One of your first nurturing acts as a new mother will likely be feeding your baby. For many 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 12 best breastfeeding tips for new mothers.
Breastfeeding Tips For New Mothers
1) Anticipate Your Baby’s Desires
Rather than waiting for your baby to cry, you can anticipate their needs by watching for a few tell-tale signs. When your baby is hungry, they may:
- Turn or raise their head repeatedly.
- Open and close their mouth.
- Stick out their 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 they don’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 their needs better than you do right now. Let them 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 them simply because three hours have passed. Let your sleeping baby lay peacefully and feed them when they wake.
Similarly, let your baby determine how long to nurse. Remember, your little one knows how much they need better than you do right now. Don’t worry if 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 they feed. 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 a while 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.
In addition to making sure you and the baby are comfortable while nursing, try your best to relax. Your baby can sense if you’re tense and nervous about breastfeeding, and they won’t latch on correctly. Your baby can’t relax if you’re not relaxed.
Examine your environment as well. If you’re in a stressful environment or an environment that makes you uncomfortable, opt for a change of scenery.
Maybe spend a few minutes before nursing to give yourself a pep talk. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Visualize your happy place. This is supposed to be an enjoyable time of bonding with your new bundle of joy, not a stressful one.
5) Help Your Baby Find The Right Position
Through the course of breastfeeding, your baby will likely find the position that’s best for them. 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 their mouth is level with your nipple.
- They should not have to turn their head much, if at all.
- Their head should be tilted backward slightly.
- If possible, they should latch onto the entire areola, not just the nipple.
- Their chin should be right up against your breast so that their 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 they nurse.
6) 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.
7) 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 breasts 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.
- Use Mustela's Nursing Comfort Balm in-between feedings to ease discomfort and moisturize sensitized nipples.
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.
8) Don’t Worry, You’ll Have Enough Milk
Milk production depends primarily on your baby’s needs. Your little one’s 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 they can fight off infection.
9) 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 your little one first starts feeding, they’ll swallow each time they suck. As milk decreases, they get full, or fall 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. Their skin will be a healthy pink and their muscles will be totally relaxed.
- Your baby’s diapers should be very wet while they are breastfeeding. They 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, your little one will have fewer and fewer bowel movements. There may come a time when they only have 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 them 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.
10) 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.
11) Ask For Help
Reading and taking a class about breastfeeding is one thing — actually breastfeeding on your own is a different story. So ask for help within that first hour after birth when you’ll want to start breastfeeding your little one.
In your local hospital, a nurse will check on you and your baby while breastfeeding. She may even offer some advice and help you. But if you’re still having trouble, the lactation consultant can help further...but you have to ask. Otherwise, they won’t know your needs.
While you’re still in the hospital, the lactation consultant can come in to see for herself how your baby is latching on. She’ll be able to give you guidance and advice on how to position your baby and your body.
The lactation consultant is more than happy to help you and guide you in your breastfeeding journey. We know it can be a little nerve-wracking leaving the hospital and the support of the nurses, but feel free to call your local hospital and ask to speak to the lactation consultant with any questions you may have.
Breastfeeding might be uncomfortable at first when your baby latches on, but it shouldn’t be a painful experience for you. If breastfeeding is hurting bad enough to make you cringe, seek out help from a professional.
12) Stay Hydrated
Last, but certainly not least, stay hydrated. We can’t stress enough how important this tip is for you and your baby. After all, you’re still eating and drinking for two!
Water replenishes the body, so a good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water whenever you breastfeed. Yes, every single time. This will ensure that your body can make enough milk and that you’re staying hydrated.
Breastfeeding Tips: Taking It All In
We know breastfeeding can be overwhelming at times, but putting the tips above into practice will help you make the most of your time with your little one while breastfeeding. So pay close attention to your little one’s needs, get comfortable, and relax. Evaluate the signs that breastfeeding is going well, and make sure you’re staying hydrated.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with asking for help. Your baby will thrive right before your eyes when you follow these tips!