9 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers

If you’re a new mother and you’ve decided to try breastfeeding, you know that the early milk (called colostrum) is an excellent source of antibodies that can help protect against disease for a baby’s developing immune system. Breastfeeding has also shown to have positive benefits for new moms, such as: helping your uterus return to its regular size, reducing post-delivery bleeding, shedding pregnancy pounds, decreasing your risk for postpartum depression and saving money! And while breastfeeding is one of the most natural things a new mother can do, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy, or that anyone intuitively knows how to do it. Nobody is born knowing exactly how to breastfeed, not even baby. Whether it’s figuring out how to position your baby, how to get your baby to latch on, or the normal things you can expect, the first attempts at nursing can feel totally overwhelming. This can feel especially daunting if you’re running on fumes from a lack of sleep. But don’t fret! The nursing journey is a rewarding one once you’ve figured the process out. We rounded up the things that are key during the early part of the process, here are 9 breastfeeding tips for new mothers.

Timing is everything

It’s extremely important that you try to breastfeed your baby within the first hour of his birth. This is for a number of reasons: it helps your uterus contract and produce the colostrum, you have nurses and lactation consultants there to help and it starts the right habits immediately. Having baby get the right latch from the beginning is critical. You’ll know you’re doing it right if your baby’s nose is nearly touching your breast, his lips are forming a kissy face and the mouth is positioned over the nipple. You’ll see his temples move and you may hear him swallowing; these are good signs! If you feel any kind of stabbing pain, that is not normal. Gently try breaking his suction and get him to attempt to latch on again.

Have a plan for when the milk comes in

Typically you can expect milk to come in around the third or fourth day after baby’s born. You’ll know it’s happened because your breasts will suddenly grow by several cup sizes! With some women, milk does not come in until after they’ve already left the hospital. If you’re having trouble getting baby to latch on once you’re home, ask for help. Your pediatrician, obstetrician, or hospital may have breastfeeding resources or support groups you can reach out to. You can even seek the help from a lactation consultant who can come into your home and help you position yourself for a good latch. The lactation consultant can also let you know if you need to seek additional assistance or if she thinks there may be other issues. There are various things you may experience, such as high or low milk supply, fast or slow letdown, latching difficulty, tenderness, or clogged milk ducts. Having the right help in place can make a world of difference for your confidence with nursing.

Find a comfortable position

You’ll be in the same position breastfeeding your baby for significant amounts of time. It’s important to make sure that YOU are comfortable. If you are constantly squirming, it can cause irritability or increased hunger for baby. You can try sitting in a reclined position or on your side while co-sleeping, which allows you to rest and feed your baby at the same time. Other first-time moms try cross-cradle and football holds. If none of these are comfortable, find what works best for you. If you need extra support, try a nursing pillow. Once you find your position, nurse in a calm environment which will help your milk let down. After awhile, your body will recognize the signs of nursing, such as unhooking your bra or hearing your infant cry, and that’s all it will take for your milk to let down.

Make sure you have the right equipment

You may have thought of everything: the blankies, the diapers, the car seat, the musical swings, the storybooks, the Moby and Ergo carriers, wet bags, burp cloths, and bibs. But did you remember to shop for yourself when it comes to breastfeeding success? In the first few weeks of breastfeeding, it’s common for milk to leak from your boobs. Having comfortable nursing bras, pads and sleepwear can make a huge difference. Chances are you’ll have long nights of cluster feedings in the beginning and the quicker you can get your baby to your breast, the better.

Don’t forget to eat and drink (a lot!)

Did you know that you need 500 extra daily calories to make milk for your baby? Talk about a bottomless pit of hunger! Keep extra snacks near your usual nursing spot. You’ll want to also have a water bottle with you at all times so you can sip from it while nursing. You have to stay hydrated in order to produce enough milk for baby. Nuts, granola bars, dried fruit, string cheese, yogurt and chocolate milk are all great snacks to have on hand.

Expect to breastfeed frequently

On average, new moms can expect to breastfeed about eight to 12 times in a 24-hour time period. You’ll begin to recognize signs she’s hungry; rooting around for your nipple, putting her hand in her mouth and looking more alert. Set up a favorite spot in your home for nursing and be prepared to feed baby on demand. You might even consider having something to do while nursing. Keep a tablet or phone nearby with games, music, TV shows or read a book. Also be prepared that with regular nursing, your skin can become dry, chapped, irritated or even cracked over time. Use a moisturizing balm and gentle cleanser to keep your nipples from becoming too irritated, which can make breastfeeding a painful experience.

Avoid nipple confusion

Once you’ve established a consistent breastfeeding routine (somewhere between two and four weeks), then you can try introducing artificial nipples. Lactation consultants do not recommend introducing bottles or pacifiers until this time frame because the thrusting motion is different from breastfeeding and your baby could become confused. When you’re introducing a bottle for the first time, you may have to try several before you find the right one for your baby.

Breastfeeding is difficult at first, but it gets better

PSA: Breastfeeding isn’t a cakewalk for most new moms. And the truth is that it can hurt a little in the beginning. Your nipples see constant action and your breasts are larger than usual and sore. If you’re experiencing consistent pain, be sure to contact your healthcare professional. Try to minimize your stress and focus on the bond you’re forming with baby. If you’re successful with breastfeeding, in the end you’ll be glad you tried.

Choose what works best for you and your baby

There’s no official rule or time frame on how long to breastfeed. It’s up to you and your baby, and you’ll know what feels right. Some moms cut back after six months, while others go for a year or two. After a while some babies want to nurse for comfort and the bond with you. Trying to structure your life around breastfeeding can feel daunting and although you may feel nervous to nurse your baby in public, you’ll get used to it. If you’re comfortable to breastfeed anywhere and at any time, you’ll feel more free to go about your everyday life.

Breastfeeding is no easy task and some moms end up going another route entirely. There’s zero shame in either path. Moms routinely feel pressure to “do it all” and that’s simply not realistic. The best thing you can do for you (and your little one) is to ask for help when you need it. Having an army of support can go a long way toward you settling into your new role as mom.

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