Best Breastfeeding Tips for a New Mom
Honest post ahead alert! Let’s chat about breastfeeding. What are the must-know breastfeeding tips to help you feed your newborn successfully? How do you get a baby to latch? Do you need to pump? These are just a few of the questions that may come to mind as you’re prepping to give birth.
I’ll be honest — for me, breastfeeding my first child was probably the hardest aspect of being a new parent. I felt an enormous, sometimes overwhelming, amount of pressure and stress to (try to) nurse my son.
It didn’t start out that way though. I went into it thinking, “this is a natural thing – it should be easy! How hard can it really be to get this baby to pop on and start eating? I’ve got this!”
Fast forward to two days post-discharge from the hospital, and it became very apparent that I absolutely did not have it. That first week, my son woke up every 1-2 hours at night, screaming as he tried – unsuccessfully – to latch.
He was hungry and tired. I was exhausted, worried he wasn’t eating enough, and felt like I was failing at the one thing my body was actually meant to do, which really started to affect me mentally.
I couldn’t help but wonder, why did none of the women in my life warn me that breastfeeding would – or could – be so difficult? Was it just not hard for them? Is it me? Is there something wrong with my baby?
It turns out, I wasn’t alone in experiencing these struggles, but it’s still an issue many don’t really talk about unprompted. So if any of this sounds familiar, please don’t despair!
There are so many breastfeeding tips to help you through the experience. And if breastfeeding doesn’t work out – guess what? It’s ok. You have options! But first, let’s talk about ways to help make your breastfeeding journey a positive experience.
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Top 8 Breastfeeding Tips for First Time Mothers
1. Ask for Help and Advice Early On (But Don’t Let Anyone Pressure You!)
I had my son while we were living abroad in Thailand. The hospital was top-notch — amazing facilities, great doctors, private rooms — but it was not easy to communicate with the nurses, who did not speak much, if any, English (and my Thai vocab did not consist of much helpful medical terminology).
So here’s what happened: the nurses basically shoved my son onto my boob when it was time for feedings, checked to see he was eating, and left.
At one point early on, they took one look at my engorged breast and my son’s tiny mouth struggling to latch, and decided a nipple shield would help (I had no idea what it was at the time).
I used the nipple shield for the majority of our two-day stay in the hospital. When I got home, I thought, “I don’t really need this artificial thing…” and tried to go without it. It didn’t go well.
The point of this story is, I had very little support early on when it came to learning how to breastfeed and learning how to help my tiny little newborn figure it out as well. Having that support is so important!
My husband, sensing a rapid downward spiral, called in reinforcements and contacted the doula who had taught our birthing class. She immediately came to our home, calmed me down, told me to pump some milk and feed my baby with a syringe (I bawled), and put me in touch with a lactation consultant (LC).
Mom Tip: Many hospitals have a lactation consultant on-site who will automatically do a visit with you. Take advantage of their expertise and tips, but also know that it is you and your baby’s decision as to how you feed. Bottles are ok! Pumping is ok! Formula is ok! Maintaining your sanity is more than ok.
The LC our doula recommended immediately came to our apartment and encouraged me to use whatever I needed in order to successfully breastfeed.
2. If You’re Having Latching Issues, Consider a Nipple Shield
Ok, so what the heck is a nipple shield?
Basically, it gives the baby a larger area to latch onto, which can help if you are struggling with getting baby to latch (sometimes due to flatter or inverted nipples).
They can also be a huge relief for sore, cracked nipples, creating a barrier that allows them to heal while you’re still nursing your baby.
Some LCs will frown upon nipple shields and discourage their use because they can affect your milk supply.
My – non-medical! – opinion: if you are struggling with getting a good latch, give them a try and see how/if your supply is affected. (Shields did not affect mine at all.)
We used the shields for about two months, and slowly stopped as my son got stronger and more capable of latching on his own. What started as a pretty traumatizing experience, ended on a very positive note when he was 10 months old.
3. Stock Up on Lanolin Cream
Breastfeeding can be really painful in the beginning. (We’re going to get a little TMI here.)
Your nipples are going to be sore, and possibly cracked and bleeding as they get accustomed to having a tiny human feeding off of them for 30 minutes at a time, multiple times a day (see my sample newborn to 8 weeks schedule here to get an idea of just how many feedings we’re talking about).
If your baby doesn’t have a good latch in the beginning (which many don’t!), it can exacerbate the problem.
This is where lanolin nipple cream comes in – a.k.a. one of the best breastfeeding tips for pain I received.
Put it in your hospital bag and start using it as soon as you start nursing.
Related Reading: The Items You Actually Need for Your Hospital Bag
4. Find a Comfortable Breastfeeding Pillow
I really liked the firmness and support it provided, and it has a small pocket to stash things in (like nipple cream!). It’s easy to change out the covers, and there are a bunch of pretty patterns and different types of fabrics to choose from. Wins all around.
5. Set up a Nursing Station
You are going to spend a lot of time feeding your baby, so it’s good idea to create a comfortable space with everything you need. Here are my top 10 items to have at your nursing (battle)station.
6. Don’t Be Afraid to Start Pumping
Pumping can be as equally helpful as it is frustrating, but there are a lot of pros: your partner or another caregiver can help feed the baby and give you a much needed break; you can build up a supply for later on when you’re ready to go back to date nights, girls’ nights out, or work; and it can allow you to feed baby through a bottle if you’re having latch problems, as I did.
The cons: it’s time consuming, you may be frustrated if you’re not pumping very much milk, and, alternatively, it can lead to an oversupply of milk if you pump too often.
In general, the benefits of pumping (freedom!) can really outweigh the cons, but always talk to your doctor and/or your baby’s pediatrician if you’re concerned.
Also, check with your insurance before purchasing a pump, as many will pay for a brand new pump in full, or at least partially! I purchased the Spectra S1, which my insurance partially covered, and it is an amazing pump with a ton of thoughtful features, like a built-in light.
7. Join an Online Breastfeeding Help Group
I’ll admit – Facebook is not my favorite place on the internet, but it is incredibly useful if you’re searching for online mom support groups.
There are countless groups you can join, ranging from niche groups like those that give breastfeeding help and advice (I found Breast, Bottle, and Beyond really helpful for my basic breastfeeding questions) or sleep training tips, to local mom groups or groups for babies born in the same month.
Do some searching and try a few out! These can yield some really good, helpful advice.
Mom Tip: If you want to get some professional help, there are also online classes you can take! I wish I had known about these and prepped for this before my baby arrived, but it’s never too late to learn, and since they’re online, they’re completely self-paced, which means, no pressure. If you’re looking for a good course but not sure where to start, Milkology has some great (affordable) options – from a general breastfeeding course, to more specific topics like pumping and returning to work.
8. Go Easy on Yourself, and Remember That Fed is Best
Mom guilt is a real thing y’all, and from my experience so far, I think it’ll be hanging on for dear life throughout my kids’ lives.
That being said, please go easy on yourself! If breastfeeding doesn’t go perfectly, that’s ok. If you decide to keep trying, awesome! Decided it’s not for you? That’s great too.
Make the decision that’s best for you and your family, and remember that keeping your baby healthy and fed is the most important thing — whether it’s with formula, breastmilk, or a combination, and whether it’s through bottles or breast.
What’s your best tip for new moms planning to breastfeed?
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