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?
If you like this post, you may also be interested in 5 Baby Favorites for the First Five Weeks or What Nobody Told Me About Breastfeeding.
I LOVE #8…being a childcare provider and a mom this is advice ALL MOMS should read.
You are not a human pacifier and the boob is not always the answer! (Sorry for being blunt!)
Katie @ Pick Any Two says
These are great tips! I would add “Don’t assume you’ll have a supply issue.” I had heard so many stories of moms who couldn’t make enough milk that I preemptively did things like eat lots of oatmeal and drink mother’s milk tea; turns out I had an oversupply and was making the issue worse! I should have listened to my body FIRST.
I read your blog daily. Great tips, but I just felt compelled to comment that while no, you aren’t a pacifier, a newborn really sets the tone the first 6 weeks or so of nursing. You may think she is using you a “pacifier” but really she is doing so much more: bonding with you so release different hormones, helping regulate your supply, comforting herself, as well as getting those essential nutrients. I would just hate for a new mom to read that and think to herself, oh my baby is nursing too long or I’m becoming a pacifier. I just don’t think that’s possible!! The reason newborns often “snooze” during nursings is their tummies can’t hold much. Also, as a mom, you are releasing sleep-inducing antibodies in your milk so it causes a natural drowsy effect. I commend you for being “efficient” but my advice is to take it easy and let her nurse as much as she wants. That’s her right as a newborn. 🙂 Maybe that tip should come later on, but not a tip for a nursing a newborn. I’ve had so many friends with a low-supply and the best way to increase your supply is to nurse, nurse, nurse. It’s pure nature. I’ve nursed two kids (still nursing the second who is over a year old) and while it’s awkward and clumsy at first, i’m convinced the babies know what they are doing. You are doing a fantastic job–i’m seriously jealous of all the sleep you are getting!!!! 🙂
All great tips but I do agree with Ash. Those first couple of months are all about the baby regulating your milk supply. I think nursing on demand in those early days is important for all the reasons outlined above and is what I have heard from IBCLE lactation consultants and my pro nursing pediatrician. I definitely did not have an oversupply as I transitioned from maternity leave to work at months postpartum and I really credit nursing on demand early on and skin to skin as the reason I was successful in pumping. Congrats, she is a cutie. Looking forward to watching your journey!
I agree with these mamas. In the first couple months there will be plenty of times when baby will want to constantly be at the breast (hello growth spurts) and it’s important for building/increasing supply, especially for mamas who don’t have oversupply. Having a routine after the first few months isn’t necessarily a bad thing (although some people always prefer to nurse on demand) but it can be dangerous in the first couple months, and make mamas who have to nurse constantly to keep baby happy think there must be something wrong with them/they need to supplement (rarely the case!). These other tips are great though.
Jaclyn @ BumpSweat says
Thanks for the tips! I’ll be bookmarking this to refer back to in a few short months 🙂
Mrs FF says
Important tips especially for first time moms. If you really want to breastfeed, try and try harder. I made the mistake of assuming I had low supply and gave up before my supply really had time to come in. Yes baby needs to eat and it can be tempting to go straight to formula. But give your body time to adjust to what is going on and be patient with baby too!
Natalie @ The Ravenous Mommy says
Great tips! I had a few breastfeeding meltdowns when I had my son, but I knew I had to stick to it, and after a couple weeks of pain, soothies and lanolin galore, we made it over the hump and it was smooth sailing!!
Great tips! Isn’t it weird how after a long time not nursing it just comes back to you? I needed help remembering what a newborn latch looked like but once we had that down it was go time. I also had oversupply issues and dang isn’t engorgement uncomfortable! I’m happy to say that he has gained weight like a champ, doubled his birth weight in two months (born 7.1, was 14.15 at two month) and is now up to 20 pounds at six months just on breast milk. I’m not knocking any one who does formula or supplements but there’s something about being the one to produce food and see your baby grow that is awesome.
These are great tips. I had problems with Aiden’s latch in the early days which made my nipples hurt! For first time moms, I would recommend going to a breastfeeding support group or consult with a lactation consultant. I went to the group about 3 times and it was so helpful each time. I got to ask random questions and we also weighed Aiden to make sure he was gaining weight and also to see how much milk he was getting. It calmed my fears so much!
I tell people something similar to what you said : breast feeding is natural, but it didn’t come naturally to me! After our first was born breast feeding was so painful, so I went to the Breastfeeding Clinic at the hospital where I delivered and it made all the difference for me! I found out it wasn’t supposed to hurt, I was letting my son latch on in a way that led to a lot of pain. It still took about 8 weeks for nursing my baby to seem “easy.” Our 2nd and third born were totally easy to nurse and I’m looking forward to nursing baby number four in a few months! As to the not being a pacifier discussion, when my babies were about six months old I tried not to let them nurse just to fall back asleep at night. You can definitely tell if they’re nursing or not!
As in the movie Nemo you have to just keep swimming…. It took me a couple months to finally get it down with my 1st. I was referred to a lactation counselor from my doula which helped a great deal! There is nothing more rewarding then feeding your baby. I look so forward to doing it again soon! Congrats!!
Avery @ Young Aspirations says
I’m loving these posts! Especially from a second time mom 🙂 We definitely struggled those first few nights but I think we’re getting the hang of things now. She still likes to chomp down from time to time, little stinker.. but I’m definitely seeing that the more we do it the better we both get! Love the tip about cutting them off.. Elliotte would seriously go all day long if I’d let her so I’m learning to tell when she’s done eating and more just soothing herself with the sucking. I still give her a lonnngg time so I don’t feel like I’m ever cutting her short or anything. But sometimes I also have to eat and shower.. haha 🙂
Jillian @ Baby Doodah! says
I love these tips! Reading them takes me right back to Emmett being a newborn and how much we struggled in the first few weeks. I honestly wish I’d seen a post like this back then.
Thanks for sharing!
Great tips, lanolin saved my life 🙂 In the beginning, when it was time to nurse and the baby opened her mouth wide I would shove my boob in. It helped her get a wide latch!
Tiff @ Love, Sweat, & Beers says
I soooo hope it’s easier next time. Hey, it can’t go worse for me, right? ha Great job mama!!!
Marnie @ SuperSmartMama says
I’ve been enjoying reading your recent posts about your second time as a mama — if all goes well, I’ll be going through the same fun towards the end of this year. It’s been over three years since I nursed my first one, and reading your tips really helped me remember all the drama I went through learning to breastfeed. I was definitely not prepared despite going to a few breastfeeding classes, and what saved me was that my hospital had lactation support group that met once a week. It was a lifesaver for me — I went every Wednesday, and while nursing my little one, the group discussed questions, shared experiences, and got advice from a lactation specialist who answered any questions we couldn’t answer for each other!!
Thanks for the tips! As a FTM, I really value your blog. Quick questions, my son scratches me when I breastfeed him, so I put a zippy on my son whenever I nurse him. Is scratching normal? Suggestions?
I don’t agree with #8. As a lactation counselor, I would say don’t let the pacifier become a boob! Babies (especially newborns) need to eat frequently to keep up your supply! Those first few wreks they also need to feel close to mom and be at the breast frequently even if they are not actively eating.
Fab article, I clicked through from pinterest. I love tip number two – breast milk is like natures anti-septic. Another tip is to use breast milk to wipe up any gunk from the cord as it dries up before falling off – and prevents infection forming.
I was super frustrated at my baby scratching me to bits while I breast fed her. So I recommended a Zipadee-Zip because the ends are stitched up so they functions like mittens. The best part is that you do no lose the pairs.!
The Zipadee-Zip is a soft, breathable, and made up of a wonderful cotton blend. They are excellent and useful for so many sleep related issues. I gift them to all my girlfriends during baby showers.
The wearable blanket for babies made by Sleepingbaby.com is simply amazing! We started using the Zipadee-Zip on my son at three months when he really started scracthing me during breastfeeding. The Zipadee-Zip was the perfect blanket to stop me from being scratched as the suit is shaped like a star or wing shaped, and the ends of the sleeves are sewn together. So no need for mittens!
Such kind of tips we MOMS need! I have survived breastfeeding my baby only because I had an increadible great help – an e-book by Susan Urban “How to make breastfeeding pleasant and easy”. It has got all the information about breastfeeding! After reading it I didn’t have to read anything else or ask for help! And because it’s an e-book I had it with me all the time in my phone, even in the hospital when my baby was born! Every mom or mom-to-be should read it!
I have just finished reading Urban’s guide about breastfeeding like Margaret suggested and I have got to say I love it! I am going to be a mom soon and I have heard that breastfeeding is not that easy and the best is to be prepared! After reading “How to make breastfeeding pleasant and easy” I know I will make it! I know what can happen and how to deal with problems that may occur! So one more recommendation from me for this guide! Good one!
Susan’s guide got me prepared for breastfeeding as well. I had literally no idea about babies when became preggers and this tiny book gave me 1. all the information I needed 2. the power for trying! So I would definitely recommend this one to all expecting mum, not only those who planned this 😉
I do agree! This guide seems to be the best book about breastfeeding on the market!
Lynne Huysamen says
I know exactly what you mean by learning from the first baby and being able to breastfeed more successfully with the second baby! Like you say, no books or courses can quite prepare you for what happens in reality when it comes to breastfeeding. I struggled so much.
This is a fantastic round of tips, I love what you shared about unlatching your baby. I also had a few sore encounters trying to unlatch my baby before I learned that trick!