Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, but it can be exhausting, time-consuming, and emotionally draining. There is no question about the fact that it’s not as easy as it looks.
When I was pregnant I decided I wanted to try breastfeeding. I looked for all of the advice I could get on breastfeeding as a beginner and new mom. I took all the classes to prepare myself and thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
My baby was born premature and spent some time in the NICU, so everything I thought I would be able to do to establish breastfeeding went out the window. My experience breastfeeding was not an easy one and I want to share with you the most helpful breastfeeding tips and advice I learned.
Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
Get as much help as you can
Even though it looks easy, breastfeeding can be hard. Really, really hard – both physically and mentally. If you’re struggling or unsure about nursing, get as much help as you can. There are lots of people trained to help new moms and babies on their breastfeeding journey. And don’t forget about your support people! Whether it’s your husband or another person close to you, they can make all the difference in how you’re feeling during the learning process.
When you have your baby let the nurses and hospital staff know that you want to breastfeed. These nurses are around so many new moms and babies that they can give you tremendous amounts of advice and help while you’re staying at the hospital. You’re going to have lots of questions – don’t be afraid to ask them.
There will probably be lactation consultants at your hospital. Take advantage of them. Their job is to help you breastfeed so the tips and advice you get from them will be extremely beneficial. You’ll likely also be able to set up outpatient appointments with a lactation consultant once you leave the hospital.
We did this and I’ll share some of the advice that helped me. Our baby was a preemie so our feeding experience was a little different than some parents, but I think these breastfeeding tips can help most beginners!
- Make sure your baby is awake. If your baby is falling asleep, wake them up by tickling their feet or rubbing their neck
- Bring the baby to the breast, not the other way around. If you move to bring the breast to the baby, you’ll end up hunched over and uncomfortable.
- Use a position that’s comfortable for you. You’re going to spend more hours than you can count feeding your baby so make sure you’re comfortable. Nursing pillows can help with this and your lactation consultant will be able to give you some suggestions on various positions.
- Make sure the latch is good. Your baby’s mouth should be wide open before latching. Even if your baby is crying, when they open their mouth wide to cry, latch them then. It should not hurt. I’ll say that again – breastfeeding should not be painful. I read time and again about people saying how much it hurt so I just thought it was normal to be in toe-curling constant pain. When we saw the lactation consultant she quickly convinced me that this is not the case. What can be normal is the dryness, but pain while breastfeeding shouldn’t be happening.
- Wear a good bra. Bras that are too tight or dig in to your armpits can affect your supply and potentially cause plugged ducts. And let me tell you – plugged ducts are NOT fun.
- Breastfeed or pump often to increase and maintain your supply.
- If you are regularly pumping more than a few times a day, rent a hospital grade pump. Like I said, my experience was a little different because we had a premature baby. She was in the NICU when she was born and then wasn’t strong enough to take a full feeding even after she came home. So I would breastfeed (more like try to breastfeed, we weren’t always successful), pump, and bottle feed her every time she was hungry. I rented a hospital grade pump to have at home and it helped keep my supply up for a while.
Lean on your husband (or whoever your support person is) to help you. We’ve already established that breastfeeding is hard. To add to that, postpartum emotions are no joke. Having someone to help you with and through this makes all the difference.
My husband went to every lactation consultant appointment and was up every night for every feeding with me to help me get situated, keep our baby awake to feed, bottle feed after breastfeeding while I pumped, and wash pump parts. I would not have made it through those first few weeks without him.
Don’t be afraid to use products that make breastfeeding easier
There are so many products out there that are meant to help with breastfeeding and pumping. Use them. Your comfort and sanity is worth the price for these. I know everyone has different preferences, but these are the items that helped me.
You probably already have one of these but my favorites are the Boppy pillow and My Brest Friend. I like the Boppy pillow because it can be used for things other than just breastfeeding. We used it to prop our arms up when holding our baby, for tummy time, and for helping our baby sit up.
The My Brest Friend pillow is great for nursing. It’s sturdy and supportive because it wraps around your entire body instead of just resting on your legs like the Boppy pillow.
My Brest Friend nursing pillow is a good option for tall moms because it wraps around your body and can be positioned higher than the Boppy pillow. I’m tall and when I used the Boppy pillow for breastfeeding I had to prop it up with other pillows underneath so I wasn’t hunched over when feeding my baby.
I know these can be controversial, but they helped me a ton in those first few weeks. Because my baby was too small and too weak to latch, nipple shields helped with this. And since she was bottle fed from day 1 being in the NICU there was no concern about nipple confusion.
With all of the hard work you’re putting into breastfeeding you don’t want to waste any milk! You can use a Haakaa to catch and save milk that’s leaking from the side you aren’t nursing on.
Easy access is a must when you’re feeding your baby so often. The more convenient you can make it, the better you’ll feel. I used these racerback bras most of the time. If you end up trying them I recommend ordering a size up from your normal size.
If you’re regularly pumping, a pumping bra that allows you not to have to hold the bottles gives you so much freedom. I had to pump after every time I nursed and got so tired of having to hold the bottles up and sit there doing nothing.
I ended up using two types of pumping bras. The Essential Pump & Nurse All In One Bra can be used for nursing and also hands-free pumping. And the Bravado Clip and Pump bra can go over a regular nursing bra that has clips for hands-free pumping.
Your boobs are probably leaking, so it’s nice to have nursing pads and not have to worry about leaking through your shirt and needing to change your bra and shirt multiple time each day.
With how often you have to get up in the night for feedings, pajamas with easy boob-access are so helpful. My favorites were this sleeveless one and this short-sleeved one. I was a fan of the button down type of nightgown rather than the shoulder snaps or side openings because it was easier to pump.
Take care of yourself
Finally, make sure you are taking care of yourself. I know as a new mom you often put your needs second. Or third or fourth or fifth. Just remember to keep yourself healthy too.
Drink lots of water
Breastfeeding makes you really thirsty. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water and keep a water bottle with you when you’re nursing.
Eat lots and eat healthy
After my baby was born and I was still in the hospital, I would pump and bring the expressed milk to the NICU for her. There was always a surplus, but as soon as I got home, I wasn’t producing as much milk.
We took my pumped milk to the hospital when we would go see our baby before she was able to come home with us. At one of the visits, a lactation consultant asked if I was eating enough. I said I think so, but probably not as much as when I was in the hospital with food being delivered right to my room (it’s so convenient!). She told me to make sure I was eating more and eating healthy and that would help keep my supply up.
Turns out, she was right!
Know when enough is enough
Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing. You can’t deny the benefits that babies get from breastmilk.
But those benefits do NOT outweigh the benefits of a healthy, happy mom. With healthy, caring, attentive parents, your baby is going to thrive no matter how they are being fed. So make sure you are taking care of yourself and giving your baby the best version of you that you can be.
I hope these breastfeeding tips and advice can give you some encouragement in your journey as a new mom. There’s a steep curve in the learning process and even after getting over that hump sometimes there are factors out of your control that determine your breastfeeding experience.
Some people breastfeed and it comes naturally to them. Some people start breastfeeding and it doesn’t work out the way they hoped. Some people don’t have a choice between formula and breastfeeding. Some people choose formula from day 1.
All of these are okay! The most important thing is to do what’s best for you and your family.
Good luck and congratulations momma!
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