Like natural childbirth, I thought that breastfeeding would be a relatively intuitive and empowering experience. Yes, other mamas gave me some breastfeeding tips and told me it might be “difficult,” but frankly, I didn’t believe it. After all, what could come to a mama and baby more naturally?
How wrong I was! That’s why I wanted to put together these top 10 breastfeeding tips for you! Be sure to also get my FREE download with 8 essential breastfeeding tools.
The reality is that for most women, breastfeeding takes a lot of patience, observation and work! When my son Griffin was born after a grueling 27 hours of labor, he came out of the womb crying… probably because he was stuck in the canal for three hours.
It took us nearly an hour to get him to latch, and to do so I had to use a nipple shield.
This wasn’t the vision I’d had of breastfeeding my newborn
I thought it would be easy. Effortless. Biological. Beautiful. A loving source of nourishment and comfort.
Breastfeeding got better each day
I got Griffin to latch the next day without the nipple shield. As each day passed, breastfeeding became easier.
Along the way, I’ve talked with other moms, consulted with TWO lactation consultants (who should get extra angel wings for their amazing service to motherhood and all things good), and have the best husband ever who’s helped me at every turn.
As I initially drafted this post, I’d been breastfeeding for 6 weeks
Breastfeeding still had its ups and downs. But I have to say, it got easier.
Now I totally understand why some women switch to formula. Breastfeeding is not for the faint of heart. I ended up breastfeeding Griffin for two years, but after struggling through the first month, I wasn’t sure if I’d make it past month two!
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Here’s my video with 5 breastfeeding tips that made life easier for me
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Here are the 5 breastfeeding tips from the video—plus 5 additional breastfeeding tips!
These are breastfeeding tips and tricks that have made life easier for me. I hope this helps some new mamas out there who need encouragement (I know I did!).
And if that describes you, check out this post: Breastfeeding Gets Easier (So Stick With It!)
1. Be sure you get the right latch
This is KEY. If we don’t have the right latch, we end up with really sore and perhaps damaged and cracked nipples. There’s a TON of great resources online that will literally show you what the right latch looks like, but in a nutshell, it’s about getting the lower part of the breast and areola into baby’s mouth so that the nipple hits their high palette, which stimulates sucking.
2. Experiment with different breastfeeding positions
One of the most important of the breastfeeding tips is to get the right latch, as we said in #1. As part of this, experimenting with different breastfeeding positions is key. The Breast Crawl is an excellent and intuitive position for a newborn. They literately will latch themselves! But, we can’t nurse reclining in our bed with baby. From my experience, I’d say that the cross-cradle is the best position for newborns because it offers a ton of support. My little guy needed my hand on his neck to guide him to the nipple, help establish the right latch, and keep him in the right position as he nurses.
I also have heard that the football hold is really helpful for sore nipples and establishing a good latch. The sideline position, which you can do lying down in bed, is nice for tired, sleep-deprived mamas, but it is a bit advanced for some newborns to get the hang of right off the bat.
With my fast milk letdown, we also use the position where I’m laying back, and baby’s body is on top of mine. This way, his head is upright and the milk has to work against gravity, helping slow the flow.
While I tend to rely on cradle hold, I know that rotating positions helps with sore nipples, since baby’s latch will hit different parts of breast depending on the angle.
3. Get breastfeeding help early
Habits form fast, so it’s VITAL to get the latch right at the beginning. (Don’t despair if you didn’t, as babies are adaptable.) Lots of moms can struggle with too fast of a letdown or engorgement, or overproduction of milk, which can be remedied pretty easily! Getting help will benefit you and your baby immensely if you start off on the right foot and can avoid problems like clogged milk ducts.
If you can afford it, I highly recommend hiring a Lactation Consultant. Even if you are breastfeeding just fine, it can be a worthwhile investment. Yes, of the breastfeeding tips, this one will cost you some money. But, think of lactation consultants as Breast Whisperers, experts in the field of palettes, latching, positions, and intake volume. I was AMAZED at how helpful and empowering my consultations were.
If seeing a consultant isn’t possible, check out some of these free resources online:
General breastfeeding sites
- www.llli.org The international La Leche League website, a phenomenal resource for breastfeeding families.
- www.bfmed.org The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine is a worldwide organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding and human lactation.
- www.kellymom.com Awesome site. Created by a lactation consultant and mother of three, this site provides evidence-based information on breastfeeding, sleep and parenting.
- www.drjacknewman.com One of the great advocates for breastfeeding, Dr. Jack Newman’s site has a plethora of breastfeeding including videos, articles and troubleshooting information.
Milk production resources
For those mamas struggling with low milk supply, be sure to check out these tips. Here are also some great sites to check out.
- www.lowmilksupply.org This site gives information, support and solutions for mothers struggling with low milk supply.
- http://milkshare.birthingforlife.com/ A great site for moms looking to give or receive breast milk.
- https://www.facebook.com/EatsOnFeetsHome?fref=ts A Facebook page devoted to connecting moms with milk.
4. Use breastfeeding props
A key breastfeeding tip is to stock up on some of the tools that can help us! Some of my favorites include:
- The Nesting Pillow. OK, this is a pricey nursing pillow, but the most comfortable by far. It literally molds to baby and mama. Love it!
- The Boppy. The classic nursing pillow… very versatile too!
- My Breast Friend. Another nursing pillow that’s great if you’re having a hard time getting the latch and positioning right. It’s very firm and you can even nurse while standing up! (with support from your hands, of course).
- Motherlove Nipple Cream. This stuff is wonder cream for sore nipples, creating a healing “moisture seal” in-between feedings. Made with extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, marshmallow root, and calendula, it’s non-toxic and safe for the baby to ingest, so no need to rinse off before feeding.
- Nursing Pads. At the beginning, while you are establishing your milk supply, nursing mamas tend to leak. Using these pads, you prevent the embarrassing wet ring-around-the-nipple phenomenon.
5. Expect that breastfeeding will be challenging
Call me twisted, but I find that if I know the worst right off the bat, it helps me to stay positive. It is easier for me to find joy in the small successes along the way and not get discouraged if it doesn’t click right away. I also found that despite the right latch, I did have some tenderness from time to time, and that is perfectly normal. If your soreness persists, your baby may have thrush. You can try this nipple cream, which should reduce thrush symptoms and pain.
6. Be sure to burp ’em!
If you don’t want your precious milk regurgitated onto the back of your couch, be sure to burp your baby well! This will also help ease painful gas bubbles that often accumulate in baby’s belly, since their digestive system is still so delicate.
7. Get an eyewitness
My husband was a HUGE help in making sure I got the right latch with Griffin. From his perspective, he could see things that I couldn’t. He also was supportive in terms of getting me water each time I nursed, inserting extra pillows for support, and changing Griffin’s diaper once I finished. He will also be the one who feeds Griffin a bottle at some point, so it’s good for him to get involved early!
8. Use a breast pump if needed
I found pumping at 3 weeks was helpful so I could literally *see* milk coming out of my breast. While not always a good indicator of supply, it did give me—a first-time breastfeeder—some peace of mind that things were working as they should.
I also liked having a bit of milk in the freezer so that if I had to leave town unexpectedly, or God forbid, be hospitalized, my child would have some nourishment on hand. Pumps can also be great to help regulate or increase milk supply if needed. My lactation consultant recommended pumping each breast once a day in the morning when supply is usually higher and baby’s appetite is smaller.
9. Keep it pure
For the first month, try to just breastfeed without introducing a bottle or pacifier. This will help to establish a strong breast bond so that the baby doesn’t experience nipple confusion and start preferring artificial nipples. Bottles, especially if not the right kind of nipple, tend to expel milk easier than mom’s breast, so baby may come to prefer the bottle instead of having to work at it getting milk the natural way. While you’ll likely give your baby a bottle sooner or later, the longer he has to get used to latching and expelling milk from the breast the better—think of it like breastfeeding practice for a solid foundation.
10. Think peaceful thoughts
When I find myself tensing up while feeding Griffin, I consciously work at relaxing so that the experience is more enjoyable and successful for both of us. Instead of reading or looking at my phone, I often pray for him as he’s lying there. I believe little Griff picks up on this healing energy and feeds better as a result. And it’s especially important to relax while pumping to maximize milk production. So, be sure not to ignore this among all of the breastfeeding tips.
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Here are more breastfeeding resources:
I hope these top 10 breastfeeding tips were helpful. Now I’d love to hear from you! What breastfeeding tips helped you nurse successfully?