10 Essential Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms
So you’ve safely carried your baby throughout pregnancy. You’ve safely delivered your little tiny human into the world. And now you think, ‘Oh thank god that’s all done, I can relax now’.
Moments after birth, you and your newborn have to now learn yet another step in this crazy process using just your boobs. So there you are, exhausted, overwhelmed, dreaming of your imminent tea and toast and you’re about to attempt one of the greatest life skills as a momma you could ever learn - how to breastfeed your baby.
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In that moment your baby, flooded with natural instinct, seems to have a better idea of how to do this than you do. And with the WHO recommending that mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first 6 months of their lives, and up to 2 years when combined with food, new moms everywhere will be forgiven for doubting if they’ll ever reach 6 hours never mind 6 months.
But with the right support, techniques, expert help and self-care, you’ll get there.
Now approaching 8 months of breastfeeding, here is what I believe every new mother needs to help her along the way.
1. Take A Class
When the science, the biology and the natural history reflect how (for millennia) women fed their babies long before there were supermarket shelves, it begins to all make complete and utter sense.
And when you learn that breastfeeding is not only about keeping your baby fed, but that this powerful liquid gold can help lower your baby’s risk of leukaemia, asthma, eczema, urinary & chest infections, diabetes, obesity, arthritis and crohn’s disease all while protecting you, the mom, from ovarian and breast cancer; you begin to respect your body as a woman in a whole new way.
I can’t express how empowered, determined, informed, in awe of and capable I felt after attending lactation consultant Clare Boyle’s breastfeeding class. And it is this class that has helped me manage doubts, challenges, regrets, insecurities, and attempted resignations.
2. Practice The Latch
‘It’s all about the latch’ apparently. Considering the anecdotal horror stories of cracked nipples, I decided to not challenge the theory and instead to learn as much as I could about the perfect latch.
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Watching Youtube videos before the birth helped, but re-watching once baby arrived at each and every feed helped me to correct my hold, my baby's position, and to experiment with what felt most comfortable.
Breastfeeding shouldn’t cause you pain. Some discomfort in those first few weeks yes, but not pain. So if it does, find an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who can help you address what might be going wrong – it’s probably the latch.
3. Take Care
You don’t need to put up with sensitive and sore skin. Your local pharmacy is well stocked with solutions which can help protect and heal any discomfort, cracks, sores, swelling or infections you might be experiencing. Along with regular application of Lanolin cream, the Multi-Mam compresses really helped me.
Don’t ignore the problems, they are unlikely to go away by themselves, especially given how often newborn babies need to feed.
I never knew thirst like breastfeeding thirst. It was completely unexpected, and all-consuming. Even now, as soon as the barnacle latches on, my body cries out for water – 2 litres a day, ha! More like 2 litres an hour.
Be prepared, and don’t find yourself trapped underneath a sleeping baby post feed, and parched. Have your partner, friend, mom, sister, postman… everyone well trained to never exit the kitchen without re-filling your water bottle and keeping you hydrated.
So, a bit like the water… I NEVER knew hunger like breastfeeding hunger. I had a pretty stable appetite throughout pregnancy and so was completely underprepared for the wave of starvation that hit me when I began to breastfeed. And with hunger, exhaustion, postpartum hormones and general mayhem comes Hanger… just apologise now for what you will say or do if food is not readily available in large quantities that are edible using only one hand.
6. Haakaa Pump
Pumps are not cheap! And so it’s always wise to wait until your feeding is well established and you know what you need, or if you need one before investing.
Except for the Haakaa pump which should be on every Baby Shower gift list. This silicone genius product is so simple to use, gentle on your body and supply, and it avoids wastage from leaky left while baby feeds on right & vice versa.
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Catching the let down from your free boob, you’ll be surprised how much expressed milk you could build up and store without feeling like you are pumping.
It's so easy to clean, makes no noise, is incredibly cheap and helps relieve the discomfort of engorgement in those first few weeks. I love my Haakaa, I’m actually going to miss it. It’s been a constant companion.
Having an expressed milk supply buys you your freedom. Treat it like a very very valuable currency. Once feeding is well-established use your Haakaa or a pump of your choice, store your expressed stash in breast milk freezer bags and feel a sense of great satisfaction as you see your ‘Get out of jail free’ cards add up.
Getting time with your partner, with your friends, with YOURSELF is essential to your wellbeing. Going for a long walk, a long nap, a long night of dancing and fun and laughter where you don’t need to consider an outfit that allows access to your boobs will mean that this phase of your motherhood journey need never feel like a burden.
So breastfeeding in public for the first time might make you feel nervous & self-conscious until you realise that actually nobody cares and those that do are idiots.
Hearing your baby crying for a feed is as powerful as a gravitational pull, and in that moment all you care about is responding to your baby’s needs.
But in the beginning, I lacked confidence. And so rightly or wrongly to ease myself into feeling more relaxed, I used my beloved Aden & Anais square swaddle for privacy. Light as a feather, breathable, huge, easily secured by wrapping around my bra strap and I was taking it with me for my baby anyway.
But do whatever makes you & your baby most comfortable, that’s honestly all that matters. I have fed on planes, trains, park benches, bar stools, in front of dads, brothers, old Italian men in speedo’s, nuns, a class of teenage boys … I have never experienced one negative comment, one tut or awkward glance. I have received countless warm smiles, countless well wishes and countless reasons to feel confident.
9. Never Quit On A Bad Day
There will be days where baby is cluster feeding or in the throes of a difficult Wonder Week. There might be a growth spurt going on, or perhaps you are run down and feeling low but try (within reason) to never quit on a bad day. Because honestly, once established there is a wonderful stretch of many, many, many good days ahead of you.
If you felt like pregnancy was a bit of a solo marathon then I’m sorry to say that breastfeeding might feel incredibly lonely at times.
Because although you and you alone are growing this miracle inside your body day and night, the world can somehow appreciate you more and put you on a pregnant woman pedestal. (Ahh the good old days).
But when baby is born and you are continuing to grow this miracle outside of your body all day and all night the weight of the solo responsibility to always be present, always be responsive, always be awake, always be full of milk and always be on demand can wear you down.
Having the people you love support you, is so important to you while you breastfeed. Having them appreciate the effort, the work, the energy and commitment it takes and having them care for you, just as you are caring for your baby is immeasurable.
But so too is having a network of other breastfeeding Momma’s who you can turn to whether that’s as part of a local Cuidiu or La Leche League breastfeeding group, or as part of an online group on Facebook.
It could be just knowing that someone else is feeding at 3am. Or that other moms are having a tough day too. It could be an answer to a problem you are experiencing or just encouragement from those who have been there before you.
- Don’t underestimate the strength you’ll get from the support that’s available locally and online.
- Don’t be afraid to go outside and proudly feed your baby.
- Don’t doubt how magical, fulfilling, bonding and genuinely lovely your breastfeeding journey can be.
- Don’t worry about what might go wrong, focus on what you can do to help it go right.
And don’t feel alone, you have us.