7 Breastfeeding Tips for New Moms from a Lactation Expert

August 03, 2023
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Many people expect that breastfeeding will come naturally and easily. While in some ways that may be true, it is a skill that you will master with practice and support. With time, patience and education, breastfeeding can become a rewarding and enjoyable experience for both mom and baby.

Research shows that breastfeeding is beneficial in multiple ways, from saving infant lives and aiding healthy child development to saving money and reducing waste (breastmilk is package-free, after all!).

In our birthing centers at Baystate Medical Center and Baystate Franklin Medical Center, our lactation experts aim to make nursing a healthy and meaningful bonding experience.

Kimberly Congden, program manager of Lactation Services and Parent Education at Baystate Medical Center, shares her tips to breastfeeding success.

7 Breastfeeding Tips for Expectant and New Moms

1. Use the skin-to-skin technique

Hold your baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth. Let your baby explore and crawl to the breast in the first hour after birth; it’s amazing what they already know to do! Even drops of colostrum (early breastmilk) every few hours will sustain your baby for the first day.

By the second night, you will begin to see increasing wakefulness. Your baby may cluster feed - feed frequently - and may be fussy at times. Many mothers feel that cluster feeding happens because the breastmilk isn’t in yet and the baby is starving. But cluster feeding is normal infant behavior and is temporary. Your baby will begin to feed more regularly and sleep in longer intervals (1-1/2 - 3 hours) over time.

Skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding can help to calm your baby. Limit visitors and nap when your baby naps during the day, so you are rested for the nights of cluster feeding. Know that cluster feeding is temporary and lasts for only a couple of weeks.

2. Be consistent

Frequent attempts at breastfeeding are important. The more you nurse today, the more milk you'll have in two days. Nursing frequently in the first few days will help to ensure a bountiful milk supply for the future. Even though you might not see much initially, breastfeeding consistently will help to make sure that you have plenty of milk when your baby needs it.

If you are bottle feeding for some of your baby's feedings, you should pump at the time of the bottle feeding to ensure your body maintains your full milk supply. Being consistent with feedings (or pumping in place of feedings) will help your body ensure enough milk production for baby's needs.

3. Create a relaxing environment

Relaxation helps milk to flow. Try to ensure that you are able to be comfortable and relaxed when you breastfeed to ensure the best possible milk supply.

Make yourself a "nursing nest" when you go home. Find a comfortable spot in your home where you can set up pillows, blankets, a book, a water bottle, the TV remote, and whatever else you need to be settled in for a nursing session.

Try different breastfeeding positions (listed below) to see what's most comfortable for you and most effective for your baby.

4. Remember the 3 P’s

If you start to become overwhelmed, keep it simple. Remember the 3 P’s, the keys to a successful breastfeeding experience.

Practice: People are rarely good at a skill the very first time they try it.

Patience: Take a deep breath. Remember that people are mammals, and we are meant to do this! There is of course a learning curve for getting comfortable feeding your baby, but the system was designed to work and has functioned for mothers and babies for a very, very long time. Chances are it will function for you just the same if you trust your body and your baby.

Persistence: Keep trying! Don’t hesitate to ask for help! While breastfeeding is natural, it doesn't come easy for everyone, and that's okay. Lactation specialists are here to help. You're not alone.

5. Trust your body and your baby

It is easy to get anxious about whether your baby is getting enough milk, if your body will make enough breast milk to sustain your baby, or if you're getting your baby latching correctly. Remember that your body and your baby know what they need to do. If you maintain consistency, follow the three P's, and focus on bonding with your baby during nursing, the rest should come naturally.

Breastfeeding can be a challenge, so know when to call for help. If you're experiencing any of the below, call your baby's doctor and consider booking an appointment with a lactation consultant:

  • Baby is sleepy and is nursing less than 8 times in 24 hours.
  • Baby sucks poorly at the breast or easily falls off the nipple.
  • Your baby is unable to latch-on and nurse.
  • Your nipples are cracked and bleeding or very sore.
  • Baby’s skin color is yellow.
  • Your baby is not having 6 wet diapers and/or having fewer than 2 bowel movements in 24 hours.
  • Your baby’s bowel movements are small and dark.
  • Baby wants to nurse all the time (there are no breaks between feedings when baby seems satisfied).
  • You see dimples in your baby’s cheeks or hear smacking or clicking noises as your baby sucks.
  • You have any questions or concerns.

By day 3, the newborn's stomach can hold about 0.75-1 oz, or about the size of a "shooter" marble. Small, frequent feedings (consistency!) assure that your baby takes in all the milk he needs.

Around day 10, the newborn's stomach capacity is now about 1.5-2 oz, or about the size of a ping-pong ball. Continued frequent feeding will ensure that your baby takes in all the milk he needs, and your milk production meets his demands.

6. Experiment with different nursing positions

As you and your baby are getting to know each other and practicing nursing together, you may find that some positions are easier to get that tiny baby mouth to latch. In the first few weeks, experts recommend three positions that make latching easier:

Laid Back Position - This is the most natural and may be the easiest of all of the positions. Gravity helps to keep your baby close to you and helps baby to get a deeper latch as he comes down onto the breast instead of up to meet you.

  • Position yourself in a semi-reclined position.
  • Place the baby with his tummy comfortably against your abdomen.
  • Baby will bob and lift his head until he finds the nipple and comes down over it on his own.
  • Your baby can still look up towards your face and his chin should be deep into the breast tissue.
  • Baby coming down over the breast helps to minimize drag on your sensitive nipples.

Cross Cradle Position

  • Place a pillow across your lap to support the baby and one under your elbow to support your arm.
  • Turn baby on his side and hug the hips close to your body near your opposite breast so that the baby is held snuggled against you with mouth facing the breast.
  • Support baby behind the neck and shoulders with your other arm, tipping the chin up as his head lifts towards your breast.
  • Use a diaper roll to assist in head support if needed.
  • Support the breast in a “U” shape. Keep fingers OFF the areola or far enough away that allows for most of the lower areola to be covered by the baby’s lower jaw.

Football Position

  • Place 2 pillows behind your back but extend them out to the opposite side so there is a space on the side of the bed for your baby’s bottom. Use pillows under the baby to get baby at nipple level if needed.
  • Place baby along your side with the baby’s hips behind you.
  • Be sure baby is coming from under the breast with nipple at nose level.
  • Support baby behind the neck and shoulders, allowing the chin to tip up.
  • Use a blanket roll to assist in head support if needed.
  • Support the breast with the free hand in a “C” shape. Keep fingers OFF the areola or far enough away that allows for most of the lower areola to be covered by the baby’s lower jaw.

As a bonus, finding different positions in which to feed baby reduces your risk for painful clogged ducts! For more breastfeeding position options, pictures of the positions described, and additional tips, download our guide.

7. Educate yourself and do what feels right to you

Learn all you can about breastfeeding while you are pregnant and take a prenatal breastfeeding class. You can learn the basics at Baystate Medical Center and BFMC as well as online. Your OB nurses and providers will help you stay committed to learning techniques after birth.

Once your baby is born, you can join the free virtual breastfeeding groups at Wesson and The Birthplace. You can meet other breastfeeding mothers and ask a lactation consultant any new questions that pop up.

Not everyone will be supportive of your feeding decisions. Remember that this is your body and your baby, and you have to feed in the way that is the most comfortable for you and your baby. Do what feels right to you. Contact us to schedule an appointment with a lactation consultant if you have concerns or run into challenges.

More Information and Support

A woman snuggling her newborn baby, nose to nose

Free Breastfeeding Guide

More details on breastfeeding positions, proper latch technique, and more.

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