Are you gearing up to breastfeed your baby, or are you struggling to figure things out? Here are the best breastfeeding tips from a mom of 6!
(this post contains affiliate links)
I have been breastfeeding my baby for just over a year now. I can’t believe it’s already been a whole year since she was born! With all the different things that come along with having a baby, breastfeeding is probably the hardest thing for me to start, and definitely the most difficult to let go of. Since my baby has just turned one, I am thinking toward the future and know this time will soon be over. To date, this is the longest that I have been able to nurse one of my babies.
Looking back on nursing each of my six babies, I realized I could sum up what I have learned in 5 steps. The best way to remember these things is the acronym PROPS. Because props to you if you even try to nurse your baby!
Please do not take offense to any “breast is best” arguments. That is not what this post is for. Breastfeeding has been a wonderful experience for me and my family. This post is written to support and help guide moms through the journey of breastfeeding. If you cannot or choose not to breastfeed for any reason, this post is not to take away from your experience or judge you in any way. Remember, we are here to support and encourage each other!
Learning to breast feed a newborn is completely different than feeding a baby that is even three months old just because then they are bigger and more alert. If you can figure things out on a newborn, after awhile you will get the hang of it, and it will be effortless. For me, convenience is everything. As a mom of six kids, I feel like I am always on the go. I may forget the diaper bag, but lucky for me since I am breastfeeding, my babies will never go hungry!
Here are my Best Tips for Successful Breastfeeding: P.R.O.P.S.
It really does take dedication to stick with breastfeeding. Both you and your baby are learning a new skill. You are sore from delivery, and breastfeeding brings about one more thing to hurt. People who have been nursing for awhile make it look so easy. I will tell you though, even after having six babies back to back, you have to learn all over again every time, because you have never nursed THIS baby.
If you are thinking of giving up on nursing, I would say unless counseled by your physician or a lactation specialist, give yourself at least a month or two trial period. By then, most of the troubles will hopefully have worked themselves out. No matter how hard it hurts, your nipples will become calloused and you will not wince in pain every time you nurse. It does get better, and it will become a very natural effortless process.
If breastfeeding your baby is an important goal for you, have PERSISTENCE. It takes patience, and sometimes the help of a lactation consultant, but you can do this!
All the baby books and the hospital staff will be so helpful in informing you of how often your baby should eat. With my first, I felt I was tethered to a clock. Because I was so exhausted, I couldn’t keep time straight and could never remember the last time I fed the baby. I was afraid the baby would starve, but I wondered too if I was over feeding. It was a vicious cycle.
Once I read Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg, my world changed. She talks about having a routine rather than a schedule. The routine is remembered with the acronym EASY. The baby Eats, is Active, Sleeps, and then you take time for Yourself. I didn’t have to remember the last time the baby ate because I would feed them as soon as they woke up. When they got fussy, I wouldn’t have to wonder if they were crying because they were hungry, or sleepy, or cranky, or whatever number of things babies cry for. By creating a simple routine, I never had to worry about when to feed the baby.
The only times that this didn’t work flawlessly for me was when a baby was going through a major growth spurt or was sick. During a growth spurt, they will nurse a bit more frequently to let your body know they are needing more milk. If they are sick, they will nurse more for comfort.
There are too many things to worry about as a mom. Worry about whether the baby is fed or not should never be a question. Create a solid ROUTINE that works for you and baby.
The open mouth refers to having a good latch. When your baby is first born, you may feel that they will suffocate just trying to eat because their little mouth is so tiny! If you don’t establish a good latch right off, your nipples will end up extremely sore, and your desire to give up will increase drastically.
To help the baby get a good latch, they need to have a wide open mouth. Wide open meaning wide enough it looks like they are yawning. Most of my babies only wanted to open their mouth wide enough to barely suck. I would gently open their mouth by putting my thumb or finger on their chin to help them open their mouth nice and wide. If your baby is opening their mouth only wide enough to get the tip of your nipple in, you will end up with blisters, and major pain. While a good latch still hurts while you are getting used to nursing, you will have less pain overall.
When nursing for the first few times, I like to watch my baby. If they have opened their mouth sufficiently and are actually getting milk (or colostrum if a newborn) you will see their cheek suck in a bit. You can also hear them swallowing. If they are not latched on correctly, or are just suckling, it will be a more fast movement like sucking a binky, and you will not hear the swallowing sound.
Once your baby is done nursing, you may wonder how to get them off painlessly! You can easily stick your pinky finger in the corner of their mouth to break the suction. If you do not do this, you will feel like they are going to stretch your nipple clear across the room. Save yourself the pain!
To ensure a proper latch for optimal feeding for baby and comfort for you, make sure your baby has a wide OPEN MOUTH.
The position you hold your baby in helps achieve a good latch too. Normally when you think of someone breastfeeding a baby, you picture a woman holding a baby in a cradle position. That has NEVER worked for me right off the bat. It generally takes a few days for me to nurse a baby in the cradle position. What works best for me with a newborn is the football hold. By using the football hold, (although it seems like it would be super awkward) you are able to rest the baby on a pillow and worry about just their little mouth, and not trying to balance their entire body as well. Once they get used to sucking, eating, swallowing, and all those new things they have to figure out, the cradle position is definitely more comfortable for me.
Some people will use special pillows such as My Brest Friend. I have used a Boppy (wrapping the sides around my belly) and regular pillows and they have worked just fine. I usually prop the baby with pillows even in the cradle position for the first few months because newborns are just so tiny!
Don’t be afraid to try new POSITIONS to find what works best for you and your baby to nurse comfortably.
I have a nursing kit right next to me for the first few months. This kit includes nursing pads, nipple cream, nursing cover, extra burp cloths, a Boppy or pillow, and diapers, wipes, and an extra blanket and outfit for the baby. (Check out this blog post for all the specific details on those items).
I will say that nipple cream is a MUST have item. It does stain your clothes, so I always make sure to use nursing pads as well. Plus, in those first few weeks, you don’t want ANYTHING touching or rubbing on your nipples because they are so sore. Wearing a fitted tank top and putting the nursing pads in helps protect both your nipples from clothing rubbing on them, and your clothing from getting stained. For at least the first few weeks, I put nipple cream on every time right after I nurse, and right when I get out of the shower. It helps keep major blisters and cracking from ever getting too bad.
Having the right SUPPLIES on hand will help make the whole breastfeeding experience so much easier, and help you have more success!
Some other helpful tips:
CLOGGED MILK DUCTS:
This is something that I have dealt with while breastfeeding each baby. I found that if I slept wrong, or started nursing on one side too many times in a row, that I would get clogged ducts.
Let me back up.
First of all: rotating sides. If you start nursing your baby on the right breast, they will most likely empty that breast. If during the same feeding you switch and have them nurse on the left breast as well, they most likely will not fully empty that side. You would want to make sure at the next feeding to start nursing on the left breast. Some people will clip something on their bra, or wear a ring or bracelet to help them remember which side to start nursing on. I found too though, that you can just feel your breasts and you will easily be able to tell which breast is more full than the other.
So, what is a clogged milk duct?
It is where the milk essentially creates a plug in a milk duct and forms a lump. The longer it is left untreated, the more uncomfortable it becomes. It starts as a small lump, but can get to the point where you can’t even raise your arms or stand to have it touched by anything!
So, if you do happen to get clogged milk ducts, here are a few things that work great:
– Use a warm heating pad. Just place it on the lump and rest. If you can, gently massage the lump working the lump toward the nipple to break up the clogged milk.
– Take a warm shower. This will help your milk let down which can allow for some relief.
– Put a cool cabbage leaf on your breast. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s cool and the perfect shape, or if there is actually some healing property, but this is widely recommended and it actually works!
– When nursing your baby, offer the clogged breast first every time. While they are nursing, massage the area pushing the lump toward the nipple. You will feel relief and even hear your baby gulping extra hard when the lump finally is gone!
– Be careful how you sleep. I am totally a stomach sleeper, especially after I haven’t been able to sleep on my belly for months because of being pregnant! When my milk first comes in though, I personally find that I get more clogged ducts when I sleep in any way that puts extra pressure on my breasts.
WHAT I WISH I HAD KNOWN:
My kids have never been good at taking bottles. It makes it hard for us to leave new babies for any length of time. I have a small hand pump, but I don’t enjoy using it, and have never found it to be super effective or practical since I always have my babies with me. I recently heard about the Haakaa Breast Pump though, and I’m positive that should I get the chance to breastfeed again, I will be buying one of these.
From what I understand, it is a one piece silicone pump that you can suction on one side while you feed the baby on the other. That way, the let down milk isn’t just being wasted in a nursing pad, but you are able to collect it! Even a couple ounces each feeding quickly adds up to a few bottles over time! I have read multiple reviews and am convinced that this could be the key to my kids actually taking a bottle every once in awhile without me trying to squeeze in an extra time to pump a bottle.
I have also heard great things about the Comotomo Bottles although I have never personally tried them since my kids refuse bottles. They are supposed to reduce nipple confusion since the nipple is shaped more like a human breast.
Whew! That is a LOT to take in! I love breast feeding and all the benefits it gives to your baby. They get the nourishment, calories, antibodies, and everything they need for FREE! The bonding time you get with them is wonderful too. I think for me, the fact that nursing my babies makes me stop, take a break, and just soak in that baby amidst all the hustle and bustle of life. Put your phone down, and just savor that sweet time with your baby! Remember, PROPS to you if you can persevere through those first months of breast feeding. (and if you made it through this whole post!)
What are your pro tips for breastfeeding?