Congratulations, Mama! Baby is finally HERE. And while you may have stocked your registry with every possible gadget and gizmo on the market, you’ll realize pretty quickly that newborns don’t need all that much. Just love, sleep, diaper changes, and of course… food!
First off, we’re firm believers in the idea that “fed is best.” Whatever route you choose to go with feeding your newborn—whether that’s by breast or by bottle, with breast milk or formula, know that you’re giving your precious bundle exactly what he or she needs.
In case you’ve decided to give breastfeeding a go, we’re chiming in with a few tips for new Moms on what to REALLY expect from the process. What’s natural isn’t always second nature (at least at first). Here are ten tips from experts and real-life new moms about how to make the process go a bit smoother.
1. Get started ASAP
You’ve just been through seemingly endless months of pregnancy capped off with a vaginal or c-section delivery, and the last thing you may feel like doing is latching that baby on to your breast. But it’s SO important to get the process started early. In the days right after delivery before your milk comes in, your body will produce a substance called colostrum (sometimes referred to as ”liquid gold” thanks to it’s shiny, yellow-ish sheen). This contains super-beneficial antibodies and is dense in calories to help kickstart your baby’s growth. Even if your baby requires medical attention or a stay in the NICU, you can still get the process started manually, or with the help of a hospital breast pump.
2. It’s ALL about the latch
Most moms consider a good latch the Holy Grail of breastfeeding. Make sure that baby has a wide open mouth when feeding and isn’t just attached to the nipple. You can help encourage your baby to open his or her mouth by brushing their top lip lightly with your nipple to jumpstart the process. Be sure to aim your nipple toward the top of his or her mouth and ensure that baby’s nose isn’t covered by your breast so they can breathe easily. Some moms even swear by doing a bit of gentle squeezing to your breast to ensure the milk is flowing. You should quickly be able to see your baby sucking (and swallowing) to ensure they are getting milk.
3. Try different positions for breastfeeding
There are literally dozens of different ways to breastfeed your baby, so have patience and learn what works for you. Some moms swear by using a special nursing pillow (a regular pillow can work just fine, too). Some babies feel more comfortable in a “football hold” versus a traditional cradle. And some even love to be on their backs while mom places her breast above them (it may look strange, but it works!). Experiment with different positions to see what works best for the two of you.
4. Invest in a GREAT nursing bra
A comfortable and supportive nursing bra is a total must-have whether you’re breastfeeding or pumping. You may be surprised at how often you need quick and easy access to your breasts! We’ve reinvented our ThirdLove 24/7™ Classic Nursing Bra with features you’ll love (whether you’re nursing or not):
- Additional hook and eye closures to help adjust to size fluctuation.
- Gold alloy hardware detailing (because every new Mom deserves to feel gorgeous)
- Organic, breathable, and buttery-soft Pima cotton
- Drop-down cups for easy access when hunger strikes
24/7® Classic Nursing Bra
Finding a bra can feel challenging, but here are a few great resources to help make your decision easier. Your breasts after breastfeeding will continue to change, so make sure to check that your bra is always comfortable and fits well!
5. Look out for these warning signs
Even though it may be uncomfortable at first, breastfeeding should never feel painful. If it is, be sure to ask a doctor, nurse, or lactation consultant for advice. Here are a few additional “watch-outs” to be aware of:
- Clogged ducts
This is a fairly common issue for new moms, but that doesn’t make it any less painful. Clogged ducts occur when your milk gets backed up. You may feel a hard “lump” in your breast which is tender to the touch. It’s important to keep breastfeeding when this happens (expelling the milk is the best remedy). Hot showers can be a godsend, or try massaging the lump when breastfeeding (or pumping). One mama even swears by heating up a clean sock filled with rice in the microwave and using it to massage the lump when feeding or pumping (just make sure it isn’t too hot if baby is near).
Mastitis is an inflammation of breast tissue that often involves an infection. This results in breast pain, swelling, warmth, and redness, and flu-like symptoms like a fever and / or chills. It can happen from breasts not being drained properly during feeding (so it’s often to have a breast pump on hand as a backup, even if you plan on exclusively breastfeeding). If you think you may be experiencing this, it’s important to seek medical attention right away. Your doctor will likely need to prescribe an antibiotic to clear up the infection (which is also safe for baby). Mastitis is a literal pain, but this doesn’t mean that your breastfeeding days are over.
- Cracked nipples
Ouch. Tender, dry, or cracked nipples are a common breastfeeding issue. Be sure to keep your breasts clean by showering (or sponging off) once a day with a mild soap. Dry nipples off after feeding with a lint-free towel, and be sure to have a purified lanolin nipple cream or organic nursing ointment on hand to help keep them hydrated. It often helps to give your breasts a “breather” by allowing them to air out between feedings.
- Inverted nipples
An estimated 10-20% of women have “inverted” nipples, which is just a way of saying they are flatter in shape. Inverted nipples are usually nothing to worry about, but can cause some issues with breastfeeding (nipple shields can be a huge help here).
6. Breastfeeding and alcohol—the real deal
Most doctors agree that up to one standard drink per day is not harmful to baby. That said, it’s always best to wait at least two hours after enjoying that well-deserved glass of wine before nursing. If you do choose to imbibe, the best time for this is right after nursing to ensure the alcohol has long enough to dissipate in your system. Excessive alcohol consumption while breastfeeding isn’t good for baby’s development, and can also cause disturbances in sleep patterns (and we know you need all the sleep you can get, Mama). Along a similar vein, check with your doctor about foods to avoid while breastfeeding, as some (like garlic, onions, and other strong tastes) can upset baby’s tummy and digestion.
7. Stay hydrated
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s not always at the top of a new Mom’s “To Do” list to drink water. Especially when you have a sleeping baby on your chest, laundry piling up, and cluster feeds to contend with. But remember that staying hydrated is a key component of happy breastfeeding. The water you drink becomes the milk you produce, so drink up to help keep your production levels high.
8. Breastfeeding in public
Chances are, you won’t always be in the privacy of your own home when hunger strikes. The first time you breastfeed in the wild may seem a little strange, but remember, there’s no shame in the breastfeeding game! Here’s a few tips from those in the know:
- Choose comfortable clothing. There are tons of options out there for nursing moms which can provide quick, easy, and discreet access to your breasts. Consider a button-front or loose-fitting top, or carry a cardigan or lightweight jacket or blanket to drape over baby while feeding.
- Try it in a wrap or a sling. It may take a bit of practice, but it’s totally possible to nurse baby while they’re tucked close to your body. Just be sure to give it a test-run around the house first.
Breastfeeding is a natural occurrence, and one that should exist without ANY stigma or shame (not to mention, it’s totally within your legal right to breastfeed wherever and whenever you want. But just in case you’re feeling shy, consider a cover up.
9. Ask for help if you need it
Reading a book or taking a class in breastfeeding is one thing. But actually doing it… that’s another issue entirely. While many hospitals provide lactation consultants, nurses are also well equipped to help get you started and troubleshoot any issues. Ring that call button, Mama! Remember, you’ll be home soon enough… so don’t be shy to ask for help when you need it!
10. Relax. You’ve got this.
After you’re expecting, you can expect the unexpected. But just remember, you’ve got this. However long you keep on your breastfeeding journey—whether it’s two days, two weeks, or two years—every experience is unique and beautiful in its own right. Savor those newborn snuggles, and know that one day in the not-so-distant future, you may actually miss those nighttime feedings. You go, Mama.