As a first time mom I had approximately zero breastfeeding knowledge. I didn’t bother to read any articles books that offered helpful breastfeeding tips because I had always heard that breastfeeding was completely normal and natural.
Which in my inexperienced head normal and natural = will just happen.
Let’s all take a minute to laugh out loud at my extreme naiveté.
At the baby’s two week check-up the doctor noticed that the hadn’t gained as much weight as they would have liked. So the doctor offered us some formula samples.
And I was relieved.
Relieved because breastfeeding was painful for me, pumping was hard, and I was tired.
So we started supplementing with formula and by the time baby was around 8 weeks I stopped breastfeeding all together.
When babyies number two and three came around I knew I wanted to do things differently. Not that there was anything wrong with formula feeding, I just wanted to breastfeed, I wanted that experience.
And guess what?!
I was much more successful in breastfeeding my second and third babies! Because I knew what to expect, I knew what to do, and I had found some great resources.
And now I’m sharing with you all the things I wish I had known with my first! So grab some coffee and get ready to learn.
10 BREASTFEEDING TIPS I WISH I’D KNOWN SOONER
BREASTFEEDING SHOULDN’T HURT
I remember latching my first-born son:
the nurse saw his face buried in my breast and said “He’s latched nicely!”
Meanwhile I was in pain.
I mean toe-curling, spine-tingling, totally cringe-worthy pain. But the nurse had said he was latched and I took her word for it. And immediately made the connection that breastfeeding must be painful. And I decided to just suck it up and take one for my kid.
Mother’s sacrifices and all that.
DON’T DO THAT!!!
I’m here to tell you—-if you only read this one breastfeeding tip —- if breastfeeding hurts STOP!!!
Your baby is likely latched wrong. Breastfeeding is not supposed to hurt.
Now, here’s what I will tell you. You can expect some soreness in those early weeks. And cracked and bleeding nipples aren’t unheard of either, so don’t be alarmed but do seek care and the advice of a professional lactation consultant.
I like to think of breastfeeding like going to the gym. If you went to the gym today and tried a brand new workout you would probably wake up tomorrow and be sore and stiff.
It might be hard to walk, use your arms, even sit down because you’ve demanded something of your body it’s not yet used to.
That’s normal and to be expected.
Similarly, if you went to the gym today and tried a brand new workout and at some point in the workout you began to feel pain – not fatigue or soreness – but real, genuine stop-you-in-your-tracks pain that would be a red-flag that something isn’t right.
And it’s the same with breastfeeding. If you’re sore and tender that can be pretty normal. That doesn’t mean that discomfort should be ignored, though; there are certainly resources to help you with that, and eventually your body will adjust and the soreness will go away.
But if at any point you feel pain while breastfeeding STOP and consult a professional. Breastfeeding should not be painful!
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EXPECT A LEARNING CURVE TO BREASTFEEDING
Breastfeeding is a learned skill, and with any new skill you can expect it to take some time before you master the skill.
Be patient and give yourself- and the baby- plenty of grace.
It took me three babies, lots of research, and many tear-filled consultations with a professional before I felt like I had mastered the skill.
That’s not to say it will take that long for you, plenty of women are very successful with nursing right off the bat. But a learning curve is normal. How steep your learning curve is will be up to you.
Do the research, read the articles, watch the videos, take the classes.
IT’S OK TO USE A BREASTPUMP IN THE BEGINNING
Next on my list of breastfeeding tips comes with a bit of a caveat, which is that you have to use your best mommy judgement.
Here’s the deal, after my second was born I was bound and determined to breastfeed. And one piece of advice I was give was not to start pumping in those early weeks because it would tell my body that I needed to produce more milk than I really needed.
Remember that your breastfeeding supply is based supply and demand. If you’re baby tells your body it needs more milk (by nursing frequently) your body will make more milk. And vice versa.
It’s really a pretty magical set-up, and in the early weeks this is important because it sets the stage for a healthy supply for months (or even years) to come.
So I was warned against pumping at the risk of telling my body I needed to make more milk then my baby was actually drinking.
Here’s the problem I ran into – and here’s where you have to use your mommy judgement – in the very early days of breastfeeding your body is just making milk all willy-nilly because it’s not sure how much your baby needs.
Everybody is just trying to figure it out, and it’s not uncommon for you to over-produce. Which can lead to engorgement, which can be uncomfortable (at it’s best) and painful (at it’s worst).
So there I was engorged beyond belief……
I mean seriously it looked like I had two cantaloupes on my chest, I was in pain, and I was refusing to pump because I had been told not to.
But then I got into this bad cycle where baby couldn’t latch because my breast was hard and engorged; and if he couldn’t latch he couldn’t eat which means he wasn’t draining my supply; which mean I was getting more engorged.
It was bad, and finally in pure desperation my husband said “Just pump!!! You’re clearly in pain, who cares if you’re making too much milk you need to pump.”
So I did, and it was the best decision I could have made in that moment.
The pressure relieved, I was no longer in pain, baby was able to latch properly and drain more milk, and eventually all of this lead to my supply evening out to what baby truly needed.
Use your best judgement, you do not want to be telling your body that you need milk for two babies. BUT, if you are engorged and in pain please pump. It’s really ok.
And if you really, really don’t want to pump I suggest using a Haakaa manual breast pump which can gently collect milk from your breast while baby feeds on the other side.
USE ICE ON YOUR BREASTS FOR ENGORGEMENT
The aforementioned scenario lead me to discover this little gem of truth:
Cold helps with engorgement and it helps to slow down your milk production. I recommend these therapy packs from Lansinoh that can be frozen and easily placed on your chest..
And warm can help with letdowns (the Lansinoh therapy packs I mentioned above can also be warmed!).
EAT WHEN THE BABY EATS
People always tell new moms to sleep when the baby sleeps, which is decent advice.
But the better new mom advice is to eat when the baby eats.
Breastfeeding can make you hungry. And I’m not talking about “I could go for a snack” hungry; I mean “I could out-eat an NFL linebacker” hungry.
I recommend replenishing your body with real, whole foods as often as possible by eating every time you nurse (or shortly there after).
And here’s some extra breastfeeding tips from a pro: stock up on foods you can eat with one hand so you can nurse and eat at the same time. I like to stock up on these yummy peanut-butter and chocolate Larabars, they’re easy to eat, super yummy, and easily shared with hungry kiddos you might have running around!
DRINK ALL THE WATER
Here’s something nobody talks about: how thirsty you get while you’re breastfeeding! I was completely shocked by this. So now I’m telling you- be prepared for intense levels of thirst!
We can only assume this is our body’s way of reminding us to keep drinking water when we’re nursing, but man was I shocked by it!
My recommendation is to find a good re-usable water bottle (I prefer bottles with straws) to keep nearby at all times. Be sure to sip throughout the day, and make sure to drink to thirst during and immediately following each nursing session.
DO ALL THE RESEARCH
I kind of touched on this in a couple other breastfeeding tips above, but it bears repeating.
Your breast-feeding success will be directly tied to your breastfeeding knowledge. That’s why I’m writing this article for you- so you can learn from all my mistakes and increase your breastfeeding knowledge.
Knowledge is power, right?!
Take the time and do the research, it’s worth it. I’ve written some great articles about breastfeeding (if I do say so myself) and I trust KellyMom.com. They provide excellent information for new and nursing moms.
TRY DIFFERENT Breastfeeding POSITIONS
Did you know there’s more than one position for your baby to nurse in??
I know it sounds so simple but I had no idea. I kept trying to latch the baby in one position and couldn’t make it work. Until one day I flipped him around and BOOM- latched.
When you are researching breastfeeding tips I highly recommend making sure you read about different positions for your baby. And try them all. You never know what might turn out to be comfortable and work for both of you.
INVEST IN NURSING CLOTHES
Just do it, it’s worth it.
And I cannot recommend enough purchasing maternity nursing tank tops. It’s important (especially at the beginning) that you wear bras/undergarments that are not restrictive to your breasts. This can inhibit breastmilk production.
Breastfeed ON DEMAND
In the early days of nursing I highly, highly recommend nursing baby on demand.
In other words:
Don’t watch the clock, watch baby.
If he’s giving you signs that he wants to eat (rooting, sucking on hands, etc.) offer him the breast. Even if he only takes a little bit it’s important for your supply to nurse as often and for as long as baby wants/needs.
Eventually, you will have an established supply and baby won’t demand to nurse as often. In fact, after a few months baby will become an expert nurser (is that word??) and he’ll be able to quickly and efficiently drain your milk during each nursing session.
Breastfeeding your baby is truly an incredibly experience and any mom who wants to breastfeed should have the opportunity to do so. I hope these breastfeeding tips help you as much as they helped me!