I’ve breastfed all three of my children and I am still breastfeeding my youngest.
I’ve nursed both as a working mom and a stay at home mom.
I’ve nursed children who struggled to gain weight, and children who were chubby.
I’ve breastfed a child who caught on quickly and easily, and I’ve breastfed children who really struggled with getting the correct latch.
I’ve had oversupply and undersupply.
I’ve had a child who refused a bottle, a child who took it without a problem, and a child who is on the fence about it.
I’m not an expert, per say, but I’m pretty experienced when it comes to nursing babies and toddlers.
The following are a list of tips I’ve come up with after about five years of breastfeeding experience.
1. Read Up
I found it helpful to read up on breastfeeding before I gave birth to my first child.
I read all sorts of information that proved helpful – like avoiding synthetic nipples and how to position the baby so as to get the best latch.
When my first child was born, I felt better prepared for breastfeeding her because I had all sorts of head knowledge.
The head knowledge wasn’t everything, of course, but it certainly was helpful.
2. Talk To Friends
If you know anyone with a positive breastfeeding experience like friends, relatives, or your mom, pick their brains to get a more realistic picture of what it may be like for you.
Books are great, but they don’t always portray real life.
3. Ignore The Naysayers
Don’t talk with people who are negative about nursing.
Some people are completely averse to the idea because they’ve never been exposed to it.
Other people find they couldn’t nurse for one reason or another and they only have negative things to say to you about it.
When these people talk with you, keep in mind that only a very small percentage of mothers are biologically unable to nurse.
The inability to breastfeed usually arises because of interventions like, supplementation with formula, not nursing within the golden hour, latch difficulties, tongue ties, or the need for medicine that isn’t safe for breastfeeding, to name a few.
So, chances are, your body will be able to produce milk, so you needn’t worry because of their naysaying.
If talking to people who couldn’t nurse helps you avoid pitfalls, then talk with them.
If it just makes you nervous that you’ll fail, then avoid that topic in your conversations with them until you’ve well established a breastfeeding relationship.
4. Don’t Beat Yourself Up
If you are one of those people who tries and tries to make enough milk and breastfeed your child exclusively and can’t for one reason or another, don’t beat yourself up.
You did what you could to give your babies human milk and if it doesn’t work out, there are lots of other feeding options out there.
Your health and sanity is just as important as your baby getting fed.
Breast is best, but fed is also best.
If the breast isn’t an option, then feed your baby with the other great resources available to you and don’t let the guilt overtake you.
First of all, your baby can sense when you are tense.
Second of all, you won’t produce as much milk when you’re stressing out.
Third of all, if you’re stressed, it’s going to take a toll on you and you’re already tired because taking care of a new human is exhausting.
So relax. You got this.
Take everything that every parent, caregiver and expert tells you with a grain of salt and lean on your mothering instincts as you endeavor to feed and care for your baby.
6. Get Help
It seems that breastfeeding should be extremely easy and natural since it is…well…natural.
Unfortunately, it isn’t for most moms.
Before you leave the hospital or before your midwife takes her leave at your home birth, have the lactation specialist or the midwife check your latch to make sure your baby is in the prime position to get a good milk flow.
If there is no lactation specialist available where you give birth, then try looking up your local La Leche League and ask for help from them.
7. Try Different Positions
There are a couple of different ways to hold a baby when breastfeeding.
The football hold, the cradle hold, and the side lying hold are three of the more commonly known positions.
I’ve found all of them helpful at different stages of breastfeeding.
The football hold, for instance, is great for teaching a newborn how to latch because you have control of how their head approaches the breast.
The side lying hold is really helpful when you have perineal stitches and can’t sit up without pain.
8. Feed On Demand
When I had my first child, my nurses and pediatricians told me to feed every two hours for no more than twenty minutes on each side and to make sure my baby didn’t fall asleep.
They cautioned me not to let the baby use me like a pacifier.
I followed their advice rigidly for two months and it was awful.
I stressed out if my daughter stayed on one side too long or if she fell asleep too quickly or if she just wouldn’t nurse for more than five minutes on one side.
I timed her and cut her off if she wanted to stay on the breast longer than the allotted time.
Neither of us did well that way, though.
My instincts told me to just let her nurse when she wanted to nurse but all the experts were telling me something else so I was in a constant battle with myself.
Once I finally stopped listening to the well-meaning experts and looking at the clock and I let her feed whenever she wanted, we were both happier and she was much less colicky.
If your baby wants to use you as a pacifier and you’re okay with that, then go for it!
You’re so comforting to them and I find that with all the exhaustion in the first few weeks and months of motherhood, that constantly nursing a baby can be relaxing.
I have never minded being the pacifier or letting my baby nurse themselves to sleep at the breast.
As long as your baby is gaining the weight they need to gain, you have nothing to worry about.
9. Pain May Indicate A Problem, And It May Not
Some pain is to be expected when nursing for the first time.
However, bone numbing, toe curling, knives of pain slicing through your nipples at every feeding is not normal and is generally a sign that your baby isn’t latched correctly.
The baby may be able to get enough to eat that way – my first did – or the baby may start losing weight like my third child did.
Either way, if you can correct the latch, your baby will be able to extract the milk easier and your nipples will really thank you.
10. Lanolin Is Your Friend
For cracked and sore nipples, go with pure lanolin – no water added – if you can.
Lansinoh is a great brand and that purple tube will last you forever!
I like that it’s safe for the baby to put in their mouth, so you don’t have to clean your nipples every time you nurse.
When you’re done needing it for your nipples, it’s great as chapstick or extremely protective hand cream.
I use it during the winter when my children have bouts of eczema, and it’s really effective protection for them over night.
Also, if you use cloth diapers, you can use it to lanolize your wool covers.
11. Wide Open Mouth
When feeding the baby, try to get the baby to open their mouths wide before inserting the nipple.
Point the nipple up towards the roof of their mouth and make sure that most of the areola (the dark circle around your nipple) is in their mouth.
None of my babies opened their mouths wide enough so with my third I finally figured out how to use the knuckle of the hand that inserted the nipple to nudge open the chin wide enough for her to get a good latch.
Then, I stuck a finger under her lips to make sure they flared out as she sucked.
My other two eventually learned to get a good latch despite their lazy approach at opening their mouths.
12. Alternate Sides
Whether you nurse from both sides at each feeding or you only feed from one side at a time, make sure you alternate sides.
If you started on the right side last time, make sure you start on the left side this time.
If you favor one side more than the other, over time that side will learn to produce more milk and may be noticeably larger than the other.
Just do your best to make sure you use your breasts equally and this shouldn’t be a problem.
13. Get A (Good) Breast Pump
In the beginning – especially with your first child – you will be engorged often.
It’s painful and very leaky.
Having a breast pump on hand can help relieve that engorgement and pressure and make your breast more palatable for a good latch.
A hard and engorged breast is very difficult for a new baby to latch onto.
You don’t need to pump a lot, just enough to relieve the pressure and make your breasts a little softer.
Be careful, pumping is a double edged sword.
It relieves the pain and excessive let down but if you pump too much, you will teach your breasts to continue producing an over supply which will lead to more engorgement in the future.
14. Keep An Emergency Breastmilk Stash
Even if you aren’t going back to work after your baby’s born, it’s nice to have a pump so you can keep a stash of breastmilk on hand.
You never know when you’ll need it for, say, a date night, a trip to the ER, or maybe a round of medicine that isn’t safe for breastfeeding.
15. Human Milk for Human Babies
Check out your local Human Milk for Human Babies to donate milk or find donor milk in your area.
It’s nice if you end up with more frozen milk than your baby needs and helpful if you find yourself with undersupply.
16. Learn To Hand Express
While having a electric pump is great, you never know when you will need to express milk because you’re either missing a part of your pump or don’t have the pump with you.
Hand expression is easy, but it’s a learned skill.
Also, it requires a bit of hand strength so you will want to build up your hand strength before you are in a situation where you need that hand expressed milk.
Otherwise, the muscles in your hand will be pretty sore as you try to express the amount of milk that you need.
I know. I’ve had to do it.
17. Tandem Nurse
If you have twins or children who are close in age, don’t be afraid to nurse two babies at once.
I’ve never had the pleasure of tandem nursing – my babies weaned before I had their younger siblings.
From what I’ve read though, it can be a calming and bonding experience for all involved parties, and can be particularly calming to the older sibling who’s spot as the baby of the family has just been usurped.
18. Use Colored Ribbons/Bracelet/Bra Clip
Add a little colored ribbon, a bracelet, or clip to the straps of your bra to give your baby something bright and patterned to look at.
They’ll be gazing at you most of the time, or falling asleep, but sometimes they’ll want to look around which can interrupt their feeding time.
Having something interesting in their line of sight may be just the ticket to keep their attention.
Also, for newborns and young infants who can’t see very far yet, it can be great for them to have something to look at within their field of vision.
In addition, the ribbon can also be used to remind yourself which side you need to nurse from next time.
Just move it over to the other side when you finish and you’ll know that’s the side you need to start with at your next nursing session.
If you don’t want to do the bracelet or the clip thing, feeling your breasts before a feeding can usually help you figure out which side was used last.
My breasts are noticeably less hard when I’ve nursed from them and whichever of my breasts is more firm, is usually the one that I need to use first.
By the end of the day, with lots of nursing on demand, both are quite soft, but in the morning and early afternoon hours, I can usually tell which side is fuller by squeezing if I can’t actually remember which I used last.
20. Let Them Use Their Hands
I’ve heard that the reason newborns and babies get their hands in the way when trying to nurse is that they instinctively use their hands to find the nipple.
My seven month old has always done that and though I usually move them out of the way and insert the nipple myself, the fact that I haven’t restrained her hands during her feedings means that she’s gotten so good at finding my nipple on her own that she is now able to put it in her mouth herself if I’m not quick enough or if I get distracted by her older siblings.
Obviously, you’ll need to move those frantic little hands out of the way as they frantically search for the nipple, but let them stay free and near your breast once the baby has latched on.
It’s comforting to them and keeping them there helps them to nurse more instinctively.
21. Use Nursing/Teething Necklaces
A nice sturdy necklace with brightly colored silicone, wooden, or fabric beads is something nice for you to wear that your baby can grab and play with while nursing.
When they’re not nursing, it’s a great teething toy when they need something to keep them contented while in your arms.
22. Nurse Frequently To Increase Supply
If you have low supply, the best way to increase it is to nurse more frequently.
If your baby isn’t nursing enough, try pumping after every feeding.
Milk is produced in a supply and demand economy and your body (usually) won’t make more than it needs.
Another thing to do when your supply is low is to pump after each feeding.
This will trigger your body to produce more milk.
23. Use Supplements To Increase Lactation
If you’re still finding it difficult to keep up supply, try making lactation cookies (there are many helpful recipes online) or purchasing some lactation tea or supplements from your local health food store.
24. Drink Lots Of Water
Drink fluids. Then drink some more.
You need a lot more water when you’re nursing so make sure you stay hydrated.
If you’re a thirsty sort of person, this will be easy.
If you aren’t, then you need to talk with your lactation specialist or doctor to figure out how many ounces you need to take in and then make a point of drinking that much every day.
I try to keep a large water bottle full and ready in my nursing spot so I can drink while I nurse.
25. Fuel Your Body
Make sure you eat well.
It’s hard because sometimes you barely have time to pee and shower, but if you don’t eat, your body will be less capable of giving your baby the milk they need.
I’m a hypocrite in this area.
I have terrible pregnancies where eating makes me sick so, when I have my babies, I eat more junk than I should after nine long months of abstinence.
However, I have found that when I eat well, I have more energy and feel better able to give good milk.
26. Keep On Taking Prenatal Vitamins
This is right along the lines with the advice about fueling your body.
I don’t notice much of a difference taking or not taking my prenatal vitamins, to tell the truth, until I start getting a period while still nursing.
Some women won’t menstruate when nursing exclusively.
I am not one of those women.
During my cycle, both the bleeding and the nursing seem to be more than my body can handle.
If I’m taking my vitamins, I have much more energy and don’t endure the dizzy spells I get otherwise.
27. Don’t Feed Your Baby A Bottle Yourself
While you are still breastfeeding, if your baby needs a bottle, you shouldn’t be the one to give it.
Have your husband or caregiver feed the baby with a bottle.
When the baby is with you, they should only expect the breast.
However, if you have to feed your baby a bottle, it may turn out all right.
I had to bottle feed my pumped milk to my third after each of her feedings because she wasn’t getting enough and it didn’t disrupt our breastfeeding relationship in any way.
28. Try Not To Supplement With Formula
Since breastmilk is produced via supply and demand, feeding your baby formula may only decrease your supply.
Try to avoid it if you can.
If your baby is struggling to gain weight, work with your pediatrician and a lactation specialists to find way for them to gain weight while continuing to exclusively breastfeed.
29. Avoid Synthetic Nipples
Synthetic nipples may also interfere with breastfeeding.
Try to avoid pacifiers or bottles until the baby is two to four weeks of age and breastfeeding is well established.
30. Wear Clothing You Can Easily Nurse In
When you’re nursing, you don’t look at your wardrobe in the same way.
That may be your favorite dress hanging over to the right, but until you’re done nursing, you won’t be wearing it because you’ll have to fully undress in order to get a breast out.
You’ll be wearing stretchy, comfortable clothing that has a top piece and a bottom piece, or something that buttons in the front.
If you don’t like being exposed when nursing, consider that with your wardrobe choices too, possibly adding a nursing tank underneath to keep your belly covered or a cardigan to give you some peripheral coverage.
31. Nursing Cover
Along the lines of clothing, many women don’t like being exposed when they nurse in public.
If you prefer to be covered when you nurse, you’ll want to keep a nursing cover in your diaper bag.
I have never covered up when nursing, but I’ve seen many different kinds, from poncho-like covers, to fashionable scarves that double as covers.
32. Wear Nursing Pads
If you are out in public and your baby cries or someone else’s baby cries or you see a baby or you think about nursing or you just waited too long to get back to your baby and nurse or maybe you just sneezed the wrong way, you’re going to leak all over your shirt.
It’s going to be obvious and possibly embarrassing.
Wear nursing pads all the time when you’re out in public.
If you want to use reusable nursing pads, don’t go with the Gerber brand, which is the only kind you will find in most big box stores.
I tried them first thing and leaked through every single one. It was awful.
Try Bamboobies instead, which are my favorite reusable brand and are available in stores like Babys R Us and also online.
33. Clogged Milk Ducts
Feed frequently to avoid getting clogged milk ducts, though they may come anyway.
You can often relieve a clogged milk duct by changing your baby’s feeding position, massaging it away, or using warm compresses.
Milk ducts seem most likely to become clogged when one is engorged, which is usually during the first couple months after the baby is born or if you wait too long to feed or pump.
34. Wear A Comfortable, Supportive Bra
Having a comfortable bra is very important.
Try to get a breathable cotton, something that stretches, and stay away from underwire if you can.
If a bra is too constrictive it can cause your milk ducts to clog (which is painful), or worse, lead to mastitis, a breast infection that usually comes from clogged milk ducts.
Support is just as important as comfort, because your breasts will be larger and heavier than normal, especially at first.
It’s difficult to find the right mixture of support and comfort, but if you look hard enough, it’s out there, even if you end up purchasing something online.
I have a large cup size and a small band size so I usually go with a nursing sports bra or a nursing tank that has a special size for big breasted, small chested women like myself.
These tend to be roomy, comfortable, and supportive (if you find the right one).
My favorite is from the brand Bravado.
In order to find the right bra, you really need to be fitted.
Go into a lingerie store that will do that for you and then either buy the bra that is the correct combination, or don’t buy a bra.
Because of my weird size, stores don’t usually carry anything that fits me and then they’ll try to sell me something with a larger band, which never really works.
35. Emotional Support
Your breasts are not the only thing that needs support when you’re breastfeeding.
You will need emotional support from your humans as well – especially your baby’s father.
Talk with the people who will be supporting you as you begin your parenting journey – the father, your parents, your friends, your baby’s caregivers… let them know that you are going to breastfeed, why you are going to breastfeed, and that you need their unwavering support through it all.
If you have this support – especially from your partner – it will help you go the extra mile when things get tough.
If you don’t, it may be your breaking point.
You want to make sure you and your team are all on the same page.
Those are all the good tips I’ve come up with over my five years experience with breastfeeding.
I hope they’re of some help to you.
What are some great tips you have come across in your nursing journey? Share with us in your comments below.