Please note, these breastfeeding tips are based on my experience with breastfeeding my 2 children for the last 6 years. If you’re needing more help, then please find a La Leche Group near you or take The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class.
One of the first decisions a mother will make is the decision on whether to breastfeed or bottle-feed. While both options are great for babies in their own way, there are so many reasons to breastfeed! On the other hand, there are equally as many challenges that come with breastfeeding as well. That is why having a complete guide to the best breastfeeding tips is crucial for a new mother!
Reasons why a new mother would breastfeed her baby
Health benefits to both mom and baby
Did you know that breastmilk is called ‘liquid gold’? There are some pretty good reasons for this.
In the beginning days of breastfeeding, your body will produce what is known as colostrum. It is a thick and deep yellow milk that is rich in nutrients and antibodies that help protect your little one from infections.
Within just a few days, this colostrum will turn into the milk baby will continue drinking for as long as you decide to breastfeed. This typically happens around the third to fifth day of breastfeeding. In this new milk, there is a perfect mixture of fat, water, protein, and sugar for baby. Remember all of those super important nutrients and antibodies found in colostrum? Well, they are also found in this milk!
again and again that breastmilk decreases the risk of a baby developing any number of the following diseases:
- Childhood obesity
- Ear infections
- Childhood leukemia
- Lower respiratory infections
- Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
On the flip side, breastfeeding has health benefits to mom too! It has been shown that, for some women, breastfeeding can help in losing weight gained throughout pregnancy.
shows that the health benefits that mom can reap far outweigh weight loss, however. It has been suggested that breastfeeding decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and certain types of breast cancer as well.
The truth is not breastfeeding costs money. Depending on the formula used, it can cost upwards of $1,500 each year to feed a baby formula.
Aside from the costs spent buying formula, there could be costs associated with doctor and hospital visits too. We know that babies who are breastfed are less sick overall than formula-fed babies. It may be safe to assume that this means more visits to their healthcare provider and more money spent from mom and dad!
Closeness and bonding with your baby
Once you get the hang of breastfeeding, life truly becomes easier. It can take some time because breastfeeding is a big learning adjustment for both mom and dad. Though, it is far less work in the long run!
There are no bottles or nipples that need to be cleaned or sterilized regularly and warming bottles in the middle of the night isn’t needed.
Instead, mom can simply tend to her baby’s hunger immediately. This keeps mom and baby close and allows ample bonding time! Taking time in the early days of baby’s life to do skin-to-skin while nursing is crucial and one of the biggest breastfeeding tips. This contact boosts oxytocin levels which not only increases breastmilk flow but also calms both mom and baby.
How is milk made?
Breastfeeding is entirely based on supply and demand. This means that the more demand for breastmilk there is, the more supply there will be!
Simply put, the more baby nurses, the more milk your breasts will make.
What is the science behind this?
Well, your breasts contain alveoli cells that make the milk for baby. They make this milk in response to a hormone called prolactin. Another important hormone that the body secretes in response to baby nursing is oxytocin. Remember this hormone from above? Oxytocin, when released, helps move the milk through the milk ducts of the breast. When the milk moves through the breast, women experience what is known as the “let-down reflex”.
The Let-Down Reflex
The let-down reflex can happen anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes after you have begun nursing your baby. Essentially, this reflex consists of the nerves in your breasts sending signals to release more milk into the milk ducts.
Women describe the let-down reflex as a tingling feeling in their breast and it can be uncomfortable at times. However, many women never know that this is happening while nursing their baby.
You may also notice that this reflex occurs when baby is not nursing. Have you ever felt a heaviness or tingle in your breasts when you heard your baby begin to cry? This is because oxytocin is known as the “love” hormone. It is released when you hear the cries of your little one which then sends a signal to your body that you must be nursing.
How do you breastfeed?
Preparing during pregnancy
Good prenatal care
One of the best breastfeeding tips is to start preparing in pregnancy. The biggest thing a woman that desires to breastfeed can do during her pregnancy is to ensure she is taking care of herself. By taking care of your own health, you are lowering the risk of a preterm delivery which is associated with more issues surrounding breastfeeding.
Sometimes, there are health-related questions that mothers have about breastfeeding. These questions can range from the ability to breastfeed due to prior breast surgery to certain medications they can take while nursing. Having good prenatal care can provide expectant mothers with the answers to these questions long before breastfeeding challenges arise after delivery.
Take a breastfeeding class
Breastfeeding classes offer expectant mothers the chance to learn how to breastfeed. Those who teach these courses have the absolute best breastfeeding tips and tricks for new moms exploring the breastfeeding world! If that isn’t enough, these classes also allow the opportunity for spouses to learn and ask questions surrounding the experience as well. This online course, The Ultimate Breastfeeding Class is super affordable and convenient!
Expectant mothers may consider reaching out to close friends who have breastfed to ask questions about their experience. Who else would have real-life breastfeeding tips? These women may have some of the best breastfeeding tips and tricks out there.
Speaking of experience, letting your doctor know about your wishes to breastfeed is quite beneficial. Your doctor will then have the ability to recommend a lactation consultant to help you with breastfeeding before and after baby comes!
Purchase the necessary items
Making sure that you are prepared with the necessary items for breastfeeding is crucial! Odds are, there will be some level of stress regarding breastfeeding in the first few days of baby’s life. That is simply because both mom and baby are learning! The following are the best items to have before baby arrives to ensure you are ready for your breastfeeding journey!
- Breast pump and pumping supplies I highly recommend the Medela Range! (supplies typically come with the pump but you could buy extra!)
- Breastmilk storage bags
- Nursing bras
- Nursing pillow
- Lanolin breast ointment
Getting the perfect latch
The first thing that a new mother wants to do with her baby when trying to breastfeed for the first time is to self-express some milk and tickle the baby’s lips with her nipple to encourage him or her to open their mouth. This is one of those breastfeeding tips that sounds sort of silly. Even though it may feel funny, it works! Then, mom can pull baby close ensuring baby’s chin and lower jaw hit the breast first. Watch baby’s lower lip and make sure that it is as far from the base of the nipple as comfortable to make sure baby has a good mouthful of breast.
Is this a good latch?
It can be a little intimidating knowing whether or not baby is latched to the breast well. There are some signs that mom can look out for, however, indicating a good latch has occurred. New moms can look out for the following as tell-tale signs that they have successfully latched baby.
- You see little to no areola
- Baby’s chest lays against your body so they do not have to turn their head to eat
- You can hear or see baby swallow
- Baby’s chin touches the breast
- His or her lips turn outward and not inward
- The latch feels comfortable for you and does not hurt
In the early days of nursing, it can be challenging to learn how to obtain the perfect latch. It is important to take this time to learn to ensure baby is fed well and that you are comfortable doing so.
The cradle hold
The cradle hold is the most common breastfeeding position. This position entails holding baby’s head on her forearm and his or her body facing towards hers.
Cross-cradle (transitional) hold
This position gives baby extra head support during nursing. Mom will hold baby along his or her body with the arm opposite of the breast in use. In this position, mom supports baby’s head at the base of his or her neck with the palm of her hand giving them more support and helping them stay latched.
This position can be quite beneficial for premature babies or those who have difficulty latching due to the added support mom gives while eating.
Clutch (football) hold
In this position, mom will hold baby at her side with baby laying on his or her back. Mom must lay baby in this position with his or her head in line with her nipple. Once there, mom will need to hold baby’s head in place by using the palm of her hand at the base of his or her neck.
This position can be helpful for numerous reasons. Sometimes, babies enjoy sitting in a more upright position while nursing. Using other positions can make this challenging but the clutch position allows for this.
As for mom, there are reasons she may choose this position as well. Whether you are a mom that has had a C-section, has large breasts, have issues with flat or inverted nipples, this position can bring more comfort than the others.
This position can be a lifesaver for new mothers. It is here that mom can lay on her side with baby facing her to nurse. This allows mom to rest while baby nurses.
This position can also be helpful for mothers who are recovering from a C-section.
Relates Post: 32 First Year With Baby Tips For Overwhelmed Moms.
How long do I breastfeed?
As far as how long nursing sessions should be, this can vary!
There is no set time that baby should be feeding but sessions last 15 to 20 minutes on average. Though, if you find that baby is nursing for longer or shorter, don’t be alarmed. Baby will let you know when they are hungry and when they have finished. This is why parents must learn their baby’s hunger cues. Of all breastfeeding tips to remember, remember this one!
As far as the length of time to breastfeed baby before transitioning them to other nutrient sources, this also varies. that mothers breastfeed their infants for the first 12 months of life. Now, baby will begin eating solids close to 6 months of age. However, the main source of their nutrients should still be coming from breastmilk or formula for the first year.
Baby hunger cues
There are certain signs that professionals have deemed “hunger cues” that little ones display. Typically, babies are more alert and active when they are hungry. Your baby may also adopt any of the following signs when hungry:
- Clenched fists
- Gnawing on clenched fists
- Sucking motions with their mouth
- Turning their head to look for the breast if their cheek is touched
If you are finding that you are still worried about the amount baby is eating, you can find a feeding tracker to write down and keep track of how often baby is eating!
How much do babies eat?
It is hard for us, as adults, to understand just how small a newborn’s tummy is. At birth, a baby’s stomach is extremely small. It is said that at this time, baby can only digest the amount it would take to fill a hazelnut. That is about 1 to 2 teaspoons of milk!
Baby’s stomach does grow pretty quickly though! This doesn’t mean that baby should suddenly be eating as much as you, however. Around 10 days of life, baby’s stomach has grown to accommodate about 2 ounces of food.
It is important to keep in mind that every baby is different! Again, one of the most important breastfeeding tips. One baby may eat exactly 1 to 2 ounces as studies have shown. However, some babies will eat more and be perfectly content.
It is all about learning baby’s hunger cues and letting them take the lead in feeding.
How do you store breastmilk?
If you are able to stay home with your little babe and breastfeed, that is a blessing! Many mothers, however, must learn the ropes when it comes to how to store their breastmilk after pumping. Whether it be at work or simply a night away, it is smart to understand breastmilk storage basics.
After you have finished pumping, you are ready to store your breastmilk.
Breastmilk can be stored in glass, BPA-free plastic bottles, or milk storage bags. Once you are finished pumping, make sure to label whichever container you use with the amount and date pumped.
The is a good guideline for how you can store your breastmilk and for how long!
If you have elected to freeze breastmilk and are now ready to use it, make sure to use the oldest stored milk first!
You can thaw your breastmilk by placing it under warm running water, by setting it in a container of warm water, or by leaving it in the refrigerator overnight. Notice, this does not include heating the milk up in the microwave!
You should never put breastmilk in the microwave. REPEAT. Do not put breastmilk in the microwave. Doing so creates hot spots in the milk that could burn baby when eaten. Plus, proteins within the breastmilk are broken down and damaged when heated by microwave.
Once you have thawed breastmilk make sure to use it within 24 hours! You cannot refreeze thawed breastmilk.
Common challenges of breastfeeding
When starting to nurse, a new mom may find that her nipples are sore due to the demand. Part of getting the perfect latch is to not feel discomfort or pain when breastfeeding. Therefore, once you and your little one get into a routine of nursing and successfully perfect latching, your nipples will not be as tender as the beginning.
If you find yourself having tender nipples, try any of the following:
- Change feeding positions
- Make sure baby is not only sucking on the nipple but around the areola as well
- Express a small amount of breastmilk after feeding to rub into the skin on your nipple. This moisturizes the skin and prevents cracking.
- Look into products such as breast ice packs for nursing
You will find in the early days of breastfeeding that your breasts become full and heavy due to your body making this milk. This is alleviated when baby nurses. However, especially in the early days of nursing, your body will produce more milk than baby needs. This is when engorgement occurs.
Engorgement makes your breasts feel hard and painful rather than the normal full and heavy.
It is important to do all that you can to prevent engorgement or take interventions to alleviate the symptoms associated with it. If your breasts are left in this state, further issues can arise such as mastitis.
To prevent engorgement, make sure that you are doing as much of the following as possible:
- Nursing baby as often as baby needs
- Rotate breasts but nurse on the side that feels fullest
- Self-express or use a pump if already engorged to help milk move freely
- If engorged, use a cold compress to alleviate pain
Plugged milk duct
A plugged milk duct is common for mothers breastfeeding and will feel like a tender lump in the breast. This is not due to oversupply like engorgement. Instead, it is due to a milk duct not draining properly which causes inflammation in surrounding breast tissue.
Much like engorgement, you can breastfeed on the affected side to help facilitate breastmilk movement. Though, there are interventions that can be done to help with plugged milk ducts that do not pertain to engorgement.
- Aim baby’s chin toward the plugged duct (the lump). This focuses his or her sucking toward the affected duct
- Use a warm compress on the area
- Massage the area in a circular motion even though it is tender
A perfect opportunity to perform these interventions would be in the shower. Not only will mom have a moment to herself to relax (which can speed up healing), but the shower will provide a warm environment to facilitate healing.
Mastitis can present very similarly to plugged milk ducts and engorgement. It is a soreness or a lump in only one breast. The difference, however, is that mastitis is often accompanied by a handful of the following symptoms as well:
- Yellow-colored discharge from the nipple
- Warm or hot to touch breast
Breast infections can be a painful experience for women. Interventions for breast infections align with interventions for both plugged milk ducts and engorgement. However, there are signs that you shouldn’t ignore and requires medical intervention.
The following are reasons you should contact your healthcare provider related to breastfeeding challenges:
- The appearance of both breasts being affected
- Presence of red streaks on the affected breast
- Pus or blood secretions in breastmilk
Low milk supply
It is a common worry for many newly breastfeeding mothers to not make enough milk for their babies. This is especially true a couple of months into breastfeeding when your breasts do not feel as full or heavy anymore. This is normal and due to your body adjusting to how much milk your baby needs. Nevertheless, it can be anxiety-provoking.
When breastfeeding, it is often difficult to note whether milk production is low or adequate. Ultimately, the best way to observe if milk supply is low is to monitor baby’s growth.
While an oversupply can seem like a blessing, it can often cause serious problems for breastfeeding mothers. As noted above, several breast conditions arise from an oversupply of breastmilk. Aside from these conditions, a mother who produces too much breastmilk can also find herself simply feeling uncomfortable while nursing.
The best thing that a mother in this position can do is to breastfeed as frequently as baby needs and either self-express or pump until comfortable. In doing so, you do not want to empty the breast entirely if self-expressing or pumping. This will tell your body that you must produce more.
Instead, do so until you reach comfort.
Breastfeeding is beautiful
While there are numerous challenges a breastfeeding mother can encounter in her nursing journey, the benefits of doing so far outweigh the cons. Ask any mother who has breastfed her baby for an extended time and she will most likely tell you what a blessing being able to breastfeed her child was to her!
If you are a newly breastfeeding mother, be patient. You are probably looking everywhere on the internet for the best breastfeeding tips to help you on your journey. Know though that the end goal is magical.
However, do know that if you are a mother struggling with breastfeeding there are other options. Never hesitate to reach out to a nurse, provider, or lactation consultant for help with breastfeeding. You may find that, as much as you want to, breastfeeding is not the best option for your little one. In the end, whether you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, you will raise a healthy and precious baby!