Breastfeeding is the best gift you can give your child, and a wonderful bonding experience for both mom and baby. However, it does take some practice and patience. With these 22 tips, you’ll be nursing like a pro in no time at all!
One of the problems that plague most breastfeeding moms is sore, cracked nipples. If they bleed or scab over, you can’t nurse your baby, so it’s important to keep this from happening in the first place. According to Dr. Kamhi*, “you’re less likely to get sore, cracked nipples if you prepare in advance by rubbing your nipples daily with a terry cloth to ‘toughen’ them.”
To establish a good milk supply, make sure you breastfeed exclusively for the first six weeks. Don’t give your baby any bottles during this time. This serves two purposes. First, it allows your body to make the milk at the times your baby eats. Second, bottles are easier for babies to eat from, and they will prefer them if given a choice. By only breastfeeding for the first several weeks, your baby will learn how to breastfeed properly and will be less likely to refuse your breast.
While you aren’t technically eating for two anymore, the nutrients from your food still make it into your breast milk, so make sure you are eating healthy. Because alcohol and pesticides come through your breast milk, avoid alcoholic beverages, and try to eat organic foods whenever you can.
Position the baby properly so breastfeeding is comfortable for both of you. Start with a comfortable chair, preferably reclined just a little. Make sure your baby opens his mouth wide enough to latch onto the areola and not just the nipple. Kittie Frantz* says the baby should be in a diaper only because the skin-to-skin contact triggers his instinct to look for the breast.
Allow your baby to eat as long as he is swallowing every couple seconds. If he starts to fall asleep or if he pulls away from your breast, sit him up, burp him, and switch him to the other side. Let him eat until he falls asleep or lets go. This should take at least 20 to 30 minutes, especially when the baby is just a newborn.
A common problem for breastfeeding moms is milk engorgement, which happens if there is too much milk in one or both breasts. This painful problem can be avoided if you nurse from both breasts equally. Babies tend to eat the most from the first breast, then fall asleep in the middle of the second. Make sure you start the next feeding from the second breast so keep things even. If you have trouble remembering which one to start with, try putting a safety pin on your bra or a rubber band around your wrist.
Babies’ bodies tend to burn through breast milk faster than formula, so don’t be shocked if your baby wants to eat more often than bottle-fed babies. It’s normal for breastfed babies to eat 8 to 12 times every 24 hours. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, don’t deny your baby milk when he is hungry. If your breasts are engorged and your baby isn’t hungry, try pumping the milk and storing it in the fridge or freezer.
Newborns tend to have their natural clocks backwards from the rest of us. They prefer to be awake at night, and they smile more then too. This is normal. Just feed him at night, nap when he naps during the day, and rest assured his schedule will normalize soon.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to get a nursing pillow. Popular kinds are Boppy and My Brest Friend. These pillows are shaped like a horseshoe and you wrap it around your belly with the opening to the back. The baby then rests on it so your arms don’t get tired from holding the baby up. I know this sounds silly when your baby is a newborn and very light, but as they start to grow, they get much heavier and you will be thankful for this investment.
If your baby falls asleep when you are feeding him but cries when you put him down, he might be too comfortable. If he is wrapped in too many blankets or has too many clothes on, he may be so warm he thinks he’s back in the womb. It’s important that he stay awake long enough to eat, otherwise your milk supply can get disrupted and you can become engorged. Also, babies that are warm enough to sweat have a higher chance of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
When you shower, don’t wash your nipples with soap. This dries them out and makes them prone to cracking. The little bumps around your areola actually produce an antiseptic oil, so they don’t need to be washed anyway.
After showering or nursing, let your nipples air-dry before covering them back up. Also, avoid nursing pads, which can hold moisture against your skin and cause a rash, especially those made of plastic.
If your nipples are sore, it’s probably because your baby is eating from the wrong angle. To make sure your baby is latched on properly, listen when he eats. If you hear a popping or clicking sound, you need to readjust. Dr. Hallas* says “gently put your finger in the baby’s mouth and take him away, then adjust him so his mouth is on the nipple properly.” After you fix the position, your nipples will heal in a few days. To speed this process up, rub some of your breast milk onto your air-dried nipples after a feeding. The milk that’s left over after a feeding has a lot of lubricants and also has a natural antibiotic. If it hurts so much that you can’t pump milk, Dr. Kamhi* suggests rubbing vitamin E, avocado, or almond oil on your nipples.
Choosing the right nursing bra is very important, but wait until after your milk comes in because your breasts will change. Go somewhere that measures you for a perfect fit. Also, go for one that’s all cotton and make sure the cup opening is big enough. You don’t want one that’s too tight or it can cause clogged milk ducts. Check that you can open and close it easily with one hand and that it has comfortable straps.
Be on the lookout for plugged milk ducts, which can be very painful. This can happen because of clothes that are too tight, fatigue, or going a long time between nursing. It can make parts of your breast get hot, red, hard, or swollen. If you don’t address this quickly, it can lead to an infection. You can usually fix the problem by applying hot compresses, expressing milk with your hands, and nursing the baby regularly.
Warm compresses are also helpful if you are producing too much milk. They open up your milk ducts so the milk comes our more freely. Drink enough liquids so you urinate frequently and nurse the baby longer and more often than usual.
If you have a problem with leaking, take the heel of your hand and press in down on your nipple and push into your chest. You can also try all-cotton reusable breast pads.
If you are not producing enough milk, try fenugreek. These seeds help stimulate milk production, just like oxytocin, a hormone that occurs in your body naturally. You should take ½ to 1 ½ teaspoons of seeds per day, or take 600 to 700 milligrams of capsules daily. Start with a small dose and increase it gradually if it isn’t helping enough. Keep in mind that fenugreek can make your baby’s urine smell like maple syrup, and some babies have been misdiagnosed with maple urine disease.
Another option for increasing milk flow is galactagogues, which include blessed thistle, chaste berry, fennel seed, dill, black cohosh, milk thistle, nettles, and hops. Dr. Kamhi* says “you can start any of these in small amounts (1 cup of tea or 10 drops of tincture a day) and then increase them once it is determined that neither mother nor baby experiences any ill effects.”
Call the doctor if:
~ your breast feels inflamed
~ you’re running a fever
~ you have flu-like symptoms
These are signs of a breast infection called mastitis, which is treated with ten days of antibiotics. Dr. Rawlins* says you can help yourself heal faster by resting in bed, drinking lots of clear liquids, and nursing more often. The milk isn’t infected, so don’t stop nursing. If you do, you could cause a breast abscess.
*Meet the Experts:
Kittie Frantz, R.N., C.P.N.P.
~ Director of the Breast-Feeding Infant Clinic at the University if Southern California Medical Center in Los Angeles
~ Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
~ Has worked with nursing mothers since 1963
~ Has spent 20 years as a leader for La Leche League International
Donna Hallas, Ph.D., C.P.N.P.
~ Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
~ Pediatric Nursing Teacher at New York University College of Nursing
Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D., R.N.
~ The Natural Nurse, Clinical Instructor in the Department of Family Medicine at Stony Brook University in New York
~ Author of The Natural Medicine Chest
~ Author of Arthritis: The Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide
~ Author of Cycles of Life: Herbs For Women
Carolyn Rawlins, M.D.
~ Obstetrician in Munster, Indiana
~ Former member of La Leche League International Board of Directors
The Doctors Book of Home Remedies by the Editors of Prevention Magazine
PLEASE NOTE: I am not a doctor. Please discuss any medical concerns with your health care provider.