It is amazing to think that I have been on my breastfeeding journey for almost 3 years straight. I breastfed my son until he was 2 and shortly after that I became pregnant with my baby girl. She’s been exclusively breastfed for the last five months! And while I’m definitely not a lactation consultant, I would consider myself well versed on the topic of breastfeeding from both my triumphs and failures. So here are the Top 10 Breastfeeding Tips that I’ve gathered over the last 3 years! I hope you find them helpful!
1) Make Sure You Have The Supplies You Need
When you first start your breastfeeding journey it is easy to become consumed with making enough milk. This can cause you to overlook having important supplies to make your breastfeeding journey much more comfortable and less overwhelming as you face cluster feeding and a possible oversupply.
Some of my top breastfeeding must haves include your pump (Duh! I could write a whole article on different pumps and pumping tips alone), nursing pads, nipple cream, a few comfortable nursing bras and some cute and comfy nursing tops. (Oh and snacks, lots and lots of snacks girlfriend!).
2) Stay Hydrated
If you have a low milk supply and want to increase it or are happy with your milk supply and want to maintain it, you MUST STAY HYDRATED! According to an article published on SFGate women should be drinking about 91 ounces of water a day. Sound like a lot? Well breastfeeding women should be increasing their water intake to 132 ounces a day.
Now this is obviously easier said than done. For many of us, making sure that we drink enough water is a daily struggle. So what are some tips and tricks for increasing your water intake? My number one tip is to get a gallon or half gallon water bottle. These water bottles typically have times marked off on them to show where you should have drunk the water to by a certain time. These are great motivators! Another tip is liven your water up a bit! Flavor it with fresh fruit or a water flavoring of your choice. It’ll help out if you’re someone who doesn’t care for the “taste” or lack there of, of water.
3) Find Your Go To Breastfeeding Positions
This tip is a MAJOR KEY because as you’ll find out on your breastfeeding journey, you’ll have to breastfeed your baby in all types of situations and in all different locations. So mastering different breastfeeding positions will help you and your baby remain as comfortable as possible.
When I was still in the hospital with both of my children my first breast feeding position was the Rugby Ball Hold or Football Hold. This is when you place your baby off to the side along one of your forearms. With you other hand you can guide the breast into baby’s mouth. The reason I did this position first was because of how sore my abdomen was right after birth with both children. I had a vaginal delivery both times but had a four finger abdominal gap after each of my pregnancies. (So it felt like baby was laying right on my organs. Gross I know). Also my boobs were huge in comparison to my babies so it seemed like they were being crushed in other positions. But there are so many positions to chose from. I could write a blog post on that as well!
4) Try To Breastfeed From Each Breast Equally
Now I’ll be honest with you and let you know that I definitely have a favorite boob. My left boob is a true queen. She’s done more than her part during my breastfeeding journey with both of my children. My right boob is a bit of a slacker but she comes in clutch when I need a few extra ounces to top off that bottle or nursing session.
That being said, try your best to have your baby nurse equally on both sides, especially in the beginning. Nursing hurts right after delivery and while you and your baby are both figuring things out and baby is going through growth spurts you may deal with latch issues and cluster feeds. This leaves you with cracked nipples and painful feeding sessions. You want to build up a supply on both sides so that your breasts get a little break and to ensure that you are producing enough milk for your baby. Will you develop a favorite boob eventually? Most likely. But still try to keep things even.
5) Learn Your Baby’s Hunger Cues
As your baby gets bigger, the signs that they are hungry will get much more obvious. They’ll pull at your shirt or hit on your breast while being held. (If you plan to nurse until toddlerhood they’ll just pull your boob right out shirt. I know from experience.) But when you are first starting out and your baby is a newborn, the signs are a lot more subtle.
One clear hunger sign that a baby shows early on is trying to suckle at your breast when held closely to it. Babies do this instinctively when they are hungry and if you notice your baby searching for your nipple when held to your chest they are most likely hungry. Some other signs of hunger are a baby sucking on their fingers or showing tense limbs and closed fists. It may seem a bit difficult at first but you will learn to read your baby’s cues quickly. Mama knows them best after all.
6) Look For Signs That Baby Is Getting Enough Milk
Apart from wanting to make sure baby is getting enough milk for health reasons, knowing that your baby is nourished and healthy is a major confidence boost during your breastfeeding journey! Every mama has had doubts that their baby was getting enough milk, especially in the very early stages but once you are reassured that your baby is nourished you are able to give the biggest sigh of relief and take pride in your breastfeeding decision.
Signs that your baby is getting enough milk include feeling your breasts change from firm to soft during a feeding, listening out for swallowing sounds from your baby during feeding sessions, baby becoming very relaxed or falling asleep after feedings (AKA the Milk Coma) and producing enough wet diapers a day. During the first month they should produce around 4-6 wet diapers a day and have around 2-3 bowel movements. But this will lessen as they get older. (Unless your child is like my daughter and has daily blowouts 🙃).
7) Take Care Of You Too
I’ll be the first to admit that in a sea of To-do lists and managing my household I always let myself become last on my list of priorities. But during your breastfeeding journey and with motherhood in general, we have to make sure that we’re taking care of ourselves as well.
We already mentioned drinking plenty of water but also make sure you eat! We need an extra 500 calories a day to replace what we lose when we’re producing milk for our little one. And I know this can be hard when you have so much on your plate that you forget to eat (Pun Intended). Or you haven’t seen that scale move any closer to your pre-baby weight so you think there’s no harm in skipping a meal. You’re not alone in feeling that way. But we need to nourish our bodies with vitamins and healthy foods so that we feel well enough to nourish our babies.
8) Start To Build A Milk Stash
Around the two month mark is when I recommend starting to pump to build a milk stash for your baby. I made the mistake of pumping right away with my son and faced engorgement because I was pumping before my body had a chance to regulate the milk supply that my baby needed. If you’re planning to return to work or if you just want some milk set aside for when you’re away from your baby for a little while having a stash definitely comes in handy.
I started off just using a Haaka Pump which is a pump that suctions to the opposite breast that you’re nursing your baby on to catch your letdown. You’ll be amazed at how much milk you get just from collecting the milk that leaks out when you’re nursing. A week or so after using only the Haaka Pump I started using my electric pump an hour after my baby’s regular feedings to get the extra milk that I used to freeze for later. After a week or so my body was trained to fill back up on milk a hour after each feed and I was able to build a stash while still producing enough to feed my baby.
9) Don’t Be Afraid To Nurse In Public
When I first started breastfeeding I was so afraid to nurse my baby in public. I would always try to make sure I had a bottle pumped (which wasn’t always convenient) and if I didn’t I would only nurse in the car or a secluded area where I felt people weren’t watching. Fast forward 3 years and my daughter only takes a bottle when I’m not around and I nurse wherever and whenever I damn well please.
My anxiety stemmed around not wanting to offend the people around me. Whether I was covered or not I still felt like people didn’t want to see me feed my baby from my breast, and maybe they don’t. But I’ve stopped caring about how a hyper sexualized society thinks I should use my body. My baby eats whenever and wherever she’s hungry. It’s that simple. And for those of us who prefer a modest approach to breastfeeding there are tons of nursing tops and covers that will keep you covered up without compromising your ability to feed your baby while you’re out and about.
10) Be Gentle With Yourself
Breastfeeding is hard work! And at times it can be downright inconvenient. You’ve shared your body with a little human for 9 months dreaming of the day you deliver them and get your body back, only to find that with breastfeeding you could be sharing your body for at least another year! As mom’s we seem like superheroes to our babies but we’re still human. So cry when you get frustrated and it’s okay to get upset when your breasts are sore and you’ve stained your favorite shirt with breast milk. And you’re allowed to not feel like planning out your outfit based on what top is easiest to pop a boob out of. Everything that comes with motherhood comes with high and low points but no matter what point you’re at, you’re doing an amazing job!