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Breastfeeding is rough – seriously. While breastfeeding might be natural, that doesn’t mean it comes easy to most women, which is why so many women stop breastfeeding. Why should it be so hard to do something so natural?
After breastfeeding three babies, I feel as if I’ve experienced almost every issue that you could. From mastitis to tongue ties, my babies put me through a breastfeeding battle zone. Along the way, I learned some tips that have made the experience a bit more enjoyable and easier.
13 Breastfeeding Tips
Bring Baby to Breast As Soon As Possible
As soon as you can, bring your baby to your breasts. Babies come out waiting to nurse, and the sooner you can get your baby to breastfeed, the better. It’s ideal for their blood sugar and body temperature. So, strip down and lay your baby skin to skin while you breastfeed. Take in your baby, stare at his face, and let him nurse at your breast.
Have a Lactation Consultant on Standby
Breastfeeding is tricky, and for new mothers, you need some help. Before you have your baby, get in contact with a lactation consultant. She can come to the hospital to help you after your baby arrives or come to your home, coffee and donuts in hand, to answer your questions.
Check for Tongue and Lip Ties at Birth
All three of my children have had some sort of tie. My first had a severe tongue tie that was diagnosed at birth. Her tongue was heart-shaped, and it still is years later, after it was clipped. My second and third child have both tongue and lip ties.
For many, breastfeeding with tongue or lip ties can be downright impossible. Not only do ties hurt and lead to cracked nipples, but they also can reduce how much milk your baby can efficiently transfer out of your breast. That can cause weight gain issues, clogged ducts, and supply issues.
A trained lactation consultant should be able to diagnose ties, and your pediatrician might be familiar with them as well. Don’t worry! Tongue and lip ties can be clipped, usually in the office, and you’ll notice an immediate change in the pain felt while breastfeeding.
Keep Baby Close at Night
The American Academy for Pediatrics recommends that parents roomshare for at least six months to reduce the risk of SIDS. I’ve found that keeping my baby close at night is ideal for breastfeeding. I use an Arm’s Reach Cosleeper so that I can move the baby over and side-lay nurse in bed. Then, after the baby is back to sleep, I can move my baby back into his cosleeper. No stepping out of bed and lots of milk for the baby!
Remember, your baby is going to breastfeed frequently, usually every 2-3 hours, around the clock. Getting up and down to nurse each time reduces how much sleep you get, and you need every minute possible.
According to a new study by the American Academy for Pediatrics, around 43% of 12-month old infants don’t sleep 8-hours straight, despite what ‘experts’ might tell you. As a mom of three kids, I can attest this is true, and their study does say breastfed babies do continue to be more wakeful. So, cosleeping with your baby is a safe and useful tool for breastfeeding.
Drink Like a Fish
Breastfeeding mothers need to drink more fluids. You’ll probably feel thirsty without needing to plan to drink more, but keep water with you all the time. Dehydration can cause a problem with your health and your milk supply.
Doctors recommend that you drink ½ to a ¾ ounce of water per pound that you weigh when you aren’t nursing. So, a 160-pound woman might want to drink around 80 to 120 ounces of water each day! Aim to drink a minimum of eight glasses of water, but more is better when it comes to hydrating while breastfeeding.
Make a Snack Basket
I’m always starving during the first few weeks of breastfeeding and throughout the first year. It’s worse during the first weeks though, because you’re healing after birth and your milk supply is taking a lot of your calories.
Breastfeeding moms need to take in more calories than a non-nursing woman. Plan to eat around 500 more calories a day, so 2,000 to 2,500 a day. Not eating enough can negatively affect your milk supply. Also, don’t try to drastically drop weight while breastfeeding either because it can tank your supply. Weight loss is possible while breastfeeding, but you’ll want to do it at a steady pace instead of rapidly.
Use a Haakaa
A Haakaa was possibly my favorite breastfeeding accessories. During the first few weeks of breastfeeding, your milk supply is on a wild ride, and your breasts leak all the time. If your baby cries, you leak. If you look at adorable pictures of your baby, your breasts leak.
A Haakaa is a silicone breast pump that attaches to the breast you aren’t nursing from with suction and catches any milk that might leak out of that breast. Usually, I was able to get around two to three ounces of milk without actually pumping. It was a great tool that let me build up a freezer stash.
Don’t Wait Forever to Introduce a Bottle
Lactation consultants recommend waiting six weeks to introduce a bottle, and for some babies, that works great. Unfortunately, that plan hadn’t worked for two of my babies who refused a bottle by the time six weeks rolled around. Breastfed babies are notoriously horrible at taking a bottle, and some will downright refuse to eat even if they’re hungry.
So, I used the Haakaa and breast pump within two to three weeks and had my husband offer a bottle of breast milk. Typically, I only offered one ounce before I nursed. Doing so introduced the bottle to my baby, but wouldn’t negatively affect my milk supply. I might pump an extra ounce afterward as well to be sure my supply wasn’t bothered.
Take Advantage of the Early Milk Supply
At first, your milk supply can be insane. Some women struggle to make enough milk, but most women make plenty, and then some more. Take advantage of your incredible milk supply to pump extra. You might notice that, in the morning, your breasts are about to burst, even if your baby has had a full nursing session or two. Pump and freeze that milk. Over time, your supply does regulate, and you might not have as much extra.
Use Cream Before and After Nursing
In the beginning, your nipples are going to be sore and tender, even if you’ve breastfed before. Your nipples have to get used to breastfeeding again. To help with the soreness, use a cream before and after nursing.
Lanolin cannot be used before nursing; you have to wipe it off, which can irritate your nipples even more. I prefer to use creams that you don’t need to wipe off. Some women have success with coconut oil as well. Let your nipples air dry after nursing as well.
Nurse in the Bathtub
Babies instinctively want to breastfeed when they’re skin to skin with you. Getting into a warm bathtub or shower helps your body to relax, and your milk starts to let down. The warm water helps to reduce the soreness that your nipples might be feeling. Nursing in the bathtub is one of my favorite ways to get skin to skin with my babies, and it sure feels good!
Wear Tanks Underneath for Nursing in Public
Nursing in public can be a scary experience for new moms! I can tell you all day long that it’s not as frightening as you might think, but you won’t believe me until you try. Wearing a tank top under your shirt covers your belly as you breastfeed, making it less visible to people around you. I like to keep my stomach covered, so you might feel just like me.
Watch Cues Not a Clock
Breastfeeding means letting go of our desires to watch the clock. Sometimes, your breastfed baby might want to nurse every two hours, but then suddenly, it’s been three hours, and he isn’t hungry. The opposite can happen, and he wants to nurse an hour later.
It’s easy to put a bottle fed baby on a feeding schedule, but following your breastfed baby’s hunger cues. When he is hungry, feed your baby. It’s that simple, and don’t try to overcomplicate it by making an intense schedule. Chances are, your baby will say the heck with it anyway and throw you for loops every day.
Perhaps the most important thing you should do as a breastfeeding mom is to relax. While breastfeeding is essential, if you supplement or end up using formula, it’s not the end of the world, although it can feel like it. Take it a day at a time, and set short goals. For example, you want to breastfeed for a week, then a month, then three months, and so forth. Setting short goals helps you to see how far you’ve come!
What is your favorite breastfeeding tip? I would love to see them in the comments.