Congratulations, Mama! You’ve spent nine months earnestly waiting for your little bundle of joy to arrive on the scene, and your baby’s due date could not arrive any sooner. While you may be excited and more than ready to put this whole pregnancy gig behind you, you might also find yourself a bit anxious to begin all of the new jobs that come along with the title of “Mom” ahead of you. From the moment you give birth, feeding your baby is going to be a big part of your new life. When I had my first sweet baby girl, I knew I would be spending a lot of time snuggling and nursing, but I was definitely not prepared for just how immediately breastfeeding would become my new around-the-clock job the moment she entered the world! If the anticipation of breastfeeding your new little person has you a little sweaty, don’t worry, Mama! We’ve compiled our Top Ten Breastfeeding Tips to make your transition into motherhood just a little smoother.
1. When in doubt, offer to feed your baby.
There are so many opinions out there from over the past several decades about how and when to feed your little baby. Don’t overcomplicate this! If your infant cries, offer to nurse. It’s that simple. If you’ve tried all of the other things (like diaper changes or a change of position or scenery) and your baby is still unhappy, offer to nurse! You certainly can’t spoil a young baby, and, in fact, by readily offering your child comfort and love, you are pouring deeply into their emotional well-being from Day #1. If that’s not a good mother doing what’s best for her child, then I don’t know what is! Just relax, and feed your baby, Mama.
2. Make your comfy nursing nest.
The next several weeks of your life are going to involve hours of breastfeeding your newborn baby. Go ahead and do yourself a favor right now. Make yourself a comfy nursing nest, in all of the places at home that you plan to feed Baby. A comfy recliner, a chair in your older child’s room, and your bed are great for starters. Having a chair with arm support is ideal early on when your baby will need lots of help with positioning for a successful latch. Other essential items to have nearby: snacks, water, toys & books for other children, nipple cream, nursing pillow, phone/charger, book, remote, baby wipes, diapers/changing pad, burp cloth, swaddles, pacifier, etc. You can do so much while nursing your baby, all from the comfort of your nest.
3. Become friends with a Lactation Consultant ASAP.
This applies to every mom—even those who are not currently struggling. However, if you are experiencing breastfeeding challenges, get on this immediately! Your lactation consultant is your new best friend. They are available from hour one in the hospital. Invite them into your world and into your home, if you can! They can help you problem-solve any concern, assess your baby for lip/tongue/cheek ties, help with pumping concerns, help with positioning issues, help with latching, etc., etc., etc. The wisdom these women offer is like true gold. You will not regret bringing a lactation consultant into your breastfeeding journey. There are so many questions along the way! Reach out and get help right away.
4. Making milk requires you to consume calories!
You are going to be super hungry (and thirsty) while you are breastfeeding and that is for a very good reason. You need to consume calories to make milk! You just must. Yes, please focus on healthy, nutritious proteins, fats, and fruits or veggies as often as you can (and let other people bring you healthy food!). But, you might have to wait a little longer than you had hoped to ditch all of that pregnancy weight. And, many moms do actually gain weight while breastfeeding. It can sometimes take a year, or more, or never, to get back to a body that looks and feels more familiar. Please, be patient with yourself. You are sustaining life for a tiny human. You have to eat. You have to rest. Deep breath, Mama. This too shall pass. Your worth is greater than your waistline. As best you can love yourself in this stage with the same compassion that you extend to your sweet new baby in all of their little quirks.
5. Don’t sweat your nursing holds and positioning too much.
There is so much talk early on about how to hold your baby while nursing. Like a football, a cross-over, side-lying, a laid back/natural hold—really, getting all of these positions down can feel overwhelming. And, should you or shouldn’t you use that nursing pillow? Ah! Here’s the deal. Experiment with your baby (when he/she is not starved) to find a comfortable and successful position for you both. This will take time and also evolve as your baby matures and as you gain nursing experience. I highly recommend working on your side-lying breastfeeding (aka, laying down…does breastfeeding get any more comfortable than that?!) so that you can literally lay and nurse, but it may take a while for your baby to successfully self-latch from a lying position. If you have any concerns, just reach out to your trusty lactation consultant. She’ll know what to do for you.
6. Pacifiers can have a place.
Pacifiers often get a bad rap in a breastfeeding relationship. I remember being really quite nervous to use one with my first baby. I mean, I did NOT want a bad latch, a horror of horrors (or so they said). And while, I do think over-using pacifiers is actually a thing (fast-forward to a 2-year-old who only removes the paci momentarily to insert a snack), with some prudence, you can use them well to help you with your infant. You don’t want to offer a pacifier too frequently, especially in the early days and weeks, when all of that suckling at the breast encourages your breasts to make lots of milk! That is great! Plus, your baby can develop nipple confusion between you and the pacifier if it’s too commonplace. BUT, there are some situations where nursing a baby is literally impossible. For example, in the car seat. I have been known to lean over the back of my seat and hold a pacifier in for a baby until they happily drift off to sleep. Another great use of a pacifier is when Dad, or anyone else, has to watch your baby. You get the picture. You want to offer to nurse frequently and readily in the early moments of breastfeeding, but a pacifier can really truly help your sanity when a breast is just truly not an option.
7. Figure out how you will do breastfeeding at night.
Nighttime nursing can really be a struggle. Tiny humans need to eat, and frequently. Waking up and getting up constantly can really drain you. There are many schools of thought on what is best here, or what is safe here. Some moms are a-okay with using bottles at night or sitting up in a chair to feed. For others, caring for a young baby throughout the night from their nest is best. These early days and weeks are all about laying the foundation for a lifelong relationship rooted in love and trust with your newborn, so don’t be afraid to explore your thoughts and feelings on this one. You can also gather input from trusted health professionals and your circle of mama mentors. As you and your baby pass through the starlit nights together, make sure you follow guidelines for sleep safety and try to enjoy those precious moments in the wee hours when you can. This too shall pass, Mama.
8. Swallow your pride: Let other people help you.
When I brought home my third little bundle, I knew that I was going to be outnumbered from the start. At that moment, I made a scary decision. I promised myself that I would not turn down ANY offer of help from anyone. ANY offer. While that was humbling and required me to ‘need’ others more than my self-reliant self liked to, it did make a HUGE difference in my level of energy, success with breastfeeding, and overall ability to enjoy this new baby stage.
Bonus Tip: Make a list of all of the things you need help with and leave it out for visitors and family members to see. This way, you can communicate your needs for help without having to directly ask for it if it makes you feel uneasy or too needy.
9. Come out of the darkness– you can nurse on the go and in public!
Let’s face it. The entire process of conceiving, birthing, and breastfeeding a child requires us to become more comfortable inviting others into the sacred space of ourselves. And while healthy boundaries that help us to feel safe are imperative, if you want to, you can work up to being okay with nursing on the go in front of other humans! If you feel uncomfortable about this level of self-exposure out in public, I urge you to try all of the nursing covers out there to find one that works well for you and your baby. Early on, you might need a literal tent of a nursing cover, so you can use both arms to help position your baby, but as your baby becomes more skilled at latching, you can nurse and socialize in comfort just about anywhere with a simple nursing cover! Nursing on the go does become a little more challenging with an easily distractible older baby or an extremely acrobatic toddler nursling, but for those early months when you need to feed baby quite frequently, don’t be afraid to get out and breastfeed your baby while you’re out in the world. Mama’s cup needs to be filled up, too!
10. Bottom line–You CAN do this!
Okay, okay, okay…enough with all of the practical tips. Here’s the deal—this will be hard, but you can do it! You CAN do it, Mama! With the right support and a healthy dose of self-compassion and patience, you can rock the breastfeeding gig. If you’ve had a rocky start, keep the faith! More often than not, breastfeeding gets easier and more relaxed as time goes by. We believe in you! You can do hard things, and you can do them well. Mothers don’t give themselves enough credit for all of the hard things they do for the love of their sweet babes and family. Dig deep, cry when you need to, call on a friend for help, and snuggle in with your precious little one to enjoy these fleeting moments of tenderness you share. This sweet love story is just beginning, my friend.
Additional Resources from Children’s Wisconsin
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine
Breastfeeding and lactation protocols and statements for physicians and practitioners
- CDC Breastfeeding Information
Information on breastfeeding policy, guidelines, statistics, research and more
- Mother’s Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes
Information on breast milk donation
- Human Milk Banking Association of North America
Information on breast milk donation
- Infant Risk Center Texas Tech Health Sciences Center
Current evidence-based information on the use of medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding
- LactMed: Drug and Lactation Searchable Database
- International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA)
Professional association for International Board Certified Lactation Consultants® (IBCLCs) and other healthcare professionals who care for breastfeeding families
- Find a lactation consultant through ILCA
- La Leche League International
Breastfeeding information, online support groups, FAQs, conferences and more
Breastfeeding and pumping information, breast pumps and related products and information
- United States Breastfeeding Committee
News and updates about US breastfeeding policy and legislation and coalition information
- United States Lactation Consultant Association
Professional organization for IBCLCs provides education and advocacy for the profession
- Wisconsin Association of Lactation Consultants
Professional association provides information and education for lactation consultants