I knew I wanted to breastfeed when I was pregnant with Hailey, but like any new mom, no amount of books or advice can really prepare you for the experience. It’s unique to each person and more challenging in the beginning than most people let on.
There were a few things that took me by surprise when breastfeeding the first time and thankfully, the second time around was much easier. I credit having experience on my side and knowing a few tricks that I learned the hard way the first time. These tips have really made breastfeeding a great experience!
Warning: the word nipple will be used. Multiple times.
Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn
1. Let it all hang out.
Just like with Hailey, I pretty much spent the first postpartum week topless. I’d put on a nursing bra (I love this essential Bravado Nursing bra for maximum comfort around the house and this Bravado Bliss bra when I really want to make sure I have the girls well-contained when wearing regular clothes) but would make sure that after nursing I’d let my nipples dry fully before attempting to cover them back up. The last thing you want to do is trap moisture in and risk infection. I’d love to avoid mastitis again this time if I can!
2. Use breast milk to your advantage.
There are some serious healing qualities in breast milk. Both Hailey and Kaitlyn had a clogged tear duct and each time I nurse them, I’d squirt some in their eye. Gunk be gone! Miraculous. After nursing I also expressed a little extra milk and cover my nipple with it, allowing it to air dry completely. It can help heal cracked and sore nipples.
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3. Take the time to give your girls some TLC.
The first week (or few) is exhausting for so many reasons. Everything just takes more time. Even a quick stop to relieve your bladder turns into quite the ordeal: spray bottle, new liners, possible ice packs, etc.
Because of this, it’s tempting to just nurse and be done with it, but taking a few minutes afterwards can make the next session go so much smoother. Once Kaitlyn finished nursing, I expressed a little more milk and covered my nipple with it. Then I let it dry completely before dabbing on a little lanolin. Finally I used nursing pads to protect my bras before I tucked the girls back in until next time.
4. Make sure you get a wide latch.
So important. Don’t let the baby latch until she opens her mouth wide, then make sure that tricky bottom lip is out, not tucked under. If the baby isn’t latched correctly but it still drinking milk, stop her and start over. It’s not worth the pain.
5. Help unlatch the baby.
When you are unlatching the baby, make sure you slide a finger in the side of her mouth to break the suction before just pulling her off. As a first-timer I remember just pulling Hailey off once or twice and OUCH. You learn quickly not to do that again!
6. Learn multiple holds and adjust as necessary.
The cross-body hold is what I used most often, but in the beginning it can be nice to switch up the holds to allow the baby to approach nursing from another angle and give a break to a sore spot on your nipple.
Here are a few other options for nursing holds. It can seem intimidating, but just go for it. Nobody is watching you!
7. Use the pump wisely.
I keep this vague because it means something different to each person. Personally, I struggled with an over supply so I tried to go as long as possible without pumping to allow my supply to regulate. I made it one week before I finally had to pump here and there for a little relief. If you are interested in increasing your supply, pump after each feeding. Whatever you use it for, I found it pretty helpful to have it from the beginning just in case!
8. Don’t be a pacifier.
Yes they are babies, but at some point it’s ok (and recommended) to cut them off. This can help teach them to be more efficient in their eating and not to take multiple snooze breaks during nursing.
Finally, be patient.
Though breastfeeding is natural, it’s not always intuitive. It’s not only your first time trying it, but your baby’s too. It takes both of you learning together and it will take some trial and error. Hang in there!
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I’m not naive enough to believe that these tips are the magical cure-all for every nursing frustration, but these are the tips that have really helped me make this second time nursing a newborn much easier.
Fellow moms, what are your best breastfeeding tips or biggest frustrations?