One of my biggest worries about motherhood was whether I would be able to breastfeed our baby. If I’m honest with myself, much of that fear stemmed from my self consciousness about my small breasts – even though breast size has nothing to do with milk production. After our son was born, we had to stay in the hospital for an extra day because the nurse on duty said my breasts were “dry,” and she wasn’t convinced I’d be able to produce milk. Thankfully my milk came in the next day and I’ve been exclusively breastfeeding ever since. That’s not to say that the process has been a walk in the park, so here are my breastfeeding tips for new moms to make the process happier for both baby and mommy!
Let Baby Lead
I read tons of baby books and blogs that suggested putting your baby on an every 3 hour feeding schedule from birth, but my mom encouraged me to put the baby on the boob often, especially in the early days. By feeding on demand rather than on a schedule for the first few weeks, your baby’s nutritional needs help communicate to your body exactly how much milk it needs to produce. Eventually your baby will get into a rhythm and you can move to parent directed or scheduled feeding.
Not going to lie, breastfeeding at first can be uncomfortable (though now I can do it while walking, eating, typing on the computer, etc). Create a comfortable spot in your home so you can focus on relaxing and bonding with your baby as you feed them. I have a reclining chair in my bedroom for feeding at night (though I’ve started to just sit up in bed now that we know the drill) and one specific corner of the couch for feeding during the day. Having a breastfeeding pillow may also help, especially for smaller babies. Feeding can take a long time (in the first few weeks I timed our sessions and our record is 58 minutes!), so arm yourself with water and some snacks.
Speaking of water, staying hydrated throughout the day is probably the most helpful thing you can do to improve your milk production. Pepper soup, bone broth, milo, certain teas, etc that are suggested to improve milk production – their efficacy is all likely due to their hydrating ability (and warmth), rather than any specific ingredient in each recipe. As someone who struggles with drinking enough water, I recently bought this huge water bottle and try to drink two of them every day.
Protect the Nipples
Nipple pain and soreness is one of the main reasons why women stop breastfeeding. Even if you have the perfect latch, your nipples can still get sore from the repetitive sucking (and sometimes biting!) action. Although most people suggest nipple cream, I used these silver nipple cups daily for the first 8 weeks and GIRL they have been my favorite accessory for breastfeeding. I can’t explain how they work but there was one day I didn’t wear them and my nips were RAW after a few feeds.
Be Active, Not Passive
A mistake my mom pointed out in my early days of feeding is that I’d put the kid on my boob and then proceed to scroll on my phone or do something else. According to her, boys are lazy eaters (lol her words, not mine!) and need help feeding. Now when feeding I try to leave one hand free to hold my breast from the bottom, which helps activate extra milk ducts resulting in more milk being taken in by the kid. More effective hands on feeding means that he stays full for longer, which leaves me more time to do the million other things I need to do.
Dress for Success
Having comfortable and easy access nursing bras is critical to happy feeding. I prefer the fold down style, and love the wireless/bralette feel of the nursing bras I have from Motherhood Maternity and Boob Design. I haven’t worn a wired bra in months! I also have a pack of nursing tank tops, which I love for feeding in public because they are easy to layer under a cardigan, denim jacket, or blazer, and don’t reveal your entire stomach when you feed.
Make It a Team Effort
Lastly, exclusive breastfeeding doesn’t mean you can’t bottle feed. Even if you’re planning on being home with baby for some time, being able to bottle feed can mean you can dash out for a quick lunch date, hair appointment, or just to take a walk by yourself. Sometimes Jonathan will give the first nighttime feed (around 11pm) with a bottle so that I can get a decent amount of uninterrupted sleep.
Though some breastfeeding advice recommends that women wait a few weeks to establish proper feeding before introducing bottles, I started expressing my milk about a week after our son was born. My favorite low maintenance pump is the Haakaa, which catches the involuntary letdown from your breast while you feed from the other. I can usually get around 2 ounces of milk from my Haakaa at the first feed of the day, without doing any work! Now that I’m trying to build up a stash so I can be more flexible with work and travel, I’ve been using the Elvie pump, which I can’t recommend enough (more details on it here).
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help… or Just Not Do It
Although breastfeeding eventually became second nature for me, that’s not the case for many women. If you’re worried that breastfeeding isn’t going well, whether because you’re not producing enough milk, your nipples are too sore, or you just hate it, don’t be afraid to ask for help! Lactation consultants exist for a reason. And if you choose to not breastfeed at all, either exclusively pumping or using formula, for whatever reason, THAT’S OK TOO! As long as your baby is eating, you’re doing great!