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Breastfeeding is hard.
There’s just no getting around that.
The first time I tried to get my baby to latch, I quickly realized just how difficult this little journey was going to be.
But guess what?
With a little help, support, and a ton of research, I got the hang of breastfeeding and grew to really love my time nursing my daughter.
Here’s the best breastfeeding tips that helped me breastfeed successfully!
11 breastfeeding tips I learned from my lactation consultant
1. Nurse within the first hour of delivery
This is SO important!
Babies are super alert right after they’re born, and ready and awake to breastfeed. Wait too long to nurse and your little babe will likely be dozing and not too interested in trying to latch on.
Plus, experts say the suckling reflex is most powerful in the 60 minutes following birth, crazy, right?!
I had read a lot about successful breastfeeding and knew that I’d have the most luck getting my sweet baby to latch if she was placed on my chest after delivery for skin-to-skin.
The hospital I delivered at encouraged this practice, but if breastfeeding is a priority, I’d detail this out in your birthing plan, just to be safe!
Besides the fact that it’s easiest to get baby to latch immediately following delivery, it’s also so important for babies to get the vital nutrients found in colostrum— the thick yellow substance that is secreted before your milk comes in.
2. Try different breastfeeding positions
Originally the cradle position seemed like the most natural position for me, but when it wasn’t working, the lactation consultant suggested I try the football position.
I felt like the football position helped my baby latch easier because her head was right in line with my breast and I could also easily see if she was latched on correctly.
The football position is also a great way for mamas that are recovering from a C-section to nurse without discomfort as the baby won’t be resting on your tummy.
After a couple weeks when I felt like I had finally got the hang of breastfeeding I transitioned back to the cradle position, but would use the side lying position for night feedings.
For more information about breastfeeding positions and breastfeeding tips, I highly recommend this book. Not only did it reinforce everything my lactation consultant said but it has been my biggest go-to with any baby related question! It’s an amazing resource!
3. Nurse on demand
Look for common hunger signs of licking lips or rooting (turning head and opening mouth) and feed on baby’s timeline.
In the early weeks of breastfeeding while you’re trying to establish your milk supply it’s crucial to feed on demand, as your body makes milk to meet your baby’s demands–the more your baby nurses, the more your body makes.
Note: Feeding baby on demand is ultimately the best course of action for breastfeeding mamas to establish and maintain their supply but in the early days of baby’s life, especially in the first three days, baby might not seem hungry.
Most babies aren’t born hungry, as their little appetites don’t kick in until about day three.
Babies need 8-12 feeds in about 24 hours, so if your little one seems to value sleep more than feedings and you notice it’s been about 2 or 3 hours since your last feed, go ahead and feed your baby.
4. Don’t let baby sleep through feedings
Some babies are just born great sleepers! In the beginning before your supply is established, try not to let baby sleep through feedings. In the first weeks of baby’s life you’ll want to feed at least every two to three hours to encourage milk supply and prevent engorgement.
5. Don’t worry about supply
Most new moms worry about milk supply. I went through the same thing– it was impossible to tell how much she was getting.
After expressing my concern to the lactation consultant she encouraged me to look for signs of fullness, rather than just guessing.
Satisfied and well-fed babies will have at least 5 to 6 wet diapers a day and will seem content following a feeding.
Additionally, you can also keep tabs of your baby’s weight at their well visits, but keep in mind, most healthy babies will lose about 10% of their birth weight within the first few days.
Your doctor will continue to schedule weight check visits until your baby’s weight is back up to their delivery weight, and most doctors like to see babies hit that milestone within two weeks.
Once baby’s weight is back to birth weight, if you’re counting enough wet diapers and baby seems satisfied after feedings, you can be confident that baby is getting enough.
6. Make sure the latch is correct
Breastfeeding does hurt in the first few days and sometimes weeks as you’re getting used to it, but if the pain seems unbearable, it could be because your baby’s latch isn’t correct.
I was having a ton of issues in the beginning to get my baby to latch on correctly, and after trying the football hold I was able to get a clearer picture of her latch and help position her better.
My lactation consultant directed me to aim my nipple at baby’s nose first and then direct it to the lower part of her upper lip. Once she opened her mouth, I’d then bring her in to latch.
One of the best pieces of advice I got when trying to latch was to never bring my breast to the baby’s mouth, but rather bring the baby’s mouth to the breast, so keep that in mind when trying to get baby to latch.
Here’s a great video that explains how to get a latch for pain-free nursing!
7. Don’t introduce a bottle or pacifier
While baby is still getting used to nursing, it’s best not to introduce a bottle or pacifier for the first three to four weeks of your little one’s life.
Make sure to let the hospital staff know about your breastfeeding goals, too, so that they won’t be tempted to soothe a fussy baby with a bottle or pacifier while you’re resting!
If baby seems upset and you’re wanting to give a pacifier for relief, try swaddling first. Newborns love to be swaddled and even after we introduced a pacifier, we found swaddling calmed our baby much better than a pacifier anyway!
8. Don’t neglect your diet
If you aren’t eating well or keeping yourself adequately hydrated it will impact your milk quality and production.
Work to eat a balanced diet rich in nutrients to keep your energy up. A diet rich in lactogenic foods is especially good for nursing mamas; especially those concerned about low milk supply.
Lactogenic foods work to naturally increase breast milk production, and as a bonus they are all very, very healthy!
Oats, almonds, leafy greens, fruits and coconut oils are are all great foods to eat to maintain and increase your milk supply.
9. Relax, and try not to stress
Trying to relax and not stress as a new mom is way easier said then done. But nevertheless, my lactation consultant took time to explain how stress affects milk supply when she could see how frazzled I was getting.
Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for triggering your milk let down. If you’re stressed about getting baby to latch, then guess what? You might be hindering your let down reflex.
I always found that when it was just me and my baby, rather than when my husband, mom or a nurse was watching and making me nervous, we did best.
The lactation consultant encouraged me to do skin-to-skin first to get that oxytocin hormone flowing and help me relax. That worked wonders– there’s nothing better than a sweet little baby resting on your chest.
10. Don’t ignore pain
Yes, breastfeeding may hurt a bit in the first few days while you and your baby get the hang of things, but overall, it should be relatively painless.
But, if you have pain don’t ignore it!
Here’s some common reasons you might experience pain while breastfeeding:
- Thrush (yeast infection)
- Your baby might be tongue-tied
- Plugged duct
- Incorrect latch
Visit your doctor or lactation consultant upon experiencing any pain. Getting to the root of the issue soon shouldn’t affect your supply. If left untreated most issues that cause serious breast pain while nursing can become very serious so don’t brush off any negative symptoms!
11. Ask for help
I learned quickly that breastfeeding was no cake walk. But it can be done with practice, help and support.
Typically a lactation consultant will come visit you during your hospital stay. If you don’t see one on the first day, ask! Sometimes they get busy, and you might be overlooked. Don’t feel bad about asking to see one several times during your stay.
Additionally, you might consider visiting the lactation consultant after you return home, too, if you feel like you and baby still have some issues to work through.
If you aren’t sure where to find a lactation consultant, visit La Leche League International to find help in your area.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support– breastfeeding is hard, but so worth it!