If you’ve just had your baby (or are about to have it) and you decided you want to breastfeed, congratulations! You’re gonna give your little one the best possible start in life:)
I think you already know it but in case no one told you, your milk has all the best ingredients to support your child’s development. It will protect him/her from many infections or diseases, reduce the risk of allergies and SIDS. It’s recommended to breastfeed for a minimum of 6 months but the longer the better (I’d never imagine this but I’m breastfeeding for nearly 20 months now!).
However, breastfeeding is not always easy and often requires sacrifices from your side. That’s why I decided to write this post and share some useful breastfeeding tips every new mom should know.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
Although for some mums breastfeeding comes naturally, for many of us it becomes a real challenge. And honestly, I find it weird that nobody ever really prepares first-time mothers for this. We read books, attend birthing classes and all they seem to talk about is how to breastfeed but they don’t say how it will FEEL.
I can tell from my experience, that my breastfeeding journey was not exactly how I imagined. At the beginning it was tough: there were tears as my colostrum seemed to come out very slowly and it was a painful process.
Don’t get me wrong, being able to breastfeed your child is amazing; but if you’re a first time mother, you can expect painful moments and moments of exhaustion (at least for the first few weeks after your baby is born).
So use all the help that’s available- talk to midwives, attend breastfeeding classes and visit a lactation consultant- they will give you some valuable tips and answer all your questions.
2. Breastfeed your baby right after delivery
You won’t produce much of the ‘milk’ at the beginning- most likely just few drops of colostrum but your baby doesn’t need more than that. The size of newborns’ stomach in the first two days resembles a blueberry.
Breastfeeding up to an hour after the delivery is your best shot; later on it may be difficult to keep your little one awake. Besides, it encourages skin-to-skin contact which is super important during the first few weeks after the delivery. Your baby is getting used to the outside world and it helps you both to create that magical bond.
If your baby refuses to latch right after the delivery, make sure you squeeze out those few drops of colostrum into a syringe (there should be a midwife helping you out with this). It happened to me as my baby girl didn’t want to latch in the first few hours; it’s not the most pleasant memory but massaging your breast can help get the milk (colostrum) flowing.
3. Learn what to do in case of engorgment
In the first few weeks after birth it’s quite common for moms to experience breast engorgement- your breasts swell from an increased hormones and milk production. Engorged breasts feel like they’re ready to burst- they’re full, heavy and sensitive to touch. They can lead to other breastfeeding problems such as blocked ducts and mastitis so make sure you treat them early.
When the milk production stabilizes the engorgement usually disappears but it’s worth knowing how to get rid of the problem. Things you could do include:
- let your baby finish feeding from one breast before switching to the next one
- when you’re not feeding your baby, put some ice on your breasts for a short time (ice packs or frozen veggie bags wrapped in a cloth should do). This will reduce the swelling and bring you some relief. Another thing that works wonders is putting cold cabbage leaves around your breast (for about 15-20 min).
- when you’re about to breastfeed, try applying something wet and warm on your breasts to help the milk flow. You could use a warm towel or take a warm shower.
- massage your breasts in a circular motion from the chest area towards the nipple
- make sure your little one has a good latch and is sucking the right way
4. Avoid formula, pacifiers& bottles at first
In first few weeks it’s important not to give your baby a formula (unless it’s really necessary) as it can affect your milk supply. Using bottles or dummies is also a no-no during the first month because it can confuse your newborns’ hunger cues and make him less hungry.
If for some reason you can’t put your baby to the breast, you should offer your milk using a spoon, flexible feeding cup or syringe. It will also help you to reduce the breast engorgement and avoid any other breastfeeding issues.
Once your milk supply is stabilised, you get the green light for using the bottles and pacifiers. It’s not recommended to wait more than 6 weeks to offer a bottle as your little one might get used to the breast too much and refuse to take anything else.
5. Don’t look at the time
I’ve read and heard my advice saying you should breastfeed your newborn every 2 to 3 hours. But this simply won’t apply to every baby. If your child seems to be fussy and crying a lot, this often means s/he is just hungry and needs to be close to you as much as possible.
That’s why the best thing for you and your little one is to breastfeed on demand. Don’t look at the time and don’t follow the rules of leaving up to 3 hours gap between each feeding; your baby will let you know when s/he needs to eat (besides, your mother instinct exists for a reason).
Remember, nursing is not only about feeding but also about bringing comfort- if your baby seems to be sucking on you forever, that just means s/he needs that closeness to feel safe. Newborn can not get sick of mothers’ milk so don’t worry about overfeeding- let your baby decide when s/he has enough.
6. Bring relief to your sore nipples
Personally, I had a really tough time with getting my nipples used to constant sucking. People around were telling me that if it hurts me when breastfeeding that means my baby might have a bad latch, a tongue-tie or I’m not positioning her right. While it might be true in certain cases, it wasn’t true for me!
It’s completely normal for you to feel the pain during the first few days or even weeks of breastfeeding. You’ve talked to midwives/ lactation consultant or anyone else experienced and you are doing whatever they told you but your nipple still hurt? It probably means your body needs more time to accept the frequent baby sucking.
Thanks God there are ways to bring us relief. Your best friends for this difficult time will be:
1) lanolin cream– it’s one of the newborn essentials that you should have on your list. It’s really soothing and help your cracked nipples to heal faster.
2) nipple shields– although there are some disadvantages of using them (such as baby getting less milk if used incorrectly or difficulty in weaning of the shields), if they’re used only for a short time they are helpful- especially when mum wants to continue breastfeeding but needs some ‘time off’ from the direct sucking. I used them for a couple of days and I’ve noticed my nipples healed faster. Not all babies will be co-operating with them but it’s worth giving it a go.
3) ice cubes-don’t overdo it, press them around the affected area for the ice to melt (for few seconds only) and then wait some time before you do it again.
4) your own milk- yes, it works wonders! If your express few drops of your milk and rub them on your sore nipples few times a day you’ll see the difference very soon. Mother nature really thought this through, am I right?
7. Eat more
There still persists a belief in a society that nursing mother should only eat plain foods. The research shows it’s simply a myth- your baby got to know your food preferences already in the womb so there’s no need to change your general eating habits. That being said, you should keep a healthy and well-balanced diet, just like you did during the pregnancy.
You might want to reduce the caffeine intake as it actually absorbs in your milk and can keep your little one awake for longer. And in case you forgot: alcohol is out of the question.
However, it’s important that you consume around 500 calories more than an average woman (that would come up to 2,200-2,500 calories per day, depending on the body type and your lifestyle). It’s because during breastfeeding you burn a lot of calories and your body needs more energy to keep producing the milk.
That’s the reason why breastfeeding is one of the best ways to lose weight after pregnancy. Since my baby girl was born, I’ve been eating quite a lot but I managed to lose the ‘baby fat’ fairly quickly. So far, my weight didn’t go up at all, yupiii!:) So enjoy this time, you may never hear the words ‘eat more’ again in your life!
You should also continue taking the vitamins to supplement your diet (there are many multivitamins available for nursing moms).
8. Try breastfeeding in different positions
It’s always worth experimenting with different breastfeeding positions- your midwife or lactation consultant should have showed you all of them. Sometimes the reason why your baby can’t latch properly is because s/he doesn’t feel 100% comfortable.
Try less popular positions such as the ‘rugby ball hold’ or ‘side-lying’. I’ve been using the traditional ‘cradle hold’ for most of the time until I decided to try the side lying position. It felt really comfortable for me and my daughter, especially during the night feeds.
Also, what I’d suggest is to chose one place in your house where you’ll be breastfeeding your baby. It’s important to stay somewhere quiet without any distractions such as TV (although I admit, sometimes I broke that rule when I was getting too bored!).
It’s a good idea to get yourself a nursing stool, especially if you’re short- it makes breastfeeding much more comfortable and takes the pressure off if you’ve had an episiotomy. Getting a nursing pillow will also help you (especially at the beginning) during the longer feedings- trust me, if you’re holding a newborn for 30 minutes without any support your arms will be sore!
9. Use a good pump
If you decide to express the milk, I don’t recommend getting a manual pump. It will take ages to get that milk going and you don’t need any more stress!
If you’re planning to use it only for a short time, it’s probably best to rent a hospital pump- they’re very powerful and won’t fail when you’re establishing your milk supply. But if you’re planning to combine breastfeeding and pumping, you’re gonna need to buy a good pump that will serve you for the long-term. I’d suggest getting a double electric pump; I’ve used Medela brand for many months and I was very happy with it.
Also, don’t go for a used pump- while you may want to save money, buying a second-hand pump usually means it won’t be as powerful as it supposed to be. Even the best electric pumps have a limited number of hours of motor life before the suction becomes weaker.
All in all…
Breastfeeding is such a vast topic, it’s actually hard to convey everything in a single post. While breastfeeding is challenging and often difficult, it doesn’t mean you won’t learn how to love it. At the end, it’s such a beautiful and rewarding thing to do that it’s worth the initial pain, trust me!
After almost 20 months of breastfeeding my daughter, I can easily say that now I’m a pro to this point it became a mundane activity, like eating or drinking! Now I do it everywhere and it many positions…ha!, reading it out loud sounds as if I was describing something else 🙂
The important thing is not to give up and remember you’re not alone in this. Like they say: time heals wounds- in your case time will heal your sore nipples and will make any other breastfeeding issues disappear.
I hope you found my breastfeeding tips useful. Stay strong mamas!
Until next time!