6 Important Breastfeeding Tips and Tricks for New Moms
Breastfeeding for the first time often comes with a learning curve - Here's 6 tips to help you and your baby learn to nurse and overcome early challenges.
For new mothers who will start breastfeeding soon, it can be challenging and even sometimes overwhelming to know where to begin. As with many aspects of your parenting journey, getting truly “in sync” with your newborn while breastfeeding might take a little bit of practice and a lot of patience as you learn how to do something completely new together. With some gentle guidance and support, you and your baby will be able to discover the breastfeeding routine that works best for you both in no time. Below, we’ve highlighted six important tips for new mothers hoping to prepare themselves ahead of time for the exciting, tiring, amazing, and dedicated breastfeeding journey ahead:
1) Relax, Get Comfortable, and Drink Your Water
Your baby’s stomach is the size of a cherry at birth, meaning that they can only digest a tiny amount of milk at a time (about 1–1 ½ teaspoons). Because of this, they are going to want to feed often in the early days until their stomach grows and they can then take higher volumes of milk each session. As their stomach grows, they can also transition to longer nursing sessions with lengthier breaks in between. These early, frequent sessions can be tiring for new mothers, especially as you become accustomed to overnight feedings. One excellent way to help get used to breastfeeding often is to find a relaxing and comfortable place to nurse your baby.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your newborn might want to feed as often as every 1-3 hours. That’s a lot of time spent nursing each and every day! In fact, it often means somewhere between 8 and 12 sessions per 24-hour period. While the number of sessions you might nurse in a day will decrease over time, finding a comfortable place and position to begin breastfeeding can help you relax and stay comfortable through each session, no matter what time of day (or night!) it is.
Drinking water is important for everyone, but especially a nursing parent. While there is no evidence to suggest that drinking extra water is beneficial for you or your baby, experts still recommend drinking as much as 16 cups of water every day to avoid the effects of dehydration. Remember, it doesn’t have to be just water; milk, fresh juice, or a little coffee or tea also counts (but be sure to stay mindful of your caffeine consumption!) We know - drinking 16 cups of liquids each day might seem like a challenging goal. To achieve this, try having a glass of water every time your baby feeds, as well as with your meals.
2) Get a Good Latch
Getting a good latch is perhaps the most important thing for new mothers and their babies. While things like nipple shape, your baby’s habits, predetermined risk factors, and many other variables might make this more or less challenging depending on circumstances, there are certain things that you can do to help ensure a good latch. Check out this quick video for more information around how to achieve a good latch when breastfeeding.
3) Let Baby Determine How Often and How Long
Your baby will want to feed quite often in the beginning. Understanding how to read their hunger cues can help you determine when to feed and how hungry they might be. Signs that your baby is hungry might include putting their hands to their mouth, turning towards your breast, clenching their hands, or puckering their lips. After feeding, they will likely appear sleepy and relaxed. Watching your baby as they feed and observing how their body language changes from when they’re hungry until they are full and finished is a good way to learn your baby's specific cues. Becoming in tune with the signs your baby gives can help ensure that they are receiving all the nutrition they need.
4) Take Care of Your Breasts
In order to best take care of your little one, you also need to take care of yourself! It’s common for new mothers to experience cracked or sore nipples once they begin to breastfeed, but there are things you can do to help reduce these symptoms and find relief. Some of the best solutions for sore nipples include:
- Lanolin can help soothe sore nipples after feeding.
- Hydrogel pads can also be used to provide immediate cooling relief after nursing.
- Breast shells are an excellent way to soothe soreness while protecting from further irritation.
We highly recommend having one, two, or even all three of these options handy as you begin breastfeeding to avoid experiencing prolonged discomfort. Even a cold washcloth can serve as an effective form of breastfeeding pain relief!
Additionally, if you find that breastfeeding is painful due to an improper latch, there are ways that this can be resolved. If you find that baby’s initial latch is painful or shallow, remove your little one from your breast and try again. Sliding your clean finger gently inside the corner of their mouth is an effective way to gently break their suction if needed.
5) Understand Your Milk Supply
Plenty of mothers wonder if they are producing enough breast milk right away, though this challenge is actually quite rare. While you might not yet know if this applies to you, understanding that there are ways that you can increase your breast milk supply after a strong breastfeeding relationship has been established can be reassuring. The best way to increase low milk supply is simple; nursing and/or pumping more can lead to increased production! If your goal is to build a stash of refrigerated or frozen milk in preparation for your return to work, try incorporating a few pumping sessions into your routine between feedings. Every time you stimulate and remove your milk, through breastfeeding or pumping, your body will signal to your breasts to produce more and replace what was expressed. It’s a matter of supply and demand: the more you empty your breasts, the more you are giving your body cues that it should produce more to meet future demand.
6) Remember, Patience is Key!
Above all else, it’s important to stay patient as you learn to breastfeed together. Remember, you’re both new at this, and your baby has plenty yet to learn! Stay patient, optimistic, persistent, and make sure that you have plenty of support to help you through your upcoming breastfeeding journey. Doing so can help you stay committed to providing breast milk while helping your baby kickstart a healthy life.