Something that many moms-to-be and new mothers worry about is how breastfeeding will work for them and their newborn.
Surely, something as natural as feeding your baby at your breast should come naturally, right? In fact, mastering breastfeeding is a challenge almost every breastfeeding mother has struggled with, with issues ranging from latch issues to sore nipples.
So how can you help improve your chances of a successful breastfeeding journey?
While not every technique will work for every mother and situation, we’ve put together a handy guide with our top 10 breastfeeding tips for mamas. Read on to find out more!
Create A Comfortable Nursing Area
One of the things every expectant mom should try to do before the baby arrives is set up a comfortable nursing area in their home.
For the next several months, you will likely be spending a lot of time breastfeeding your newborn. These nursing sessions can last anywhere from just a couple of minutes up to a couple of hours (hello cluster feeding!), and everything in between. If you are stuck sitting down for a couple of hours, you’ll be wanting to do it in a comforting and relaxing atmosphere.
Choose a chair that is comfortable for you – we love gliders with gliding footstools, and especially the ones that recline…you never know when you’re going to be parked there for hours on end, so you may as well catch a few zzz’s while you’re there. Keep a small table nearby for things like the tv remote, snacks and a water bottle. Keep a phone charger handy if you need it too!
Milk Won’t Be Instant
Something that not that many new moms realise is that they won’t likely be producing milk instantly.
Later in pregnancy, your breasts will begin to produce a substance called colostrum. This nutrient-rich substance is crucial to feeding your newborn in the first few days of life. After two to five days, your body will likely begin to produce milk. However, this can take up to a week depending on your own body. Most lactation tips won’t mention this fact, but understanding it can save you a world of anxiety.
So don’t worry too much if you aren’t making milk straight away, it’s perfectly natural to have a delay in milk production right after giving birth. Thankfully your baby’s tummy is really, really tiny at the beginning, and those few drops of colostrum will probably be all they’ll need at until your milk comes in anyway.
Be Prepared To Nurse A Lot
New moms need to be prepared to give their nipples a workout, as newborns are going to want to feed a LOT. Like, a lot a lot.
A newborn baby is going through a huge number of changes in a short amount of time, rapidly growing and learning. All of this development is very energy intensive, requiring a lot of mom’s milk to keep them going. Be prepared to nurse many times per day and cluster feed (nursing for potentially hours at a time), especially during growth spurts. Understanding this can help you manage your and your partner’s expectations about what your daily schedule will look like post delivery. Newborns wake on average every 2 hours to nurse. That’s from the start of a nursing session to the start of the next one. If your baby nurses for 30 minutes, you’ve got 1.5 hours to get some shut-eye before the next session starts.
Learn To Latch
Learning how to latch your baby onto your breast is often the most daunting aspect of feeding a newborn.
Latching refers to the process of the baby finding and developing strong suction on the mother’s nipple in order to facilitate feeding. Latching can be hard, and there are a whole ton of factors that can influence this – mother’s anatomy and nursing positions, the baby’s anatomy, a potential tongue tie, and the list goes on.
There is no one-size-fits-all routine for learning to latch your baby to your breast. This is absolutely most easily learned with the assistance of a great lactation consultant. Keep in mind that it’s easier to feed a baby that is content than one that isn’t, so learning to feed your baby right when you notice hunger cues (rooting, sucking on their hands, bobbing their head on your chest toward your breast, etc.) instead of waiting until they’re starving and angry, is key.
It’s All About Supply & Demand
Something else that many moms don’t realize is that breastmilk supply is driven by supply and demand.
The more your baby nurses, the more milk you make. So even though you may feel like you get to the end of the day and there’s nothing left in those breasts to feed your little one, in those early days your newborn is likely nursing so much not only to fill their belly, but also to increase your supply. Once your body has grown accustomed to how much your baby needs, as long as you’re feeding on demand (including overnight), your supply should be maintained as long as you keep your nutrients and water levels high! Most mamas find that their milk supply regulates somewhere around 6-8 weeks postpartum.
Boost Your Calorie Intake
While breastfeeding, your energy demands will be even higher than during your final trimester, so you’ll need to boost your calorie intake to keep up. Believe us when we say that nursing hunger is INTENSE. Keep snacks with you at all times because you never know when it will hit!
Producing milk, and producing it at the rate your hungry newborn requires, is an energy intensive process that can really take it out of you if you’re not eating enough. Boost your food intake by around 300-750 calories compared to your intake during your final trimester to help your body replenish your supply. Stock up on one-handed foods (think: bananas, granola bars, etc.) and do your very best to stick to healthy fats, proteins, and plenty of fruit and vegetables to keep you glowing and healthy! That being said, if mama needs a plateful of cookies to satisfy her nursing hanger, mama gets a plateful of cookies. You do you.
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!
This one might go without saying, but breastfeeding moms need to ensure they are getting enough fluids to ensure they stay hydrated.
Milk is primarily water, which means you need to be drinking enough water to ensure you can produce enough. Drink at least two litres per day, ideally even more to help keep you hydrated. Grab yourself a nice reusable water bottle and keep it on hand until you learn what your body needs during breastfeeding.
It’s not uncommon to see a new mama who is concerned that her milk supply is decreasing a bit, and when questioned, she realizes that she hasn’t had enough water to drink in DAYS. She’s been so busy taking care of her newborn that she hasn’t had the time to take care of herself. In these cases, often just a few days of really working hard to rehydrate is enough to bring that milk supply back up.
Flat and Inverted Nipples Aren’t A Deal Breaker
Expectant mothers and new moms don’t have to fear too much if they have inverted nipples.
In the past, many experts would tell a mom with inverted nippled that they should come to terms with the fact they will likely never breastfeed properly. These days, with some assistance from a trained lactation consultant, most flat and inverted nipple mothers will be able to successfully breastfeed their newborns. The trick is to learn the latch techniques that will work for your unique anatomy.
Give Your Nipples Some TLC
All that breastfeeding is going to leave your nipples in need of a little special attention.
The most common complaint most breastfeeding mothers will have is that their nipples are chaffed, cracked, or raw. The repeated exposure to the powerful vacuum created by your newborn can leaving your nipples a bit sore and tender, especially in the early days as your body is getting used to it. There are many ways to deal with cracked nipples, but do keep in mind that often cracked and damaged nipples are a result of latch issues, and that latch should be addressed!
Some of the more common remedies for sore nipples include lanolin cream, coconut oil, olive oil, and even your own breast milk! You may need to experiment a bit to find one that works for you, but again, please get that latched checked out if your nipples are damaged.
Ask For Help
When we teach our newborn care classes, we always say that everyone should see a lactation consultant within the first 24 hours of giving birth. A private lactation consultant is likely to be able to give you more individualized care than a quick visit with the hospital lactation consultant. Here’s the thing – if breastfeeding is difficult and your nipples are in pain, you should get help sooner rather than later, because your baby is just going to keep nursing around the clock. Getting help early (in that first 24-36 hours after birth) will save you a whole ton of pain and heartache and can set you up for success. At the end of the day, no mother has to do this on their own and reaching out for help should always be an option you consider.
Lactation and breastfeeding support can be an amazing support system for new mothers, helping with latching issues, anxiety, and more. West End Mamas has a team of highly experienced Lactation Consultants who have seen it all when it comes to breastfeeding. We focus on answering all of your questions while helping you to develop a customised breastfeeding plan that can help you conquer your fears and share the incredible bonding experience that comes with nursing your newborn. Contact us today to book an appointment!