For something that’s so natural, breastfeeding can be awfully tricky! There’s a very real learning curve when you and your baby are (both) learning to breastfeed, and it can be discouraging and scary when you’re not sure if it’s going the way it should.
5 Tips for Making Breastfeeding Easier for New Moms
1. Seek the help of a professional
One of the best ways to help a new nursing mom and her baby is to see a professional lactation consultant. Doing so the first couple of days of the baby’s life will be most helpful.
A lactation consultant can evaluate the baby’s latch to make sure they’re actually nursing effectively, and can help instruct the new mom in different nursing positions, which is very helpful for many new moms. For example, learning how to nurse while lying down can make the difference between sticking with it and giving up if mom is recovering from a c-section or a rough vaginal delivery.
2. Experience the difference with helpful accessories
There are certain accessories that will make nursing more comfortable. A nursing pillow can be very helpful, especially in the first few weeks.
When I had my child, I didn’t think I really needed a nursing pillow, but I was given a few anyway. I was so grateful and even though a new baby only weighs 6 to 9 lbs, you’ll be surprised how quickly your arms will tire holding them in nursing positions. And you may find this funny, but I had some serious soreness after delivery, so I SAT on a nursing pillow instead of an inflatable doughnut pillow. And it really helped.
Other accessories that may help you are specially-shaped hot and cold pads that fit nicely in the bra – you chill them if your milk has come large and in charge, and you’re engorged, or you heat them to help you with plugged duct troubles.
3. Use a pump
If you’re planning on being away from your baby for more than 3 – 4 hours in that first few months, you’re REALLY going to want a good pump. Check with your insurance company to see if they will pay for all or part of a good pump, though frequently your choice will be limited to the Medela Pump in Style.
Don’t get me wrong. The Medela Pump is a good electric pump, especially for moms who will be returning to work, but this may be with you for a while. So it’s important to find something that would be most comfortable for you.
If I were to go back to work after having a baby, I’d choose the Freemie pump, or at least get the collection cups that would connect to the Pump in Style. It’s a clever design where the milk collection cups sit in your bra, so you can pump with a shirt on. It offers either an electric or manual pump option, and you can pump both sides at once with either option.
4. Mom’s health is VERY important
The most important thing is for mom to take care of herself. Make sure to drink lots of water, because making milk can be very dehydrating. Dehydration can lead to supply issues. Eat well, and rest a lot especially in the first 6 weeks, as that’s the crucial time when the milk supply is being established.
5. Avoid nipple confusion
And DON’T listen to the well-meaning friends/relatives/old-fashioned doctors who say that you should give a bottle of expressed milk or formula once a day “to get them used to it” or “to give you a break”. Nipple confusion is a real thing!
Some babies are very thrown off by the difference between mom and the bottle. As long as your baby is nursing often (every 2 – 3 hours is OK in the first weeks), making plenty of wet and poopy diapers, and gaining weight, you should have nothing to worry about.
A baby can periodically go through a day or two of seeming like they just can’t get enough milk, and will nurse constantly for that time. That’s actually a good thing! Breasts make milk in a supply and demand sort of way, and when a baby nurses hard for a day or two, they’re increasing mom’s supply to meet the demand of their coming growth spurt.
Keep working at this, and don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. If you can’t afford to hire a lactation consultant, there are La Leche League meetings in almost every city and town in the country, and they’re headed by knowledgeable women who can help you through the bumpy times.