14 Tips for Breastfeeding your Newborn
When I had Weston, the breastfeeding Gods must have been smiling down on me. We had an amazing experience. He latched well from the start, gained weight like a champ, and I had a great milk supply.
Elliott will be two weeks old tomorrow and we’ve had a few extra hurdles to jump over this time around. We had latching issues in the hospital, which led to painful feeds, and we’re now suffering from overactive letdowns.
If I hadn’t had such a great experience the first time around, I think it would have been a lot easier for me to give up. Now I understand the frustration, the pain, and the worry that can come along with breastfeeding a newborn. I’m not a medical professional or a certified expert. I’m just a mom who has breastfed two babies and knows what has helped me stick with it. Here are 14 tips for breastfeeding your newborn.
Nurse During the Golden Hour
One of the best things you can do to ensure early breastfeeding success is to nurse during the golden hour. The golden hour is the time directly following birth that your baby is awake and alert. This is a great time to try to nurse before your baby falls asleep. Although it may not go perfectly the very first time, your baby’s natural instinct is to find the breast and nurse.
Do lots of skin to skin
Skin to skin isn’t just for the golden hour. Doing lots of skin to skin with your baby in the days following their birth has many benefits for your baby and promotes breastfeeding.
Bring your Boppy to the Hospital
I think the boppy is a wonderful tool for breastfeeding moms. It helps you find the right positions and comfortably nurse your newborn. If you don’t have a boppy, you can use pillows to help you find a comfortable position.
Talk to a Lactation Consultant
While you’re still in the hospital, take advantage of the opportunity to speak with a lactation consultant. Even if you think things are going great, it’s always a good idea to have a professional come in and look at your latch and tell you what to expect over the next several days. I met with a lactation consultant after both of babies were born and the advice they gave me was priceless, especially the second time around. In talking with the lactation consultant, they will probably also let you know if your hospital offers free lactation meetings or a free hotline. These can also be very beneficial after you’ve gone home from the hospital.
Take a Breastfeeding Course
I’m a big believer in educating yourself. Knowing what to expect with your breastfed baby, or knowing what is “normal” is a game changer. Having access to a breastfeeding course has been extremely helpful since I’ve had Elliott. Even though I breastfed Weston for a year, I still took Milkology before Elliott was born and have looked back on it several times since his birth day. Having the opportunity to go back and re-watch a lesson when I have an issue is great. I’ve gone back and watched the lessons on latching and positioning and what to expect in the first month. I love this course and recommend it to any mom who plans on breastfeeding.
Drink Lots of Water
Nursing your baby will instinctively make you thirsty. During your first few nursing sessions, you’ll notice that you might become extremely thirsty as your newborn begins to suckle. Drinking lots of water is a great way to make sure that you stay healthy and maintain a good milk supply. I love using the water bottle from the hospital because I always know how many ounces I’m drinking and I feel like I drink more using a straw. If you didn’t grab yours from the hospital, you can get something like this from Amazon.
Track Feedings and Diaper Changes
One of the scariest things about breastfeeding is that you never know how much milk your baby is consuming. Many breastfeeding moms worry that their baby isn’t getting to eat, especially in the early days. One of the best things you can do to make sure your baby is getting enough milk is to track feedings and diaper changes. Your newborn should be eating every 2-3 hours and making wet and dirty diapers. This article from KellyMom talks more about how many wet and dirty diapers to expect with your newborn. We’ve always used the Glow Baby app to track our feedings and diaper changes.
Do your Own Weigh Ins
Your baby is going to lose weight in the first few days of its life. It’s completely normal and typically nothing to be concerned about until they lose 10% of their birth weight. The nurses will weigh your baby while you’re in the hospital and give you guidance if you bay is losing too much. You’ll also make an appointment with your pediatrician a few days after you go home from the hospital where they will do another weigh in. By this time, your milk should be in and your baby should begin to start gaining weight again. If you want to continue to check your baby’s weight between pediatrician appointments, do your own weigh in’s at home. Simply weigh yourself holding your baby, then weigh yourself, and subtract. We’ve been weighing Elliott once a week simply out of curiosity and peace of mind. If you want to get really precise, check out the Hatch Baby Grow Smart Changing Pad and Scale.
Use Nipple Cream
I didn’t know the power of nipple cream until I had Elliott. After nursing with a bad latch for the first day of his life, my nipples were extremely sore and breastfeeding hurt. Contrary to popular belief, breastfeeding should not hurt. (Yes, there are many things that can cause discomfort, but the actual act of nursing your baby should not be painful). I started apply nipple cream after every feed and even in between feeds. The lactation consultant also recommended I express some colostrum and let it dry on my nipples to heal them. Between the two methods, and working on our latch, I was nursing pain free by the time we got home from the hospital.
Wake a Sleeping Baby
In the early days of breastfeeding, it is recommended that you feed your baby every 2-3 hours. Some babies will naturally want to nurse this frequently (or more frequently), but some babies will need to be woken up to feed. Some simple ways to wake your baby are:
- Change their diaper
- Take their clothes off
- Expressing milk on your nipple and putting it to baby’s mouth
- Burp your baby
- Sit your baby up
I also learned a trick from the lactation consultant and used it when we got home with Elliott. She taught us how to use syringe feeding to wake him and get him to suck. Once he got a taste of the milk, he would wake and be ready to latch. I only needed to do it for a day, but it worked like a charm.
Use a Haakaa
After having Weston, I started to see a lot of breastfeeding moms talking about the haakaa. The haakaa is a silicone breast pump that you attach to your other breast when your baby is nursing. It collects the milk from your letdowns and even pulls some additional milk from your breast while your baby is eating. I made sure to get one before having Elliott and it has been a total game changer. I can’t tell you how many milk soaked nursing pads I threw away when I was breastfeeding Weston. The haakaa lets me catch all the milk that would otherwise be wasted. It has also helped me relieve engorgement and manage my oversupply in these first few weeks.
Make a Breastfeeding Caddy
When your baby decides they’re hungry, the last thing you want to do is run around looking for your water, the remote, your phone, and a burp rag. Putting together a breastfeeding caddy and keeping it close to where your nurse is a life saver. I have one next to my bed for night time feedings and one next to the couch for daytime feedings. Here’s what’s in my caddy:
- Nursing Pads
- Burp Cloths
- Nipple Cream
- Snacks and a Water Bottle
- Baby Nail Clippers (Try clipping your baby’s nails while they’re relaxed and nursing)
In the night time caddy I also keep diapers, a changing pad, wipes, diaper cream, and a change of clothes. This way I never have to leave my bed. I’ve also downloaded the Apple TV remote on my phone in case the remote is out of reach (this might sound ridiculous, but breastfeeding moms will understand!)
I know that this is easier said than done, especially if you have other children running around, but try to get as much sleep as you possibly can. Sleep deprivation always seems to make my problems seem bigger than they really are. If you’re tired and exhausted, breastfeeding your newborn becomes even more tiring and exhausting. Every little issue can make you want to throw in the towel. Remember that things like laundry and dishes can wait. Skip the Netflix and go to sleep when the kids go to sleep. Say yes to anyone who offers to take the baby off your hands for a few hours.
Talking to a lactation consultant is great, but sometimes, it’s easier to talk to your friends or other moms who know what you’re going through. If you don’t have a friend you can go to for support, there are tons of groups on social media that extremely helpful to breastfeeding moms. There are local mom groups and some larger support pages that help you feel like you’re not so alone. One of my favorite pages is Breastfeeding Mama Talk. It’s a great place to go for advice, support, and information.
More importantly, make sure that your partner knows what to expect and how to support you. Make sure your partner is educated on the topic of breastfeeding and is willing to pick up the slack while your couch bound for the first few weeks. Having a partner that supports your decision to breastfeed (or not to breastfeed) can make all the difference in the world.
If you’re in the early days of breastfeeding, or getting ready to become a breastfeeding mom, know that you can do this! Try to always remember why you wanted to breastfeed in the first place and remember that these days don’t last long. Before you know it, you and your baby will be in a rhythm and the days of awful latches and thirty minute feeds will seem like a distant memory.