If you’re a mom-to-be, chances are you’re starting your research on all the how-to’s of becoming a mom. From changing diapers to designing a nursery to giving baths, there’s going to be a lot to learn.
If you’re planning on nursing your newborn, there are many ways which you can prepare yourself to be successful. You’ll need these early breastfeeding tips that you can put to use from the moment your baby enters this world.
The benefits of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding your baby is a beautiful experience that only a mom can share with her baby. You have the ability to provide him or her with all they need to start out those first few months of life, thriving and strong.
The benefits of breastfeeding far outweighed the pain and discomfort I felt early on. The valuable nutrition and immunity it provides, the bond and closeness my baby and I shared, and the convenience of always having milk on hand were just a few of those benefits.
You will probably face some challenges
It can be very natural and easy for some moms, but plenty of women struggle getting started or even continuing. Whether you just stick to it for a few days, weeks, or months, knowing that you tried your hardest is the most important.
Breastfeeding is not for everyone, but for those who do choose to and stick with it, will find out how rewarding it truly is. Getting through the first couple weeks can be tough, but that is the hardest part. If you make it over that hump, you’ll be on your way to smooth sailing!
Everyone’s journey is quite different, including your struggles, challenges, and easy parts. However, one thing we all have in common is the love for our baby and wanting to provide them with the greatest start to their life.
I had planned to breastfeed for both of my children before they were born, but I was aware that it could be a difficult experience. I told myself that if I had too much trouble, I would be ok giving them formula. It’s more important to feed my children than risk them not getting enough nutrients.
My first breastfeeding journey started off with awful nipple pain and breast soreness. Read this post about my experience and How to ease the discomfort of nipple pain during the first weeks of breastfeeding. I managed to push through it with a lot of help from those products and persistence.
After the first 2 or 3 months of getting more comfortable feeding in public and learning my baby’s cues, I actually started to enjoy it. It was so much more convenient to me than preparing bottles whether I was home or out.
Prepare yourself for success
If you’re set on attempting to breastfeed, you need to be prepared beforehand. There are plenty of resources out there to get you educated and ready to be successful. You just need to take advantage of it. The nurses in the hospital are your biggest help, however, don’t expect them to teach you all you need to know in that moment.
Nothing will prepare you for your specific situation like the real-life experience, so it may be nothing like what you have read or learned. However, it’s good to have as much information as you can to make educated decisions and figure things out.
These early breastfeeding tips below will help you to start out successfully. Nurisng your baby starts immediately after childbirth. For tips to prepare yourself BEFORE childbirth (which is also necessary), read How to Prepare Yourself for Nursing your Newborn.
Early Breastfeeding Tips in the Hospital
Give your birth plan to the nurse
Assuming that you have already prepared a birth plan, make sure you hand it off to the right person. Don’t give it to the first person who checks you in or an administrative employee. Wait until you are admitted and checked into your room and give it to the nurse who will be with you the rest of the day. Also, make sure you partner is aware of all your wishes so he can make your requests known if you can’t.
Bring all of your nursing products with you
Make sure your hospital bag is packed ahead of time with all of your nursing essentials that you have acquired ahead of time. There are plenty of products that can help make nursing your baby easier. Items that can heal pain and discomfort or help make the process simpler and more efficient are super helpful.
Here is a list of the items I needed during those first few days in the hospital. You’ll definitely want to pack these in your childbirth bag for ease and comfort during breastfeeding.
Related Post: What to Pack in your Hospital Bag
Nursing Pillow- My Breast Friend This is by far the best nursing pillow out there because it straps high around your waist to provide more support for you and the baby. It allows you to not hunch over while feeding and you can literally walk around with your baby easily nursing on you.
Ameda Nipple Gel Pads– These were by far my favorite breastfeeding accessory! My nipples were soooo sore after the first couple nursing sessions that I could barely tolerate my baby’s feeding. I’m still not sure if she was incorrectly latching or I just have extremely sensitive nipples, but ouch!
One of the nurses recommended these gel pads me and they worked like a charm! You can put them in the refrigerator so they are cool and keep them on your breasts in between nursing sessions. They basically just numb the pain and provide a cooling and soothing feeling for your nipples. Honestly, I may have given up nursing if it wasn’t for these.
Lanolin Cream This cream also helps to soothe sore and cracked nipples. You can put it in the refrigerator for a cooling feeling, as well. I applied it between every nursing session, along with the gel pads, and it worked so well at easing my pain.
Medela SoftShells – If you experience nipple soreness during the first couple days of breastfeeding, these will help ease the pain. These get placed in your bra so the fabric doesn’t rub against them.
Nursing Bras – I LOVE this Kindred Bravely nursing bra. It’s so soft and comfortable and perfect for all day wear and sleeping. You’ll be nursing 8-10 times a day in the beginning so you want something that makes breastfeeding easily accessible.
Nursing tanks You don’t need a full line of nursing clothing because you won’t need it for very long. What works best is to get a couple simple nursing tanks and wear a larger shirt or button down shirt over it. This way if you are nursing in front of others, your whole tummy isn’t exposed. These make it easy to unclip and expose your breast for a quick feeding.
Nurse within the first hour
From the moment you hear that first cry, you can begin nursing your baby. The nurse will hand you your baby and you’ll immediately want to get them to start suckling.
You’ll want to hold your baby close and put him right by your boob. Ask a nurse to show you the technique because you need to be a little more forceful than you may think. Here’s a great YouTube tutorial for how to latch your baby correctly and efficiently in the hospital.
The first day or 2 in the hospital, your baby will only be drinking the colostrum from your breast. Colostrum is the yellowish/orange fluid coming out of your breast and it’s only a tiny amount. It won’t look like milk because it’s not exactly milk.
Their belly is the size of a pea so you don’t have to be worried about them taking in a lot. They may only suckle on your nipple for a couple minutes and that should be sufficient. This is just the time to get baby used to latching and sucking on the breast.
Hold your baby skin-to-skin often
The hours and days in the hospital will drag on for what seem like forever. Take this opportunity to really bond with your baby. You can have them latched on, but even just holding them on and close to your breast or chest will help stimulate milk production.
Skin-to-skin contact is so important during these first few moments and days. It will start them out feeling safe and comfortable now that they’re out in this bright, crazy place.
Ask to speak to the lactation consultant
There should be a lactation consultant at your hospital or at least a nurse who is certified in lactation. Make sure they come see you at least twice before you leave the hospital. They are available to you at no additional charge and can provide guidance or advice if your baby isn’t latching well.
They will give you pointers on how to get baby to latch and eat properly. They’re seriously miracle workers! Even if you think everything is going fine, make sure you see them for any additional information. They usually are only there certain days and come see you once a day, but if you need more help than that, just ask!
So many people are going to want to come visit you and the new baby in the hospital. It can get very overwhelming when you’re trying to socialize and entertain guests while your life has just drastically changed, even if it’s just your parents.
You will have to nurse the baby every 2.5-3 hours. You may be spending 20-45 minutes trying to get your baby to latch and feed him/her properly. So you really may only have about a 1.5-2 hours between a feeding to see visitors.
Nurses will be in and out of your room to address concerns and you willl be half naked most of the day. Don’t waste your chances to speak with professionals and bond with your baby because there are visitors in the room. Take this opportunity to learn and bond as much as you can.
If something doesn’t seem right, say something
Don’t wait until you get home to think of telling a doctor or nurse about your issues. If there’s something that is bothering you in the hospital, say something before you leave. You have plenty of experienced professionals there at your finger tips and they are the experts in initial latching after birth.
Once you’re home, you’ll have access to your pediatricians, but they are not experts in this area. A lactation consultant or labor and delivery nurse would be the best to talk to about early breastfeeding problems. They’re there to help you, but can’t do anything if you don’t ask. Once you get out, it may be tough to find a lactation consultant or insurance may not cover it.
Get dad to help
Even though it may seem like there is nothing for him to do while you’re breast feeding, think again! He will actually have more work to do than you since you’ll need to be resting in the hospital bed.
Things dad can do:
- Download an app like Baby Tracker or Glow, or jot down information by hand, such as: Start times of each feeding, which breast the baby was on (R or L), and how long the baby was feeding, for each nursing session.
- Burp the baby in between feedings
- Change diapers
- Record wet/dirty diapers
- Change baby’s clothes
- Swaddle when done feeding
- Strip the baby down to wake up for feedings
- Skin to skin on his chest
- Bringing you your nursing pillow
- Taking baby in and out of the bassinet for feedings
So pretty much everything else!
Make sure he’s also listening very well when the lactation consultant is giving you pointers. Your brain may be a little foggy at this point so hopefully he can remember some of the tricks she has taught you.
Feed them often
You don’t need to worry about getting your baby on a schedule yet, but attempt to get them to suckle as often as you can. Everytime they are showing signs, like crying, rooting, or fussy, try to feed. The more you practice, the more you and your baby will learn.
Getting baby to latch
This can be one of the biggest challenges for a new mom because you and your baby have to be on the same page for latching to work. If you’re a seasoned mom and your baby has trouble, it won’t work, and if baby know’s what he is doing and you’re lost, it won’t work. So for both of these aspects to come into play together and work together, you’ve got to focus on the following key points.
Videos can be the best way to learn. Here is a great Youtube tutorial on How to get your baby to latch.
Wake them up
Your newborn will most likely be very sleepy during the first few days. Before you even start trying to offer a feeding, make sure they are awake and alert. You can undress them, use a wet wash cloth or ice cube, tickle them, or change their diaper. This should stimulate them enough to latch on and want to eat. Never shake a baby to wake them up.
Your baby can sense if you’re scared, nervous, and uncomfortable. If you aren’t relaxed and at ease, your baby won’t be either.
Position yourself upright in the hospital bed. Have a nurse help you get positioned if you’re in pain. A nursing pillow can help you to hold the baby comfortably
Hold baby properly
You want to think of cradling your baby and then rotating their WHOLE body to face yours, not just their head turned toward you. Your baby’s tummy should be pressing up against yours, not their side (belly to belly). Their head, neck, chest, and hips should be in a straight line and facing toward you. You don’t want their head twisted to try to get to the nipple, but facing forward.
Point your nipple at his nose, not mouth
This will encourage the baby to pull his head back and give a big open wide mouth to latch on to the nipple.
Use your hands
Use the same side hand to grasp your breast and sandwich it between your thumb and other fingers. Have your other hand, grasp baby’s head from the nape of the neck with your finger tips at their temples and swiftly bring him to the nipple.
Make sure his mouth is open wide before you put it on your breast. Having his mouth open just a little will always cause a poor latch. Be patient and wait for him to give a big open mouth. Just don’t try to force it before he is ready.
Be more forceful than gentle
Do your best to take the baby’s head and plop it on your breast with a little bit of force. Don’t push directly at the back of the head, but at the bottom of the head/top of the neck instead.
Lips pursed out
Once your baby is latch onto your nipple, make sure the lips are pursed outwards like duck bills. You should see both the top and bottom lips pressed against your breast, similar to the picture above. They shouldn’t be hidden.
Check for tongue tie or lip tie
Tongue and lip ties have become more common lately in babies. They are extra pieces of skin that cause the tongue or lip to attach to the mouth at a point that can make it difficult for your baby to open their mouth, latch, or suck well enough.
If you’re having some issues with your baby latching, make sure you bring it the lactation consultant’s attention while you’re still in the hospital. They can examine your baby to see if lip or tongue ties could potentially be causing a problem.
Follow these early breastfeeding tips for success
The first few days of breastfeeding can present many challenges. It can be exhausting, frustrating, and really test your will power. However, if you make it past those first few days and weeks, it will be smooth sailing from there. Make sure to try these early breastfeeding tips to increase your chances of being successful.