Breastfeeding is a learning process. It takes time and practice, both for you and your baby. When having my first child, I was only imagining the ideal nursing experience. However, it turned out that I experienced quite a few difficulties that could have been prevented with the right preparation. So for all our soon- to- be breastfeeding moms out there, I’ve gathered only the best tried and tested tips coming from experts and our fellow mothers to give you a head start towards your breastfeeding journey.
So how can these breastfeeding tips for new mothers be helpful? We are all aware of the benefits breastfeeding has to offer both for the mother and her baby. It is not surprising that the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics support and promote exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age and then up to 2 years along with complementary foods.
So without further ado, let’s have a look at the following tried and tested tips that you can use to breastfeed your baby like a Pro.
Preparing for Breastfeeding
Preparation is key! Here are some things you can do while you are waiting for your little one to arrive:
Meet-up with your breastfeeding friends
There’s no better way to get acquainted with breastfeeding than to speak with moms firsthand. If you have some close friends or relatives who are currently nursing, ask them how they are managing and no doubt they will give some helpful advice. Alternately, you can attend some breastfeeding support groups such as La Leche League to meet other breastfeeding moms and have a chat about their actual experiences.
Set up your breastfeeding space
Doing this earlier will give you enough time to make it as cozy as you want. A breastfeeding space may consist of a comfortable chair, a breastfeeding pillow, some burp cloths, and nursing pads. Make sure you have a place to put your phone, drinks, and snacks while nursing. Many mothers find comfort in using a footstool to minimize strain on their back while nursing their babies.
Talk to an expert
Breastfeeding can be challenging especially during the early days and weeks. Arranging to speak with a nursing expert, like a lactation consultant, can provide great help right from the start. It also ensures you have someone who’s just a phone call away to help you deal with your breastfeeding concerns when you begin.
Let them know
It’s a good idea to let your doctor know that you intend to breastfeed your baby. She can assist you in selecting a health care facility that fully supports breastfeeding and “rooming in” to make sure you can maximize the time that you will spend with your baby. This is also more likely to make breastfeeding a success for you and your baby.
Breastfeeding in the Hospital
The first few hours after delivery is critical in building a good milk supply to support your baby’s needs. You may find these breastfeeding tips useful during your stay in hospital:
Start right away!
Initiate breastfeeding as early as within the first hour after delivery. According to experts, newborns tend to be more alert during the first hour and became more difficult to rouse a few hours later. Depending on your hospital’s policy, you may even be allowed to take advantage of skin to skin and initiate your baby’s first latch immediately after giving birth in the delivery room. Even if your baby won’t suckle or latch the first time, the nipple stimulation and skin to skin contact will help trigger the hormone oxytocin, which plays an important role in your milk- ejection reflex or what is commonly referred to as the “milk let- down”.
Unless it is medically prescribed, giving any amount of formula during this time will impact your milk supply. Some may be tempted to offer a bottle of formula during the first few days, thinking that they are not producing enough milk. However, your first milk, called colostrum, is just enough for your baby’s marble-sized stomach right now and despite its minute volume, it can provide all the essential nutrients your baby needs.
Touch those tiny feet
Babies tend to nurse better when their feet are touching or resting on your arm or a pillow. According to some experts, this trick makes them feel more secure.
Aim to nurse every 2 hours
Ensuring that your baby feeds per demand or at least every 2 hours helps your baby to expel his first waste called “meconium” which appears black and tarry. It also facilitates the excretion of a waste product called bilirubin, which gives the succeeding stools its yellowish color. The excretion of bilirubin is vital in the prevention of neonatal jaundice which can be fatal for newly born babies.
Tips on getting a Good Latch
A good latch is vital for your breastfeeding success. However, it is something that a lot of first-time moms struggle with during the first week or two. Here are some techniques you can use to ensure your baby gets a deep latch:
Nose to Nipple Technique
If you’ve received the help of a lactation consultant, she’ll be able to teach you this technique beforehand. A common mistake in nursing infants is to force the nipple towards their mouth. This can make breastfeeding difficult for your baby and may cause pain to your nipple. Instead, try to point your nipple towards your baby’s nose and use it to tickle your baby’s upper lip. This stimulation will encourage your baby to open his mouth widely and latch more effectively.
Tummy to tummy position
When nursing, place your baby in a position where her stomach is facing your belly. Support his shoulders and bring him close to you. Make sure your baby’s ear, shoulder, and hip are aligned. This will minimize the strain on your baby while trying to turn his head to reach your breast and makes swallowing a lot easier.
Use the “C” hold or “U” hold technique
The “C” and “U” refers to the position of your hand in supporting your breast while you guide your nipple towards your baby. Make sure to hold your breast on its side and keep your fingers away from your nipple so that you won’t interfere with your baby trying to latch.
Check for signs of a good latch
The following will indicate that your baby has a good latch:
- Most of the lower areola (the dark pigment around the nipples) is in his mouth
- His chin indents on the lower part of your breast
- His lips are flanged outwards or “fish-like”
- You can hear him swallowing, not some clicking or smacking noises
- You can see his tongue when you pull down his lower lip
- His cheeks are rounded
- His jaw moves in circular motion and not in rapid chin movement
Breastfeeding at Home
For many new mothers, the first few weeks of nursing is the time where you’ll have to experiment and try several positions until both you and your baby have fully established a comfortable breastfeeding routine. Make use of these tips to get through it like a pro!
Nothing but You
Pacifiers, sugar water, artificial nipples, and formula are not needed for an exclusively breastfed and healthy baby. Your breast milk is enough to provide all the necessary nutrients your baby will need. Using these may lead to “nipple confusion” or make your baby refuse the breast. Unless medically prescribed by your doctor, avoid giving anything but your breast milk during this time.
Frequent nursing is vital for your milk supply and helps baby gain weight and protect him against jaundice. So how often it should be? For a newborn, you should try to breastfeed 8 to 12 times or even more for the entire 24 hours. Research suggests that with effective and frequent nursing during the first few weeks, your milk production can increase by 10 to 20 times!
Let your baby demand
Nursing per your baby’s demand is much better than drawing a rigid structured schedule for nursing. Know your baby’s hunger cues which may include rooting towards your breast, fussing and sucking his lips, tongue or fist. According to the American Pregnancy Association, crying is actually a late hunger cue and makes it more difficult for your baby to feed.
Encourage sleepy baby to feed
If your sleepy baby keeps falling asleep on the breast for whatever reason, try to keep him awake a little longer to finish his feed. Some strategies you can do to encourage him to feed are:
- Burp and change his diaper
- gently stroke the bottom of his feet
- tickle him under his chin
- use a wet washcloth to wipe his hairline
Try laid-back breastfeeding
Laid-back breastfeeding, also called biological nurturing, is recommended for nursing newborns since it maximizes skin-to-skin contact and helps your baby to latch easily during the early days. Lean back over some pillows on your bed or recline on a comfortable chair. Bring your naked baby skin-to-skin, facing towards your chest and guide him towards your nipple. This breastfeeding style also promotes relaxation, particularly if you are in discomfort or pain.
Tips for Common Breastfeeding Problems
Breastfeeding is a very rewarding experience, there’s no doubt. However, there are still some challenges you might encounter along the way. Below are some of the most common breastfeeding problems among new mothers along with some tips on how to overcome them.
Painful or sore nipples
According to the APA, as much as 90 % of breastfeeding mothers experience nipple pain in their early days of nursing. Painful or sore nipples is temporary and will normally resolve as you continue to breastfeed your baby. However, while waiting to get over this adjustment period, experts share the following strategies to help relieve your sore nipples more quickly.
Proper latch and positioning
According to La Leche, if you experience a little tenderness during the first 3 to 5 days post-partum when your baby latches on, it is most probably due to improper positioning and poor latch. With this, you can first try to unlatch your baby and let him latch on again. Ensure he has a mouthful of your breast tissue and your nipple is deep into his mouth. There are also certain positions that can help your baby to latch more effectively like the laid-back position, football hold or cross-cradle hold.
Gently break the suction
A breastfed baby knows when he is satisfied and it is best if you let him determine the end of the feeding and let go of the breast by himself. However, if in any case you’ll need to take baby off the breast, you must break the suction first. Pulling your nipple without breaking the suction can cause damage to the nipple and lead to soreness. There are 3 ways on how to gently break the suction:
- Press down on your breast adjacent to your baby’s mouth
- Pull down your baby’s chin
- Insert your clean finger into the corner of baby’s mouth
Least sore side first
If one breast is tender, remember to nurse using the least sore side first. Once you feel the milk “let down” you can start nursing on the more affected side. Then offer baby the other side to feed.
Have a 100% purified lanolin cream at hand just in case you experience sore and cracked nipples. Lanolin cream can help moisturize your nipples and relieve the mild tenderness that is commonly experienced during the first few days of breastfeeding.
Use your milk
As an alternative to creams or ointments, use your breast milk as a nipple moisturizer. After nursing, you can dribble a bit of your milk and gently pat it around your nipples and areola.
Water-based hydrogel pads can be used between feeds to provide relief and also keep your nipples from rubbing on your bra or nursing pad.
Warm, moist wash cloth
Wet a clean washcloth using warm water, squeeze out the excess water and place it over your sore nipple. This method takes advantage of using moist heat as a soothing relief and to promote faster skin healing.
Look after your personal products
All you need is clean water to gently cleanse your nipples. Some of the personal products you use like perfume, hair spray, deodorant, and powder may be too harsh for your sensitive nipples. Make sure not to use them on or near the breast.
When your milk comes in at around 2 to 5 days after giving birth, your breasts will feel fuller, heavier, warmer and tender. This is due to the increased blood flow and milk in your breasts. Typically, this will resolve by frequently nursing your baby. However, if you missed some feedings or you have an overabundant supply, you might experience some tightness and pain in your breasts. This can make it a little difficult to breastfeed. Luckily, there are some ways to overcome breast engorgement to help you breastfeed your baby more comfortably.
Finish before you switch
Allowing enough time for your baby to finish the first breast before you offer the other side will help ensure that it is emptied effectively.
Hand express a little
Engorgement may tighten your nipples making them hard for your baby to latch on. If it’s the case, you can first hand express to soften the areas around the nipple before you try to offer your breast to your baby. This will help your baby latch better.
Pump your milk
If engorgement seems to be caused by your baby not nursing well, you can use a breast pump to remove the excess milk to relieve the pressure on your breasts. Store your breast milk in the freezer for your baby’s future use. If your breasts are severely engorged, La Leche recommends expressing at least every two hours throughout the day and twice at night.
Breast massage can help move around the fluids on the engorged breast. You can do this by gently massaging the areas from your chest wall towards your nipple.
Frozen vegetables compress
A cold compress is beneficial in relieving tenderness. Use a clean cloth to wrap some frozen vegetables or ice pack and apply it on the affected area for around 20 minutes prior to breastfeeding.
Some mothers find relief in having a warm shower prior to nursing their baby. When using this strategy, make sure you let the warm water flow to your back in the middle of your shoulder blades, not directly on your breasts. This might result in some excess breast milk leaking out and it is also very relaxing.
Cabbage leaves compress
This is an old remedy that may help relieve swelling. To use this, remove the outer covering which may contain chemicals. Peel off a couple of leaves and crumple gently. You can then place it over the breast and not on the nipple.
Maybe, the most common, yet the most neglected problem encountered while breastfeeding during the early days is sleep deprivation on the part of the mom. With your baby still confusing between day and night, no wonder why you might feel too overwhelmed as a new mother. Sleep deprivation can’t be totally avoided, but here are some ways to ease out your transition.
Sleep when your baby sleeps
This is probably the best thing to do to survive the early days. Your hormones will even tell you to snooze with your baby while breastfeeding. So whenever you feel drowsy while breastfeeding your baby, grab that chance to sleep and recharge your energy.
Morning walks with your baby
Going out on a morning walk with your baby will help him differentiate day from the night which will help both of you can get a good night sleep later on. You can also add more playtime, stimulation, and feeding during the day. Try a warm relaxing bath for your baby to help him sleep.
Let him sleep in his crib
Most experts suggest that babies should sleep in their own crib to minimize distractions and to help them sleep better. If you feel more comfortable sleeping closer to your baby to breastfeed more easily, you could try using a bassinet so that he has his own sleeping space, but is still located near you.
Don’t feel bad if you need help
Ask your husband, partner or close relative to look after your baby so that you can snooze for a couple more hours. It’s important to ask for help to allow yourself to regain lost sleep. You will also enjoy your time more with your baby as you will feel more alert and revived.
Breastfeeding and Returning to Work
Breastfeeding does not have to stop when you return to work. However, depending on your workplace this can be a challenge. Here are the best tips for breastfeeding and the working mom.
Best time to introduce a bottle
Going back to work will mean introducing a bottle for some of your baby’s feedings. According to experts, the best time to introduce a bottle is when your baby is around 4 weeks of age. During this time, you and your baby have established your breastfeeding routine and the risk for nipple confusion is minimized.
Allow enough time to adjust
Your breasts produce milk according to demand. Some time is needed to adjust to your new schedule. If you’re going to pump during the day and increase your night time feedings, allow at least 2 weeks to practice your soon-to-be routine prior to going back to work.
Pump and stock up
The adjustment period will also offer you enough time to pump and stock up on enough breast milk when you are away from your baby. Select a high quality breast pump that you can use at home and at work. Usually, the best time to start pumping is in the morning. Your breasts have built up a larger amount of milk as night time feeds are less frequent. Follow the guidelines regarding the storage of breast milk so that it will stay fresh for your baby’s future needs.
Ease out your transition
Many find it less stressful going back to work in the middle of the workweek, like Wednesday or Thursday, rather than starting on a Monday.
Set up your pumping space
Discuss your need to pump breast milk at your workplace. Many companies provide a private place where breastfeeding moms can pump their milk. You can store your pumped milk in the fridge at your office or if this is not available, you can bring along an insulated cooler with ice packs where you can temporarily store your expressed milk.
Pump at regular intervals
During an 8 hour work-day, you’ll need to pump at least once before and once after work, and during your working hours. Pump at a time when your baby usually feeds when she’s with you.
Going out with your Breastfed baby
Another common concern among new mothers is how to breastfeed their baby in public. Though there is an increasing awareness about breastfeeding in public places, some moms may also want to nurse their baby discreetly. Here are some tips you can use when you go out with your baby.
Feed before your go
Making sure that your baby is fully fed before going out. This means fewer feedings when you are in public places. Many moms find this convenient and decrease the chance that your baby will be content while you’re strolling around.
Dress up wisely
Breastfeeding moms have every right to wear fashionable clothes. However, making sure you wear comfortable clothes that will help you breastfeed with ease is a huge plus factor! Wear your breastfeeding tank top or alternately improvise by wearing a blouse over a camisole. These will help you breastfeed without exposing too much skin.
Look for a breastfeeding corner
There are many public places like shopping malls and restaurants that are offering a breastfeeding corner for moms who would like some private time to breastfeed and attend to their babies.
Use a nursing cover
Nursing covers are wide, breathable cloths that can be draped over your shoulder and torso while you breastfeed your baby. Nowadays, nursing covers go with the trend and provide versatility such that they can already be part of your outfit for the day.
Overall, breastfeeding is a skill that you can master once your routine gets established with your baby. Apart from the excellent nutrition it offers, breastfeeding creates a unique connection that only you and your little one can feel and understand. These tips can guide you during your first few weeks when it’s not easy. But hang on! As you finally get to know your baby better, you’ll eventually discover your own unique way to keep your baby not only nourished but well-loved.
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