Tips for Breastfeeding
Over the past two years as I’ve breastfed my Oliver, I’ve learned a lot.
I’ve dealt with mastitis, low milk supply, acid reflux, and sleep apnea.
If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that no breastfeeding journey is the same and no mom and baby are the same.
Regardless of that, I’ve also learned the importance of having a support!
During those first few hard weeks (or months) breastfeeding, you can often feel so alone. However, the best place to turn is to other mothers who have been there.
So, I decided to ask in my breastfeeding support group on Facebook the question, “What is your best advice for a new breastfeeding mom.”
And let me tell you, these amazing mothers delivered. As I read through the comments, I laughed and cried and wished that I’d had this kind of insight when I was going through everything that we went through with Oliver.
Today, I wanted to share that advice with you.
Be sure to check out all our best breastfeeding advice – Breastfeeding 101.
Breastfeeding Advice for New Moms
<Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
I truly believe that the lactation consultant I used was an angel in disguise. I’m so grateful that when things were going south, I decided to call the number on the back of a card I got from Kaiser that simply said, “Breastfeeding Support.”
She got me through some really tough times, was always willing to text me and encourage me, and in the end, I believe she’s why I didn’t give up. She even introduced me to the idea of donor milk, which I’m so grateful for.
Never be afraid to ask for help. I interact with many breastfeeding moms on a regular basis, and it breaks my hear when they just don’t even know where to turn. The sad fact is, most moms are just seen once or twice (if at all) in the hospital regarding breastfeeding, and then after that, the support is gone unless you actually seek it out – which can be intimidating and hard when you don’t even know where to start.
Ask for help – there is no such thing as a dumb question!
“It may hurt a lot at the beginning! I never knew it could hurt so bad and thought I was doing something wrong! Don’t be afraid to get help from a lactation consultant!” – Megan T.
“Do not be too proud or embarrassed to ask for help! I was so frustrated and struggling and my OBGYN recommended a lactation specialist. It was not immediate- but the resources and tools that they provided got me on the right track! Everyone else was telling me how natural it was supposed to be — but it is a struggle for some in the beginning. And that is normal and OKAY! No shame!” – Steph
“Do not hesitate to ask for help from a lactation consultant, especially while you’re in the hospital! Getting started with just a so-so latch can quickly snowball into cracked and bleeding nipples, drop in supply, and more latch issues once you get home. Take advantage of all the help you can get early on so you can be sent home on a great path to a long, successful nursing relationship!” – Anna
“When in doubt ask a lactation consultant. They are wonderful!!” – Bridget
“See a lactation consultant before you give birth and request to see the one at your hospital in you birth plan” – Barbara
“Get support! Find a friend who understands what you’re going through. Better yet someone who is going through it with you. That is what got me through breastfeeding 4 babies! (Still breastfeeding the 4th)” – Shevy
“See a few different lactation consultants. They all have different techniques and advice. I saw three different ones while in the hospital and it took the third one to tell me to try a nipple shield. If I didn’t try the shield my baby would most certainly be on formula. Also find a friend who is also breast feeding. Anyone who knows what you’re going through and can offer some encouragement! Breast feeding is hard, but so rewarding when you get the hang of it.”
Don’t Give Up on the Hardest Day
This is some advice I heard awhile back (I don’t even think it was initially about breastfeeding), but it’s always stuck with me.
It’s okay to throw in the towel if you feel that’s what is best for your family – and there is no shame in that. However, I think it’s always important to make that decision when your mind is clear so you can make sure you don’t regret something you decided in the stress of the moment.
Most hard things are worth doing!
“Don’t give up! I know I almost did and would have absolutely regretted it.” – Lauren S.
“You have to relax and not stress out. Baby picks up on mama’s feelings, so if you are all nervous or anxious or unsure, it can lead the baby to not feel comfortable. Also, know that it is hard work, but it is so worth it!” – Bree
“Don’t give up. Even when it seems like you are failing, stick with it. If you have to supplement, oh well. Give that baby all you can and keep pushing forward.” – Mindy
“There will be days that you feel like your boobs are empty and everything inside you will be telling you that you’re a failure… Don’t listen to that voice!!” – Kaylee
“Don’t quit on a bad day” – Lexi
“Expect the unexpected, and roll with the punches.” Gabriella
“Never give up never surrender! But seriously don’t give up. Our bodies are made to do this!” – Brittny
“Be good to your nipples. Invest in a good nipple balm. & On your hardest days when you feel like giving up remember how amazing you are for giving your beautiful child the gift of life and being their sole source of nourishment.” – Brittnee
It Takes Time
I think many of use go into breastfeeding with rose colored glasses (I sure did when I had Jack!) And it can be easy to think that there must be something wrong with you or your baby if you don’t get the hang of it right away.
And while sometimes there is a problem that needs to be addressed, often, it just takes time to learn and get used to the process.
Soon enough you’ll be able to nurse while you are standing in the middle of a JoAnn’s fabric cutting line – baby in one arm and a bolt of fabric in the other (or maybe that’s just me who has done that!)
You Might Enjoy: Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn
“It was almost 6 weeks with our boy before he got the hang of it. Now, he nurses like a champ.” – Lauren S.
“Sometimes it’s hard, stressful and all around sucks. The 1st couple of months are HARD, but remember, it does get better. ” – Carissa
“Push through those first couple of weeks and see a lactation specialist early if things don’t feel right. Coconut on your nipples heals and moisturizes so they don’t crack as badly. Don’t let anyone tell you you need to stop, or can’t stop.” – Corrine
“Set a goal of a month. The first few weeks are the hardest. It gets easier.” – Ashley
“It just takes time. Every baby is different. My premie only took bottles and would not latch first 4 wks. Then it was like magic and she nursed.. here we are 6 months later still nursing. Just takes time.” – Megan
“The first two weeks are the absolute hardest. It gets easier after that. And then after 6 weeks, that’s when it became second nature to me.” – Bethany
“Don’t be to hard on your self if it doesn’t work right away. It takes practice for mom and baby to get it right.” Miranda
“Persevere, it is so worth it ? I had 6 weeks of horrific pain and had moments of wanting to give up. 11 months in and I’m so proud of myself for not.” – Roxanne
“Day one baby will sleep. Day two you will think you are starving him. Day three your milk will come in and your boobs will hurt…this is all normal…don’t panic and give formula for the first 2 weeks unless your dr tells you to.” – Rachel
It can be really hard
I’ll be the first to admit that after I had Jack and has very few issues nursing him, that I didn’t quite understand why people thought it was hard.
And then I had Oliver, and I was given a big dose of humble pie. Breastfeeding can be very hard (including these common breastfeeding problems) for so many different reasons, and it’s not up to use to judge those reasons.
“Breastfeeding is really hard for some mothers. And sometimes when you haven’t slept and you can’t get a good latch and your baby is crying you want to quit. And that is okay. Keep trying. It will all click and once it does, you will have a hard time remembering how hard it was. Savor the moment. You are building a connection with your baby. It’s amazing what nursing can do after you are over the initial hump (feed, nourish, ease frustration, calm nerves). Ask for help if you need it.” – Michelle
“The pain will pass! Lol it might not feel like it-but it will!” – Brooke
“Drink water like a lot of water! And not to be to hard on yourself! It’s a tough journey but do worth it!” -Kelly
“Hang in there! It’s a lot of work in the beginning, but it’s sooo worth it!” – Samantha
“Do not give up!” – Kendra
“Babies are hard whether breastfed or bottle fed. It’s about choosing your hard. For me the idea of waking up, preparing a bottle with a screaming baby because they are starving is way more complicated than just pulling out my boob and feeding. ” – Gena
“I actually had the opportunity to talk with 3 lactation consultants and got valuable & different information from all 3. The main thing was that they told me it was going to be hard the first couple of weeks. However no one prepared me for the mental/emotional mind warp that you really go though. Its hard to handle the crazy hormones that come with suddenly not being pregnant and trying to sustain life in this tiny human. It’s a roller coaster for sure. My advice to other new moms is that you’re gonna more than likely ride that roller coaster and to remember that the ride will be over before you know it. Know your gonna feel like it won’t be ok or that your losing your shit but know that it will be ok. Hang in there. It’s worth it.” – Lindsay
“It might hurt. I’ve always hear if it hurts you’re not doing it right but oh my, it hurt for a few days. And don’t schedule them. Don’t make them wait 2-3 hours to eat. I lived by the ‘when in doubt, whip it out’ philosophy.” – Whitney
Supplementing does NOT equal failure
We had to supplement with Oliver for a variety of reasons. While I was fortunate enough to be able to mainly supplement using my own milk plus a little donor milk, I still felt pretty crummy about it.
I know that so many moms that end up supplementing for whatever reason feel that way – and we shouldn’t! I’m grateful we live in a day and time where we have options to feed our babies if something isn’t going totally right with breastfeeding. No one should ever feel guilty for keeping their baby alive and healthy.
Most of all, it’s important to remember it’s not an all or nothin’ situation.
You Might Enjoy: Donor Milk 101: Everything You Need to Know
“Go into it with the mindset of fed is best. If you stress yourself out by pressuring yourself with the mindset that breast is best, the stress is going to make the whole process harder. I’ve been lucky enough to breastfeed my son exclusively for 8+ months (still going strong) and it’s not been an easy road. However, if I had stressed myself out when we hit bumps by telling myself breastfeeding is the only option, it wouldn’t have been good for my or my son’s well being. Thank goodness for my lactation consultant! I’m not saying don’t fight for it, but use a growth mindset.” – Laura
“You’re not a failure if you have to supplement for a little bit.” – Katie
“Supplementing doesn’t mean the end or that you’re going to ruin your breast feeding relationship, as long as you take the steps to not overfeed, pace feed and pump in place of bottle, and continue to nurse as much as you can.” – Andrea
“I didn’t have to supplement in the beginning but I did later on and even at 7 months it killed me knowing I wasn’t enough for him. I love the ‘its not all or nothing’ and wish more people heard that.”- Whitney
Have Faith in Yourself
I really believe in the power of positive thinking.
While there are definitely women who physiologically cannot breastfeed or have a medical condition that makes it difficult to exclusively breastfeed, for the most part, our bodies were made to breastfeed. Trust in that.
“Have confidence in yourself! It may seem tough at first, & like you are not feeding your Baby enough, but you are doing great!” – Kayla
“Set short term goals for how long you plan on breastfeeding. Once you meet your goal set another one if you choose to keep going. I think it’s more easier this way.” – Meradath
“Don’t doubt yourself.” – Stacey
“Extend some grace to yourself! It’s hard but it’s worth it.” Maru
Know the Signs That Baby Is or Isn’t Getting Enough
At some point or another, most moms ask themselves, “Is my baby getting enough?”
It’s a reasonable question to ask, especially since the breasts don’t have ounce markers. And since most of us don’t have infant scales laying around to do weighed feedings (though I love this one if you get one), it’s easy to doubt yourself.
I think it’s so important for mothers to be educated on how to tell if baby is getting enough. Sometimes, they aren’t, and since infants can become dehydrated fast, you need to know the signs.
Most of the time, I think many mothers worry themselves unnecessarily. I highly recommend reading this article about cluster feeding and when it’s normal (as well as when it’s not).
For the most part, here are signs of wellness:
- 5-7% weight loss after birth, which should be gained back within two weeks.
- Normal weight gain
- Adequate diaper output (after about six weeks, it is normal for the amount of poopy diapers a breastfed baby has to decrease. They can go multiple days without a stool, and it not be an issue).
- Baby is alert when awake and will wake to eat
And here are some signs things aren’t going so well:
- Baby won’t wake to eat
- Sunken in eyes or soft spot
- You don’t hear baby swallowing
- Decreased diaper output
You might enjoy: The Ultimate Guide to Increasing Breast Milk Supply
“if your Baby eats every hour or so on Breast Milk, it is normal. You are not starving your Baby. Breast Milk digests within 30 minutes, compared to formula, which takes longer!” – Kayla
“Just because baby is ALWAYS on the breast doesn’t mean you aren’t making enough! They are getting enough sometimes they just need comfort!” – Kara
“Try not to watch the clock, it can make you feel insane. Feed baby on demand as often as they show hunger cues.” – Stephanie H.
“I think more mom’s need to know about the possible length between babies BM when ebf so they don’t stress out.” – Ally
“Cluster feeding is totally normal…just embrace it, forget about everything that is not getting done, and just enjoy the snuggles while binge watching your favorite show…and don’t feel guilty about it, it’s exactly what your baby needs at the time!” – Kelly
“I feel like a lot of new breastfeeding moms don’t know about, or don’t know enough about, cluster feeding. There will be days where you feel like all you have done is sit with a fussy baby at your breast. You will hand express and see no milk. Most moms will panic thinking they are not making enough milk and want to feed baby a bottle. Babies are constantly having growth spurts, and will need more milk as those growth spurts hit. They feed and stimulate for what feels like endless hours in order to prepare your body to produce more milk for that spurt. So if you express, nothing will come out, because you don’t have that supply yet. But you will. If you feed a bottle at this point you will miss out on vital stimulation and then you will not have that necessary supply boost for the growth spurt. Trust your body and your baby. If they are having enough wet and dirty diapers, then everything is working as it should.” – Julia
“Feed all the time. There’s no such thing as too much boob. Count diapers if you’re worried and try to trust the process.” – Faith
“I tell everyone one of the reasons I feel I was so successful was because the nurses watched his diaper count and weight, and we trusted my body. It’s not that easy for everyone, but instead of focusing on his feed times (always less than 20 minutes even brand new) we focused on weight gain and diaper output.” – Whitney
Find a Support System
I believe this is the probably the single most important thing you can have – not just as a breastfeeding mom, but a mom in general! However, I think surrounding yourself with people who “get it” is important.
I didn’t give up with Oliver because I had Forrest, my mom, and a wonderful IBCLC supporting me every step of the way and reassuring me. I know that not everyone is lucky enough to have that, which is why I started the Breastfeeding Mama’s Support Tribe on Facebook. It’s amazing to me to see the support the members of this group give to each other! I’m grateful to be a part of it.
“I asked my husband before we had my son to not let me give up too soon. He was my biggest supporter & the read books & blogs about BF to help better understand. Have your partner be involved with the journey. Have them get you a snack or a drink, have them read blogs and books, have them help as they can.” – Mandi
“Surround yourself with a good support system! The best support are nursing mommas who have been there and know what your going through!! Also, ASK QUESTIONS.” -Norma
“Build a support system. The baby needs you to eat and you will need to rely on other people for things this and lack of sleep will cause you to neglect. And sometimes it can be lonely and overwhelming but you will watch your baby grow and know that’s all you mama!!!” – Jodie
“Build a support system, set short term goals, when you reach them set another, voice your goals to your partner so they can help keep you going on days you want to give up, learn about ties both tongue and lip-how to spot them and when to reach out for help, use a preferred provider if you have a tie that needs corrected-it matters, pumping and shields are OKAY sometimes it takes some help for nursing to get started. (From someone who fought to be able to nurse until it finally happened at 6wks and is still using a shield at 11wks)” – Brittney
“It is a hard road so find a lot of supportive people to help you and that you can ask questions anytime anywhere!!!!!” -Keisha
“If your hospital offers a Mother’s Milk Club (BF support group) – go!! Find your network, and one of the many things I learned when I attended mine — “Never Quit in Your Worst Day”” -Vicki
All Moms are Different
Every mother will have a different breastfeeding experience – even from child to child. What works for one mom will be a total disaster for another.
Try to avoid the comparison game and remember that this is your journey and no one else’s. Comparison is the thief of joy.
“Oh and also don’t have any preconceived notions about how you should nurse. I literally could not understand how to use a boppy with my newborn. Try different positions and do what works for you. When I was first starting out I literally could only nurse if we were laying in bed together. And that is okay!!” – Michelle
“A nipple shield is totally fine if you need it! (I had a nurse that tried to make me feel bad about but we never would have made it without it)” – Nikki
“We are not all blessed with a magical, worry/stress free experience. For some of us it takes hard work and it’ll take MONTHS before we feel like we are finally on track SO be gentle on yourself and take it, for real, 1 feeding at the time. It took me 6 months to feel like we are doing an O K job” – Dulce
“Don’t feel bad for acting on things that make you feel uncomfortable. If your gut is telling you it’s not good for your baby, your mother instincts are usually right. If people don’t respect that, are they really people that are truly there to love and support you and your baby?” – Alanna
“It’s not one or the other or black and white!” – Brittani
Find a Breastfeeding Supportive Pediatrician
I didn’t realize this was so important until we ended up with a pediatrician who just wasn’t very educated in breastfeeding.
The sad truth is that pediatricians aren’t given extensive training on breastfeeding and nutrition in medical school, and it’s really on them to become educated and stay up to date. Some of the worst advice I’ve heard has come from well-meaning pediatricians.
I wrote this post about how to find a breastfeeding supportive pediatrician. I recommend reading it before you find your child’s doctor.
“Find a pediatrician that supports and encourages breastfed babies. Don’t let your ped rush you to supplement with formula if your baby is gaining.” – Erica
“I actually fired our Ped after she kept focusing on pushing it because my guy wasn’t gaining-what she was ignoring was that I was telling her of his eating issues and that we had ties. She continued to tell me formula was superior and my milk didn’t have enough caloric content.” – Brittney
Take Care of Yourself
So often mothers are so wrapped up in taking care of their child, they forget to take care of themselves.
It’s so easy to do! But you need to take care of yourself. Giving birth is no easy feat. It can take a long time to fully recover, especially if you don’t take it easy.
Accept help when given and ask when it isn’t. The dishes and laundry can wait!
“Make sure you get lots of fluids and eat enough!” – Skyler
“Keep your nursing spots stocked- snacks, water bottles, remote, phone charger, book, nipple cream. Also a very comfy pillow for nursing in bed like the one below. It’s a back saver!” – Jill
“Go to your happy place when bf is hard. Favorite snacks, Netflix, put your feet up.” – Lauren F.
“A good pillow matters for your back, but nurse however you and baby are comfortable and don’t worry about what “named position” it is.” – Brittney
“Eat when your hungry and whatever you want to when you want it in the beginning and drink water water and more water!!” – Sierra
“Wash and air dry your breasts as much as possible, no matter how much it hurts, I was pretty much topless for my whole maternity leave” – Jena
“Have water with you when you are about to nurse. Even if your not thirsty when your about to breastfeed. Take a water with you, anyways. Let your nipples air dry after each feeding. Trust your motherly instinct that you are providing for your baby. Invest in some type of breast pads, as well.” – Jessica
“Be kind and gentle on yourself.” – Jennifer
“Hire a housekeeper. Dishes are lame and honestly, you deserve a nap.” – Hailey
“Baby carriers are helpful to keep you and baby closer while you can get some stuff done, patently tho lol. Teething mitts will be a must when they get to two months old. If you breastfeed, be careful what you eat. Don’t over think about anything negative like house work or what anyone negative says about petty things. If you need anyone to talk to, us mamas are here for you.” – Holly
“Let someone else take care of everything else. Your job is on the couch letting that baby feed as many times and as long as they want to.” – Kelsey
“Make short term goals and reward yourself when you meet your goal. 2 weeks…a Starbucks. 1 month…a new shirt. 2 months…your favorite take out. 4 months new shoes. What ever your fancy, set short term goals and celebrate when you reach them.” – Gena
Enjoy your baby
It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the minor details that you forget to enjoy that little bundle of joy. I promise, even though it seems like some days will never end…they do. And you will miss them.
As much as I adore my boys are the ages they are now, I sorely miss the days when they were tiny newborns and wish I had taken more time just to take in all the details – how they smelled, the little noises they made, etc.
“Be in the moment with baby and just breathe. The first six weeks are the hardest. Then you wake up and next thing you know it’s all second nature and you’re a pro! The days are long but the weeks are short! It’s worth every minute spent providing for baby!” – Kali
“Allow yourself time to get to know your baby and your body! You will learn how they work together. Don’t stress, just go with the flow and ask for help/advice/encouragement!”
“Take it day by day. Every day is a milestone and you are a warrior. Be kind to yourself and enjoy the journey. ❤️ they grow more quickly than you realize!” – Michelle
“Don’t overthink it… and just go into with an open mind— your body made this amazing human being and it will continue to work to sustain your babe. Let baby nurse as much as possible esp in the beginning, and don’t be surprised if there are many hours in a row they will! It is building your supply and providing every ounce of nutrition! I never ever thought I would love it or be able to provide the bond that it has given my daughter and I, but it’s seriously one of my favorite things in my life- ever ? it goes so fast” – Katrina
“Another thing. Lots of ladies here mentioned how it’s normal for your baby to be latched for what seems like forever in the beginning. And yes eventually, he’ll become an expert and a nursing session will last maybe 10 minutes, tops. But there will be times when you’ll miss the marathon nursing sessions. I know I do.” – Karen
Pumping is a whole other ball game – and there’s a lot of misinformation out there.
If you are planning to pump, I recommend reading my pumping 101 guide. A lot of mothers have found it helpful!
“Not EVERY mom can get milk when pumping and it’s not due to a lack of supply if baby is meeting required wet diapers.” – Ally
“Be sure to replace pump parts regularly” – Laura
“If you are going back to work in 6 or 12 weeks don’t stress about freezer stash. Drink and eat. Enjoy all the on demand eating you will miss the snuggles.” – Megan
“Some babies don’t like thawed out milk, focus on feeding on demand to build up your production. When you return to work, start pumping on a Saturday before and use that weekend’s milk to start your week, what you pump at work will be enough for the next day. When you return to work, start pumping on a Saturday before and use that weekend’s milk to start your week, what you pump at work will be enough for the next day.” – Sandra
“My other advice is don’t pump before 6 weeks. Oversupply is a b****.” – Julia
While reading every book and attending every class about breastfeeding will never prepare you 100% for how breastfeeding will go, knowledge is power.
So still, read all those books (this one is great) and attend all those classes. The more you know, the better!
“Research as much as possible before baby comes!” – Jessica
“Take a breast-feeding class!!! Usually offered at your hospital” -Karen
“As soon as you deliver put your baby to the breast. It’s a learning process for them too, the sooner they get acquainted the easier the transition. And relax and be patience before you know it you’ll be a pro at it. Lactation consultants are a life saver !!!” – Tanya