7 Tips for Breastfeeding Mamas
Planning on breastfeeding but not sure what to expect? Breastfed before with little or no luck? Nervous about breastfeeding your brand new bundle of joy? Worried that such a natural act won’t come naturally to you? Here are 7 breastfeeding tips, pointers, and words of wisdom.
Unless you have a best friend who is a maternity nurse or your mom still remembers her time breastfeeding (if she did it at all!), learning how to nurse a baby is not part of our cultural knowledge (neither is how to mix formula, but those containers come with instruction while your breasts do not). While breastfeeding might be the most natural way to feed a baby, it is still a learned skill. Many hospitals offer breastfeeding classes—often free of charge—to pregnant and brand new moms. There are also Lactation Consultants available in hospitals as well as from Midwives and doulas that will come to you at any point to help you out or give you a nudge in the right direction. Make sure to take advantage of these opportunity to learn about things like correct latch, positioning and other helpful breastfeeding tricks and tips.
2. Let baby set the pace.
For the first few weeks, most newborns breastfeed every two to three hours around-the-clock. Watch for early signs of hunger like stirring, restlessness, sucking motions and lip smacking or ‘kissing.’ Let baby nurse from the first breast until it feels soft (usually around 20 minutes), then try burping him. Then offer the second breast; if s/he’s still hungry, s/he will latch. If not, start the next session with the second breast. If your baby consistently nurses on only one breast during the first few weeks, pump the other breast to relieve pressure and protect your milk supply.
3. Don’t be afraid to use props.
As modern-day mamas, we are extremely lucky to have some great tools to help us breastfeed (yes, women have been doing it for thousands of years without them…but some of us need all the help we can get!). The top 3 recommendations from mamas around here include:
The My Brest Friend Nursing Pillow is the #1 choice of Lactation Consultants, and has excellent features such as:
- Wrap around design that secures the pillow to the body, which helps mom and baby maintain positioning
- A back rest to help mama maintain good posture (so important!)
- A firm, flat cushion to keep baby from rolling
- Adjustable, silent-release strap that fits mom or dad comfortably and unlatches without waking baby
- Arm and elbow rests to eliminate shoulder stress
- A convenient pocket to hold water bottles, burp cloths, phone, and other necessities
Clinically tested, hospital recommended Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter is a safe, certified organic, lanolin-free, zero toxin nipple cream for nursing mamas, and anyone with dry, cracked skin. Chapped cheeks? Check! Dry elbows? Yup. And of course, healing help for nipples that are taking a beating from breastfeeding. Made with soothing organic calendula and non-sticky natural plant butters to comfort and protect. Safe for baby too – no need to wash it off before nursing! Apply as needed, and after each feeding.
These soothing pads can be used warm or cold. Used warm, they can help stimulate milk flow before breastfeeding. Warming can be done simply by immersing the thermopad in a bowl of hot water and letting it warm to the optimal temperature. Used cold, they can help sooth sore or engorged breasts. Cooling the pad can be done simply by placing the thermopad in the refrigerator.
4. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
Remember that while nursing, your body will need a lot more water than it would if you weren’t. Make sure to stay well hydrated and follow your thirst. A good rule of thumb is to keep a tall glass of water or a BPA-free water bottle next to wherever you nurse most often (and be sure to incorporate a good water bottle into your diaper bag!) so you can grab a drink anytime.
5. Don’t play Hunger Games.
Skip the schedules you’ve heard about and nurse when your baby wants to eat. To establish your milk supply as well as a successful breastfeeding relationship, follow your baby’s hunger. Newborns will fuss, rootand try to suckle just about anything when hungry and can eat up to 12 times in 24 hours. By being aware of these signs and nursing when he’s ready, your body will adjust to accommodate his needs as your milk comes in.
To help the milk flow become established or to pump so you can have a bit of freedom (and let daddy or grandpa do the feedings once in a while) later on, a breast pump is your friend. Get to know it and welcome it into your home.
7. Be aware that breastfeeding is challenging.
Breastfeeding can be uncomfortable and difficult…it’s not something we’ve learned to do from a young age. Recognize things like poor latch, sore nipples, breast engorgement, mastitis, plugged milk ducts, low milk supply, milk oversupply (yes, it goes both ways!) and thrush can cause a myriad of difficulties. And also remember that you are doing your best. Breastfeeding is hard. It takes time and work and tenacity. Keep at it and you will be rewarded. And if it’s just not for you? You’ve tried everything? Don’t beat yourself up. Both your and your wee babe will be just fine.