Hey new momma! Congratulations on your new baby and welcome to motherhood. Whether this is your first, third, or sixth child, breastfeeding can be tricky. Between nipple pain, trouble latching, or issues finding comfortable positions, breastfeeding can be difficult among the many sweet moments you’ll have nursing your newborn.
Here are our top 10 top tips for breastfeeding.
1. Soften Your Breasts To Encourage Milk Flow
If you don’t feed your kiddo or pump every 2-3 hours, your breasts might fill up with milk and become “engorged.” This can be uncomfortable if not painful and is common during the first few weeks of breastfeeding while your breasts are transitioning between colostrum and beginning to produce mature milk. When your breasts become engorged and hard, it's difficult for a newborn to latch on.
To overcome this problem, gently massage your breasts to relieve the tightness and soften your breast tissue. When your breasts are softer, it's much easier for your baby to form a good seal on your breast preventing sore nipples.
2. Avoid Wet Nursing Pads To Keep Your Breasts Healthy
Milk leakage is common! During the typical breastfeeding times, your mind and breasts become conditioned to get ready to nurse so it's common for some milk to spill out if you don’t nurse or pump at your typical times.
However, if you don’t keep your breasts dry, bacteria and fungi can develop causing your skin to break down leading to sore nipples, thrush, or a breast infection. Wet breast pads are the perfect environment for microorganisms to grow.
Keep your breasts, bra, and breast pads clean and dry. Change your nursing bra whenever it gets wet or dirty and avoid products with plastic or waterproof liners since they can hold moisture. Choose washable, reusable breast pads made from natural materials, or disposable nursing pads that are breathable, absorbent, and comfortable. Whatever you end up using, be sure to change them often.
3. Keep Breast Moisturized
The skin of your breasts is very delicate and your skin can become dry, chapped, cracked, and painful as you continue to breastfeed. So be careful not to over-wash or excessively dry your breasts. Instead, use a gentle cleanser and use a soft cloth to pat your breasts dry after nursing. It’s also good to let your breasts air dry periodically.
4. Breastfeed As Soon As Your Baby’s Born
The earlier you start breastfeeding, the more likely you'll be to tap into your baby's innate abilities to latch on, so start breastfeeding as soon after your baby is born. This makes the process easier for both of you, as well as keeping your milk supply strong.
As soon as you’re medically stable after birth, your doctor will likely place your newborn on your chest for skin-to-skin time. This can help stabilize breathing, body temperature and blood sugar levels, and set your newborn up for their first breastfeeding.
Babies are most alert during the first couple hours of life and will naturally start looking for your breast so encourage your baby to search for and latch on to your nipple.
5. Breastfeed In A Comfortable Position
Breastfeeding can take 20-45 minutes so ensure you’re in a comfortable position to help your baby latch and prevent back and neck pain. Try the cross-cradle hold and the football (clutch) hold when you're first feeding since these positions give you a better view of your nipple and your baby's mouth.
If you’re having a hard time finding a good position, try a nursing pillow or a nursing footstool to lift your lap and bring your child up to the level of your chest. That way, you don’t have to lean over to see your baby which prevents strain to your back, arms, and neck.
Try alternating feeding positions each time you nurse since this avoids putting pressure on the same spot on your nipple.
6. Be Careful With Your Breast Pumps
Breast pumps have become an essential part of motherhood in the 21st century. While they’re a staple, they’re not always easy to use. In fact, incorrect use of a pump can lead to breast damage and ongoing nipple pain.
The common mistake is setting the pump too high—many believe that pumping at a higher suction level and faster speed will draw milk faster but that’s not the case, unfortunately. Start out with a lower level of suction and find pump flanges that fit correctly (flanges are pump shields). Flanges come in a variety of sizes so if your pump flanges are uncomfortable, keep trying different sizes until you find ones that fit well.
7. Breastfeeding With Large Breasts
If you have large breasts, breastfeeding can feel additionally tricky. Many moms are worried about suffocating their baby or that they’re getting too much milk. Don’t worry! Your body produces enough milk for your baby based on supply and demand and your baby will stop feeding when they’re finished. Additionally, if your baby's nose gets blocked, they will stop breastfeeding, release the latch, open their mouth to breathe.
To help feed your baby well, be sure to keep your breasts supported; large breasts full of breast milk are heavy. A supportive nursing bra will hold up the extra weight of your breasts and help prevent back pain. You can also learn the c-hold to help you to support your breast and aim your nipple toward your baby's mouth. If possible, also try breastfeeding in front of a mirror to give you a better view of your breast and ensure your baby has latched correctly.
8. Store Breast Milk Correctly
Like all perishable foods, breast milk can go bad and potentially make your baby sick. Follow these breast milk storage tips to keep your milk safe for your growing baby:
* To avoid breast milk from being accidentally consumed by an adult, be sure to clearly label the breast milk with the date it was pumped.
* Store breast milk in the door of the refrigerator or freezer to help protect the breast milk from temperature changes from the door opening and closing.
* Freeze milk that you’re not using within 4 days
* Store small amounts to avoid wasting milk that might not be finished. Store in 2 to 4 ounces or the amount offered at one feeding.
* Leave about one inch of space at the top of the container because breast milk expands as it freezes.
* Breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with frozen ice packs for up to 24 hours when you are traveling. At your destination, use the milk right away, store it in the refrigerator, or freeze it.
9. Have Your Baby Sleep in Your Room
If possible, have your baby sleep in your room during the first 6-12 months of their life. With your baby nearby, you can decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and have a much easier time breastfeeding. It’s easier to have your baby close by when they're young so you can easily wake up and feed them at night. Just ensure you feed your baby while sitting up and put them to sleep in their own crib or bassinet. Adult beds aren't safe for infants. A baby can become trapped and suffocate or a sleeping parent can accidentally roll over and cover the baby's nose and mouth.
10. Keep Your Own Diet Clean
What you eat impacts your baby’s nutrition and their moods. Stick to healthy-eating basics, such as choosing plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains to keep your energy up and ensure that only good vitamins, minerals, and antibodies are being passed on to your infant.
Certain foods can bother your baby. They may make him or her fussy or gassy. Pay attention to what you eat and how your baby acts after feeding. Stop eating foods that affect them. These may include spicy foods, broccoli, or milk.
Some babies react to cow’s milk in your diet. Symptoms can include gas, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, or colic. Your baby also can have an allergic reaction to something you eat. Common foods are eggs and peanuts. They may get a rash or have trouble breathing. Contact your doctor right away if your baby has any of these signs.
Drink plenty of fluids and cut back on caffeine since this can interfere with your kid’s sleep. If you have an alcoholic drink, avoid breast-feeding for two hours afterward. You should also avoid using bottles or pacifiers after birth since these can confuse your baby and make breastfeeding harder.
Bonus: Ask For Breastfeeding Help
Ongoing pain, excessive crying, poor latching, or unusual baby weight loss can be signs that something is wrong. While you might want to persist and figure things out on your own, sometimes outside help is needed. If you sense that something isn’t going well with breastfeeding, trust your gut and reach out to your doctor or a local nurse for assistance.
They’ll be able to help you diagnose the problem and offer advice or refer you to a lactation consultant if possible. While you’re still in the hospital, the lactation consultant can come in to see for themself how your baby is latching on and give you guidance and advice on how to position your baby and your body. Just don’t wait things out, get the care you and your baby need when you need it.
If you’d like help with breastfeeding, the moms and experts here at The Source are available to help! Click the button below to book a virtual or in-person appointment with us.