In this in-depth post, I’m sharing 17 of my best breastfeeding tips for new moms. I hope it will help all the new mamas out there who are either about to start their breastfeeding journey, or are already in the thick of it and needing some tips and encouragement!
For as long as I can remember, I knew I wanted to try to breastfeed when I had children. My mom breastfed all four of her babies, and many of the women in my family did the same. It seemed like a normal and beneficial thing to do and I looked forward to sharing that bond with my child.
Fast forward to when I got pregnant, I read and researched all things labor and birth, but didn’t spend much time on breastfeeding. I felt confident that I could do it without any major issues.
How hard could it be, right?
When my son was actually born and we settled down to nurse, I realized that no amount of reading, stories from other moms, or discussions with my medical providers could have prepared me for the real thing.
The first week of breastfeeding was hard. Getting the right latch seemed near-impossible, and feeling comfortable while nursing took a lot of time, help, and patience.
My nipples were so sore and cracked the first several days, that just getting grazed by my shirt made me wince.
It didn’t help that my son cluster-fed around the clock for the first four days, either.
Let’s just say, I cried a lot.
I’m not writing this to scare you.
Not everyone’s experience is like mine. Some women have a very easy time breastfeeding, while others end up with a tough journey toward reaching their goals.
I’m lucky that I had a solid support system with lots of encouragement and care from friends and family during that difficult time of adjustment. I also joined an excellent breastfeeding support group on Facebook which proved invaluable to me at the start and for the months that laid ahead.
Eventually my son and I figured out the right way to latch, comfortable positioning, and I learned that my baby just really, really liked to “snack” aaaalll day loong–basically until he started solids.
19 months later….
I’ve wanted to quit so. many. times. during my breastfeeding journey, but I feel blessed to say that 19 months in, my son and I are still going strong in our breastfeeding relationship.
All the pain at the beginning and the challenges we’ve faced since then have been worth it.
I’m so happy that I’ve been able to provide my son with so many benefits that are not only characteristic to breastmilk itself, but also to the breastfeeding relationship we share.
I wanted to write this post to encourage other moms, and to share some of the helpful tips that got me to this point, as well as some information I wish I would have known before giving birth.
So without further adieu, here are:
17 BREASTFEEDING TIPS FOR NEW MOMS
1. Your body is amazing and capable.
This is the most important thing you need to remember when beginning your breastfeeding journey. As women, our bodies are designed to produce milk for our babies. The stuff is seriously liquid gold.
Human breast milk contains the exact combination of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fat that your baby needs. It’s impossible for your milk to be deficient in any essential nutrient.
And one of the best things about it is IT’S FREE! 🙂
2. Breastfeeding is a Learning Process
Breastfeeding is a learning process that requires cooperation and practice from both mom and baby. Few moms are born knowing how to breastfeed their child perfectly, and some babies aren’t able to achieve a perfect latch right at birth, either.
Getting your baby to latch just right, learning which positions work for you as a pair, and getting comfortable with breastfeeding in general can take time. Practice is key. But with the right support and guidance, breastfeeding will eventually become second-nature to you and your baby.
3. Find support early on.
I’m a firm believer that most breastfeeding moms can benefit from speaking with a well-qualified lactation consultant. Known officially as “International Board Certified Lactation Consultants” (or IBCLC’s), lactation consultants receive clinical training in breastfeeding education, and can help you with positioning, assess your baby for oral restrictions (tongue and lip ties), and answer your breastfeeding questions.
La Leche League International
For mom-to-mom breastfeeding support in a community setting, I love the organization, La Leche League International (LLLI). La Leche League is a non profit organization lead by experienced and accredited breastfeeding counselors who volunteer their time to support nursing mothers.
In order to become accredited as a leader for LLLI, you must be a mom with at least nine months of breastfeeding experience. The beauty of this requirement is that leaders have firsthand knowledge of the challenges and concerns that nursing mothers face.
Lactation consultants on the other hand, aren’t required to be a mom or even a woman to get certified. So while they are highly trained experts, it’s helpful to have the mom to mom support LLLI provides in addition to balance things out.
There are many local chapters of LLLI across the world that host in-person support groups where all your breastfeeding questions can be answered in a group setting. You can speak to LLL leaders over the phone, via text or email, or on my personal favorite, social media.
Best of all, you’ll be able to make friends with moms going through similar experiences.
Friends and Family
Not everyone has the support of their friends and family while breastfeeding, but if you can find even one person in your life who supports what you’re doing, it can make a world of difference in helping you reach your breastfeeding goals.
Ignore the rude questions and advice from people in your life who just don’t get it.
Focus on the friends and family who get you and cheer you on in your breastfeeding journey.
Sometimes we just need to see a technique demonstrated in order to learn it well.
I’m a visual learner so I had an easier time putting the concepts I had learned about breastfeeding into action if I could see them first.
I love Nancy Mohrbacher’s Youtube channel because she her videos answered so many of the breastfeeding questions I had within the first few months.
Jenell B. Stewart also makes amazing Youtube videos explaining important breastfeeding techniques.
4. It shouldn’t hurt
This was the most frustrating phrase I heard when I first started breastfeeding because I was doing everything I had been told to do to prevent it from hurting. Yet for the first week, my nipples felt like they were going to fall off every time my son latched on.
I think it would be more helpful if breastfeeding educators emphasized that a good latch and proper positioning should not cause pain, instead of using the blanket statement that it shouldn’t hurt.
Breastfeeding technically shouldn’t hurt. But many times it does.
Thankfully, when we experience pain while breastfeeding, there is almost always a reason. When we find that reason, we can correct the problem.
If you’re experiencing excruciating pain while breastfeeding that goes beyond just a little discomfort when first latching, get help right away.
A qualified lactation consultant is essential in these cases and can usually spot the problem pretty quickly.
5. There’s No Such Thing As “Bad” Breastmilk
Some women think that if their baby fusses often at the breast, it must mean that there is something wrong with their milk or that they’re not making enough. Be assured that regardless of how your baby reacts at the breast, you’re milk is always good and contains everything your baby needs.
Additionally, if you’re concerned about your baby getting enough milk, pay attention to their diaper output and weight gain, not to their reaction at the breast. If they have a sufficient number of wet and dirty diapers each day and are gaining weight steadily, you don’t need to worry.
6. Feed on demand
Although we might want our babies to feed on a predictable schedule each day, the fact is that babies don’t really believe in schedules. Additionally, putting a newborn on a feeding schedule can be dangerous because you risk your baby not getting enough calories every day.
The first few weeks, you may feel like all your baby wants to do is nurse. But that’s a good thing because as you breastfeed your baby on demand, she or he signals your body to make more milk.
Most importantly, these times of “cluster feeding” help your body establish your milk supply.
Your baby should nurse about 8-12 times within a 24 hour period.
7. Watch your baby for hunger cues
If you know what to look out for, you will quickly learn how to tell when your baby is hungry.
Crying is actually a late hunger cue, and signals that your baby is getting frustrated due to needing to be fed. Try not to wait until your baby is crying to feed them–it puts undue stress on the baby and yourself. Instead, look for more subtle cues that signal hunger ahead of time.
Early signs to watch for are when baby starts to stick out their tongue, make sucking sounds, and suck on their hands or other objects. Newborns also display the rooting reflex when looking for the breast. You’ll know for sure that your baby needs to eat ASAP if she opens her mouth and turns her head to the side as if positioning to nurse, regardless of who is holding her.
8. The more you nurse, the more milk you will produce.
In some instances, mamas may feel they aren’t producing as much milk as they would like. In these cases, the most important thing a mom can do is nurse! Because breast milk production occurs as a supply on demand process, frequent nursing is necessary to signal your body to make more milk.
Additionally, you should allow your baby to fully drain each breast at every feeding. Let her nurse until she lets go of your breast. “Empty” breasts actually produce milk faster.
9. Pumping output is not a clear indicator of supply
You may worry that you’re not producing enough milk if you can only pump a small amount at each session. BUT pumping output does not accurately reflect your actual milk supply for a few reasons.
First, breast pumps are not as effective as a baby at draining the breast, so they shouldn’t be trusted as a measurement tool.
Second, each woman’s body can respond to a particular breast pump differently.
One major factor that can influence the effectiveness of your breast pump is whether your flanges fit properly. Make sure they’re the right size for you. If they’re too small or large for your breasts, your pump won’t work as well as it should.
Third, if you’re with your baby most of the day and nursing on-demand, you probably will be able to pump between ½ ounce-3 ounces per session, tops. This is normal and does NOT mean you have an under-supply.
If you’re pumping exclusively or able to pump while separated from your baby for a few hours, you’ll probably be able to pump more milk at each session.
10. Milk production adjusts to baby’s needs
The first several weeks of breastfeeding, you’ll notice that your breasts often feel full and leaky between feedings.
But as the weeks pass, you may notice that your breasts don’t feel as full or leak much at all.
This is because your body actually adjusts to your baby’s feeding habits to produce just the right amount of milk that your baby needs.
How to know if your baby is getting enough milk
To expand on my last point, if you’re concerned whether your baby is getting enough milk at each feeding, pay attention to how many wet and dirty diapers she has each day.
According to La Leche League International, a nursing newborn should have two wet and dirty diapers within the first day of life.
By five days old, your baby should have at least 6 wet and 2 poop diapers a day.
Of course, normal weight gain is also an important indicator, so in addition to diaper output, see your pediatrician for more information.
You can read more about diaper output on the La Leche League website here.
11. Be kind to yourself
It can be extremely frustrating when you’re first learning how to breastfeed and you’re just not getting it. You might be worried that your baby isn’t getting enough to eat, or that you’ll never get it right.
In these times, stop. Take a deep breath, and tell yourself that you’re doing a great job.
When we first learn how to breastfeed, it’s right after one of the most life-altering and (sometimes traumatic) occurrences a woman can experience: birth.
Whether you have a un-medicated vaginal birth, a cesarean section, or a medicated vaginal birth, you’ll have been through a lot when you start breastfeeding.
Remember to go easy on yourself, give yourself time, and trust the process.
12. When nursing in public, find what works for you
Nursing in public can be daunting. But my best advice is to do what makes you feel the most comfortable and relaxed. That might mean finding a private place to nurse or if breastfeeding out in the open.
Whatever you choose, don’t ever think you need to apologize for feeding your baby.
I’ve always preferred to nurse in quiet, private spaces. My son was easily distracted from 3 months onward so it was easier for us both to concentrate when in private.
If you want to use a cover in public, I recommend this one because the design allows for air flow to reach your baby and for you to be able to see your baby’s face, which is important for getting the right latch in the early weeks..
13. Learn to kick back and relax while breastfeeding
My first several times breastfeeding in the hospital were painful and uncomfortable. I felt like I just couldn’t get it right and I had searing back and shoulder pain from nursing in odd positions.
Then I discovered a series of videos on Youtube by Nancy Mohrbacher which changed my life.
Nancy talks about three adjustments moms can make to create a more relaxing and pleasant breastfeeding experience.
Here they are:
1. Adjust your body. Get comfortable while you nurse. Adjust your body and support your arms and any other part of your body that needs support, with pillows.
2. Adjust your baby. Put your baby in a position in which they’re able to latch comfortably, where their neck and head are supported.
3. Adjust your breast. Depending on your breast size and shape, it may be difficult for your baby to get the areola in her mouth without help. Gently flatten your breast with your fingers to make it easier for baby to get latched on.
You can watch the full Youtube video here.
14. Stay hydrated and get adequate calories
This is easier said than done in those first several weeks of your baby’s life, especially if you don’t have help during your baby’s waking hours.
But proper hydration is 100% essential for milk production and to stay strong and healthy for yourself and your baby.
I recommend setting up a “nursing station” to make things easier for you. If you have a rocking chair or glider where you normally nurse, store a large, refillable water bottle, and stock up on shelf-stable, healthy snacks you can grab while nursing. Things like nuts, beef jerky, fruit, lara bars, and crackers are good options.
Check out my post, Healthy Snack Ideas for Breastfeeding Mamas, for a full printable shopping list of easy and nutritious snack options.
15. Don’t try to stretch out times between feedings.
Beware that waiting too long between feedings can lead to clogged milk ducts and mastitis.
It’s also not very practical because most newborn babies don’t really believe in feeding schedules–and they will let you know it!
16. Invest in a hand pump
I always felt electric pumps were bulky and had too many parts for me to enjoy using one on a regular basis. I didn’t go on a date with my hubby for months because I hated pumping with such a passion and couldn’t leave my baby without milk.
But when I bought a $20 hand pump from Target, my life was forever changed. I felt like it just made things easier to quickly pump some milk and get on with my life.
If you’re going to be pumping regularly, an electric pump is essential, but a hand pump can be really useful for days when you’re with your baby the whole day or if you just want to express milk quickly.
I really like this one.
17. Breastfeeding is a relationship.
During your breastfeeding journey, inevitably the question will come up, “How long do you plan to go?”
It’s difficult to answer this question, because what might be right for one breastfeeding pair will be different for another. Breastfeeding is a relationship between mom and baby, so putting arbitrary time limits on it aren’t realistic.
Mama and baby should instead find what’s right for them. The World Health Organization even says, that breastfeeding should continue as long as it’s mutually desired by mom and baby.
So continue to breastfeed as long as you feel is right for you and your child.
Do what works for you and ignore the haters.
Wrapping it all up
Breastfeeding can be hard. But with perseverance and the right knowledge and support, it can be one of the most rewarding things you’ll ever do. The bond you share with your baby when you breastfeed is so special and unique, not to mention all the amazing health benefits it provides.
The first time that baby looks up into your eyes and smiles at you while nursing, makes all the hard work SO worth it.
Have you just started or are about to start your breastfeeding journey? What are some of the questions or concerns you have about breastfeeding right now? Let me know in the comments!
And if you’re a mom with breastfeeding experience, I’d love to hear your best advice for the new mamas out there!