15 Breastfeeding tips and hacks for new moms: secrets for success and what I wish someone would have told me!
When I was pregnant with my daughter, I had this vision in my mind of what breastfeeding was going to be like. I pictured this sweet little baby latching on perfectly and us spending those early newborn days together just blissfully nursing and cuddling. It wasn’t that I didn’t take classes on breastfeeding and it wasn’t that I hadn’t heard how difficult it can be; I just chose to believe that breastfeeding wasn’t going to be hard for me. Well my friends, I was wrong. Because I want to be completely honest on this blog, I will just tell you that breastfeeding was very challenging for me, but so worth it! There were so many times where I seriously contemplated giving up breastfeeding, but I didn’t. My sweet little baby girl was just not very good at nursing, in fact she is what they call a “lazy eater.” She would start off great only to either get tired, bored or she just wanted to be difficult. In turn she would end up hungry 30 minutes later only to repeat the process again, leaving us both frustrated and crying. We finally found our breastfeeding groove ( after many tears were shed…on my end) and 10 months later I am truly proud to say I am still exclusively breastfeeding my daughter. I returned to work when my baby was 3 months old, so I have been pumping for a majority of my journey as well. This is also no easy task. Let’s just say whoever came up with the expression: “don’t cry over spilled milk”, was clearly not a nursing mother… it’s liquid gold and I cried! I chose to breastfeed because of all the known benefits for my daughter’s health and my own. There are so many things I wish someone would have told me about breastfeeding that would have saved me a few meltdowns along the way. I created this post to hopefully help you on your breastfeeding journey and make life just a little bit easier. Being a new mom is hard, but so wonderful and I know it helps to know that others are going through the same thing!
~This post may contain affiliate links, all opinions and thoughts are my very own~
Top 15 breastfeeding tips to set you up for success!
- Find a breastfeeding position that works best for you. If you are anything like me, you read tons of articles and books on breastfeeding. I even took classes during my pregnancy because I wanted to learn everything I could. Then my daughter was born and it was as if my mind went blank and I forgot everything I learned. After much trial and error I found that the best breastfeeding position for me when she was first born was the football hold. However after a few weeks she wanted nothing to do with this and skin to skin contact during the cross cradle hold worked better. Eventually, in my sleep deprived state I did something I swore I would never do and began co-sleeping…gasp! It was the best thing I ever did because I was able to breastfeed in a side-lying position and then sleep without having to move her…I wish I had done this sooner. The bottom line…..find what works best for you and stick with it!
- Stay hydrated. I drank so much water and still do to this day as I’m still nursing. I always make it a point to drink a big glass of water every chance I get and especially each time I sit down to breastfeed or pump. This will help keep your milk supply up and keep you from becoming dehydrated!
- Invest in a good quality nursing bra. I decided to invest in a few good quality nursing bras since I knew I would be living in them 24/7 after I had my baby. I did discover however that not all bras are created equal and after some trial and error I found my most favorite and ordered a few! My favorite nursing bra was the Bandita Nursing Bra by Belly Bandit. Actually, I’m in love with all of their post partum products, they are amazing and totally worth every penny.
This bra gave me the support I needed without any uncomfortable underwire digging into me. I wore this bra this bra everywhere and it looks great under clothing too ( not that I really went out very much during those first early weeks). However, I still wear my Bandita to work and even to practice yoga and I cannot rave about it enough! I am obsessed with pretty much all of Belly Bandit’s products, they have the best stuff for maternity and postpartum care!
- Don’t try so hard to try to get on schedule during those first early weeks. I am a big believer in learning from my mistakes and I truly believe my biggest one in terms of breastfeeding was trying to get my baby on a schedule way to early. This in turn actually hurt my milk supply and made for one fussy little newborn. The best advice I can give is to nurse your baby on demand in those early weeks. I was trying so hard to start a sleep schedule and feed every 2-3 hours but there were times now looking back when I think she was crying because she was hungry even though it had only been 1 hour since her last feeding. Baby’s stomachs are so small and they can only take so much milk at once, that sometimes they are just hungry again sooner than you may think.
- Invest in a good quality breast pump and begin pumping early to build your supply if you are returning to work ( or if you want to introduce a bottle to your baby). Being a first time mom, I really had no idea what to get for a breast pump. My insurance company sent me one after I had my baby, but honestly it was not that great and I was getting so frustrated. I can remember sitting on my couch crying because I was getting just a few drop of milk after trying to pump for 30 minutes. I thought something was wrong with me! My midwife suggested I invest in a Medela breast pump because it is what many exclusively pumping moms highly recommend. Let me tell you, this was the best money I spent on anything throughout my pregnancy and postpartum journey! I am still exclusively pumping 10 months in and I do not think that would have been possible without my awesome Medela pump! I chose the advanced on the go option because I knew I would be taking it all around town with me. It even comes in a cute black bag that looks like a purse and is so easy to travel with. I could even bring it to meetings with me and no one even knew it was a breast pump!
- Skin to Skin contact when all else fails! I remember being so anxious when I first delivered my baby…was she going to latch? Is she getting enough milk? Am I doing this right? When all else failed and she wasn’t latching correctly I would practice skin to skin contact and it always worked to calm her down.
- Boost your milk supply. The best way to do this is to breastfeed or pump often and on demand. I was not lucky enough to be one of those women who made a huge freezer stash of milk however I was able to produce enough for my baby and create a small emergency stash for when I returned to work. There were a few products that I feel as though helped me to build my supply along with nursing more frequently and pumping right after. I can honestly say I think I walked around my house with my shirt off for the first 2-3 months of my baby’s life, it was just easier that way! The supplements that helped me the most were Mother’s Milk Tea and Fenugreek. I noticed a significant boost in my supply once I started using these products and occasionally a dip in supply when I forgot!I drank a ton of water and drank mother’s milk tea a few times a day and this truly helped me on my breastfeeding journey.
- Eat foods to help boost your milk supply and eat often: you need the calories and you’ll be hungry! Breastfeeding is a lot of work and you will need your energy. Here are some of the tops foods that helped me boost my supply: oats, almonds, salmon, spinach, yogurt, dates, brown rice and fennel. I was so hungry ( and still am) all the time, so when I was ravenous at 2am I wanted to make sure I had something healthy to eat. I actually would make this yummy protein ball recipe every Sunday so I could eat them all week long. I put extra oats in them and added sliced almonds to help my supply and it worked! They are so delicious, and when I barely had time to shower, at least I knew I could eat something that was quick and healthy.
- Use heat and ice to ease your discomfort. My favorite tip for relieving some soreness was using Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Hot or Cold Breast Therapy packs. These bad boys are so great I wished I had purchased them sooner. I would heat them in the microwave prior to nursing or pumping and this helped when I was feeling sore or if for some reason I was having trouble pumping. You can also put these packs in the freezer and use them again if you are feeling sore afterwards. It’s a win/win and they are totally affordable!
- Self massage and heat if/when you get clog ducts or happen to actually get more than 3 hours of sleep. I’ll never forget the first time my baby slept through the night, because so did I! I think she was about 10-11 weeks old when she started sleeping about 8 hours a night. I never set an alarm for myself because I was used to hearing her cry and waking up to nurse. My body was not used to getting so much sleep and my goodness I ended up with some clogged ducts. It was quite painful, however I found that getting in the hot shower, massaging and nursing as soon as I could helped to relieve this. Any time I did have a clogged duct, applying heat and massaging prior to nursing/pumping made it so much more comfortable for me. I actually started to just incorporate massage into my daily routine prior to breastfeeding because it helped my supply too!
- Nipple cream! Your poor nipples will be sore in those first few weeks as you get used to breastfeeding. Ok so let’s get real…they will likely be more than a little sore. Personally, I felt like mine were a combination of chapped and on fire. This only lasted for the first few weeks, but boy was I not expecting this. I loved using Medela Tender Care Lanolin cream; it helped relieve the soreness and was safe for baby too. I carried this with me everywhere!
- Relax and try not to stress. I know this is easier said than done, especially when you are dealing with a fussy newborn. However, I found that my baby could sense when I was stressed and this made nursing that much more difficult for me. When I was relaxed, she was more at ease and it was so much better for both of us. The same goes for pumping. I clearly remember one particularly stressful busy day at work and I was actually unable to produce any milk when I was pumping on my lunch break. Of course this made me stress even more! However when I got home and was able to relax and be with my baby, I was just fine.
- Find some good TV shows to binge watch. During those first few months where I felt as though all I did was breastfeed I was able to binge watch season 1 of this is us and pretty much every single friends/ sex and the city episode! The little things in life:)
- A good breastfeeding pillow. I love my Boppy Nursing Pillow and I used it so much in those first few months. I found that during those first early weeks I needed it for support and to help with positioning. This was my first time, and as a new mom I was always afraid her head wasn’t being supported correctly. Now I can breastfeed her anywhere, pretty much doing anything without even batting an eye. I often laugh at myself for how paranoid I was sometimes, but hey it’s my first time being a mom!
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help! I wish I had asked for help sooner when I was struggling with breastfeeding. In a way, I guess I felt as though I was failing as a mom because I honestly did not feel the “joy” of breastfeeding and most days I even dreaded it. If I would have sought out advice from friends and a lactation consultant sooner I may have enjoyed those early weeks a little more. However, I finally did ask for help with breastfeeding and I was able to figure out a plan that worked for me and my baby. It just so happened that nursing in the mornings and late evenings while pumping during the day worked best for me. I was able to track how much milk she was getting and she was more satisfied. At the same time, I was still able to have that quiet time to bond with her while nursing in the am and before bed. This worked out so well when I returned to work and 10 months in I am still going strong! Breastfeeding is hard, it’s time consuming and quite frankly I find exclusively pumping just outright exhausting. I work all day long and every free second I have is spent with my family while they are awake ( My baby and husband are both currently sleeping as I type this post). Then I still have to find time to pump and stay up at night to get one more session in so she has enough bottles for the next day. I honestly feel as though sometimes there is just no break (welcome to motherhood right?). Luckily I have a super helpful husband that cooks dinner and cleans the kitchen at night, a supportive work environment where family does come first and some really great online support groups. If you want to breastfeed and especially if you have to return to work, it truly helps to have support and know that you are not alone! You can do this!
- I’m honestly not sure how much longer I will nurse for. Originally my goal was 3 months, which soon became 6 and then 9 and so on. I would like to make it a full year and learn more about baby led weaning. If I can do it, you can too! If it is your goal to breastfeed your baby and you do not have any major reasons( medial or not) why you can’t, I promise you, you can make it work. It’s certainly not easy, but in my humble opinion, it is so worth it. The benefits of breastfeeding are endless and I could go into a whole different post on that, but just to name a few: my baby has not been sick once, I lost my baby weight in 4-6 weeks and I never had to pay for formula! Don’t give up, you got this mama!!Stay tuned for more posts on mom tips, including my tips on how to survive as a working, exclusively pumping momma!Follow me on social media for my latest shenanigans, advice, workouts and more!
- xoxo Dr. Allie Flowers
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