I have to admit something embarrassing. When I was pregnant I would pinch my nipples because I was in complete denial of the fact that one day milk would come out of those things! I guess I kept checking to see if they were making any progress. Since I did not accept what was happening to my body, I breezed over the process of researching breastfeeding tips for new moms.
I had no idea what I was doing but I figured I would be able to “wing it” and somehow my mama instincts would kick in and guide me through the process. The only thing I was really clear on was that I wanted to breastfeed my son for as long as possible.
If you are reading this then you are probably looking for advice and tips for breastfeeding. I wish I would have been smart like you and done exactly that instead of figuring things out the hard way through trial and error.
I must admit, breastfeeding is HARD! As I write this today, I am one week away from hitting our goal of breastfeeding for a year!
I have learned a thing or two along the way and there are definitely some things I did in the beginning (without realizing it) that aided my ability to breastfeed long-term.
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Benefits of breastfeeding your baby
There are a ton of benefits of breastfeeding your baby. So many that I was sold on the idea before my son was even born or I had any idea what I was getting myself into.
Here are just a few:
The lungs and the digestive system are born immature. This is because your baby does not get the chance to use either of these organs while they are in the womb. Breastmilk is more efficiently absorbed by your baby’s unexperienced digestive system (source).
Breastfeeding will colonize your baby’s gut with the normal flora from the home environment, as you carry this bacteria on your skin. This strengthens their immune system!
Breast milk is anti-inflammatory and provides immunologic benefits through the passing of antibodies. Because of this, I wanted to have breastmilk available to my son through the cold and flu season. He was born in May so I knew that would put me breastfeeding at the very minimum for 10 months anyway!
If your baby is born during the winter months and you are contemplating breastfeeding for a year, you might even consider stretching it out through 2 winters to really give your child’s immune system a leg up!
Breast milk is cheap! The average cost for a can of formula is around $28 dollars. If you are going through one of those a week that is over $100 dollars a month.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and in conjunction with offering food for up to 1 year or beyond as the mother and baby desires. (source) I figured I would make the goal for a year and then see where we are at from there.
…I shouldn’t be that hard right?
Breastfeeding Tips for new moms
The first 6 weeks of breastfeeding will most likely make or break your entire experience. If you have never breastfed before, there is a learning curve for both you and your baby.
The beginning is the most challenging time and if you can get through it, you will be providing the most beneficial source of nutrition out there for your baby.
1. It will take a few days for your milk to come in
The first milk available for your baby is called colostrum. It is a thick yellow colored milk and is very dense in nutrients and antibodies. Your baby can survive off of only a few drops at first as their stomachs are the size of a cherry and only 5 mls is enough to fill it.
It takes an average of 3 to 5 days for breastmilk to come in. During the waiting period, make sure to have frequent nursing sessions (every 2 to 3 hours) and plenty of skin to skin contact to help the milk come in faster. There are also certain foods you can eat that help increase milk production.
Watch out for signs of dehydration which include a sunken fontanel (soft spot on the top of the head), cracked lips, and a decrease in wet diapers. If you are concerned try to hand express or pump some milk and use a syringe to feed your baby.
2. Sore nipples and breastfeeding
You may have heard that breastfeeding can cause sore nipples. I was semi-prepared for this. What I wasn’t prepared for was my nipples looking like they just went through a crucifixion.
When I say my nipples hurt, I am telling you it was excruciating, toe-curling, make me cry out-loud pain. No amount of lanolin or any other organic nipple cream I tried seemed to help.
I don’t say this to you to scare you away from breastfeeding. On the contrary, I just want to bring awareness so if you are going through this right now and are thinking about quitting, I PROMISE you it gets better!
I remember when I was in this place and was searching for answers. I knew my baby wasn’t opening his mouth up wide enough for my nipple to get a deep latch, but no matter what I did I couldn’t seem to get him to open up!
I searched on the internet and stumbled upon one saint of a mom blog whose words literally talked me off a cliff. She said, “All you have to do is make it to 6 weeks and the pain will go away. At 6 weeks you will be rocking and rolling with breastfeeding.”
I was nearing the end of my second full week of breastfeeding at the time and the pain was at a peak. I remember reading this and thinking, “all I have to do is get to 6 weeks.”
And somewhere between that 6th and 7th week, the pain was completely GONE!
After this experience, I wrote an entire post about home remedies for sore nipples.
In the meantime, there are some things you can do to get yourself through the pain. I definitely suggest keeping this nipple cream applied at all times. It does reduce the pain in between nursing sessions.
I also put these nursing pads in the freezer and applied them in between nursing sessions.
Lastly, I used a nipple shield on one of my nipples for about a week to give it time to heal. I weaned off of the shield as quickly as possible because I found it decreased the stimulation to that nipple and thus my supply decreased on that side.
My heart goes out to you mama! Hang in there, you will stop having sore nipples with breastfeeding sooner than you think!
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3. Pump in addition to full time nursing 2-3 times a day for the first 6 weeks.
If you are a mama who has plans to nurse your baby for the long haul, I recommend adding in at least 2 (but better 3) extra pumping sessions a day in addition to your baby’s regular breastfeeding schedule. There are two reasons for this.
1. Every woman is different in how much milk they start to make initially. Some may make enough to feed twins and others start out small making exactly what the tiny newborn’s tummy needs and then gradually increases. This was the case for me and I originally started pumping because I wanted to increase my milk supply.
Milk production relies on supply and demand. Your breasts start to develop prolactin receptors during pregnancy and continue during the first few weeks of breastfeeding. An increased demand for milk from your baby or your pump will stimulate the release of oxytocin for milk ejection and prolactin to tell the breasts to replenish the milk supply. (almost done with this technical stuff…stay with me!)
During the first few weeks after birth, higher levels of prolactin hormone in the blood will cause the prolactin receptors in the breast to divide and multiply. The more receptors your breasts are able to develop, the more likely you will be able to sustain long-term milk production.
2. The extra pumping sessions will fully empty your breasts after your baby has finished eating. You can then freeze this milk and build up a stash for a later date. A deep freezer was a great investment for us because breastmilk can be stored for up to 12 months.
Having a large freezer supply of breastmilk really comes in handy when you go back to work, or in the case of a future dip in milk supply.
Your best chance of building up this stash is in the beginning. Make sure you are prepared with what you need to store your breastmilk long-term right from the beginning! This was something I definitely overlooked.
4. You may become engorged
Ahhh, when it comes to breastfeeding, it seems like there is such a fine line between not having enough and having too much! I seemed to swing past each multiple times.
If you find yourself over-producing your breasts will feel very firm and painful, heavy, and may leak. In between nursing sessions, it is helpful to hand express the extra milk for comfort. Also, apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Avoid using excess heat as this can make it worse. If you find that your baby is choking on a forceful letdown, you might consider pumping or hand expressing briefly before you feed your baby.
If you are having debilitating oversupply issues, you may not want to pump 3 extra times a day as I suggested above. I would still do it at least once to build up a freezer stash but more than that could make your oversupply worse.
Related: Home remedies for engorged breasts.
Keep nursing pads handy and add extra ones in your diaper bag until your body regulates. You don’t want to be walking around with two wet spots (unbeknownst) like I did!
5. Don’t be afraid to try different feeding positions
There are so many ways to hold your baby for breastfeeding. Don’t be afraid to try them all. You may find that some positions work great during the day and others are better for the nighttime.
I preferred the cradle position for the daytime when I was feeling awake and lively. The side-lying position worked better for us when I was feeling tired and could barely muster the energy to stay awake.
You and your baby are a team and will work together to find your groove. It will take time and you will fumble. It’s ok! You will be a nursing machine before you know it!
Here are examples of some common breastfeeding positions.
6. Stockpile things that make breastfeeding easier
There is no need to complicate an already complicated situation. Nursing bras and tanks are comfortable and make life so much easier during those first few months where you are breastfeeding around the clock. I recommend black because the color is slimming and it hides stains much better. (There will be a lot of stains going forward.)
The best part is most of them are made out of stretchy material making the sizing very flexible. You can order them online and avoid going into dressing rooms that have fluorescent lights. 😉
Another must-have is a boppy pillow. I actually had two because I have a two story house and wanted one for the nursery and one for my comfy couch. You have to save energy where you can right mamas?!
7. Stay away from peppermint
I remember when I was about two and a half months into breastfeeding my son. We finally got over the poor latch, painful nipples, and breast engorgement and I had built up a decent freezer stash. I had a long day and thought a cup of tea sounded nice.
My husband offered to fix me a cup of peppermint tea. He brought it over and boy was it soothing and wonderful. That next morning I woke up feeling way less full than I usually do. I thought it was dehydration and put it out of my mind. That night I enjoyed another cup of peppermint tea.
The next day my boobs were squishy, deflated, and empty. I had no idea that peppermint can dry up your milk supply but after doing some googling, I was devastated that I caused this.
Don’t make the same mistake I did because it took weeks of extra pumping and drinking tons of mother’s milk tea to get my supply back.
8. It’s ok if you absolutely hate breastfeeding
There is so much out there in the media about the benefits of breastfeeding, and tag-lines like “breast is best.” The truth is breastfeeding is hard, and all the beautiful pictures people post don’t tell the full story.
I guarantee that every single mom who has ever tried to breastfeed could tell you a few stories of their struggle. This post about breastfeeding tips for new moms may not have provided you with the information you needed to mentally get through.
Do you want to know what the other truth is? Nothing in life worth doing is easy. There are no get rich quick schemes and all the pills for all the ills have so many side effects. They cause more harm than good.
If you want to set your children up for the best start at living a healthy life you will breastfeed them for as long as you can. You will stay steadfast. You will grind it out. You will fight for the one thing that is under your control, giving them as much breastmilk as you can.
It is ok if you hate it.
It’s ok if you want to complain about it the entire time.
It’s totally ok to cry and feel like a failure.
It’s ok if you don’t make it to the American Pediatric Association’s recommended year. Just know that every single drop you are giving your baby is adding to their vitality. You are giving them a gift and you should be proud of yourself!
Related post: How to survive the first few days home with a newborn
I wanted to leave you with a bit of encouragement and acknowledgment for what you are doing. I hope this information was helpful. I would love to hear about your experience with your first 6 weeks of breastfeeding below!
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