Are you looking for breastfeeding tips to help you ease into feeding after having a baby? Here are 11 things I’ve learned after struggling to breastfeed my two babies. I hope they help make it a smoother, more enjoyable experience for you! Note: This post contains affiliate links for things I am using to help me breastfeed. You can read more about how this works on my legal page.
I never thought I’d be writing breastfeeding tips here on the blog, but the more I work, the more I seem to find myself wanting to help new moms.
I told myself I’d never have a mom blog again, but whatever, this stuff is important!
I am, after all, focused on helping pre and postnatal moms stay or get healthy.
Anyway, if you’ve been around here at all since the start of this site, you know that I just had a baby. I sitting here pumping (again) and drinking coffee while writing and reflecting on my second experience with a new baby.
I’ve talked about it on Instagram, but I have struggled with breastfeeding with both babies.
I struggled so much the first time that it led to a bit of mom guilt and it made it feel especially important that I breastfeed successfully this time around.
Well, if I’m being honest, it hasn’t gone quite as planned. But that’s okay and my experience has led me write to this post in hopes of helping others.
My Breastfeeding Story
With my daughter (who is almost four years old now), I was absolutely set on everything natural – during pregnancy, birth, and her first year. I wanted zero drugs, zero chemicals, zero formula. If you’ve read my c-section story, you know that things didn’t go as planned. (I’ve now had two c-sections and you can read about how to recover from one smoothly here.)
After my daughter was born, I still wanted to breastfeed. I felt like my body had failed after not being able to deliver my daughter naturally or vaginally. (I know, it’s silly.) So I was going to breastfeed, dang it!
Well, a few days after my daughter was born, I took her to the lactation consultant at my hospital to check on her and basically because they told me I should. By this time I had chapped, bloody nipples and my milk was coming out with blood. But I was still going.
When I went to the appointment, we found out that my daughter had dropped still more weight. (All babies drop some weight after birth from fluids and swelling in the womb.) The lactation consultants and the pediatrician were concerned that she wasn’t getting enough, so they recommended supplementing with formula. Concerned about my daughter and clearly not an expert, I did it.
First Time Mom Woes
I didn’t quit breastfeeding, but I did start supplementing. I also invested in a nipple shield and had a pump prescribed by my doctor. Those two things helped, but supplementing allowed me to rely a bit heavily on the formula and I backed off on my feedings. I did pump several times per day, but my supply was never really “there.” I remember pumping for 20-50 minutes at a time and never getting more than one ounce between BOTH breasts. What a bummer.
I ended up giving my daughter about a 1:3 ratio of breastmilk to formula for six months before quitting breastfeeding entirely.
Anyway, looking back, I was certain that I had let all of the advice given to me really affect me. I thought that the lactation consultants did the opposite of what they were supposed to do (help me breastfeed) and that I really just needed to trust my own instincts and keep going. So this time, I was determined to do just that.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Since I knew the benefits of breastfeeding, I put a LOT of pressure on myself to do it. I still think that it’s the best thing for babies, but not if you’re going to be an over-tired, stressed out mom with an underweight baby. It’s just not worth that.
It is, however, giving an honest try, because breastmilk and breastfeeding have benefits for both mom and baby. They include (but aren’t limited to):
- Lowered risk of breast cancer for mom
- Breastmilk contains virus & bacteria-fighting antibodies that will protect your baby
- Breastfeeding promotes healthy bonding & baby’s security
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop ear infections, get diarrhea, and develop respiratory problems*
- Breastfeeding is linked to higher IQ later in life (see link above)
I don’t know about you, but for me, those things alone make it worth giving breastfeeding a try!
11 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms
1. Don’t be afraid to invest in the lactation support products.
I was skeptical with my first; after all, I never really established much of a supply. But this time I’ve pulled out all of the stops and feel a lot more competent about my supply and the results I’ve had from various supplements and such. With this baby, I’ve used lactation cookies, various herbal supplements, and Mother’s Milk tea. The first week I used them a lot and saw a steady increase in supply, then I ran out of some of my products.
When I restarted, I got an immediate boost in supply. Here’s what my pumping sessions went up to within a day of starting fenugreek & milk thistle supplements (from less than an ounce on each side):
Note: There is conflicting info about milk thistle for breastfeeding. Blessed thistle is widely recognized for lactation support, but I couldn’t find any at my local grocery store. I chose to try milk thistle after reading a lot about it potentially helping with milk supply. However, I ordered an herbal lactation blend with blessed thistle and am going to stop taking the milk thistle when it gets here! Update: Milk thistle seems to work too. 🙂
2. Don’t listen to everything the nurses and lactation consultant say.
From the moment my son was born, I had nurses and lactation consultants giving me advice left and right. Every new nurse gave me 10 more tips. The lactation consultants were really pushy too. I just felt an overwhelming amount of pressure to do everything they suggested and that wasn’t good. Even if you are a first time mom, your comfort and instincts are important. Roll with them and extract only what works for you when it comes to breastfeeding tips.
3. You don’t ever HAVE to supplement.
I was told to start supplementing before my son was even out of the hospital. Then I was told the same thing at his weight checks and my lactation appointments. I chose to supplement, but looking back, I could have chosen not to. My kids both dropped weight but were hydrated and not overly fussy. I think that if I’d just held off on the supplementing for a day or two more, my milk would have jumped up as far as production. It’s your choice – your body and your baby! As long as no one is in danger, do what you feel is right.
4. Don’t let the stress of breastfeeding consume you.
It sounds easier said than done. But if breastfeeding is making you weepy, frustrated, or too tired to enjoy your baby, it might be time to let go a little. That might sound like backtracking, but you can always keep trying after a little break. Don’t quit entirely unless you feel really upset – just offer formula, pumped milk, or donor’s milk once or twice a day until you feel rested. Enjoying your baby and respecting yourself is important.
5. A pump might be your best bet.
Most insurances will cover breast pumps, but you probably need a prescription from your doctor. My doctor happily prescribed me a fancy Medela pump after I told her I was struggling, and yours will probably be happy to as well. You can exclusively pump if you want – but it’s not just for that. I use my pump to help keep my breasts empty (thus demanding more production) and that allows other people to feed my baby a bottle when I need a nap, shower, or break. It also makes it so that I can mix breastmilk with formula if necessary so that my baby isn’t partial to formula alone. (I try to pump at least every three hours during the day if my baby hasn’t breastfed.)
6. Eat, drink, & be merry.
Trying to diet right after having a baby is a no-no if you want to breastfeed. Your body uses 300-500 calories per day just to produce that milk, so now is not the time for any big calorie deficits. You should focus on establishing your milk for several weeks postpartum. Focus on a wide variety of foods/nutrients and don’t eliminate any major food groups unless you suspect something is bothering your baby.
7. If you pump, distract yourself while doing it.
Staring down at your pump and watching every drop of milk can be discouraging. It’s like the saying, “A well-watched pot never boils.” I try to eat or work while I’m pumping so that I am not keeping track of the time or every drop in the bottles. To do this in a timely way, I use my trusty hand-free pumping bra. (The name is actually misleading for this particular one, it goes right over my nursing bra, but it works wonders.)
8. Use a nipple shield if you have to.
I mentioned that I used nipple shields, but I only recommend using them as long as necessary. I have a theory (and I do think there is research out there to support this) that nipple shields affect milk production because they limit nipple stimulation. However, there are absolutely times when they are needed. Don’t be in pain every time you nurse. These are the shields I have, and they have allowed me to fully heal and keep nursing. (I keep one in my diaper bag and one at home.) Some day when I feel like my milk is fully established, I will fully wean from the shields. For now, I take them off periodically.
9. Nursing-specific garments are a must.
I had ONE nursing bra during my last attempt to breastfeed. This time I got four nursing tank tops and three nursing bras, and I live in them. It’s hard and uncomfortable (for me) to breastfeed in public without them. I’m able to be a lot more modest and not have my baby belly hang out because of them. It’s just so much easier and I feel like they encourage me to be brave. That’s worth it to me. This is my favorite nursing bra so far
10. Sometimes you might need to pump or use a nipple shield before feeding normally.
If your baby is having difficulty latching, it may be due to flat or inverted nipples. After stuffing your enlarged boobs in a bra, this is pretty common. Try feeding your baby after pumping a few minutes or using a nipple shield. This should help draw out the nipple and make for an easier latch.
11. It’s okay to do whatever is necessary for you and your baby. Fed is best.
It’s okay to do what’s best for you and your baby. Mom guilt is silly, but all of us feel it sometimes. But honestly, if you’re feeding your baby, you’re doing a good job. Do what’s best for you!
Products That I Believe Helped My Breastfeeding Experience
Now that I’ve given you my personal breastfeeding tips, here are a few things that I think have really helped me along the way. I mentioned a few things that I’ve been using throughout my breastfeeding journey, but here is a complete list:
- Hands free pumping bra – to let me get other things done while pumping!
- Boob hot/cold packs – to soothe sore, full breasts and help with quicker letdown when pumping.
- Breast pads (for your bra) – these are a must! It’s awkward to leak on your clothes.
- Different size of flanges (than what came with my pump) – I found that bigger ones helped me pump more efficiently.
- Fenugreek & Milk Thistle – I think these two things gave me an immediate boost in supply.
- Oatmeal – I think that high-fiber foods are helpful in boosting supply, too.
- Boppy pillow – this just makes feeding much more comfortable in most positions.
- Lactation cookies – they were actually delicious and I feel they really helped with supply in the first two weeks. Plus, they made for an easy snack when I was feeding or pumping.
- Mother’s Milk Tea – worth a try!
- Nipple shields – a must if your nipples hurt, are flat, or baby has trouble latching.
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