So you’re a new mum? A newborn baby, unfortunately, doesn’t come with a manual. Four kids in and with my own successes and breastfeeding set backs I feel ready to offer you some of my favorite breastfeeding tips. Whether you’re a new mom or a veteran mom of many let’s learn together. We’ll discuss common breastfeeding problems, how to find the right position and when to connect with lactation experts. If I’ve missed anything leave me a comment so we can expand our resources!
Breastfeeding Tips: What to Do Before Baby’s Birth
Yup, that’s right. This list starts before birth. There are so many things to prepare for before a babies impending arrival that breastfeeding- something that won’t even happen until they’re present seems unimportant. If you plan to breastfeed getting some education before baby comes will help everyone.
Attend a meeting for nursing mothers.
The reasons to attend a meeting for nursing mothers ahead of baby’s arrival are numerous but the number one reason for me was to meet a few other local moms.
Wondering how to find breastfeeding meetings local to you? There are three main ways. The first is to ask your OB/GYN for recommendations. Some practices even run their own group. Second, call or Facebook stalk local hospitals or birthing centers and ask if they offer any groups. Luckily for me our local hospital had a Before Baby class that was available. Third, La Leche League International offers meetings all over the world. You can find a local meeting on their website.
Use your time at the meeting to gather up a list of local resources and to see if you feel like the volunteer leaders mesh well with you. Are they folks you can see yourself asking for help? Do they have recommendations for a local lactation specialist?
Check with your insurance company to see what is covered.
It pains me to say this but for United states moms you should prepare for the cost of breastfeeding before the baby comes. Boobs are free but if you plan to use a breast pump to help with milk supply or to store breast milk you’ll want to find out if there are specific brands your insurance plan covers.
You can also find out if your plan covers lactation consults, nipple shields or any other breastfeeding supplies. Every insurance varies. I was a recipient of the special triple nipple cream for two breastfeeding journeys. One time the special compound pharmacy cream was covered and one time it was $40 out of pocket.
Discuss breastfeeding expectations with your partner or support folks.
Breastfeeding revolves around what the baby needs once they arrive so the right time to have a discussion about what you need with your partner is before baby arrives. This isn’t to say that you can’t ask for help mid-nursing session later but set expectations pre-baby.
Do you want to breastfeed in a specific place? Are you open to your partner bottle feeding the baby? Will you feel supported if someone checks how baby latches? Some breastfeeding moms may be totally comfortable pulling down a shirt strap and nursing all over the house. Others may want their support folks to run point and let other family members or visitors know when mom is off limits and needs some space. Open communication is a good start to a healthy breastfeeding relationship.
Shop for necessary breastfeeding supplies.
Shopping for breastfeeding supplies can be basic or overwhelming. Breast pump shopping is fairly easy if your insurance company restricts the models you can receive under their plan.
Keep in mind that while you can visualize an ideal breast feeding journey it may not happen how you think. You may want procure everything and then leave it new in box until you need it. This way you can return items that are still sealed and prove unnecessary.
Other items you may need?
A car adaptor for the pump if you travel.
Breast pads for leaking boobs.
There are many different types and I recommend starting out with some basic cloth ones until you see how much you leak. For minimal leakers there are reusable breast pads made of silicone that can be washed off or cloth ones that go through your laundry. If you leak a considerable amount products like breast shells or breast milk collectors like Lacti-cups may work better for you as they will allow you to save and use the milk you leak.
Bottles and accessories.
If you plan to either have a partner feed baby pumped breast milk occasionally or you plan to supplement with formula you’ll want to look for bottles, bottle cleaning brushes and any liners you may need.
I can’t speak highly enough of Medela Quick Clean Micro Steam bags. The bags allow you to quickly sterilize pump parts, bottles, binkies and other items in your microwave. You get up to 10 uses per bag. They were great for pump part cleaning and have proven invaluable while traveling for cleaning bottles.
If you plan to supplement look for a basic formula to have on hand. You can sign up for free samples on most sites like Similac and Enfamil. Even if you don’t plan to use formula I am a huge advocate for having some on hand. I could stand up on my soap box and mention how during flooding in Vermont I suddenly couldn’t get back into town and to my baby and husband and was so thankful for those samples but I won’t draw out the details. Let’s just say it’s good for emergencies and if you don’t use it and it’s sealed it makes a great donation item.
A manual breast pump.
I know it doesn’t seem practical but I had a little hand pump. It was never used to pump a whole session but I found that it helped to get things going for me. It was also extremely convenient to bring around to relieve pressure if necessary. I recommend having one on hand.
I’m here to tell you- you will feed your baby in a way that works for your family, be it breast milk, formula or donor milk. I want you to hear that. It will all be okay. I’ve been there. You are a good mom. You will try your hardest and if breastfeeding doesn’t work out for you you will find a way to care for your baby and give him or her the nutrition they need. Fed is best.
Breastfeeding Tips: Feeding Your New Baby
Finding a good latch.
Finding the sweet spot that works for you is going to be key. Everyone feeds differently and the size and shape of the mother and baby can impact what is most comfortable. For some ideas I love this Mayo Clinic slideshow. Working to achieve the best position for you and baby will make the entire process easier and less painful.
A friend of mine is a lactation consultant and I asked her for her top tip. She mentioned that she usually takes away Boppy pillows and the like when visiting a client. Not because they are bad but because they are being used improperly.
Breastfeeding is a postural experience for your baby. Their positioning is helping them learn about the world and make brain connections, so we need to be sure they are not laying on a breastfeeding support pillow when feeding. Pillows are to support mom while she supports the baby.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant®
What does a certified lactation consultant do?
I’ve mentioned lactation consultants multiple times and now I’d like to explain a bit about what they do and why they are important. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant ® (IBCLC ® ) specializes in the clinical management of breastfeeding. They are trained on the ins and outs of milk production and related health issues. Their main goal? Making sure baby is fed and healthy. These specialized consultants have coursework in health sciences, clinical experience, lactation training and pass an exam. If you’re asking how to find a good lactation consultant these folks are going to be at the top of their game.
A certified lactation consultant (CLC) can assist as well but they may not have the education or clinical hours of an IBCLC ® . To find someone who is capable of helping you you can ask for recommendations from your local La Leche League, doctor’s office or go on to the website for the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners ® for a list near you. Hospitals often have someone on staff as well. Want to know what a visit will look like? Check out this blog post.
I’m not breastfeeding. Do I need to talk to a lactation consultant?
Oh my goodness yes!! It sounds counter intuitive but a good consultant will work with you to achieve your goals and maintain breast health. As someone who has had mastitis make sure you know how to stop breastfeeding safely. I delivered surrogate twins in December 2017 and had every intention of pumping until I could safely reduce my supply. My milk never came in but you better believe I had a lactation consultant on speed dial in case they were needed.
Drink lots of water.
Yup. Dehydration is the enemy of breastfeeding. Drink buckets of water. Then drink some more. Staying well hydrated will help.
How is breastfeeding after a c-section different?
I’ve had one c-section and they were very forward with me on how important it was to get baby on the breast as soon as possible afterwards. Sometimes a c-section can delay milk flow so you’ll want to cuddle that baby as much as possible and keep letting them try.
Pain can also make breastfeeding difficult. Couple the pain with the fear of taking something for that pain and it flowing through to baby and you can see why anxiety can set in. As long as you have a frank discussion with your doctor about your desire for breast feeding friendly meds you should be in the clear. Don’t be a hero. Take the medication so that you can recover and be there for baby.
Do I need to leave my house to get help? Can I get breastfeeding tips and consultations online?
Great news! We have come a long way since 2004 when I had my first. No longer do you have to pack up a new baby and head out of the house to get help. Of course Facebook has a group for everything. To find local supportive moms you can search for a parents group in your area.
Another amazing resource? Telemedicine! You can consult with a lactation specialist from the comfort of your home via the internet and a video connection.
I have a lovely friend Sandra who I went to elementary school with. She’s now an IBCLC ®. I asked her for some recommendations on virtual lactation help since I haven’t used it (but I do use Teledoc for regular medical stuff). She works with Maven which is a digital clinic for women. I browsed their prices and they are reasonable at $25 for a 20 minute lactation consult. You can also speak to mental health professionals and nutritionists!
How can I tell if my breastfeeding baby is getting enough to eat?
This is one that I struggled with myself constantly. When I pumped I wasn’t getting a lot of milk and that made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough for baby.
Keep in mind that everyone’s milk production is different. While worry is real statistics have shown that only 5 to 15 percent of nursing mothers actually have a low milk supply. Fear can be a very real thing though so here are some easy physical ways to tell that baby is getting enough to eat.
Wet diapers. Average newborns wet through about 6 to 10 diapers a day peeing and 3ish diapers pooping. Trust me it feels like more sometimes. Wet diapers mean milk is being taken in. It’s a great sign!
Weight gain. Babies who are feeding until they are full should show an upward trend in weight gain. Be aware that babies can drop from their birth weight in the first few days after delivery so don’t worry. By two weeks baby’s should be back to their birth weight and you can watch that upward trend.
If you feel like baby is wetting enough but you’d like to see if you can up your supply look at foods that are galactagogues. These are foods that naturally increase milk supply like fenugreek and oatmeal. I’ve got a lactation cookie recipe that will taste good and hopefully give you a little bump!
Common Breastfeeding Problems and Breastfeeding Tips for Solutions That Work
What is a tongue-tie? How is a tongue-tie diagnosed?
A tongue-tie is when the tongue has an extra thick band attaching it’s underside to the bottom of the mouth. Because babies keep their tongue over their lower gums to eat properly and a tongue-tie restricts tongue motion this is something to address if you think it’s problematic. Make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician to talk about it.
What is thrush? How is thrush treated?
Let me just start by saying that thrush is no fun. Thrush is basically an oral overgrowth of yeast bacteria. The reason it’s no fun? Once baby has it they pass it to you, you pass it back to them, they pass it to you and so on. It’s a vicious cycle. Thrush usually first comes up when the mother has cracked nipples and thrush can enter the breast via that damage.
If you had antibiotics after birth, during recovery or for any other reason your risk of thrush is raised because those same antibiotics can let yeast run rampant in your body. Thrush symptoms include stabbing breast pain, pain between nursing sessions, and your breasts hurt after feeding for extended periods of time. Basically they always hurt. And it sucks. Baby’s mouth will sometimes have white spots, but not always.
How to Treat Thrush
Treating thrush is not difficult but it’s super important that both you and baby are treated together so that you don’t continue to pass it back and forth. It is my firm belief that thrush exists to prepare parents for head lice. The ideas are the same. You not only need to treat the patients but you need to wash all bras, binkies, nursing necklaces, breast pads, etc to ensure that no yeasty badness remains to sneak back in.
Thrush is treated with anti-fungal medications. Baby takes one and you usually utilize a nipple cream with anti-fungal properties. You will also see gentian violet mentioned. It is an anti-fungal and a favorite of many moms who consider it a more natural method. One thing you need to know? It stains and it cannot be covered tightly. If you choose to use it you’ll need to let your nipples air dry after applying. Talk to your doctor about the proper application for yourself and baby.
Will my sore nipples ever heal? How can I soothe cracked nipples without screaming and cursing?
Sore cracked nipples can be caused by positioning issues among other things. Once they happen though- they hurt! And since a cracked nipple can introduce the possibility of thrush you’ll want to treat them. You can rub expressed breast milk on them for the antibiotic properties, use lanolin on them, or apply warm compresses. If it persists talk to your doctor as there are some special creams that can help. (Shout out to triple nipple!)
How do I know if I have clogged ducts? How can I treat them?
Clogged ducts are one of breastfeeding’s common problems. Basically drainage from the milk duct isn’t properly functioning and it becomes a plugged duct. Sometimes you can feel the small lump and other times you’ll just feel the slight discomfort.
Treatment is pretty basic. You’ll want to start by offering that side first so that you can try to drain the area and work through the clogged duct. You can also alternate heat (before feeding) and cool (after feeding). Doing a small massage or expressing in a warm shower can help.
Why do you want to watch out for clogged ducts? Well if that doesn’t get attended to it can become mastitis which is a hot mess.
Mastitis. Pure evil. How to catch it and how to treat mastitis.
As you may be able to tell I have experience with mastitis. Deep personal experience. With my first baby, he came 5 weeks early. By the time I saw him in the NICU he had already been given a bottle without my knowledge. He was there for almost a week. I was a mess. Nothing prepared me to go home from the hospital without a baby? It was surreal. A hospital grade pump was rented. Barely producing, I tried to breastfeeding him on visits and he screamed his head off. One case of raging mastitis that hospitalized me later and the doctor ordered a special high calorie formula. This left me feeling like a double failure because I couldn’t breast feed him and because it was SO expensive.
So my takeaways? Pay attention to your boobs folks. If they get rock hard and hurt, specifically if the pain is more concentrated in one breast talk to your doctor. If you are running a fever talk to your doctor. It may feel like the flu. Don’t ignore it. With it being my first I ended up in the ER with a 104 fever and talk of them removing my breast. Please don’t be like me. Speak up if something feels wrong. Call your doctor, call La Leche League, see if your insurance company has a free nurse line you can call.
In closing the most important breastfeeding tip? Love yourself and that baby.
That time period after you have a new baby can be exhilarating and stressful and thrilling and anxiety ridden all in the same minute! Hormones are rushing through, you’re adjusting to life in the fourth trimester. If you feel overwhelmed, sad, anxious, depressed or just need someone to talk to please reach out to someone. Talk to your doctor, message a mom friend, post in a Facebook group, schedule a virtual consult. Message me! I’ll listen. Facebook is best.
Best of luck to you! You can do it. I believe in you.