One of your first nurturing acts as a new mother will likely be feeding your baby. For most women, that will mean breastfeeding. As natural as breastfeeding is, you may still worry and stress about providing the proper nutrients for your baby. And you probably have a million questions about how it all works and how to do it correctly. Our best advice: relax, you and your baby will get the hang of it eventually.
To help calm your worries, we’ve put together a list of the nine best breastfeeding tips for new mothers.
1. Anticipate Your Baby’s Desires
Rather than waiting for you baby to cry, you can anticipate her needs by watching for a few tell-tale signs. When your baby is hungry, she may:
- Turn or raise her head repeatedly.
- Open and close her mouth.
- Stick out her tongue.
- Suck on whatever is near.
If you see your baby making these moves, offer your breast right away. Your baby will be happy that she doesn’t have to struggle to get your attention, and you’ll build a level of intimacy that will deepen your mother/baby relationship.
2. Let Your Baby Determine How Often And How Long To Nurse
Your baby knows his needs better than you do right now. Let him determine how often to nurse. Don’t set a predetermined interval between feedings and then deny your baby food just because not enough time hasn’t gone by. On the other hand, there’s no need to wake a sleeping baby to feed him simply because three hours have passed. Let your sleeping baby lay peacefully and feed him when he wakes.
Similarly, let your baby determine how long to nurse. Remember, he knows how much he needs better than you do right now. Don’t worry if his nursing time only lasts ten minutes, and don’t panic if it stretches on for forty-five. Some babies are fast eaters, while some like to take their time.
3. Get Comfortable While Nursing
You’re going to be spending a significant amount of time holding your baby to your breast while she feeds. If you do this in an unsupported sitting position, it can get uncomfortable quickly. Additionally, trying to maintain an uncomfortable position for a prolonged period of time can lead to significant back, shoulder, and neck pain. Not to mention, the constant squirming and moving on your part can disrupt your baby’s breastfeeding and result in irritability and increased hunger. That’s why it’s so important for you to be comfortable throughout the process.
We recommend one of two positions for comfortable breastfeeding:
- Lie on your side with your baby facing you.
- Sit in a reclined position with your baby lying in your arms.
A bed or a large couch with plenty of pillows to support your back and arms make these positions ideal for breastfeeding. Find the one that’s right for you but don’t be afraid to mix it up once in awhile depending on your own needs. The more attentive you are to your own comfort, the more nursing sessions will be a pleasant break for both you and your baby.
4. Help Your Baby Find The Right Position
Through the course of breastfeeding, your baby will likely find the position that’s best for him. Pay attention to this position so that you can make it easier to get into quickly. Every baby is different, but there are a few general guidelines that you can use to find a position that works for both you and your baby.
- Your baby should be positioned so that his mouth is level with your nipple.
- He should not have to turn his head much, if at all.
- His head should be tilted backward slightly.
- If possible, he should latch onto the entire areola, not just the nipple.
- His chin should be right up against your breast so that his nose is clear.
First and foremost, don’t force these positions. Your baby may prefer a slightly different position. Just let it happen naturally while you make sure that your baby is comfortable and can breathe while he nurses.
5. Don’t Be Alarmed, Leaking Is Natural
In the first few weeks of breastfeeding, it’s common for milk to leak from your breasts. Don’t be alarmed, this is completely natural. It can happen when you hear another baby cry, when your baby hasn’t nursed for several hours, when you think about your baby, or even when you feel a strong emotion. This leaking will eventually lessen or disappear completely as your baby continues to nurse. In the meantime, simply place a nursing pad in your bra to absorb the leaks.
6. Take Care Of Your Skin
The skin of your breasts is very delicate. With regular nursing, your skin can become dry, chapped, irritated, and even cracked over time. This can make breastfeeding a painful experience. Luckily, you can protect against chapped, cracked skin by taking a few precautions.
- Don’t overwash. One or two showers a day with a gentle cleanser is plenty.
- After a feeding, pat your breast dry with a soft cloth.
- Let your breasts air out periodically to avoid irritation from clothing.
- After a feeding, apply a healing product like Mustela’s Soothing Moisturizing Balm or Bust Firming Serum.
Taking care of your skin with a healing product is one of the best ways to keep the breastfeeding process enjoyable for both you and your baby. When you’re comfortable, your baby will be comfortable and you can use nursing as a way to deepen the already strong bond you feel for your newborn child.
7. Don’t Worry, You’ll Have Enough Milk
Milk production depends primarily on your baby’s needs. Her sucking stimulates the release of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin which further stimulate milk production. But it doesn’t start with your baby’s first suckle. Your breasts have been preparing to give milk since the start of your pregnancy. So don’t worry, you will have enough milk. The more your baby nurses, the more milk you’ll have.
During the first two or three days of breastfeeding, you may notice a thick yellowish-orange fluid coming out of your breasts. Don’t panic. That fluid is colostrum and it’s just what your baby needs at the moment. Colostrum is very nutritious and contains high levels of antibodies. These antibodies boost your baby’s immune system so she can fight off infection.
8. Look For Signs That Breastfeeding Is Going Well
Your baby’s behavior and health will tell you if nursing is going well or not. Don’t worry if you don’t see these signs all the time. Even just one is an indication that your baby is well-fed.
- While feeding, your baby should suck eagerly and swallow regularly. Keep in mind that, when he first starts feeding, he’ll swallow each time he sucks. As milk decreases, he gets full, or falls asleep, swallowing will decrease. That’s perfectly natural and nothing to worry about.
- At the end of a nursing session, your baby should release your breast and appear drowsy. His skin will be a healthy pink and his muscles will be totally relaxed.
- Your baby’s diapers should be very wet while he is breastfeeding. He will likely have four to eight bowel movements each day during the first few weeks of life. This is due primarily to colostrum consumption. As time goes on, he’ll have fewer and fewer bowel movements. There may come a time when he only has one bowel movement or less per day. As long as those bowel movements remain soft and the diapers are wet with urine, there’s no need to be worried about constipation.
- Your baby is gaining weight regularly. It’s not necessary, however, to weigh your baby daily or, worse yet, to weigh him before or after each feeding. That would serve no purpose other than to cause you anxiety. If your baby is healthy, the monthly weigh-in by the pediatrician is more than sufficient. Still, if it makes you feel better, you can weigh your baby once per week at home.
9. Avoid Engorgement
Engorgement is a painful swelling and hardening of your breasts that occurs when you produce more milk than your baby consumes. Engorgement is most frequent when your milk first comes in right after your baby is born. The swelling can actually make it more difficult for your baby to feed which only increases the likelihood that engorgement will continue. The best way to avoid this painful condition is to nurse your baby as often as possible.
If engorgement persists, you can hand-express breast milk by gently massaging the areola between your fingers. You may want to express milk under a warm shower, which helps the milk flow more easily. If you don’t succeed, try using a pump, and continue until your breasts soften and feel comfortable again.