Hey Mama, welcome to this week's post where I share all of my breastfeeding tips! Just because breastfeeding is natural does not mean it comes easy. I think a lot of us assume once we have our baby, we will bring them to the breast, they will latch, and the beautiful journey of breastfeeding begins.
Breastfeeding is a journey all right but for many, myself included, the beginning is anything but easy. I have had the privilege to learn a lot from my experiences with my two children and I want to help you get the best start possible with my tried and true breastfeeding tips.
Wanting so badly to breastfeed and not being able to can be frustrating and isolating especially when you see others able to do it so (seemingly) easily. I was that mom. The mom who wanted to breastfeed and couldn’t. I struggled with supply, latch, confidence, you name it. It is my sincere hope in writing this post that I will be able to help you succeed. You might just discover something you haven’t learned anywhere else, as this post is quite extensive.
*Please note, that I am not a doctor or a lactation consultant. I am a mama who has learned from trial and error. However, I think there is something to be said learning from someone who struggled and overcame it.*
Grab a snack because this is a comprehensive post on everything I know about breastfeeding and how to help you succeed.
Getting Into the Right Mindset
When you assume something will be easy and it turns out to be anything but, it can be extremely frustrating. Your confidence and patience can run out a lot quicker if you aren’t expecting a challenge. I hope breastfeeding isn’t a challenge for you but it is a very real possibility and a reality for so many new mamas. Understanding this will set you up with a strong mindset out of the gate.
You will find that it is also extremely important to stay calm and relaxed when breastfeeding even if you are struggling. Your milk will flow much easier when you are relaxed and your baby will be more comfortable latching.
In the early days of breastfeeding my daughter, I was finally able after two weeks to latch her during the day but I was unsuccessful for nighttime feedings. I was using the same position and techniques but it wasn’t working. This was because I was afraid that if I couldn’t latch her right away she would start crying and it would wake our toddler. It wasn’t until I was able to relax and allow for a proper latch that overnight feeding became a success. Never underestimate how much mindset plays a part in breastfeeding.
Babies Have to Learn How to Breastfeed
If there is only one thing you remember from reading this post, let it be this. It takes time for babies to learn how to breastfeed. Sure some babies come out and latch the first time. However, I have found it more common for babies to struggle in the beginning. The first time you bring them to the breast is the first time they are attempting to suckle for food. Newborns are generally not the most effective at nursing. It takes time.
Both times I gave birth to my children, I felt pressured in the hospital to get breastfeeding to work immediately. Remember to stay calm and if nursing your baby isn’t working the first or even the 10th time you try, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be possible for you. Stay calm and know that you can always ask for formula in the hospital to feed your baby while you are getting the hang of nursing.
This is an option that worked well for me but know that it can get tricky because when you feed your baby formula, they are not going to need to nurse from you as much which will affect your supply. Two ways around this are to either pump in the hospital when your baby is taking formula, or to feed them a very small amount to settle them but not fill them so you can both approach the next nursing session more calmly.
There are a few different breastfeeding holds you might want to play around with to see what is most comfortable for you. I find the classic cradle position to be the easiest for me. Here are a few things to remember to attain a good latch.
*Note that the first two relate to the cradle hold position*
- Hold your baby belly to belly. Meaning their belly should face your belly. Don’t try to feed them in a cradle hold if their side is against your belly. This is neither ergonomic nor comfortable for them.
- When they are in the belly to belly position, make sure that their ear, shoulder, and hip are aligned. This will signal the correct positioning.
- Support your baby by holding their neck, not their head.
- Before attempting a latch, make sure your baby is opening their mouth wide, guide them to the breast, and place your nipple into their mouth.
(You can help them open their mouth by tickling their cupid's bow)
- A correct latch will include your nipple and some of your areola, their lips should be flanged, and you should feel a tugging sensation. Listen for sucking and swallowing.
- It is true that a correct latch should not hurt, HOWEVER in the very beginning, breastfeeding can feel uncomfortable because your body has to get used to the new friction that is being constantly applied to your nipples while nursing. If there is a sharp or intense pain, your latch is probably insufficient but if you have soreness, tenderness, or mild pain, I have found this to be very normal in the first few weeks.
One on One Coaching
Above are just a few of the most helpful tips for nursing. However, if you find yourself needing additional help you might consider hiring a lactation consultant. There are generally free consultants available at your hospital but I found the greatest value in hiring one to come to your home once you are out of the hospital.
They will work with you in the environment you will be feeding in every day and have the time to pinpoint what obstacles you are facing and how to overcome them. They can also share resources with you regarding supply and even some baby care questions depending on the consultant. My lactation consultant even gave me her cell number to text her if something came up that I needed her advice on. This was invaluable to me and helped me feel supported during a very insecure time.
Building and Maintaining Milk Supply
Once you can latch you might find that supply can be an issue. With my firstborn, I experienced extremely low supply. So low in fact, that in the beginning, I would pump for 20 minutes every two hours in an entire 24 hour period and only get a few mls to show for it. I had to feed it to him via syringe because it was too little an amount for a bottle. Fast forward 8 months and I had stocked my freezer with over 2,500 ounces. That’s about 2 ½ months worth of milk. How did I go from so little to so much? I did the following four things and recommend you do them too.
1. Hydrate Often
This one is key! Breast milk is mostly water so if you are not taking in enough water for yourself alone, you will struggle to make enough milk for your baby. Drink water throughout the day along with before and after nursing sessions.
2. Proper Nutrition
Make sure you are getting enough calories, at least 1500-1800 per day. Focus on protein, healthy fats, whole grains, veggies, fruits, you know the deal. Foods that have been known to help encourage supply and that I find particularly helpful are oatmeal, blueberries, flax seeds & brewers yeast. Having oatmeal for breakfast or indulging in some lactation cookies are great options.
You might want to refer to your doctor or lactation consultant to recommend the best supplement for you but I found that Malungay was most effective for me. In the next section, you will find my breastfeeding essentials list which includes my favorite supplements and links to purchase.
4. Baby Wearing
Wearing your baby in an ergonomic carrier can increase your bond and encourage let down. These two things can aide in breastfeeding success.
1. Water Bottle
The best way to encourage your milk supply and support your mood is to stay hydrated.
2. Motherlove More Milk Moringa
This is my favorite supporting supplement. Most lactation supplements contain Fenugreek which can cut supply in some women and that was the case for me. More Milk Moringa is a Fenugreek free formula.
3. Bamboobies Washable Nursing Pads
You will likely leak in the beginning while your supply regulates and possibly throughout your breastfeeding experience. These will help keep your nursing bras and shirts clean. They are also very soft to the touch, which is so important when your nipple sensitivity is at its peak.
4. Motherlove Nipple Cream
You will want a cream to help protect against sore and cracked nipples. I love this one in particular because it has natural ingredients that are nourishing to the skin and there is no need to wipe off before breastfeeding.
5. Lansinoh Soothies Gel Pads
In the first few days, you are going to want these because your nipples will be o so sore and tender. Pop them in the fridge before use to get the best experience.
If you have tried everything and you are still struggling (remember it can take weeks or even months) then you might consider exclusive pumping. This is what I resorted to with my first-born and it worked for us. It is a lot of work, more work than nursing, and more work than formula feeding but if you are determined to give your baby your milk this is absolutely an option.
If you go this route, make sure you have a hospital-grade pump. My favorite is the one my lactation consultant recommended (see they are SO helpful) which is the Spectra S1 pump. Along with this, you will probably want a hands-free pump bra, storage bags, bottles, and a way to warm the milk. A simple electric kettle worked the best for me.
Here is also a helpful guideline for breast milk safety, borrowed from the Bump.
There you have it, this is everything I know about breastfeeding. Know that everyone’s breastfeeding journey is different and it’s even different with every child you have. Eventually, though it will become second nature and you won’t have to even think about it.
One last note is that formula is not the enemy. I am grateful that I was able to use formula for both of my babies while I figured out how to give them my milk. If in the end, formula is the best path for your baby or you choose to supplement it’s ok. Decide what is best for you and your baby and know that whatever that choice is, that is the best way to feed your baby. Fed is best!
Happy Milking Mama!