17 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mamas
After my baby came, if one more nurse told me breastfeeding shouldn’t be painful, I was going to take the plastic tray table and chuck it wheels first out of my hospital room. Because breastfeeding, at least in the beginning – while your nipples are toughening up, your baby is learning to latch, and you’re figuring out the proper way to insert the boob – is very painful.
In fact most women I’ve talked to say it took them on average about 2-4 weeks (sometimes more, sometimes less) to feel like an expert. To be able to say it isn’t painful.
However after spending 4 days biting a pen or crying through each feeding with my newborn I couldn’t take it anymore. The sun seemed to rise and set based on my little one’s need to feed, and if I couldn’t figure this out I was sure to lose my mind. I was already getting anxiety counting down to each feeding, resenting the pain and exhaustion each session caused.
Plus our painful feeding sessions were not benefiting anyone- a shallow latch meant more time on the boob because the baby wasn’t getting full access to all the milk I was producing.
So I called my doula, texted all my mom friends, binge-watched some breastfeeding videos, and asked my Instagram mamas to step up to help. What am I missing, what tools can I use? Here’s what I learned.
17 Breastfeeding Tips for New Mamas:
Get yourself comfortable. Make sure you feel calm and are focused on the task at hand. I need it to be quiet and zen for me to be able to focus, and in the beginning that meant locking myself in my room or plugging in some Christmas lights to set the mood while we worked on our latch. Do what you need to do to feel secure, calm, and relaxed enough to nurse.
Keep baby outside of onesie or swaddle to keep her awake for the full feeding. Sometimes I tickle Ginny’s feet to keep her alert and awake.
Use a breastfeeding pillow to support the baby, and save your body from the tense stress of crouching over. In the beginning I was just using an elaborate setup of pillows that took time, was not efficient, and ended up giving me the worst back cramps. Get one good breastfeeding pillow to support you.
If your breast is really engorged hand pump, or express a little bit to keep baby from getting a deluge of milk once your letdown comes.
Express some milk and aim the nipple in between her nose and upper mouth to get her to open wide for attachment.
Say the words “open” and open your mouth to show her the pose so she can mimic it (this is so cool and actually works).
Sandwich your breast like a hamburger so that you can shove as much of your areola into her mouth as possible.
Once her mouth is open really wide push her head quickly to your sandwiched areola & nipple. This should be a swift movement that might look like you are catapulting the baby’s head towards your breast but is paramount and will help the baby get a deep latch. This was my biggest mistake- the baby’s mouth isn’t big enough to get the whole areola in, so you need both squish the boob and shove it quickly into her mouth for a good, deep latch. Do not bring the boob to the baby, bring the baby’s head to the boob.
Latching is a two part attachment process- jaw should hit at the bottom first then top of mouth.
Her mouth when it’s properly attached should look pursed like a fish-face. You can also pull bottom lip/chin down to get a deeper latch. Just take one finger and pull down a little and it will make her open wider.
If the latch is too shallow and painful use your pinky to unlatch her from your boob and try again.
Suckling shouldn’t be loud. It’s a quiet pulsing rhythm, and you should also hear swallowing in between suckles. It almost sounds like a “squish” noise.
Breathe. Keep your shoulders down. Visualize a waterfall flowing down through your breasts giving your baby nutrients and love.
Watch for the babies hand to guide for feeding clues. Clenched fist means still hungry, relaxed hand means finishing up.
Gently massage the breast she’s nursing on a few times during every session to help empty the ducts evenly. Sometimes one duct doesn’t empty properly and can get clogged which often ends in mastitis.
If you do ever find a tender hard spot on a boob (or under, or near your armpit), it can often be worked out and mastitis prevented, by gently massaging it religiously either during a feeding or in the shower by rubbing outwards in toward the nipple, including around armpits and where your bra wire is.
Pumping can help but a baby’s mouth is more efficient than any pump.
Don’t use a cold compress for breast soreness because cold can stifle letdown which would exacerbate a clog.
Get some back-up formula. When I first came home from the hospital I was so stressed out and overwhelmed I couldn’t produce any milk. I sobbed thinking I was starving my baby girl which made me more stressed out and kept the milk from flowing. The next day my husband and I got some formula from our pediatrician and with the piece of mind I was given the reassurance to let the milk flow again. Do what is right for you and your baby. Your only mission is to keep her fed and healthy, however that feels right to you.
Get more help. Do not suffer in silence. If you are in pain and overwhelmed phone a friend, make a plan, and get help as soon as possible. Whether its a group breastfeeding session or a one on one lactation consultant. The faster you act, the faster your situation can be resolved.
If using the silverette cups make sure not to wear them all the time, allow your nipples air dry.
Make sure to stay hydrated and feed yourself! I keep a bottle of water in the fridge and when she needs to feed I chug the whole thing to make sure I’m getting enough water.
If you are Type-A like me tracking your feedings might also give you piece of mind. Remember that newborns must eat every 2-4 hours and will sleep through feedings if you don’t wake them. I use a big white board and the stopwatch on my phone, or you can download the Baby Glow App and keep it all digital.
Tracking can also be helpful to figure out eating patterns, spot cluster feeding, and make sure baby is getting enough to eat/having the average number of pees & poops.
Eleven days in and my nipples don’t feel sore or broken, and latching no longer makes my teeth clench. Every feeding gets a bit easier and is an opportunity to keep learning. Sometimes I feel like we take big steps forward and are totally in sync. Other feedings are slow and frustrating.
Be kind to yourself and your little one. This is a totally new process that takes patience, endurance, and resilience but it does get better!
PS- Check out the video below sent over by my doula to get more visuals of the latching process.
Did I miss any tips? Add yours below in the comments section.