If the sound of your baby crying for food is sending shivers down your spine, you are not alone.
For new moms, the experience of breastfeeding can leave you chaffed, exhausted, and just about ready to check into a mental hospital. But don’t!
There are lots of women who feel the same way you do right now, and the good news is that there’s plenty you can do to make the experience of breastfeeding easier, more comfortable, and more enjoyable for both of you.
Check out these 30 and a half breastfeeding tips and video to get you going in the right direction.
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Tip #1: Check out breastfeeding in action.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so if you have a friend who has recently given birth, don’t be embarrassed to ask her if you can watch. There’s nothing like a real life example to help you learn the techniques of breastfeeding.
Tip #2: Get your partner involved.
Talk to your partner about breastfeeding, your commitment to the practice (that way there’s someone to talk you out of quitting at four in the morning when you haven’t slept in a week!), how they feel about it, and ways they can help. Even if you are exclusively breastfeeding, your partner can help by getting the baby in the middle of the night, rocking her when she’s not hungry, and giving a bottle if you pump.
Tip #3: Start right away.
Nurse your baby as soon after birth as possible with skin-to-skin contact. This will do a load of good for both you and the baby, including starting that unbreakable bond early, getting the all-important antibodies into the baby’s system, and stimulating the baby’s bowels.
Tip #4: Colostrum is breastfeeding too!
Worried you’re not producing milk in those first few days? That’s because you’re not! In the beginning, you aren’t actually producing milk at all. Towards the end of your pregnancy and for a few days after birth, your body makes a super-nutritious liquid called colostrum. This is like a nutri-shake for your baby and contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals a newborn needs for those first crucial days. It can take almost a week for your real milk to come in, so relax and be patient with your body, your baby, and yourself. Which brings us to our next tip…
Tip #5: You can do it!
If anyone tells you you’re not producing enough milk, don’t listen! Your body is designed like a machine to produce exactly what your baby needs. It works on a supply and demand basis, so the more you put your baby to breast, the more milk you will produce. Keep nursing, keep trying, and most of all, be patient with your breasts, your baby, and yourself. (If you worry that you really don’t have milk, speak to a lactation consult or doctor who will be able to verify that.)
Tip #6: Change up your position.
The position you nurse in is important, both yours and that baby’s. Make sure your little one’s tummy is facing you, with her nose near your nipple and her tummy against yours. If you need more leverage, push your baby up towards you at her back between her shoulder blades, and have a hand supporting your breast while nursing. Alternatively, you can try nursing while lying on your side. This will give your shoulders and lower back a break, and ease any tension on the rest of your body.
Tip #7: Props are great for breastfeeding.
You can take advantage of nursing pillows, cushions, and footstools to find the position that is most comfortable for you. Remember, you’ll be spending a lot of time in this position, so make it a comfortable one.
Tip #8: Ready, aim, fire!
Aim your nipple slightly above your baby’s mouth, more towards his nose. This way, he will lift his head to reach for the nipple, opening his mouth wide for a good mouthful he’s about to receive.
Tip #9: Get a good latch on.
Baby’s lips should be securely locked around your areola (the brownish-pinkish circle around your nipple), creating a seal, enough so that you can’t see her lips. Basically, you want to shove your breast in, and in DEEP! Her mouth should be wide open when she latches on so she gets the most out of the feeding. A firm, full latch will also prevent painful nipples sores from forming. If your baby’s mouth is directly on your actual nipple (and not the areola), it’ll
Tip #10: Nurture your nipples.
Painful nipples on new moms can feel like rubbing salt in a wound. Lanolin, tea bags, and, surprisingly, your own breast milk can all soothe heal any cracks or chafed skin. Believe it or not, this is a temporary discomfort that will subside soon.
BONUS Tip #10.5: Plugged milk ducts can cause incredibly painful infections. If this happens, nurse frequently on the affected breast, run hot water against it (in a shower), and apply a cool compress if the inflammation gets bad.
Tip #11: Soothe engorged breasts.
Having boobs the size of Jabba the Hutt isn’t as much fun as you thought it would be when you started breastfeeding. Use hot and cold compresses alternately to relieve the pain. You can also express milk while letting hot water run on them in the shower. And don’t worry – this will pass in a few days!
Tip #12: Break the seal, not your breast!
If you’re having trouble getting baby to unlatch because of a tight grip on your breast (good baby!), take your pinky finger and gently run it around the rim of his mouth. This will break the seal painlessly and not disturb your little one either.
Tip #13, 14, & 15: Dress for success.
Tight tops are difficult for breastfeeding moms because they are hard to get your breast in and out of. The same goes for dresses that don’t have a lot of give.
- For the first few weeks (say, 6-8) let your wardrobe be more relaxed and flowy, and dress in layers (if it’s not too hot). This way you can lift one shirt, and still be covered by the inner shirt. This will make the early learning stages of nursing go a lot smoother and easier. And when you’re home, the less you wear the better – if you’re comfortable doing so, remaining topless is easiest!
- Use nursing bras so you can quickly get your breast in and out without a lot of fiddling with straps and such.
- And if you are planning on nursing in public, a breastfeeding apron is essential! Nursing outdoors can be a little tricky, but a handy apron will allow you to breastfeed hands-free, wherever and whenever you want.
Tip #16: Drink, drink, drink!
Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Producing breast milk requires hydration, so keep a bottle of water near you and drink at least a cup’s worth of water each time you nurse.
Tip #17: Eat right.
Everyone wants to lose that baby belly fast after birth. Just remember your body’s doing a lot, so give it the fuel it needs. Get a good amount of starchy foods (healthy carbs that are high in protein), plenty of fruits and veggies, and a good amount of protein to keep diets balanced.
Tip # 18: Try feeding first, then try other solutions.
If your baby is crying, try feeding him first. He might just be hungry. If that doesn’t work, go through the crying priorities in order: Is he hungry? Does he need a clean diaper? Is he exhausted? Is he in pain? Once you’ve checked off the list, you’ll have found the source of discomfort so you can care for your baby properly.
Tip #19: No poo? No problem!
Breastfed babies don’t have as much waste to produce, so you might not change as many dirty diapers as do your friends who are bottle feeding. Breastfeeding babies can go as long as a week without having a poopy diaper.
Tip #20: Don’t worry if baby is eating a ton.
The average baby’s stomach is roughly the size of a standard chicken egg. That’s not very big, so you can imagine how much (or little) food it can hold. Since babies can’t sustain large amounts of food in the beginning of life, they compensate by eating more frequently. Eating every hour or two is perfectly normal for a newborn.
Tip #21: Babies eat more during growth spurts.
Your baby will eat more frequently (and more fitfully – fun!) during a period of growth. These growth spurts require a lot of energy for those little guys, so feedings will be required more often. Don’t get nervous about this; embrace the fact that your beautiful gift is growing at a healthy pace.
Tip #22: Your nipples are perfect, just the way they are!
Inverted nipples? Yes, it’s a real thing and roughly 20% of women have them, so don’t be embarrassed or alarmed if your nipples aren’t as perky as the ones you may have seen on the screen. You can use nipple shields if you feel like you need them, and you can also try rolling your nipples to persuade them to come on out or firmly pressing your nipple to your baby’s mouth. If you are having trouble with the shields, consult a lactation consultant. There are likely thousands in your area and they deal with flat or inverted nipples all the time.
Tip #23: Bigger nipples? Here’s an easy fix.
Larger nipples can also be more difficult to latch onto, but promoting a wide open mouth grip by lifting your baby’s chin up towards the ceiling when nursing can alleviate this issue with ease.
Tip #24: Make feeding times more effective.
It’s important that your feeding times are productive, so if your baby is dozing off during feedings, try undressing him, tickling the bottom of his feet, or switching positions to keep him cooler and more alert so he gets a full feeding in.
Tip #25: Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
There’s a reason that lactation consultants are a booming profession. Breastfeeding can be tricky, so don’t be afraid or embarrassed to reach out for help. That’s what they’re there for.
Tip #26: Notice baby’s growth (but not too much).
The average baby gains approximately 4-5 ounces each week when breastfeeding. That being said, everyone’s body is different. Some babies are bigger and some are smaller. If your baby is growing, eating, and happy, don’t stress the numbers.
Tip #27: Get rest!
While it may sound impossible with a newborn nursing every few hours, it’s important for you to get some rest. Have your partner help when they can, hire help if you can afford it, and consider putting the baby in another room when you go to sleep for the night (with a baby monitor). This way, she won’t wake up and want to nurse because she senses you in the room with her.
Tip #28: Pump it up.
Whether you’re back at work or just need a nursing break, pumping is a great solution. The pump will keep your milk flow going strong and enable you to give your baby all the nutrients he needs even when he’s not latched on. Pumping gives you the flexibility to go out for dinner with your significant other, take a day trip with friends, or sleep a solid block of time. Morning pumps are the most productive, around 30-60 minutes after nursing, and set yourself up technically (get comfortable, read a book, have a drink, etc.) for success. And if you don’t have as much milk as you think you should, pumping frequently can also help boost your supply. Again, a lactation consultant can help you determine how strong your supply is and can advise you as to how to bulk up your supply.
Tip #29: Side preferences are natural.
Most babies prefer one breast over the other. Whether it’s because one nipple is wider, one breast is producing more milk, or lying on the one side is just more comfortable for your little princess, favoring one side or the other is normal and totally fine. You can try changing positions to accommodate her, getting a better latch on from the start, or stimulating the slower breast to produce more milk. If nothing works, then just let your baby suckle on the breast she likes best and pump the other. We all have preferences!
Tip #30: Still struggling? It’s okay to switch.
If after implementing all these tips you’re still not enjoying the breastfeeding experience, it’s okay! Nursing is not for everyone, and you’ll obviously still be a great mom if you feed your baby with a bottle. She’ll still get everything she needs including love, nutrition, and security as you cuddle her while you bottle feed some formula. A happy mama is a happy baby, so make sure you do what’s right for YOU.
Don’t forget that like everything in life, practice makes perfect! Your baby will be happy to accommodate, so grab a good book, settle down with Candy Crush, or just get some shut eye, as your body naturally learns how to make this beautiful process run smoothly. Ready to start your journey? Check out some of these adjustable nursing covers that make breastfeeding in public a cinch!