Breastfeeding 101: Facts, Tips and More
Baby is here! Whether you are a new mom or seasoned mom, breastfeeding will be encouraged by medical professionals (nurses and doctors). It is the mother’s choice to breastfeed or not. When a woman decides that she will nourish her baby through nursing, it can come easy or be a struggle.
As a mother of four, I am a strong advocate for breastfeeding. For my first born, I was unable to nurse my son because he was tongue-tied and had issues with latching. Because of this, pumping became my only source to feed my son. When I had my second, I vowed to seek support from a lactation consultant and try to nurse as long as I could no matter the struggles. It worked! For my second born, I nursed for 15 months. For my third born, I nursed for 18 months. For my fourth born, I plan to nurse until the end of this year.
During my breastfeeding journey, it has not always been an easy road. But, I have been able to navigate this road through some tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years. It is important to remember that breastfeeding can be challenging, but its worth it!
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While you’re pregnant, it is time to go shopping for essentials needed for the breastfeeding journey.
Nursing bras: a support bra without underwire is recommended
Nursing pillow: helps to nurse the baby in different positions that will be comfortable to you
Nursing pads: absorbent pads that are placed in the bra to prevent nipple leakage that can be seen through a bra and shirt
Nursing ointment: helps to prevent chapped or soothe sore nipples
Breastfeeding bottles: makes easier transition for the baby from breast to bottle-feeding
Breast pump: electric double pump is needed for reserving breastmilk for bottles, please refer to my previous post about pumping for more details.
As soon as you deliver your baby, the nurse will place the newborn on your chest for skin-to-skin interaction. This is important for the mom and baby to bond following birth.
There are four popular positions that every nursing mother will use at some point in their breastfeeding journey. When you are in the hospital, make sure to consult with the lactation consultant because they are your best resource! The four positions are: cradle hold, cross-cradle hold, side-lying position and football hold. Personally, I used the cradle hold and cross-cradle hold positions when the baby is under 6 months.
Once the baby is older and heavier, I think the football hold and side-lying position is most effective.
Use a pillow for support and lay the baby in your lap. One hand will cradle the baby’s head in your elbow and hold the baby’s butt. Your other hand will lift your breast for nursing.
It is essential the same as cradle hold, but are not supporting the baby on the same side as your nursing breasts. Rather, you are placing baby’s head in your opposite arm and nursing in that position. Again, use a nursing pillow for support.
Laying down, place the baby on the breast side you plan to feed the baby. o feed on the left breast, lie on your left side with your back supported. Lay your baby on their side facing you, their chest against yours. Your right arm will support their body, and your right hand will support their head, bringing them toward your breast.
Place your baby beside you on a pillow. The baby’s back will be on one side and legs towards your back. Using your other arm, to hold your breast and maneuver the nipple to their mouth. Essentially, the baby is in a position as if you are holding a football.
Latching is the crucial part of breastfeeding! It is also the hardest if the baby does not latch properly because it affects how the baby feeds, as well as very painful for the mother.
Below are my key tips for a good latch:
Make sure the baby is propped on a pillow (it helps with the leverage and height for your breast)
Hold the baby to your breasts, do not lean toward the baby because it will hurt your back
Use thumb and first finger to put around your nipple to make it easier to put in baby’s mouth
Move your nipple to the baby’s lips so they can open wide
Aim nipple so it fits right in middle of baby’s mouth and push forward so they can get a good latch
Listen, I can’t stress it enough latching is important. If your baby does not have a good latch, it will hurt! It will feel like they are biting your nipple and they will not empty your breast as they should with a feeding.
Make sure to get help if needed! For my second child, I had to use a nipple shield the first month of my child’s birth because she would not latch easily without it. Thankfully, it did not last long so she will able to nurse without it soon after.
Cues, Frequency & Engorgement
You will know when your baby is ready to eat! Newborns have little tummies but will eat all the time. You will nurse the baby at least 8 or more times a day. The early signs that a baby is hungry is the rooting from side to side, putting their hands in their mouth, making lip-smacking sounds or opening their mouth as if a nipple is nearby. When a baby starts crying, they are starving and need nourishment ASAP.
Typically, a mother will feed their baby every two hours. I would not say to set a time limit when feeding your baby, but around 15-20 minutes is an average feeding session. It can be shorter or longer depending on age of your baby and how hungry they are. It is important to feel that you have drained your breast completely and a baby will be full once they pull away from the nipple. Lactation consultants will recommend to feed on one breast so they get all the fats and calories from breastmilk.
Personally, I alternate between breasts (even in one feeding) if I feel that one of my breasts is super full and the milk needs to be drained. Regardless, my baby is full and happy. And, mommy is not overly engorged on one side! 🤣
Engorgement can happen whether you want it to or not. To help alleviate engorgement, you can apply ice packs to your breasts to ease the pain or take a warm shower. When in the shower, I massage my breasts to express any small amount of milk. When a baby starts sleeping through the night or you are go out to the store for a number of hours, expect to have engorgement. A breast pump will be your best friend!
Breastfeeding is a wonderful time to bond with your baby and give them the necessary nourishment.
This is the best advice that I can give a new mother or a mom new to nursing their baby:
Learn as much as you can about the tips and tricks for nursing
Don’t stress about milk supply -- make sure you are eating well, staying hydrated and feeding frequently
Be patient and realize breastfeeding is a skill that takes time to master
Practice, practice and more practice
You will learn what your baby’s needs and wants in position and frequency of nursing
Enjoy this bonding experience with your little one!