Breastfeeding 101: A Field Guide For New Moms (Tips & Tricks)
That’s the only word that comes to mind when I was handed my baby in the hospital when it was time to nurse him.
Obviously, happy came to mind when I first saw him, and overwhelmed came to mind when I held him for the first time.
But, I was definitely anxious when I first tried to nurse.
The whole process is totally natural, there’s benefits for both me and my baby, and it would save us loads of money in lieu of buying formula.
So, what was I anxious about?
I was scared my baby wouldn’t latch.
I was stressed about knowing how much he was drinking.
I was nervous that I couldn’t get my pump to work right.
And, to be honest, I felt a little weird about a lactation consultant I'd never met giving me directions about how to hold my nipples.
As a new mom, you have a lot to worry about.
But, breastfeeding shouldn’t have to be one of them.
The sooner you relax and remain calm about the whole thing, the easier nursing your baby becomes.
Trust me, I’ve been there.
So, read on to learn everything you need to know about breastfeeding—from nursing, to pumping, let this be your guide to success!
How Does Lactation Work?
Think of your breasts as glands, which have two types of tissues—connective and fatty.
Together, in essence, they protect your milk, which actually comes from small groups of cells called alveoli.
Once milk is made, it moves down your ducts to your nipples.
In a nutshell, that's how lactation works.
When Will My Milk Come In?
Your official milk will come in two to three days after you give birth.
Your breasts will start to feel full and when you initially nurse, your baby will be drinking colostrum, which is something your breasts actually make toward the end of your pregnancy.
5 Tips for Latching Baby
Getting your baby to latch can be pretty difficult at first.
Here are five tips to help you be successful:
- 1Recline. Experts urge new moms to recline (about a 45 degree angle) in order to help your baby latch. They end up being in an optimal position (since they aren’t able to support their head or neck), and it takes less stress and pressure off your body as you hold them up.
- 2Start early. The sooner you begin to nurse, the easier time your baby will have latching, since it’s basic instinct and they are more inclined to do so earlier, rather than later.
- 3Introduce colostrum. If your baby can smell your colostrum, they will be more likely to open up their mouth and latch. Your lactation consultant will help you do this once your baby is properly positioned against your chest.
- 4Point your nipples up. You should aim your nipples at the roof of your baby’s mouth. This encourages them to open up their mouth and not just try to suck your nipple, but your areola as well.
- 5Use a nipple shield. Shields help your baby latch for various reasons. While they are meant to be used short term, there’s nothing wrong with using them during your nursing experience in its entirety if that’s what you feel most comfortable doing.
5 Different Breastfeeding Positions
I used to think there was just one way to breastfeed.
But, I learned there are a few ways that help support a great latch and are just comfortable.
Cradle hold. This is the classic breastfeeding hold. Your baby’s head rests in the elbow of the arm you’re using to feed them with (and the same breast side as well).
Cross-over hold. If you’re nursing from your left breast, you’ll hold your baby’s head with your left hand. This allows you to rest your thumb behind one ear and your fingers behind the other ear.
Football hold. This position is pretty self-explanatory: simply hold your baby up to your breast like you’re holding a football. This is a great move to keep your baby off your stomach if you’ve had a C-section, of if you have very large breasts.
Tummy-to-tummy. This move is great if you have very small breasts. It allows you to lean back and helps your baby to mold into you.
On your side. Sometimes, moms lie on their side and put their baby up to their tummy, while also laying on their side. It allows for a good latch and is comfortable. But, it’s not suggested it’s done at night in your bed.
4 Signs Your Baby Is Hungry
It took me very little time to figure out if/when my son was hungry.
Here are a few of the top signs to look out for!
- 1Sucking fist. Your baby will literally stuff their fist in their mouth when it’s time to eat!
- 2Smacking lips. Another big sign is lip smacking. Your baby will lick their lips and even make (adorable) noises when they are hungry.
- 3Rooting. Your baby will actually turn toward your breasts and smack their lips when they are ready to nurse. It’s a natural reaction!
- 4Crying. In addition to these signs, crying or whining will usually occur!
5 Ways To Know If Baby Is Eating Enough
Worried if your baby isn’t eating enough?
Here are some definite signs to look out for to ensure their bellies are full!
The Importance of Getting Comfortable
When you're trying to breastfeed, you really need to be comfortable.
You should find a really comfortable place to nurse. For me, it was my plush, reclining, nursery glider. I felt calm, happy, and there was complete silence.
Why is this so important?
If your mind is focused elsewhere, if you feel stressed, angry, sad, or mad, you’ll not be able to produce the milk you need and have a peaceful nursing session.
And, if you plan to nurse for awhile, you’ll want to keep your supply up!
How Do I Know When Baby Is Done?
Your baby will let you know when they're done feeding right away.
Commonly, they will drink slowly, and almost rhythmically.
They also tend to fall asleep or seem in a much better temperament than they were before a feeding.
If you think you're done, but your baby is sucking like there is no tomorrow, they are clearly not finished!
How Often Should I Breastfeed?
Babies breastfeed at different frequencies and durations based on their age.
When they are just one to two months old, your baby will probably want to nurse about 7-10 time a day.
And, these sessions can take some time until you both get the hang of the process.
As your baby gets older, they’ll be on a steady schedule (not on demand feeding) and you’ll also be able to nurse faster and less frequently.
10 Quick Benefits of Breastfeeding
Not sure if breastfeeding is for you?
Many doctors respect a mom’s decision, but often urge them to try to nurse at least for a little (however, most women nurse for the first year).
Breastfeeding has loads of benefits for both mom and baby—so many that we couldn't possibly list all of them here—but here's just a sampling:
Breastfeeding Shopping List: 15 Items You Need
If you’ve decided nursing is for you, there are some supplies you need to ensure you have a successful venture.
When registering for items, be sure to add the following to your list:
#1. Nursing Bras
You’ll need a nursing bra or two to get you through the process.
These bras allow for easy access and also tend to be overly supportive and firm.
#2. Nursing Pillow
A nursing pillow helps you get the perfect nursing position and it ensures all parties are ultimately comfortable.
#3. Nursing Pads
Nursing pads help prevent leaks and embarrassing situations from occurring.
#4. Breast Pump
A breast pump is a must, especially if you’re planning on going back to work.
It helps stockpile a supply and also allows your partner and family members to take turns with feeding sessions so you can get a rest.
#5. Milk Storage Bags
Storage bags go hand in hand with a pump.
They can be placed in the fridge or freezer, and they help you gain peace of mind that your baby won’t be without milk if you are far away from home.
A cooler will help transport your expressed milk and keep it safe and cool.
Most working moms utilize a cooler that is insulated, and many moms who travel also have one on hand.
#7. Ice Packs
Ice packs needs to be in your cooler to help keep your milk preserved.
Whether you choose a plastic pack or a gel-infused one, they both get the job done!
Most moms turn to the bottle after the first few months (when nipple confusion isn’t as prevalent).
They still serve up their milk, but do this for a variety of reasons.
Be sure you have a set of bottles that meet the need of your baby (reduces gas, spit up, colic) and nipples that boast various flow speeds to accommodate your baby’s age and stage.
#9. Pump Bag
A pump bag is pretty much like a diaper bag, except it organizes all your pumping equipment.
It ensures all items are in place and also allows for battery storage (which is important in case your electric pump ever has a malfunction).
#10. Manual Pump
This pump is smart to keep in your car or have on hand in case your regular pump malfunctions.
They work on good old muscle power but they get the job done (and they don't take up much space).
#11. Nursing Cover
Nursing on demand means that you need to drop everything and feed your baby—even if you are at the park, the mall or out to dinner.
So, a nursing cover allows you to do so discreetly and comfortably.
#12. Breastfeeding Supplies
You’ll need some other supplies and accessories when nursing.
Nipple cream helps sooth sore and chapped nipples, and nipple shields help some women latch.
You’ll also need items that clean your pump and prep your nipples and other devices used for nursing.
It’s essential to be clean and sanitary so you or your baby don’t contract an infection!
#13. Button Down Pajamas
Who wants to fiddle around in the middle of the night?
Invest in several pairs of button down pajama tops for easy access, even in the middle of the night.
When you’re in the hospital learning how to nurse, you’ll need access to your breasts constantly.
It got to a point where I was sick of unbuttoning my blouse, so I literally wore nothing but a robe! It just made life easier.
#15. Nursing Tops
While nursing bras work wonders, I also invested in many nursing tops.
It helped me throughout my day and the tops didn’t require me to lift my top up to access my nursing bra.
Q: Does Breastfeeding Hurt?
A: Nursing can be a bit painful and uncomfortable at first. But, once your nipples toughen up, you’ll get used to the sensation.
If you often experience pain, soreness, cracking, or bleeding, you should seek out medical attention.
You may either have an infection or you need further assistance with latching and the nursing process from a certified pro.
Q: Can I Breastfeed In Public?
A: There seems to be a bit of a gray area when it comes to breastfeeding in public, without being covered with a blanket or nursing shield.
It borders on some kind of nudity/exposure infringement.
While most law officials don’t often act or enforce this because it is such a gray area, it is preferred that nursing moms try to cover up.
Q: Can I Travel With Breast Milk?
A: Are you planning to take vacations soon after your little one is born? Do you have to fly to introduce your new baby to friends and family? Or, do you have to travel regularly for work?
You can nurse your baby on the plane, in an airport, or pump your milk if needed (in fact, your baby doesn’t even have to be there).
Most airlines allow parents to travel with reasonable amounts of milk.
A Mom's Guide to Pumping & Flying
When you're a pumping mama and flying in the U.S., you have certain rights—check out this guide to find out what's allowed, plus tips for pumping on-the-go.
There are some policies and procedures you need to follow in order to get your milk screened and cleared.
But, it’s within your right to do so. You can also travel with a cooler and ice packs (even gel ones).
Be sure you inform yourself of your rights and procedures when flying, by visiting any airline’s website.
Always print out the policies and procedures when you travel with you, so you don’t end up being a victim to someone’s negligence.
Are you eager and excited to get started with breastfeeding?
With a little time, patience, help, and positivity, I mastered breastfeeding.
It took much much less time than I thought it would.
And, it served as a bonding experience between my baby and myself.
While it may be a little stressful at first, things do fall into place (even though they won’t seem like they will after the first few attempts).
Keep this guide with you to help ensure your own success.
Be sure to prep all your materials prior to birth, set up a soothing space, and don't’ be afraid to ask for help while in the hospital or on the outside (there’s lactation specialists in your area).
There’s many resources online and in your community that will positively support your natural and nourishing choice!