Breastfeeding is a magical time for new mamas and their babies. If you’re a new mother, learning important breastfeeding tips for new mothers and educating yourself prior to the delivery of your baby is critical. This can drastically increase the likelihood of making it past the first week, and having a successful and healthy start!
Breastfeeding can save infant lives during their critical first year of life. Infants should be breastfed for at least the first six months of age, and it should continue for up to two years of age and beyond (World Health Organization).
Unfortunately, the statistics are grim on the number of women who breastfeed their new babies. According to the World Health Organization, globally, only 40% of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed.
According to the Center of Disease Control, in the U.S., among infants born in 2015 in the United States, 4 out of 5 (83.2%) started to breastfeed, over half (57.6%) were breastfeeding at 6 months, and over one-third (35.9%) were breastfeeding at 12 months. The U.S. actually lags behind many developed nations.
I have a few of my own theories why this is the case, but research tells us that much of it has to do with a lack of education and support and misconceptions that are floating around in our culture. We also don’t live in a society where a village is raising our children. We aren’t watching mothers nurse their babies in public. You may see it occasionally on social media, or out in public, but it’s not often, unfortunately. Hopefully, the “normalize breastfeeding” movement will continue to encourage openness around the topic.
I’m sharing these important breastfeeding tips for you as a new mother or mom-to-be to empower and educate you. I want you to feel confident going into your birth and breastfeeding journey. Looking back, these are all the tips that I wish I knew when I had my son!
Initiate skin-to-skin in the first hour, or as soon as possible.
After birth, your baby should be lightly wiped (not bathed yet) and placed on your chest for immediate and prolonged skin-to-skin holding until the end of the first feeding. Amazingly, your breasts will decrease or increase temperature according to your baby’s needs.
According to research, after birth, there are nine stages your baby goes through in preparation for their first feeding. It’s important to allow your baby to find your breast and self-attach for the first time. This sequence may take more than 2 hours if you had labor medication.
Feed your baby on demand.
You will want to do skin-to-skin as much as possible even after the first feeding to ensure you can feed on demand. Your baby will show certain cues, and that’s when you want to feed your baby. There is no predetermined length of time that your baby will want to nurse or take a break. Your baby will nurse 10-12 times on average over the course of a 24 hour period. Think of it as if you were on a cruise ship, indulging in the buffet 24 hours. 🙂 Your baby had access to food on demand in your womb, and now he/she is reliant on you. I go into greater detail on feeding cues in my FREE guide on How to Have a Healthy Breastfeeding Journey from the Start.
Be patient while your milk comes in.
When you are pregnant you will begin to produce colostrum, which is a syrupy liquid gold substance. You may or may not leak when you are pregnant, this does not have any indication of your future milk supply. Colostrum is the nutrient-dense and contains exactly what your baby needs those first several hours following birth. Depending on your delivery experience, pain medication, etc., your milk will come in 3-5 days after you deliver your baby. Your milk will transition during this time as your hormones change, and your mature milk will be white.
Don’t worry about your milk supply, especially in the first few days. Take care of yourself and nurse often, and your supply will increase on demand.
Newborn babies nurse around the clock.
I think new mothers underestimate or are not aware of how much newborns nurse in the first few weeks and months. This is totally normal, mama! Even the cluster feeding, which is when a baby breastfeeds in sessions that are frequent and back-to-back. Assuming your baby is gaining weight as he/she should, and the diaper output is on track (at least 4 poopy yellow diapers by day 4 and beyond), your baby is doing great! If you have any worries, reach out to a lactation provider to do an assessment. You can read more about cluster feeding here.
Breastfeeding is a system of supply and demand. The more your baby nurses, the more milk your body will produce. This is so amazing! Your milk is perfect for your baby.
Although breastfeeding does help reduce the chances of you developing postpartum depression, there is still a chance you can feel lonely and isolated when your baby only wants you to breastfeed. Please read up on the 4th trimester. This is a critical time for both you and your baby as you learn each other and develop a routine. This is a great article- What is the 4th trimester?
Stay hydrated and eat healthy foods
When you’re breastfeeding, you will feel thirsty. As soon as your baby latches and your baby starts suckling, you will immediately feel super parched. Make sure you always have water available to drink. This is something your partner can help with. You may want to keep a table nearby with a large glass of water and a few healthy snacks. I ate a lot of pre-cut fruit and other foods that I could eat with one hand while I nursed my baby in my other arm.
Studies show that nourished mamas are better able to care for their babies. So opt for healthy, whole foods so you can nourish your body. Healthy mamas for healthy babies!
Don’t “rough up” your nipples.
This is a myth. You do not need to get your nipples ready for breastfeeding. All you need to do is seek lactation care as soon as your baby is born to ensure a proper latch and technique. This will help catch any issues early on and prevent you from hurting.
Use your support system at home.
Get your support system in place at home before you bring your baby home is one of the most important breastfeeding tips I’m sharing. Make sure your partner is on board, and ask for help with the chores around the house. Breastfeeding takes lots of time. You will want people around you that will help you clean, cook, and support you and your new baby. Ask your partner to do things like give the baby a bath, change diapers, make your meals, bring you water. All of these will help him feel involved.
Make sure you and your partner know what to expect. It is so important for you to have a partner that is supportive and willing to help you. When you’re in pain due to a bad latch, your partner may offer to go get your baby formula. So, it’s important that your partner understands that’s not the correct remedy. Instead of giving up, see the next tip!
Utilize a lactation specialist
Lactation providers are so so helpful. After utilizing one later in my breastfeeding journey myself, I realized I had a passion for helping other mamas in their journey. Lactation consultants or counselors can help you with feeding techniques, milk supply, latching, nipple pain, and so much more! You can find out more about my services here.
Practice makes perfect
There is nothing more natural and relaxing than nursing your baby. Over time, you will learn each other and develop a bond that is so special. You will be unique and irreplaceable to your baby. The more you and your baby practice breastfeeding, the easier it will be. Just like anything new, it takes time and lots of practice. You got this, mama!
If you want to learn more about breastfeeding before your baby arrives, please work with me. I offer pre-birth education sessions for mamas like you! I’d love to give you the confidence you need for a healthy start!