Ah.. breastfeeding! As if having to care for a small human, crying, diaper-changing and everything wasn’t enough.. there’s that unexpected challenge that women are barely aware of during their first pregnancy. Breastfeeding for new moms is a learned science, more than something we are naturally good at. When my son was born I had no idea of what to do, which is why I want to share my top breastfeeding tips for beginners.
It’s everything I would have wanted to know when I was pregnant. I used to wonder what the big deal was all about. It was natural, so, of course, it had to happen naturally. I didn’t worry too much, I sort of thought that both I and m baby would both know what to do!
Well, as it turns out, considering that feeding is their main means of surviving, some newborns suck at breastfeeding (pun intended!). They need to learn how to do it. As well as us moms. So to speed things up for you and your baby, be sure to keep in mind these 6 breastfeeding hacks!
#1: Be patient, your milk may take a few days to come in
In most cases, the milk to “come in” is just a waiting game.
Ever since we are pregnant, we start producing colostrum, early, concentrated milk, heavy with nutrients and antibodies!
The thing is, colostrum often comes in drops.
Not the heavy flow one may expect. However, as your milk thins, your breast will get fuller and you’ll be feeding or expressing a large amount of milk in each session. This can take up to 5 days!
Try not to worry about this. Even though your colostrum is scarce, odds are that’s just what the baby needs. Did you know that during their first 3 days of life, babies just need about 30 mL of colostrum? That’s not very much!
And, if you’re having any trouble at all, you’ll doctor will know and they will supply your baby with formula if needed.
By day 7, babies are drinking ten times that amount of milk (so, up to 300mL), but your body has had one whole week to adjust and, in most cases, your milk has come in! So, among all of the breastfeeding tips for beginners that you’ll read, this one is key. Whatever problem you’re facing with your supply, be patient. Changes in your body don’t happen immediately.
Of course, if you have a preemie in the NICU, or if your baby is in the NICU, things may take a little longer. When Oliver was born, I barely caught a glimpse of him before he was rushed two floors down to the NICU. So there was no baby stimulus until way later (he was one month old when he was strong enough to breastfeed.) Baby sucking is a big deal for your body to supply milk.
I had to pump, and since the stimulus isn’t quite the same, I had initial trouble with my milk flow! Find out how I pumped my way to a healthy flow in this article.
#2: If possible, latch to your baby no later than 1 hour after birth
I couldn’t do this one. But if you can, go for it. It’s great practice for your baby!
A baby that was just born will instinctively snuggle toward your breast to feed. And the learning process will kick in!
However, it’s not all about practice, if your baby gets even a drop of colostrum she will have those antibodies in her body. She’ll have healthy bowel movements to get her digestive system started, and she’ll have fewer problems sucking later on if she feeds properly during this first hour.
You’ll also feel more confident about this whole breastfeeding business, and you’ll strengthen the bond with your baby.
But, if you are unable to feed within the first hour after birth, don’t get stressed about it.
Neither I nor any preemie mom who was in the NICU with me could breastfeed within the first hour, and now, 2 years later, all babies are doing great! Some could breastfeed for a long time and some couldn’t, but it all comes down to the same thing: our sons and daughters are fine!
#3: If you can, try pure breastfeeding during the first month
If you can. I can’t stress this point enough: Oliver couldn’t breastfeed for the first month of his life and he’s fine! We went on to have a healthy breastfeeding relationship with a wonderful weaning process. Take these breastfeeding tips for beginners and adapt them to your own situation, they aren’t strict guidelines.
You may want to try pure breastfeeding during the first month. This means no binky, no bottles. No artificial nipples.
You’ll thus avoid nipple confusion.
The babies sucking is different when they breastfeed than when they bottle feed. Bottle feeding doesn’t require that much effort, so when we combine bottle and breastfeeding before they have fully learned how to breastfeed, they get confused. They don’t know which sucking ability they need to use to feed themselves, and they resort to the one that requires less effort. This leads to trouble latching and breastfeeding.
If you do need to feed your baby in an alternate way, syringe-feeding is a good option. Take a needless syringe and slowly release the milk as the baby sucks. Don’t release if your baby isn’t sucking. It’s not ideal, but it’ll help you get out and do things if you need to!
Another thing you could do to avoid nipple confusion is to use special bottles. We used the Medela Calm, which forces the baby to make a suction similar to breastfeeding. If you think it’ll be a good fit, you get it here (affiliate link), I can’t recommend it enough! After Oliver was discharged I had spent one month and a half in the hospital and I needed to go out and do things sometimes. It worked great, and we went on to breastfeed for the first year.
#4: Know what to Expect about Nursing Frequency
Newborns feed every 1-2 hours, day and night!
So, I know you’ve heard it before, it’s not the most original of breastfeeding tips for beginners, but expect some sleepless nights at first, and sleep whenever your baby is sleeping.
As they grow older, however, feeding sessions start spacing out, first every 3 hours, then every 5, and so on.
What I didn’t know about (and wasn’t prepared for) were growth spurts. Periods in which babies need to grow faster and revert to breastfeeding every hour, during shorter sessions, and get super fussy. Seriously, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t breastfeeding during a growth spurt.
Growth spurts can happen at different times for preemies and from baby to baby, but they usually happen at around 2 weeks, 4 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 9 months. They usually last from 2 to 7 days. And they leave you exhausted!
Prepare for growth spurts by coordinating with your husband or partner about alternating feeds, so that you and your breasts can have some time off… which brings me to my next item…
#5: Discuss Breastfeeding with your Husband
Make sure to align your expectations on breastfeeding with your partner’s when you’re pregnant. Since it’ll go all better if it’s a team effort.
Does your husband understand the importance of breastfeeding? Is he on board with the idea of exclusive breastfeeding? Or, he’d rather bottle-fed the baby and get it over with?
Whatever your plan is with breastfeeding, make sure that it’s a plan, and that you get your partner on board with it.
Partners can make the whole breastfeeding ordeal so much easier. I’ll give you my example.
We knew there was a high probability that Ollie was going to be premature, since I was diagnosed with pre-eclampsia by week 20, and I was going to be induced by week 36 if I hadn’t collapsed earlier. So we prepared for that.
I showed my husband hundreds of articles about the benefits of breastfeeding a preemie (you can also show him this article on breastfeeding tips for beginners.) And, within a week, he was more excited about it than I was. But we knew that we were going to have to pump while our baby was in the hospital, and we knew that he most probably was going to be discharged with oxygen.
So we agreed on a plan. I would focus on pumping, he would do the sterilizing. Yes, even during the midnight pumps, he’d get up and clean everything so that I’d have it ready by the next day. Bless him.
When Oliver was home, we agreed that I needed one hour a day of me-time. So, he learned how to syringe and bottle feed. He heated up my stored milk and took charge. It helped that we talked so much about it when I was pregnant and were determined to make it work as a team.
#6: Ask the nurses as much as you can
When you’re in the hospital before discharge. Ask everything you want. And I mean everything. Don’t hold back.
Trust me. There are no dumb questions when it comes to breastfeeding, and nurses have seen and heard everything. Your nurse will give you the best breastfeeding tips for beginners since she knows your situation and has seen many cases.
Some questions I asked before I was discharged were:
- Can you teach me at least 3 different breastfeeding positions?
- How should I clean my breast?
- Can you teach me how to manually express milk?
- Can you teach me how to stimulate my son’s sucking reflex?
- What should I do if my breasts feel too hard?
After your discharge, get a lactation consultant to see you and your baby as soon as possible, even if everything is going fine. You’ll want her number, too. And call her whenever something happens, or you need to know something.
A lactation consultant is your breastfeeding breast friend!
Bonus Tip: Learn as Much as You Can!
I guess you’re here because you want to learn everything about breastfeeding.
Learning about breastfeeding can be overwhelming, to say the least! But there’s a simple, easy and inexpensive way!
Milkology is a place where you can learn to breastfeed… online! Yup, at your own pace. Yup, taught by a certified lactation consultant, who is super responsive to any questions you have!
You will learn:
- The benefits of nursing.
- The Lactation and Milk Supply Process.
- The techniques for latching and positioning your baby.
- The techniques for expressing and storing your milk.
- Know what to expect with you and your baby.
- Finding support.
- And LOTS of bonus downloads!
That’s a Wrap
Breastfeeding does have its benefits. But these breastfeeding tips for beginners are not a set of strict rules and guidelines. Think about it as a process. It has its ups and downs, and sometimes it goes fine, sometimes it needs more work.
Whichever your case is, know that you’ll find challenges along the way if you do decide to breastfeed. And stick to it for as long as it’s reasonable, try not to obsess, and move on if it’s not working for your family.
Did you breastfeed? Did you formula feed your baby? Share your expertise in the comments! Are you expecting to breastfeed? Ask any questions in the comments below!
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