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Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience between a mother and a baby. It is a great way to develop a loving bond while nourishing your little one. However, breastfeeding can be a little daunting in the beginning. There is quite a bit to consider when figuring out how to feed your little one breastmilk. Not to worry! There are multiple, practical breastfeeding tips to make breastfeeding easier so you can enjoy bonding with your little one.
1. Talk to your healthcare provider
If you plan on breastfeeding or are thinking about it, let your healthcare provider know. The healthcare professional will often let the hospital know that you are interested in breastfeeding your baby.
Shortly after giving birth, you should receive a lactation consultation and/or a pamphlet with information on practical breastfeeding tips. These tend to include nursing positions, information on the rooting reflex, and avoiding a clogged milk duct (Yes, that’s a real thing).
2. Consider a breastfeeding class
You don’t have to attend a class, but you should at least look up a video on how to breastfeed before your baby is born (or shortly after) to get a basic idea of what to do. You may even pick up on new practical breastfeeding tips.
3. Get the right nursing supplies
Nursing supplies are so important. They make breastfeeding your baby easier and help you in so many ways. There is also an overabundance of advertised nursing supplies. You may not need all of them, but everyone is different. These are my top recommendations.
- Nipple Cream. If you decide not to get anything, at the very least get nipple cream! It is THE most helpful nursing supply. It is safe for the baby to consume, and it helps to prevent cracked nipples. Many times you will receive a small, purple tube of Lanolin Nipple Cream from the hospital. I personally recommend Organic Nipple Cream by Earth Mama. It is easier to spread onto tender nipples, makes a great lip balm, kept me from getting cracked nipples, and heals minor nipple wounds.
- Nursing Bra. This was the only nursing clothing that I owned and used. Being able to whip out a boob in an instant like a ninja mom is helpful when you need to shove a boob in a hungry baby’s mouth.
- Breastfeeding Pads. Your breasts are going to leak. Unless you decide not to breastfeed, you will more than likely experience milk leakage. And, it can be a pain to have to change your bra and shirt multiple times a day because your boobs leaked. I used reusable breastfeeding pads to catch the excess milk and not ruin my clothes. Plus, reusables save you money!
- Breastmilk collector. Speaking of leakage, I highly recommend a Haakaa. It is the best breast pump/breast milk collector. While breastfeeding your baby on one boob, you can collect milk on the other. This is ESPECIALLY helpful when you are engorged and feel as though your chest is about to explode with milk!
- Breast Therapy Pack. Last, but not least, a breast therapy pack is helpful when your boobs feel tender and as if they ran a milking marathon on their own. Think of it as an ice pack or heating pad exclusively for your boobs.
4. Breastfeed immediately after birth
Breastfeeding your baby ASAP after birth is great so that your baby can get to know you, latch on, and take in that precious colostrum. Colostrum is the first form of breast milk that is nutrient-dense and rich in antibodies.
It might feel impossible to breastfeed after birth. But luckily, you can ask a nurse for assistance to help you breastfeed your baby in the beginning.
5. Try various nursing positions
There are four main nursing positions – cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, football hold, and side-lying hold. Experiment and find what works best. If none of these work, look up pictures and videos on breastfeeding positions. There are SO many.
For me, none of these four positions worked because I have a short torso and large breasts. A nursing pillow didn’t help either. And, I felt as if I had to grow an extra arm just to breastfeed my baby! I found that what works best for my baby and I was to let him lay on one thigh as if it were a pillow, help him latch, hold a boob in position for him, and use my legs to keep him from rolling off.
6. Ensure you have a good latch
Having a good latch is essential. You want your breast really pressed into your baby’s mouth, BUT DO NOT SUFFOCATE YOUR BABY. You do not want your baby to suck on just the tip of your nipple. That will hurt and cause blisters (speaking from experience).
A good way to know if you have a good latch is if you can’t see your nipple and all, or most, of your areola (the colored skin around your nipple) is in your baby’s mouth. You should also feel good suckling.
7. Breastfeed from both breasts
Breastfeeding from both breasts is not only practical but essential. It is best to alternate the breast you feed your baby on. You can do both in one session or just one side per session.
8. Take care of your breasts!
It is easy to forget to take care of ourselves while keeping our tiny humans alive and taking care of our babies. It is, however, essential to take care of your breasts. Make sure that they are clean, and moisturized, and that you are putting your nipple cream on!
It is always good to change your bra, too. I sniffed one of mine once to see if I could wear it again, and did I ever regret that!
Also, be sure to trim your baby’s nails! Or, at least cover their hands with baby mitts, sewn-in mitts on their onesies, or even socks. Those little nails are cute, but they are like paper cuts!
9. Look for cues to breastfeed
Every baby is different, but there are some ways to see if your baby is hungry.
- hand to mouth
- fingers in mouth
- nuzzles into your breast
- awake and alert
- hands are in a fist
- they just look hangry
10. Avoid snoozing on the boob, if possible
This isn’t easy, and I’m guilty of allowing this, but you need to try to keep your baby awake while breastfeeding. You want to avoid using breastfeeding as a means to lull your baby to sleep, if possible.
You can gently tickle their feet, gently pinch their legs, talk to your baby, or have a toy nearby that can keep them engaged.
11. Make sure your baby is breastfeeding enough
It is not always easy to know if your baby has had their fill for each breastfeeding session, but these are practical breastfeeding tips to know if they are nursing enough:
- your can see and/or hear them sucking, usually, you will see their ears move up and down while sucking
- their hands are no longer in a fist
- they are gaining weight and growing
- lots of pee and poop diapers
- checking to see if your breasts still feel firm and full of milk or not
12. Increase your breastmilk supply, if needed
This is not always necessary. Increasing your breastmilk supply depends on your and your baby’s needs. But these are ways you can:
- move milk to produce milk… you need to breastfeed more or pump
- drink enough water… either eight 8-ounces glasses a day, or two-thirds of your body weight depending on where you live, the weather, and your health
- eat a well-balanced diet with enough calories
- try to reduce stress and get enough rest
13. Avoid formula if possible
This is not always possible. Babies lose weight after they are born. But, if you feel like it is necessary, then go ahead. It’s your call, mama.
14. Use a breast pump while breastfeeding
I’ve mentioned the Haakka to collect milk and pump while breastfeeding. But sometimes you need something a little stronger. If you do decide to use an electric pump, get some hands-free pumping bras. These are serious game-changers!
15. Don’t obsess over a backup milk supply
Okay, I was guilty of doing this for a while. And you know what? My baby didn’t care about any of the milk supply! He wanted it fresh from the boob!
Obsessing over a backup supply can add to your stress, too.
But if you do end up with a backup supply and have no idea what to do with it, consider looking into donating your extra milk to the hospital. You will need to contact someone first though. Or, you can get some breastmilk jewelry made.
16. Hold off on the pacifier
A pacifier is great for soothing your baby, but it can suppress your baby’s hunger believe it or not! Try to avoid it for the first few weeks.
17. Use a breastfeeding tracker
In the age of technology, there are so many helpful tools within our reach. You can download a free breastfeeding tracker to keep a record of your baby’s feeding session. Many trackers also allow you to track diapers and sleep! Plus, they are free! A breastfeeding tracker was one of the best, practical breastfeeding tips a nurse gave me, and I have been using it for over a year!
18. Accept that you may need to breastfeed in public if you choose
There is no shame in breastfeeding in public. It is your choice to do so.
19. Keep an eye on your well-being
I’ve mentioned trying to reduce stress and getting enough sleep to help your milk supply. But, your overall well-being is so important for more than being your baby’s personal milk factory. Taking care of yourself is so important.
You can take care of your baby better when you take care of yourself.
20. Keep an eye on what you put into your body
Eating a well-balanced diet is ideal, but it is not always practical. Sometimes, we want to eat a whole pint of ice cream or finish that bag of chips.
Breastfeeding is very exhausting and burns a bunch of calories, so you need to nourish yourself.
You also need to be mindful of what you put into your body.
Take your vitamins. Avoid smoking. If you consume alcohol, do not breastfeed for 3 to 4 hours so your body can clear the alcohol from your system. The pump and dump method doesn’t work. But, if you feel like you need a drink (which I totally get), make sure your baby is taken care of first.
21. Be prepared for spit-up
Baby spit-up is normal and often expected. Some babies spit up occasionally, a lot, or not at all. If your baby does spit up, then burp cloths and bibs will be your best friend. I found cute bandana bibs and burp cloths that complimented my baby’s outfits. If your baby spits up a lot, it would be more practical to have extra-absorbent burp cloths on hand.
22. There is no shame in asking for help.
If you are struggling to breastfeed, you can always consult a lactation specialist. They are there to help you. If you are not sure how to find one, talk to your baby’s pediatrician. They should be able to point you in the right direction.
OR maybe you are just exhausted. Get your significant other to hold your boob for you while your baby breastfeeds!
There is more to breastfeeding than many of us originally thought. Mother nature can awaken our natural instinct to nourish our babies, but it can be overwhelming! Therefore, I decided to put together these practical breastfeeding tips to help a fellow mama out.
I know breastfeeding is not for everyone. If you really want to breastfeed and experience that bond with your baby, then don’t give up. There is no shame in breastfeeding or choosing not to.
And most importantly, do not let anyone pressure you into feeling guilty for your choices!
What do you think of these 22 practical breastfeeding tips?