Breastfeeding… That is a loaded word. For moms-to-be, it is a beautiful concept. Your body creates the milk your baby needs to survive. It is a time for you and your baby to connect. It is a special bond that no one else in your child’s life can duplicate. For a mom who is or has breastfed, it can bring on a reminder of painful, bleeding nipples, cluster feedings, and the thought of the breast pump and what it is telling you in the middle of the night.
I’ve mentioned before that a good friend of mine is getting ready to have a baby in a few months. She asked me the other day if I had any tips for her on breastfeeding because she is feeling a little anxious. I was able to think of a few right away, but then told her I would need to think of a few more. M is 7 months and still breastfeeding, but I think I might’ve blocked the early days of breastfeeding out. But I did come up with a list.
Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms:
Take the Breastfeeding Class:
My husband and I took both classes offered by our local hospital; a birthing class and a breastfeeding class. Honestly, I don’t think we would have been prepared for breastfeeding if we hadn’t taken this class. There is so much information in this 2-hour class, and a lot of stuff I had no idea about. For example, you learn how to get the baby to do a proper latch, you learn what to do when you have painful nipples, but you also learn why breastfeeding is important, and you learn about all the local support groups and resources available to you.
Our local hospital is a breastfeeding certified hospital, which basically means they don’t do formula at all. Mom’s have the baby and the baby is instantly put skin to skin. You breastfeed the baby within the first 20 minutes of life, it is so amazing! This early skin to skin and breastfeeding helps your body recognize whats going on, helping your body start to produce the colostrum and milk for the baby.
So amazing, right? But it can be pretty overwhelming. I mean you did just push a tiny human from your body. Emotions are high and it can be a struggle to remember the right hold, or how to get an effective latch, and babies don’t come out knowing how to breastfeed, they have to learn just like you. If my husband wasn’t there with the knowledge from the breastfeeding class I don’t think I would have been able to get through those first few feedings.
SUGGESTION: Make your partner go with you to the class. After the class I thought, oh no big deal when M comes I will be a breastfeeding pro. However, when M got here it was kind of like all the information went right out of my head…How do I hold him? What is a good latch? Etc. If my husband hadn’t gone to the class with me I don’t think I would have been able to breastfeed right away. He remembered how to get the baby to latch on and he was so helpful putting M on when I was crying because I couldn’t do it myself.
Follow Up With a Lactation Consultant: Again, I know how blessed we are with such an amazing, breastfeeding supportive hospital and staff. They have lactation consultants on staff and before you go home they come into your room and spend an hour supporting you on your breastfeeding journey.
If your hospital doesn’t have lactation consultants on staff I still highly recommend meeting with one. Usually, the first visit is covered by insurance. There are even lactation consultants that can come to your house. I really think they do such an amazing job in supporting new moms. Even if you think you’ve got breastfeeding down, it might be nice to have a follow-up appointment just to answer any questions and make sure you have all the tools you need. Here is a list of lactation consultants across the US.
SUGGESTION: If you don’t have a lactation consultant or if your insurance won’t cover it, find a breastfeeding support group. I love going to the support group. It is a great way to meet other parents but more than that it’s a really good place to get your questions answered. Usually what happens is you go in, get baby naked and weigh them. Then you feed the baby, and a lactation consultant will come around and ask if there is anything they can help you with. Then weigh the baby again to find out how much milk the baby is getting. If you don’t have a local support group you can attend, they do have them online too. Here are a few that might be worth checking out.
- La Leche League Chat
- Austrailian Breastfeeding Association– Not just for Aussies.
- Best for Babes Foundation-Facebook Support Group
- Low Milk Supply- this is a site dedicated just to moms with a low supply
- CafeMom– Breastfeeding chat group
3. Your Breast Pump is Your Friend:
When I first got my pump I was terrified. I’m going to put my breast in this weird contraption and it is going to milk me…like a cow. But as soon as the engorgement set in the pump and I were inseparable!
I think the best advice I got and will continue to give to new moms is USE YOUR PUMP A LOT! I know some people will tell you that using your pump too much, in the beginning, will lead to an oversupply. But the thing about using your pump, in the beginning, is it will help you from getting mastitis.
Mastitis is a clogging of a milk duct and it is most common for new moms between 0 to 6 months. And the reason is your baby is an eating machine so your body produces the milk for the baby. But if the baby’s eating habits change, even for one day, and you don’t feed at your normal time…BAM! Clogged milk duct. Plus, if you’re going back to work, it is not a bad idea to start stocking up early.
4. Know the Difference Between “Foremilk” and “Hindmilk”:
Foremilk is the milk at the start of the feed, it is thinner and has a lower fat content. Hindmilk, on the other hand, is the creamier, high-fat milk that comes after. It’s important to know the difference because if you put your baby on the first breast for a few minutes then put them on the other breast they might not ever get that hindmilk.
When the baby starts to nurse, the foremilk comes out first, this milk is designed to quench their thirst. Then as baby nurses, it triggers a milk ejection reflex, squeezing the milk and basically adding more fat cells to it from the milk-making cells in the milk ducts.
An oversupply, which I suffered from, happens when the baby fills up on the foremilk and doesn’t really get a chance to have that hindmilk. This can also cause the baby to be even more of an eating machine, their body will burn the foremilk much faster because there isn’t a lot of fat content.
5. Feed on Demand:
Feeding on demand pretty much means feeding your baby whenever they show signs they’re hungry instead of feeding according to a set schedule.
To feed on demand you should know the signs of hunger:
- Opening the mouth and sticking the tongue out
- making sucking movements and noises
- bringing hands up to the mouth
- moving the legs as if trying to crawl
- turning the head toward your breast or chest (rooting)
- Crying (this is a late sign of hunger
There is a lot of research that says feeding on demand in the early days, weeks, and even months is the best. It is important to remember that babies tummies are very small and they are burning a lot of energy.
Feeding your baby on-demand also means don’t time the feedings. Let the baby tell you when they’re satisfied (detaching and not wanting to get back on or falls asleep at the breast). This will help bring in your milk and help build a better milk supply.
6. Know what the “Propper Latch” should look and feel like:
I was very thankful that my husband and I went to the breastfeeding class, met with the lactation consultant at the hospital, and had a follow-up appointment with lactation. There is a HUGE difference between an effective latch and an ineffective latch.
It is important to remember that breastfeeding is something that is learned. So, the baby might take a few feedings before they figure out the best way to breastfeed. Here are a few tips from La Leche League International on how to help the baby latch on:
- Hold the baby close to your body with the tummy facing your tummy and the nose across from the nipple.
- Gently tickle the upper lip with the tipple until the mouth opens wide, like a yawn.
- quickly pull the baby in, chin first, to allow them to take in as much breast as possible, resulting in an effective latch.
- Relatch if the latch is ineffective
Effective Latch allows the baby to take in more milk and is WAY more comfortable for you. Here are some ways you can tell if your baby has an effective latch:
- The mouth is open wide with lips flared out, and the chin is touching the breast
- The areola is visible above the baby’s top lip than below the lower lip
- Seeing the ear and jow move as they suck
- Hearing the swallow (a soft ca-ca sound)
- there are several periods of active sucking and swallowing during the feeding
- There is a strong tug that is not painful.
Ineffective Latch can cause the baby to take less milk and makes your nipples sore. Here are some ways you can tell if your baby has an ineffective latch:
- Only the nipple or a small amount of the breast is in the mouth
- The lips are curled inward
- There is a clicking sound when sucking
- There is no sound of swallowing
- You feel pain when sucking
- The breast may not soften
7. Your Nipples Will Be Sore:
Even with an effective latch, your nipples are going to be sore. And sadly, there is nothing you can do to prepare your nipples. The LLLI say that breastfeeding should not be painful, and if your nipples become sore or cracked, seek help from a certified lactation consultant. But if you do get sore or cracked nipples here are a few things they suggest:
- Wash your hands before touching the breasts
- Make sure the baby has an effective latch
- Start a feeding on the breast that is the least sore, and move to the other side once your milk has let down.
- Remove your baby from your breast gently to prevent hurting the nipple
- Wash your nipples daily with mild, fragrance-free soap. Don’t use harsh soaps on the nipples.
- Let your nipples air dry
- Use a little breastmilk to help soothe the nipples
- Use a nipple ointment (lanoline or lanoline free)
- Change your breast pads as soon as they become wet.
- If you have to nurse for shorter periods because of tenderness, feed the baby more often (every 1.5-2 hours)
- If you have an open wound that is not healing contact your healthcare provider to see if you need antibiotics or other treatments.
8. Learn the Different Feeding Positions:
There are 5 breastfeeding positions that are most common.
- Cross-Cradle (most common): Support the baby’s upper back and shoulders with one hand, keeping fingers low behind the ears.
- Football (Also most common): Hold the baby along the side of your body. This is a good hold if you had a cesarean or are nursing twins.
- Laid-Back: recline comfortably at about a 45-degree angle. Position the baby laying on her tummy against your body. This position may allow the baby to self-attach more easily.
- Side-Lying (best for when the baby is a little older): you and the baby lie on your sides, tummy to tummy.
- Cradle (also better when the baby is a little older): Support baby’s head in the crook of your arm. This position is best once the baby has more neck and head control.
9. Take Care Of You:
Being a new mom is hard, exhausting, and rewarding. But it is important to remember to take care of yourself too. Remember you are not only taking care of a baby but you are also recovering from childbirth.
Here are a few ways you can take care of you during the early stages:
- Sleep when your baby is sleeping: this is common advice given to new moms, and there is a reason. You are going to be TIRED! Right now the house, entertaining, etc doesn’t matter. What matters is that you get the most rest you can so you have the energy to take care of your new family member.
- Limit outside activities and visitors: people will understand why you aren’t up for visits, you just had another life come out of your body.
- Drink tons of water. When the milk lets down it can cause extreme thirst.
- Eat healthy foods
- Try to get some fresh air every day
- Join a breastfeeding or new mom support group
- Talk about your feelings with your partner or others
- Let family and friends help with chores
- Take as much time off work as possible.
10. Remember it’s a Learning Process:
Breastfeeding is natural, babies are born to breastfeed. But it is something that you both have to learn how to do. Reach out for support from your health care provider or a lactation consultant if you are struggling. A lot of struggles can easily be solved once armed with the proper tools and advice. Soon enough you will settle into a comfortable breastfeeding routine, but it is important to trust yourself, trust your baby, and trust the learning process.