Congratulations on your new little one! Whether he/she is already here or whether you’re anxiously awaiting their arrival, I think it is great to gather lots of different tips on the “how-to’s” and “what should I do’s” when it comes to breastfeeding.
First of all, fed is best, period. You do what you need to do to provide nutrition for your baby and you do it your way. Don’t let anyone influence you otherwise, you’re the parent and it’s your decision.
When my husband and I decided to start our family, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. My goal was always for 12 months, minimum. Once we were pregnant with our son, I really dove into reading all I could about the experience and what it would entail. Every woman is different, every pregnancy is different, and every baby is different, so when you read someone else’s “tips,” including my own, you have to understand that you will not have the exact same experience. However, I believe that knowledge is power and the more you know, the better you can adapt and overcome obstacles.
Some of my most important pieces of advice for new moms planning on breastfeeding (or moms already breastfeeding and need a little boost of motivation to keep going) are:
- Take a Class!
The hospital I delivered at offered free birth classes as well as
breastfeeding classes. These two classes were invaluable. My husband attended the birth class with me, which was more fun than I expected. He learned a ton and had fun with it all, which made it that much more enjoyable for me as well. The breastfeeding class was really focused on “How To” and the mechanics of it all. You’ll notice my list of tips, along with most others you can read online, focuses a lot on the comfort items that make the experience more comfortable for you while nursing your baby. These are super important, which is why I too included a lot of them, but you can really benefit from a detailed “How To” baseline from a professional. The instructor for my class had a baby doll, illustrations, a book, pamphlets, and personal experience. It was helpful to have that knowledge logged in to my memory to refer back to in the beginning.
- Organic Nipple Cream
Nipple cream is super important to have on hand. When I read this before my son was born, I don’t ever remember anyone talking about using it before you experienced pain, soreness, or cracking. So, let me tell you, use it right from the start! Personally, I never had cracked nipples, or any pain and I really do associate a lot of that with using this right from day one. I would highly recommend getting an organic brand like this Motherlove Certified Organic Nipple Cream as well because keep in mind, whatever you use, your baby will end up ingesting some of. I checked with our Pediatrician, and she approved the brand linked above but you should check with yours to be sure.
- See a Lactation Consultant
Before you leave the hospital ask for a lactation consultant to see you and your baby if they don’t routinely check in on their own. At my hospital, I was pleasantly greeted by the same woman who taught the breastfeeding class I had taken previously. After giving birth, all natural, my typical modesty was pretty much out the window. The lactation consultant got up close and personal, which is what I wanted. I only had a short time with that resource available to me with just a press of a button, so I wanted to use it. She watched my son latch, she helped me position my arms better. She showed me different ways to hold him and reminded me to always have a pillow under my arm because eventually, that arm would get tired. Yep, she was so right about that. She also gave me a card for the nurse line at the hospital that she could be reached at. There are great free resources out there like the La Leche League hotline but if there’s a number to call at the hospital to speak to the lactation consultant you’ve met, grab it just in case.
- Nursing pads
This is pretty obvious. You’ll leak in the beginning, there’s no avoiding it. Wear these day and night to prevent a wet shirt and/or wet sheets ;). Eventually, it’ll all calm down and regulate and you won’t need these everyday. The Lansinoh Stay Dry Disposable Nursing Pads are my favorite. They’re soft and didn’t show through any of my bras. While I was at home, I would use these Washable Organic Nursing Pads . They worked great and didn’t show through my bras either, but I always felt a little more comfortable leaving the house wearing the disposable kind. It’s all personal preference but these 2 brands worked best for me.
- Travel & Neck Pillow
This is a comfort item obviously but it can be quite useful. I had this Travel & Neck Pillow in our closet and one night I grabbed it before sitting down to nurse. It was SO helpful. In the middle of the night, when I was half asleep, I would use this so my neck wouldn’t droop and be stiff the next day. Of course, this isn’t a must have item, but if you catch yourself dozing off during night-time feeds, and your neck is dropping like an old lady when you catch yourself, it could be worth a try.
- Nursing App or bra clips
Okay, I have to be VERY careful when describing this one because it’s my least favorite habit I have formed since my son was born. In the beginning, I wanted to track my son’s feeds- the length, frequency, sides, etc. so I found a free app to download with a timer and it became a must. I couldn’t sit down to nurse without my phone and I couldn’t relax without a timer going so I knew exactly how long my son ate, and it snowballed. In the beginning, it was very helpful information, absolutely. I knew what side he ate on last, I always felt evened out, and I knew how much and how often he was eating to accurately share with our pediatrician. BUT, over time, I became really reliant on this app and it was annoying. I felt like if I didn’t track my sons feedings, I was doing something wrong. It was like an addiction and I couldn’t let it go. I felt so uneasy without a timer going to know how long it had been. Eventually, I stopped using the app during all night feeds, then gradually stopped altogether. It was very freeing to be able to sit down and nurse my son without a phone under my leg ticking away. My advice is, in the beginning, an app can be a great tool, just try to not become reliant. When you’ve got the hang on things, and your little one is thriving, just keep doing what you’re doing and lose the phone. You don’t need the app. This is where the bra clips come in! I found these on Amazon and they were helpful! In the beginning when you’re really tired and can’t remember anything, using these Easy Reminder Bra clips help you know which side you nursed on last and which the side you need to start with next time.
- Rocker, Glider, or comfy chair
You’re probably going to spend a lot of time here so invest in a comfy seat of some kind. This Nursery Glider Chair and Ottoman Set has worked out great for us! Breastfeeding is a full-time job, so the last thing you want is to be uncomfortable. Trust me, you’ll get your money out of it.
- Dimmable Bedside Lamp
Rather than using your phone in the middle of the night or a normal lamp that will wake up your baby entirely, find a nice low light or Dimmable Bedside Lamp like this one. It’s important to not trip in the middle of the night while picking up your baby and it’s important to be able to see the dirty diaper you’re changing, but you also don’t want to overstimulate them. Low, soft, amber light is your best friend.
- A comfortable and breathable nursing cover
My son was born at the start of August in East Tennessee. Needless to say, it was HOT outside. At first, we didn’t leave the house much but as we fell into our routine, there was of course the occasional outing where I would need to feed him. My favorite nursing cover is the Boppy Infinity Nursing Scarf. The fabric is so silky soft and breathable. Plus, it’s very lightweight and it doesn’t wrinkle either! This is a huge bonus because it’s packed in my diaper bag 100% of the time that it’s not in use. Finding a cover can be tough because there are SO many out there. My best advice is to buy in the store and not online if you can. This way, you can really feel the material first. I remember at my baby shower receiving 2 covers that were absolutely beautiful. The print and style were stunning, unfortunately, I don’t think I used either, ever. They were too heavy and my son would get hot, which means I would then get hot too. Lightweight and breathable is the best bet for summer babies!
I hope my list can be helpful as you start or continue your journey through breastfeeding. Remember, in your most tired moments, frustrated moments, and inconvenient moments, you have the power to overcome and keep going if you choose to. Set your mind to it, stay positive, and start with a small goal. Say you plan to breastfeed for 1 month, then once you make it there, push for 2, then 4, then 6 and so on. It’s a beautiful journey that will bond you and your baby so deeply. Good luck!