Breastfeeding is hard, guys. It doesn’t come as naturally as one might think. But there are ways to increase your chance of success! One of the best things I did before Finn was born was learn about the details of breastfeeding. If you are expecting, and you hope to breastfeed, here are some of my breastfeeding tips!
These breastfeeding tips are based on what I found to be the most useful as I prepared to give up my body, once again, for my baby. This is a no judgement zone, and I would never ever make a mama feel bad for choosing to breastfeed or not breastfeed. Truthfully it’s YOUR choice and only yours. But I don’t have experience with formula, so this post is directed to breastfeeding mamas or those who plan on it.
So… what breastfeeding tips do I have for you before your baby is born?
My Top Breastfeeding Tips
Tip 1: Understand the basics of breastfeeding
Here’s the truth: before Finn was born, I knew that women breastfed, but I didn’t understand any of the mechanisms, process, or how it all worked. I was so glad to have educated myself before I had Finn so that I was much more aware of what was happening.
Here are the basics that helped me understand what breastfeeding was about:
Types of breastmilk:
- Your body produces colostrum before your baby is born – this is highly nutrient-dense, thick “liquid gold” that sustains your baby for the first few days of life.
- After a few days, your milk comes in – your breasts become engorged and your baby begins drinking what we know as “breastmilk”.
- The first few minutes that your baby feeds, it gets foremilk. This milk is high in carbohydrates to give your baby energy.
- After a few minutes of breastfeeding, your baby begins to consume hindmilk. This milk is more calorie-dense and contains more fat. It’s satiating for your baby, and keeps them feeling fuller for longer. It’s important that they get a balance of both foremilk and hindmilk.
What’s a let down?
While your baby is suckling at your breast, they aren’t constantly drinking. Baby stimulates your breast tissue, nipple and areola by sucking, and in return your body triggers the “let down” reflex. A ‘let down’ is when your breasts release the milk, letting it flow for your baby to drink. People can have one or more let downs per nursing session. It can sometimes feel like a tingling sensation in your chest when it happens.
How often do you breastfeed your baby?
Breastfeeding on demand is typically recommended. Especially in the earlier days when your baby needs to feed more frequently. But normally you can expect to breastfeed every 2-3 hours. As your baby grows, they may learn to go longer periods, especially overnight. That being said, this guidance should come from your healthcare provider or lactation consultant since every baby is different.
Tip 2: Know what a “good” latch looks like
The way your baby latches onto your nipple/areola can vary. Some babies have tongue and lip ties, making a good latch very difficult. Other babies naturally have a shallow latch. Babies aren’t born knowing exactly how to latch to your breast, so you really need to help them at first.
Here are the things you need to consider:
- Point your nipple towards the top of your baby’s mouth, running it along their upper lip. When they open WIDE, push them onto your breast while guiding your nipple into their mouth.
- Your baby will be sucking in more than just your nipple – they should be taking in part of your areola as well.
- Check to be sure their lips are flanged.
- Baby’s chin should be against your breast, stimulating the tissue as they suck.
There might be a bit of discomfort at first, but it should not be painful. If it’s painful, double-check that the latch is correct. Unlatch them by putting your finger between their mouth and your nipple, pop them off, and try to relatch them. A bad latch can lead to inflamed, cracked and bleeding nipples very quickly.
I suggest looking up Dr. Jack Newman’s information on proper latch – this is a good resource. Here is another great resource from Kellymom.com. Videos can also be helpful to show you what you should experience.
Tip 3: Protect your nipples
This is a no brainer. Get a good nipple cream and use it after every single feed – from the very beginning! I like this one by Earth Mama, it’s all natural and is made with cacao butter (aka it smells like chocolate). It’s also safe for baby, and you don’t have to wipe it off before a feed. I found it super moisturizing and I was lucky not to experience any damaged nipples.
Be sure to watch for pain, redness, cracking, bleeding, etc. These can all be signs of a bad latch. There is usually some discomfort with breastfeeding, especially in the beginning, but major pain is not good and in this case a lactation consultant can help you identify the issue.
Tip 4: Learn different nursing positions
Your baby may prefer nursing in certain positions so it’s always a good idea to be familiar with different options. For example, on day 3, Finn decided he didn’t like cross cradle anymore and fussed every time I tried feeding him in that position. I tried a couple of others, and he decided he liked nursing in football hold. He kept this up for a few weeks and then got used to cradle hold. We also got the hang of side-lying, so we do that one occasionally.
The most popular holds are: Cradle hold, Cross cradle, laid back nursing, football hold and side-lying. Here is a good article that explains all five. Depending on your breasts and your baby, getting a good latch might be easier in some positions than in others, so keep this in mind!
Tip 5: Drink water during your nursing sessions
Dehydration is a super common reason why some women feel like they have low milk supply. Your baby is literally draining your body of liquid – you want to make sure it’s being replenished effectively! My suggestion is to keep a big water bottle near your breastfeeding station and drink from it at least every time you feed.
Tip 6: Eat well and snack if you’re hungry
Eating enough calories is super important when breastfeeding. Your body is not only nourishing YOU but also your baby. If you find yourself hungry during nursing sessions, keep plenty of healthy and convenient snacks on hand.
The number of ‘extra’ calories that breastfeeding amounts to can be different for everyone. I found that simply listening to my body and my appetite was a great guide. If you listen to your body’s wisdom, it won’t fail you. Be sure to eat nutritious meals and snacks to keep your body well nourished.
Tip 7: Know about galactagogues
Certain foods, herbs and supplements are known to support milk production – these are called galactagogues. Some women struggle with producing enough milk to satisfy their baby, and in this case it’s good to know what might help give them a small boost. You’ve probably heard of lactation cookies or lactation tea – these are some examples of foods / drinks that contain galactagogues and are known to help boost milk supply.
- Foods that may boost milk supply include: oats, brewer’s yeast, flax seeds, almonds, green vegetables, and more.
- Herbs that are known to boost milk supply include: fenugreek, fennel, blessed thistle, and more.
With Finn, I haven’t needed to consume milk-boosting foods as I have been fortunate to supply just enough milk for him. However, I did notice when I ate oats that my milk supply was boosted within a few hours after consumption. Sometimes this worked against me, because I wanted oats but then ended up engorged, with more milk than Finn could eat. So I definitely recommend being cautious with foods and herbs.
When in doubt, speak to a lactation consultant. There are other ways to boost milk production that don’t include galactagogues, which may suit your situation much better.
Tip 8: Check out additional resources
There is so much information out there about breastfeeding. This blog post really only touches the surface. It may be a good start, but I’m not a professional and I’m simply sharing what I found helped me. There are videos, blogs, books, podcasts and more – all devoted to educating mothers about breastfeeding.
Here are some other professional resources that I have found helpful:
- The Breastfeeding Book by Dr. Sears
- Dr. Jack Newman is a well known breastfeeding expert with tons of resources
- Kellymom.com is a good website to get information as well.
Besides breastfeeding, for my top resources for pregnancy and birth, check out this post.
Tip 9: Have a lactation consultant ready
This is the biggest tip that I have for you: Line up a visit with a IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) for your postpartum period.
If you’re delivering in the hospital, sometimes they have lactation consultants on staff. But it’s a great idea to have someone visit you on day 1, 2 or 3 so they can assess your baby’s latch and answer any of your questions.
I delivered during COVID lockdown, so finding a lactation consultant was difficult and I didn’t want anyone coming into my home who wasn’t my family. I was lucky that Finn and I had a rather smooth breastfeeding experience, but I did catch up with a lactation consultant virtually a few weeks after he was born to help with his reflux and gassiness.
Remember, lactation consultants are experts in their field and no matter how much you educate yourself in advance, there’s no way you will learn everything about breastfeeding before your baby comes. Plus – there’s no substitute for their experience!
So there you go – nine breastfeeding tips, courtesy of my experience with breastfeeding Finn. I hope that you find some of these helpful/useful for your journey. You may not need all these breastfeeding tips to make you feel confident in feeding your little one, but I am a huge fan of information and prefer to overshare.
I’d love to know – if you’re a breastfeeding mama, what breastfeeding tips would you give to a new mum?Follow