Are you planning to breastfeed your baby? Have you thought about how you’re going to make that happen?
Breastfeeding is natural, normal, so surely it’s easy?? Baby will just know what to do, and start feeding. Happy days.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy.
Which is a real shock if you’re not prepared for it.
Maybe your baby doesn’t latch very well. He might have a tongue tie (like mine did) or just need some practice. Sometimes my little one would latch on to boob… not nipple. Ouch!
Maybe your nipples are weirdly shaped. Inverted or flat. Either makes it slightly more difficult for baby to latch.
Even if everything is going right, breastfeeding can still be a little uncomfortable as you and baby learn what you’re doing.
If you can, make sure you take a breastfeeding course before birth. But, don’t worry if your hospital doesn’t offer one (or it’s not affordable) – the Milkology breastfeeding course is available online and it’s AWESOME. I’m taking it again myself before baby #2 arrives.
Breastfeeding in Hospital
You’ll most likely be able to give your baby the first breastfeed in the first hour or so after delivery (make sure you include that on your birth plan!). Babies have instincts that cause them to do the ‘breast crawl’ to get to and latch onto the breast. It’s truly an amazing thing.
The best thing you can do for breastfeeding is get things off to a good start:
- Bring your nursing pillow! Most moms rave about the Boppy – so make sure you’ve got one before you go into labor.
- Support, support, support. Use pillows or cushions to support yourself sitting in bed. Or sit in a chair to breastfeed.
- If they have free breastfeeding sessions in the hospital – go to them!
- Ask for help if you need it. If you’re not sure things are going well, ask for help from a midwife or if a lactation consultant is on duty you could speak to them.
- Cluster feeding is normal… not fun, but normal. Remember that baby is doing her best to bring your milk in, so frequent feeding is normal.
- Wear nursing bras or maternity tank tops like these ones from Amazon for comfort.
- Nipple cream is essential – Use lansinoh or coconut oil to soothe sore nipples.
- Bring along breast pads (either disposable or washable) for when your milk comes in around day 3 (though you might be home from hospital by then. Read our guide to the best nursing pads here.
Breastfeeding With Weird Nipples
If you are blessed with odd nipples, don’t be alarmed, that’s quite normal.
If you have flat or inverted nipples, it can be harder for baby to find them, latch on, and have the nipple positioned correctly to get milk out. The nipple should be positioned well inside baby’s mouth pointing towards the roof of their mouth for a good deep latch.
Some tips for breastfeeding with ‘weird’ nipples:
- Get help from a lactation consultant, they’ll be able to help you with positioning your baby to latch properly.
- Consider using a nipple shield (this is the brand that I used). Your lactation consultant may recommend one or give you one. The nipple shield helps your baby latch. Be aware size matters – your nipple shouldn’t touch the sides of the shield.
- Inverted or flat nipples will most likely become less so with time as your baby’s suckling will draw them out.
Don’t think that these are like ballet positions – they don’t have to be perfect. I now know that the only thing that really matters is that the baby is getting milk and it’s not painful. So, do what works for you.
Some tips for breastfeeding positions:
- The position you choose doesn’t really matter, it just needs to be comfortable for you and enable the baby to access milk.
- Do the koala! I loved the ‘koala’ position, where the baby straddles your leg and feeds in an upright position. Bonus, this is good for reflux babies!
- Lying down positions are amazing. I found it a little awkward with a newborn, but as soon as my little one was a few months old… lying down is the way to go. Make sure you’re in a safe place as breastfeeding might make you sleepy… and lying down doesn’t help.
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Keeping track of Feeds
All I remember from the first few weeks after my little one was born is: ‘left, right, right, left, left right…’
Kidding! (just a little bit)
In all seriousness, you may be asked to track feeds and diapers in the hospital. If your baby is gaining weight well at home you probably won’t need to do it for too long.
But, there’s one huge reason why you need to keep track of what side you fed from last…
I got my sides confused one morning and didn’t feed from one side for several hours. I woke up sicker than I’ve ever felt in my life and with a hot, painful, inflamed breast. I ended up needing antibiotics from the doctor – not fun!
Some tips for keeping track of feeds:
- Use an app or a newborn daily log printable to track your babies activities (including feeds) – make sure you have your phone charger and/or multiple print outs of the daily log at your breastfeeding station.
- Use a bullet journal
- Wear a hair elastic on the wrist of the side you fed from last
- Twist your bra strap on the side that you fed from last
- Put your nursing pillow on one side or the other.
- Get these milk bands for FREE at www.milkbands.com with coupon code MOM100.
Related: 5 Ways to Increase Your Milk Supply
When Breastfeeding Goes Bad…
Cracked nipples, chapped nipples, sore nipples, engorgement… and the big bad nasty of breastfeeding issues – MASTITIS. I’ve never felt sicker than the time I got mastitis (from accidentally feeding from the same side, two breastfeeds in a row). I woke up with serious chills and an angry red boob. Antibiotics sorted it out pretty quickly, but until it did, I was miserable.
Some tips for dealing with sore, cracked, chapped nipples, engorgement and mastitis:
- Cabbage leaves – cabbage leaves have actual medicinal properties that can reduce engorgement. They shouldn’t be used too frequently, because they can they can shut down your milk supply. The relief you get if you’re engorged or suffering from mastitis is amazing.
- Soothing pads shaped to fit your breasts – you could use a packet of frozen peas, but there’s also soothing breast pads that are great for cooling that inflamed engorged feeling. You can get these on Amazon easily.
- Nipple cream – there are many creams you can buy or you can make your own with coconut oil.
- Hot showers can be helpful to allow some milk to release and reduce engorgement.
- For mastitis, pumping, and feeding from the affected breast helps. The advice is to keep it well-drained. See your doctor in case you need to go on antibiotics.
- Try different breastfeeding positions. If you’re sore in one part of the nipple, changing positions might give it a bit of a break.
- For raw nipples that hurt even when your shirt touches them, try using breast shells. They sit on your breast and collect leaked milk – win!
- If the pain is really bad and you’re considering giving up breastfeeding, you can try using a nipple shield. Just know that there are a few issues with nipples shields – it can be harder for the baby to fully empty the breast, and the baby might refuse to feed without the shield later.
Your Breastfeeding Station
Do you have a breastfeeding station set up to make your breastfeeding journey easier? This is a great option if you’ve got a glider – keep everything within arms reach. Or, if you don’t have one you can make a portable breastfeeding kit.
Fill a basket with all your breastfeeding supplies:
- Nursing pillow, burp cloths, water bottle, breast pads, nipple shield, Haakaa… and anything else you use.
Now you can breastfeed anywhere in the house and know you’ll have what you need!
Your Milk Supply
Are you making enough milk? Since you can’t actually measure how much milk your baby is getting when you breastfeed, it can make you wonder.
If you’re concerned about your supply, speak to your doctor and read this post on boosting your supply.
Some tips to help with supply:
- Drink plenty of water – your body converts water into milk so you need a lot of it.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet (and plenty of it)
- Try drinking plenty of lactation smoothies – they’re hydrating, nutritious, and full of traditional milk-boosting ingredients.
If you’ve got too much milk, you might find you have a strong letdown or spray and leak often. It can be really annoying (and downright embarrassing sometimes). To deal with this:
- Wear breast pads or breast shells
- Have a burp cloth or old-school cloth diaper (like this) to cover your breast with (in case of sprays)
- Get a Haakaa and use it as a milk saver to catch your letdown on the other side when you’re breastfeeding your baby. You should be able to get a 1 or more ounces per feed (perfect for starting a freezer stash!)
What you really need to breastfeed
All you need (technically) is yourself and your baby. However, there are a lot of things that we can use to make things easier:
- Nursing bras and nursing clothes
- Nursing pillow
- Nursing pads, or breast shells
- Breastfeeding covers
- Nipple cream
- Nipple shields
- Breast pump and breastmilk storage bags
Mama, if you’re here and you’re looking ahead or have just started your breastfeeding journey, I just HAVE to share this resource with you. It’s an online breastfeeding course you can take right now (in your PJ’s!) It’s only $19, but the info is top notch and from a Certified Lactation Educator! You’ll learn about latching, keeping your milk supply up, and how to troubleshoot breastfeeding issues as they crop up. It’s worth every penny – go check it out!
Do you plan to pump milk for your baby? Even if you intend to breastfeed, having a breast pump and storage/bottles is helpful just in case.
Some tips for pumping:
- Looking at photos of your little one can help with the letdown (if they aren’t in the room with you)
- Building up a stash is a great idea – use breast milk storage bags to keep your milk in the freezer.
- Get microwavable pump sterilising bags to save you the time boiling all the parts of your pump between sessions. Can you say massive time saver!?
Need more help?
- 9 Tips to Make Night Feeding Baby Easier (Whether You’re Breastfeeding, Bottle Feeding or Expressing!)
- Breastfeeding Station 101: How to Set Yourself Up for Breastfeeding Success
- 31 No Fuss Healthy Snacks for Breastfeeding Moms
- Anxious About Breastfeeding in Public? These 5 Hacks Will Solve It!
- Breastfeeding a Newborn: 8 Crucial Tips for the First 24 Hours
Some of my favorite sites to get breastfeeding advice are:
That’s a Wrap!
Phew! That’s a lot of advice in one post. I’ll add to it as I come across more great tips.
Over to you – do you have any breastfeeding tips or advice?