2 pound loss every month for the first six months. It gradually declines from there.
Another immediate benefit comes from a “feel-good” hormone: oxytocin. It not only initiates labor contractions, but it also causes the uterus to shrink back to its post-pregnancy size after birth.
Once breastfeeding is underway, oxytocin is released on the regular, which will only aid in your recovery.
A Decrease in Cardiovascular Disease and Breast Cancer
Yes, you read that correctly. Studies have linked breastfeeding to a decrease in the possibility of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
It doesn’t stop there. Evidence also shows a lowered risk for pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer if the woman has previously breastfed.
The exact reasons for both categories are still unclear for researchers. However, in both cases, oxytocin is listed as a possible cause.
Are you tired of hearing about oxytocin yet? It’s also one of the primary reasons that massive amount of love and warmth exists postpartum.
The sheer amount of responsibility and pressure a new mom faces is enough as it is, which is why our last point is a major advantage. When taking the boobie route, there’s less time and money that goes into feeding your precious bundle.
No sanitizing pumps or being stuck in public without a place to warm the bottle. Say “goodbye” to budgeting for formula. Breastfeeding is, clearly, the most economical choice.
When Should I Start Breastfeeding My Newborn?
Most experts agree it’s best to initially attempt breastfeeding during the first hour or so after birth. That special moment marks mom and baby cuddling for the first time, possibly skin-to-skin.
With family around and a moment to relax, oxytocin will start to work its magic. That’s right. This hormone helps the breastfeeding process by encouraging the release of colostrum, known as “liquid gold”.
This potent first milk contains a high level of vitamins and minerals, helps ward off jaundice, boosts the immune system and supports digestion. Your child’s nutritional intake starts here, so the sooner it can happen, the better.
Of course, things don’t always go according to plan, whether in the operating room for longer than expected or other roadblocks show up. It may not be possible to spend those first few hours in a blissful cloud of cuddles.
Until breastfeeding takes place, use the opportunity to jumpstart your milk supply. Take advantage of a hospital breast pump or use the hand expression technique. Doing so will stimulate milk production and leave you confident when the time is right.
Breastfeeding Tips for Newborns
We’ve gathered up our top seven tips for breastfeeding when your little one has arrived.
1. Ask for Help
This may be one of the most important breastfeeding tips for new moms. The more willing you are to reach out for help, the better supported you’ll be. Don’t be embarrassed to raise any concerns, we assure you it’s normal.
During pregnancy, consult your healthcare provider, midwife or a lactation consultant with any questions you have.
Directly after giving birth, a nurse or midwife will take you through the initial steps. They will monitor how well the baby is latching and help you find suitable positions for both of you.
2. Let Your Baby Lead the Way
You might be tempted to set a rigid feeding schedule to ensure your baby is getting enough milk. Believe it or not, babies know their needs from the get-go and will alert you when they’re hungry.
Let them guide the way and be willing to feed them whenever they display the tell-tale signs. By doing this, it will establish a secure bond between mom and baby from the start.
- Baby is making a sucking motion with their mouth.
- Their head is moving to search for the breast.
- Baby’s mouth is opening and closing repeatedly.
- They become alert and attentive.
Don’t wait until your little one is crying. While some may see this as a cue, it’s the last thing your baby will do. Trying to feed an upset baby can frustrate them as you desperately try to calm them down.
3. Get Comfortable
For the “let-down” to occur, mom and baby need to feel relaxed. One of the best ways to achieve this is to find breastfeeding positions that work for both of you.
It differs from person to person and takes some experimentation before that perfect fit is clear.
Another factor that many moms mention is to breastfeed in a quiet and undisturbed place. Your baby will be less distracted this way.
4. Recognize Signs of Success
Wondering how to tell if your baby is getting enough milk? Reading their cues is key:
- Baby releases from the breast.
- They look satisfied (“drunk” on milk).
- Baby relaxes and fists open up.
- Produces about six to eight wet diapers per day.
5. Hold off on Pacifiers
Not all babies take to the breast easily, with some requiring a longer learning process. For these little ones, in particular, avoid giving the pacifier until breastfeeding is well-established (a few weeks).
One of the primary reasons is to avoid “nipple confusion”. It occurs when a baby can’t distinguish between the mechanisms of the breast and an artificial nipple. It can lead to a poor latch on the breast and painful nipples for mom.
If your little one needs to soothe by sucking, the breast is a better option until you’re confident during feeding and they’re relaxed.
6. Make Healthy Choices
There’s no need to obsess or beat yourself up with an already-full plate. Keep in mind that small changes can make a difference. Once these tips become habits, you’ll be thankful you tried:
- Stay well-hydrated: If you find your pee is a dark yellow color, increase your water intake and keep a flask nearby during each breastfeeding session.
- Eat a balanced diet: Think lean proteins, whole grains and plenty of fruits and vegetables. A variety of foods will introduce your baby to a wide range of flavors. Furthermore, this will ensure you receive the essential nutrients needed for energy and to fuel milk production.
- Be cautious with medication intake: Check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplements or over-the-counter prescriptions.
- Don’t smoke: If you are unable to quit, breastfeeding is still the preferred choice.
- Rest as much as possible: We know it seems laughable but call on your support system when you’ve had enough. Making yourself a priority will help you relax and further enhance your breastfeeding experience.
- Take care of your nipples: Avoid wearing constrictive clothing including tight bras, so your breasts are able to breathe. Only wash with warm water and avoid harsh soaps that can irritate your nipples. If your nursing pads become moist during use, change them automatically to avoid bacteria growth.
7. Let Your Baby Sleep in Your Room
During those first few months, you and your little one will work out a feeding routine. Sleeping close during the night makes this process more convenient for you both. Not only will your baby feel secure knowing you’re close by, but you’ll also avoid trekking to their room repeatedly as you’re half asleep.
You might feel concerned this will make it difficult later on when trying to get your little one adjusted to sleeping elsewhere. Don’t fear, focus on these crucial first months. The better you both are sleeping and feeding, the better your baby will adjust in the future.
Breastfeeding Tips for Working Moms
We salute you, working moms. Here are a few things to remember to make your delicate work-life balance manageable.
1. Create a Schedule and Stick to It
Now it’s time for a disciplined routine. To maintain your milk supply and avoid engorged breasts, it’s recommended to pump every two to three hours.
Before each working day, have a look at your tasks and try your best to schedule around pumping times. As your little one gets older, these intervals will lessen.
A sample schedule can be found here for your convenience.
2. Get Organized
To avoid milk-stained clothes or forgotten bottles, keep a stash of extras hidden at the office. For daily items without multiples such as pump supplies, ensure you have convenient transportation containers and appropriate storage options available.
Does your office have a fridge or specified area designated for breast milk? Score! If not, some moms recommend using a cooler with enough ice packs to cover your commute to and from the office.
3. Wear Pump-Friendly Attire
The last thing you want is to be struggling with a closed-top dress when you’re on the clock and rushing to pump.
Look for garments that allow you to quickly get the job done without having to undress or pull your clothes up around your neck. V-neck shirts, button-down tops and wrap dresses are all convenient choices.
4. Make Friends With Other Breastfeeding Moms
That’s right, we’re bringing up a support network again, but only because it’s that important. Networking doesn’t end at the morning meeting. It extends to other breastfeeding mamas in the office.
These cohorts can help ease the transition and give you tips on navigating breastfeeding in your workplace.
5. Get Baby Comfortable With the Bottle
Before you launch the working-mom mission, ensure your baby is well-prepared for your absence. It could take time if they’re only used to the breast.
Once breastfeeding is well underway, anywhere between three and six weeks is an appropriate time to introduce the bottle. Allow the babysitter or your partner to try giving the bottle as your little one associates you with the breast.
Do so in a calm environment and possibly after your baby is already full, so they aren’t frustrated with the new change.
“Latch” is one of the first, and most important, terms you hear about breastfeeding. It indicates how well your baby is hanging on, which then determines how successful the feed is. Avoid poor latching and pain for mama with these favorite latch tricks:
- Baby comes to you, don’t come to baby. Avoid leaning over and straining to bring your breast to your little one. It quickly gets uncomfortable, makes relaxation impossible and can also affect your baby’s position.
- Make sure your back and shoulders are adequately supported. A breastfeeding pillow is invaluable here.
- Your little one’s body should always align through the ear, shoulder and hip. This alignment encourages proper digestion and prevents your baby swallowing air that can lead to gas.
- Baby’s nose should remain opposite your nipple, with enough room for easy breathing. Cheeks and chin are close to the breast.
- Ensure your little one gets a good mouthful of the areola with a small amount of the top portion remaining visible. For those with larger nipples, we’ll touch on this later.
Need More Milk? No Problem
When I had my firstborn, my biggest worry was that I couldn’t produce a sufficient milk supply. This fear is usually unfounded. However, there’s times when supply can run low.
Thankfully, there are ways to get it flowing again.
1. Supply and Demand
The phrase “supply and demand” isn’t exclusive to the economy. If your breasts don’t feel empty after your baby is satisfied, use a pump or hand express the remainder of milk. It will prompt your milk ducts to amp up their production, creating a steady flow.
Breasts feel empty after regular feedings? Make sure you’re pumping or nursing at least eight to 12 times per day. Many moms have found success by adding an extra session early in the morning or late in the evening.
Either way, the same principle applies. Increase your demand to up your supply.
2. Take Advantage of Galactagogues
Galacta-what? Otherwise known as foods that supposedly help increase milk production, galactagogues come in various forms from herbal remedies to everyday food items, including:
- Fenugreek: One of the most common recommendations, this herbal remedy comes in the form of a tincture or supplement. Some say it makes moms smell like maple syrup. Not a harmful side effect, in our opinion.
- Iron-rich foods:Low iron levels are linked to a low breast milk supply. Include dark leafy greens in your diet like spinach or swiss chard. Oats and other whole grains are also high in iron.
- Almonds: These nuts can be consumed in whole form or as almond milk. They contain calcium, tryptophan and healthy fats, all beneficial for robust milk production.
- Brewer’s yeast: Has anyone recommended beer? The reason for this popular opinion (in moderation, of course) is that beer contains this byproduct. Brewer’s yeast is full of iron, B vitamins and more. You’ll even find “lactation cookies” that contain this galactogogue.
Most galactagogues aren’t backed by scientific studies, but by anecdotal evidence passed down throughout the years. Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the product and dose is appropriate for you.
Pain While Breastfeeding?
Unfortunately, even once breastfeeding is well-established, pain can creep up from time to time for a variety of reasons. The prevalent causes have reliable solutions, so don’t worry mom.
1. Breast Engorgement
As you’d guess based on the name, the breast becomes full of milk with no way to release it. Too much supply, without enough demand, can leave you feeling as if your breast could burst.
Engorgement comes from irregular feeding, not being able to breastfeed for some reason or quick weaning, among others. Catch it quickly to avoid further infection or plugged ducts:
- Ensure baby is positioned well with a deep latch.
- Allow baby to empty one breast before moving to the other.
- Aim to feed every 1.5 to three hours until you see improvement.
- Don’t use a bra that restricts your breasts.
- Keep the engorged breast warm and gently massage it to lessen discomfort.
2. Plugged Duct
A plugged duct is one of the most prevalent reasons for discomfort. If your breast is tender and looks slightly inflamed, it might be the culprit. You may feel a lump under your skin.
Something has put pressure on a milk duct, causing it to clog. For example, an ill fitted bra may be the reason.
- Apply moist heat to the breast. Using a washcloth in the shower is sufficient.
- Massage the area moving from the back of the breast towards the nipple.
- If the plug appears close to the nipple, you can gently squeeze and manipulate the milk out.
- Put baby to the breast to help clear the blockage.
- Keep the breast clean and rest as much as possible.
If it doesn’t clear up after two to three rounds, consult your doctor or a lactation consultant.
If your breast is hot, painful to touch and a fever accompanies this, you could have mastitis. This infection is caused by poor drainage (or a plugged duct) within the breast. Cracked nipples can also present bacteria an opportunity to enter as well.
Mastitis can lead to a breast abscess if left untreated. If we thought the initial infection wasn’t painful enough, an abscess is a serious situation.
The upside is that mastitis is often treated much like a plugged duct is. If it’s not improved within 24 hours, doctors will often prescribe a two-week course of antibiotics.
Breastfeeding With Large Nipples
If your breasts are on the bigger side, you may be concerned that your baby can’t latch well or will choke in the process. Understandable, but also not true!
If a lactation consultant or healthcare provider isn’t available for hands-on help, here are some tried-and-true tips for breastfeeding with larger breasts:
- Pump first to lengthen the nipple.
- Remain patient until baby opens wide to take in a proper amount of areola.
- Ensure your breasts are supple before breastfeeding. Hard breasts are difficult to latch. Again, pumping or hand expression could come in handy here.
- The football hold is a preferred position for big-breasted women. It provides a full view of the breast and helps you guide little one along.
Breastfeeding With Inverted Nipples
Are your nipples flat or inverted? In most cases, this won’t cause problems with breastfeeding as, once again, it’s all about that latch. However, aside from latching and positioning, there are a few things you can do to help draw the nipple out:
- Nipple stimulation: Before breastfeeding, gently pinch your nipple between your thumb and index finger and roll it back and forth a few times. Briefly apply a cold pack wrapped in a cloth to make the nipple erect. Avoid prolonged use as this can impact your let-down reflex.
- Breast shells: Made of plastic, they are made to wear inside the bra. The shells place pressure around the nipple, encouraging it to protrude. They’re not meant to wear at night and can be used 30 minutes before breastfeeding.
- Nipple shields: Also placed over the breast, nipple shields are usually made from silicone and worn during breastfeeding to help your baby latch. The shield has a hole that allows the milk to flow through.
Busting out the Boob in Public
In recent years, the shame around breastfeeding in public has been at the forefront of many social media campaigns. And for good reason. Enough!
While this all-natural act has become more widely accepted, it can still provoke some discomfort and embarrassment among us.
You Do You
If you’re comfortable breastfeeding in public completely exposed, go for it. It’s your right. If you’d rather take a more modest route, see what works for you. When you’re relaxed, your baby will be relaxed, making for a more pleasant experience for you both.
When heading out, ensure you have all your necessities ready. Burp cloths, wet wipes and a cover-up or shawl (if you use one).
Having a stash of essential items will give you peace of mind when feeding on the go. Always have a bottle of water to ensure you stay hydrated and a small meal or light snack for energy. A handful of nuts and a piece of fruit have saved me countless times in this situation.
If you know where you’re heading, take a moment beforehand to think about where you might be able to feed comfortably. Is there a sitting area? A room dedicated to breastfeeding? Having an idea ahead of time helps avoid a stressed-out mom and screaming baby later.
This beautiful journey is full of ups and downs with milestones around each corner. For new moms, working moms or those with breastfeeding problems, the challenges can feel insurmountable.
Many moms have come before us and many are yet to come. Thankfully, with a trustworthy support network and tips up our sleeves, we can enjoy the road together.