Breastfeeding is natural, but that doesn’t mean it comes naturally. That’s why it’s best to be as informed as possible before embarking on this beautiful yet tricky journey.
Here are our best breastfeeding tips for new mothers.
Breastfeed right after birth
Your baby will usually be really alert just after birth and they are instinctively ready to feed immediately. Shortly after birth, possibly a few hours, the whole experience will catch up with them and they’ll be feeling really sleepy, so it’s best to get some practice done early. Skin-to-skin contact immediately after delivery is not only a great bonding experience, but promotes your milk supply through a surge of oxytocin and gives your baby the opportunity to latch on to your breast before they get too sleepy.
Breastfeeding doesn’t have to hurt
Breastfeeding may be uncomfortable at first, but you should not accept prolonged pain. Many mothers will be too quick to accept pain as part of the breastfeeding process, eventually becoming fatigued with constant discomfort and painful feeding times. Seek help if you feel pain during feeding. There are plenty of things you can do to correct any issues you may be experiencing and make breastfeeding more comfortable and enjoyable.
Don’t wait to get help
Getting help sooner rather than later can not only minimise the number of uncomfortable feeding sessions that you endure, it can also prevent bad habits from being formed. For example, if your baby’s latch is improper you can correct it sooner, meaning they can empty your breast more efficiently, leading to better milk supply. There are many specialist organisations that help mothers who are experiencing difficulties with breastfeeding. You can find a list of organisations on the HSE website.
It’s natural for us to be extra gentle with our small babies, we may sheepishly bring them to the breast and allow them to suckle in whatever way seems comfortable for them. However, feeding is much more comfortable and effective with a deep latch. Encourage your baby to take your entire areola into their mouth by guiding them while holding your breast. See our blog post All About Breastfeeding for more about establishing a great latch.
Keep your nipples moisturised
Your nipples may be built for this, but that doesn’t mean they won’t need some TLC. Keeping them moisturised will reduce the likelihood of cracking and bleeding. Make sure to read the label on any products you purchase for your nipples to ensure you’re using them correctly.
Treat clogged milk ducts as soon as possible
Clogged milk ducts will present with pain and a hard tender lump that you can feel when you press your breast. This can be treated by applying warmth to your breast, massaging the breast and feeding frequently from the affected breast. Consult your doctor if the clog does not clear within 2 days.
Use a breast pump
Using a pump can make your nipple longer and narrower, making it easier for your baby to latch more deeply. Pumping is also great for increasing your supply. Once your baby is finished feeding you can use your breast pump to empty your breast, signalling your breasts to produce milk in more volume. An increased supply makes it even easier for your baby to get the milk they need.
Layer a vest under your top
Specially designed nursing clothes are nice to have, but not essential. Rather than investing in a nursing wardrobe, simply layer a vest top underneath your top. This allows you to open your bra and lower your vest under your top, then bring your baby to your nipple and allow them to latch. This way, your top covers your upper body, your baby covers your breast and your vest covers your torso.
Practice in private
The idea of breastfeeding in public can be intimidating. Build your confidence by practising in front of the mirror to see exactly what is exposed and when. You’ll be surprised how discreet you can be with practice.
Babies are easily overstimulated and distracted. If you’re in a noisy environment, don’t expect your baby to feed efficiently. Babies who are establishing their breastfeeding habits will feed best in a dimly lit, quiet environment.
Feed or pump often
In order to establish a strong supply, your breasts have to be kept active. If you’re constantly removing milk from the breast, then your breast will constantly replenish the milk and therefore increase supply. Embrace this bonding time when your baby is a newborn, be ready to take the time to just relax with your baby and focus on feeding. There will be plenty of time for establishing routines once your baby is older.
Try power pumping
Power pumping encourages your milk supply to increase by mimicking cluster feeding. This is preferable to prolonged pumping as it minimises stress on your nipples. To power pump, simply pump for a few minutes, then take a break, pump again, then take a break and repeat. An example of a power pumping routine may look like this: pump for 20 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, rest for 10 minutes, pump for 10 minutes, then finish. It’s recommended to do this up to twice a day until your supply increases.