Breastfeeding can be both extremely rewarding and overwhelmingly stressful. For many women, breastfeeding is one of the first nurturing acts you’ll perform as a new mom. If you have the opportunity to breastfeed your baby, there are several benefits to this form of feeding. Breast milk is easier to digest than formula, and the antibodies in your breast milk help boost your baby’s immune system. Plus, breastfeeding can add to your own weight loss post-delivery. As amazing as that all sounds, breastfeeding can also create an extreme amount of stress for new moms.

As natural as it is to breastfeed your baby, many women experience stress and worry as they try to nourish their newborns with their own milk. Am I doing this right? Is my baby getting the proper nutrients they need to not only survive but also thrive? You’ve probably got a million questions about how to make the most of your milk for your baby and how to breastfeed correctly. That’s why we’re going to jump into some helpful tips for new moms to get you started on the right foot.

Breastfeeding 101: Helpful Tips for New Moms

This guide is meant to calm your worries, answer your questions, and help make breastfeeding an enjoyable task as you enter motherhood. Before we dive into some tips, let’s start with the single most important piece of advice for your success. Relax. When you feel overwhelmed, stress and worry can actually have a negative impact on your milk supply. In addition, your baby will feed off of your energy, making feeding time one that’s associated with negative output.

Rest assured that even if breastfeeding is stressful at first, you and your baby will eventually get the hang of it. There’s also a ton of resources available to help you along the way. Once you’re feeling calm, start with these tips and watch how quickly you get the hang of things!

1.   Make Healthy Lifestyle Choices

Your lifestyle choices are extremely important when it comes to breastfeeding success. Just as it’s important to follow a healthy lifestyle while you are pregnant, it’s equally as important to do while you are breastfeeding. From the food you eat to the habits you follow, there’s a lot that can affect your milk supply. To maintain a healthy lifestyle while breastfeeding you should:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Fueling your body with healthy nutrients won’t just help keep your energy levels up for those late-night feeding sessions, but it’ll also give your baby the nutrients they need as well. Choose plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like you would on any healthy diet. Talk to your healthcare provider about specific diet questions and introducing a daily multivitamin as well.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Hydration is so important throughout life. Drinking lots of water, juice, and milk can help you stay hydrated post-delivery as your body heals. It can also help keep your milk supply going. Try to limit your caffeine intake. The caffeine you drink can actually interfere with your baby’s sleep when breastfeeding. Remember to avoid breastfeeding at least two hours after consuming any type of alcoholic beverage.
  • Get your ZZZ’s. You know that old saying, sleep when the baby sleeps! It’s so crucial to your breastfeeding success. It’ll help your body produce the milk your baby needs to stay nourished and keep you healthy as you adjust to motherhood.
  • Avoid unhealthy habits like smoking. When you smoke while you’re breastfeeding, your baby is actually exposed to nicotine. This can interfere with their sleep. Secondhand smoke also increased the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and many respiratory illnesses.
  • Be careful with taking medication. There are many medications that are safe to take while you’re breastfeeding, but don’t assume. It’s always best to check with your healthcare provider.

2.   Be Patient

Most new moms who have trouble with breastfeeding get frustrated from the start and stop before their baby even has a chance to get adjusted. You might find that breastfeeding is tougher than you expected, and that’s ok. Try not to get discouraged. The more often you breastfeed, the more milk your body will produce. So even if your supply seems low from the beginning, it’s ok to have a slow start. Give it time and talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about how things are progressing.

3.   Take Care of Your Nipples

Outside of having a trouble with their milk supply, the biggest concern most new moms face with breastfeeding is pain. Feeding should not be painful, but you need to make sure to take care of your nipples to make that happen. After each feeding, let the milk dry naturally on your nipples and avoid drying everything up before you get dressed. The milk can help soothe your nipples and help avoid dry skin that can crack and bleed. Use a bra pad if your breasts leak in between feedings.

When you bathe yourself, minimize the amount of soap and lotions you use. The alcohol base to many personal hygiene products can dry out your already damaged skin. If your nipples become dry or cracked, treat them with a purified lanolin product after each feeding. It helps soothe any pain or discomfort and retains moisture in your nipples.

4.   Hold Off on Pacifiers

Pacifiers are a caveat to keep babies happy, but they aren’t always helpful in the long run. Especially when it comes to breastfeeding, giving your baby a pacifier can interfere with the feeding process. The American Academy of Pediatrics actually recommends parents wait to introduce a pacifier to their baby until breastfeeding is well-established. Most moms find that three to four weeks after birth is a good time to introduce a pacifier.

5.   Get Connected with Your Baby to Anticipate Their Needs

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to establish such a deep connection with your child that you can anticipate their needs before anything even happens. The more time you take to relax and embrace the experience, the more connected you will be with your child. You can then anticipate their needs before they even start to cry in hunger. For example, your child may do the following when they are hungry:

  • Open and close their mouth
  • Suck on whatever is near their mouth
  • Stick out their tongue
  • Turn their head repeatedly

As soon as you anticipate your baby wants to eat, offer your breast right away. Your baby will come to trust you as a source of nourishment and won’t feel a struggle for the things they need. You’ll also build a deeper connection that enhances your relationship.

6.   Follow Their Lead

Let your baby determine how often and long you nurse them. They know what they want and need before they can express it to you verbally. Don’t set a predetermined interval between feedings because your baby is changing so quickly. Certainly don’t deny them food because you can’t stick to a schedule. On the same hand, don’t wake a sleeping baby to feed them simply because it’s been a few hours since they last ate. For the first few weeks, most newborns breastfeed every two to three hours around the clock. But growth spurts and sleeping schedules may interfere with those time restrictions.

You also should let your baby determine how long to nurse. They know what they need more than you do at first and will eat until they are satisfied. Some days your baby might be a fast eater, other days it’ll seem like they’ve been eating forever. Let your baby nurse off of one breast thoroughly before burping. This will usually last around 15-20 minutes. Once you’re done, switch to the second breast. If the baby is still hungry, they’ll latch on. If not, pump the rest of your milk from that breast and store it properly. This will keep your supply flowing and relieve pressure.

7.   Ask for Help When You Need It

There will be many reasons you need help during this process, and it’s important to ask when you need it. When it comes to breastfeeding, asking for help when you’re struggling is particularly important. If you can’t get your baby to latch after delivery, ask the hospital staff for a lactation consultant. Maternity nurses and hospital lactation consultants are always on staff to help with breastfeeding tips. Sometimes even the slightest change in position or a breastfeeding accessory can drastically change your results.

Lactation consultants and maternity nurses can teach you how to position the baby to help them latch properly. They’ll give you important pieces of advice on breastfeeding successfully, such as:

  • Start by getting comfortable. Use supportive pillows when you can. You’ll be spending quite a bit of time holding your baby’s head while they feed. If you’re squirming and uncomfortable, this can disrupt your baby’s breastfeeding. The most comfortable positions are:
    • Lie on your side with your baby facing you
    • Sit in a reclined position with your baby in your arms
  • Pay attention to the position that seems most comfortable to your baby. As you get to know your child better, you’ll notice they have a feeding position that works well for them. Use that to make the process easy and comfortable. While every baby is different, here are some tips for positioning:
    • Position your baby so their mouth is level with your nipple.
    • Don’t position yourself in a way that your baby needs to turn their head much.
    • The baby’s head should be tilted backward slightly.
    • Help them latch onto the entire areola, not just the nipple.
    • Place your baby’s chin right up against your breast to keep their nose clear.
  • Avoid engorgement. This occurs when your breasts harden due to your body producing more milk than your baby consumes. Engorgement leads to painful swelling and actually makes it difficult for your baby to feed. Nurse your baby as often as possible to avoid this. If you continue to become engorged, or your baby can’t keep up, express your milk under a warm shower or use a breast pump and store your milk for another time.

In addition to maternity nurses, lactation consultants, and a variety of written material resources, you can also look for a lactation group in your area. It’s a chance to connect with other moms and get a variety of advice from people who’ve gone through the process.

Breastfeeding can be overwhelming at times, but using the tips above can help make the most of your time with your new baby and ease the challenges. Pay close attention to what your baby’s actions are telling you, get comfortable, take care of your body, and relax through the process. Your baby’s behavior and health will tell you everything you need to know about whether or not things are going well. If your baby is happy and gaining weight, you’re doing just fine! Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the moments. You’ll see how your baby thrives right before your eyes and is on their way to a happy, healthy start thanks to your determination to breastfeed successfully.

Get connected with other moms who have found success in breastfeeding their newborns with babienet.

Give your newborn the nourishment they need with these helpful breastfeeding tips from moms just like you! Get connected with other parents at babienet.

Other Resources:

breastfeeding guide

breastfeeding pain relief