Breastfeeding can be one of the toughest parts of being a new mom. It’s well understood that breastmilk is the ideal food for newborns. It’s recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that mothers try to feed their babies breast milk for at least the first six months. But, for a new mom, chances are you’ve had no experience with breastfeeding. So, what are some breastfeeding secrets that will work best for you and your baby?
We’ve created some more robust articles on the subject, including how long you should breastfeed, the health benefits of breastfeeding your baby longer, and even how long you should feed on each breast. But here’s a quick guide to help you ground yourself, set a plan, and remove some anxiety surrounding what’s to come.
1. Chill Out and Get Help
Relax! You’re not supposed to know what you’re doing. Like with almost anything new, it’s best to seek the advice of professionals. While breastfeeding is natural, it’s also perfectly natural that you would have no idea how to do it, what to expect or how to prepare — especially if you don’t have family around to help out.
This is where a lactation consultant can be very helpful. Lactation consultants specialize in teaching new moms how to breastfeed their babies. Even if it does come naturally, it’s nice to have the reassurance that you are doing everything you can to make it easy for you and your baby. You can find a lactation consultant near you on The United States Lactation Consultant Association’s website (link below). If you’re more comfortable in a group setting, check with your doctor or hospital. Most hospitals offer breastfeeding classes for new parents. Getting help will build your confidence and give you a resource should you run into challenges.
2. Try to Nurse within the First Hours of Delivery
This may not always be possible, depending on your circumstances. But, let the hospital know your wishes. The sooner you and your baby have skin-to-skin contact and start the process, the easier it will be for both of you.
3. Get Comfortable
Find a comfortable position for you and your baby while feeding. There are multiple positions that will work and you should try to change them up. Healthychildren.org recommends utilizing several different positions as it helps with muscle fatigue and can prevent your milk ducts from clogging.
4. Avoid Pacifiers, Initially
You’ll have tons of them all around you and your baby may love them, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding pacifiers for the first three to four weeks. This gives you and your baby time to adjust and understand their natural hunger cues that can sometimes be confused by a pacifier.
5. Find a Good Pump
It may not be necessary immediately, but, at some point in your breastfeeding journey, you’ll want to express your milk. All pumps are not created equal. Find the one that you like the best. You can use anything from a manual pump to an electric pump. Make sure that everything fits. There are different size breast shields and an ill fit can make a big difference. The Mayo Clinic is a great resource when determining what you need.
6. Take care of Yourself and Your Diet
Just as you were conscious of your diet while pregnant, it’s equally important when you’re breastfeeding. Ensure that you’re eating a balanced diet filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It’s also incredibly important that you stay well hydrated. You don’t need to be worried about caloric intake, as much as giving your body healthy fuel. Drinking lots of water and eating a well-balanced diet will enable your body to produce enough milk.
Taking medication? Know some basics, and consult your doctor.
7. Hold Off on the Bottle
According to breastmilkcounts.com, it’s best to hold off introducing the bottle until four to six weeks, if possible. This will allow your milk supply to get up and running.
8. Help Your Baby Engage
Newborns can be very sleepy, which isn’t really conducive to nursing. If you notice your baby is dosing, tickle their feet or massage around their mouth to engage their sucking reflex. You want your baby as awake as possible when it comes to the business of eating.
9. Watch and Learn
If you’re a first-time mom, you may have never seen a nursing baby. It’s helpful to know what to expect. Maybe, you can
10. Try to Relax
Having a newborn is stressful. Try to make feeding as relaxing as possible for you and your baby. Find a quiet spot, play soft music and take some deep breaths. The more relaxed your environment, the more relaxed your body will be. It’s important your body is relaxed so that your milk can get to your baby easily.
11. Be Patient
The most important thing you can be when breastfeeding is patient. You and your baby may take a while to figure it all out. Your baby could have issues latching onto the breast, or you could have issues with milk production, but all of these things are perfectly normal; they are not an indication that you won’t be successful at breastfeeding. Be patient with yourself and your baby.
While breastfeeding is one of the most natural things we do as mothers, it does not always feel that way. Give yourself some grace to figure out how to best feed your newborn. Utilize the many resources available, seek professional guidance if needed and know that you will figure out how to give your baby exactly what they need.