13 Must-Know Breastfeeding Tips
You may be used to getting a lot of first time mom advice.
Most of it is helpful, but it’s usually trivial tid-bits of information that will most likely not be compatible with your unique experience as a mom.
With that said, I think you’ll discover the breastfeeding tips in this article are some of the best and most useful pieces of advice a first time breastfeeding mom will find!
1. Learn Your Baby’s Hunger Cues
How do you know when your baby is hungry?
For a first time breastfeeding mom, knowing when to feed your baby may not always feel instinctual. That may sound unnerving, but no need to worry mama, because there are hunger cues all babies innately communicate to us and those are:
- Smacking or licking lips
- Opening and closing their mouth
- Sucking on hands, toys, fingers or clothing
- Rooting on your chest
- Trying to get into a nursing position
- Hitting you on the arm or chest
- Fast breathing and fussing
A couple indicators that baby is past due for a feeding is when the baby is already crying and moving their head from side to side.
This is obviously what a first time breastfeeding mom wants to avoid. Which is why learning your baby’s hunger cues is a top breastfeeding tip!
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2. Breastfeed on Demand
When you practice responsive feeding or baby-led breastfeeding you initiate feedings when the baby requests them. There are many research-based benefits found when feeding on demand is practiced while breastfeeding.
Some responsive feeding benefits are:
- That baby, especially newborns, are getting enough milk.
- It helps maintain and establish a strong milk supply that is concurrent with baby’s needs.
Can you Overfeed a Breastfed Baby When Feeding on Demand?
You cannot overfeed a breasted baby. Feeding your baby on demand will not result in an overweight baby or a spoiled one for that matter.①
On average, most babies feed around 8 times or more in a 24 hour period.
Sometimes, babies like to nurse for comfort reasons as well. There are many benefits to feeding a breastfed baby on demand, and overfeeding them should not be a concern.
When it comes to combination feeding however, that is a whole different ball game and will require a different approach.
This could include pumping while breastfeeding and giving baby bottles of breast milk or formula in between nursing sessions.
3. Learn Your Preferred Breastfeeding Positions
This is a good breastfeeding tip for first time moms because until you find you and your baby’s favorite position to breastfeed in, things may feel a little awkward and uncomfortable.
As a first time breastfeeding mom, getting in to a new breastfeeding position may be tricky at first, but practice makes perfect! You may want to begin with some common breastfeeding positions, such as cradle hold or side lying.
See the infographic below with breastfeeding position images.
Also consider grabbing this Ultimate Baby Care Bundle that comes equipped with a breastfeeding positions cheat sheet, baby feeding logs, a last feeding log and loads more!
4. Guide Baby Into a Correct Latch
One of the main goals in finding your favorite breastfeeding position is to achieve a deep and pain-free latch. In order to accomplish a correct breastfeeding latch, use the steps below to help guide you.
- Hold your breast with one hand, support baby with the other, Bring baby close enough so they can find your areola without any effort.
- Stimulate baby’s upper lip with your nipple until their mouth opens very wide.
- Your baby’s chin should be the first thing that comes in contact with your breast. They must be latched deeper below your nipple than above.
- Baby’s lip must be completely turned out and wrapped firmly against your areola.
- Make sure baby’s nostrils are clear from obstructions and they can breathe easily.
Can a Good Latch Still Hurt?
For first time breastfeeding moms, experiencing pain (even during a technically good latch) can be totally normal. Breast tissue does toughen up, it just takes some time.
However, sometimes breastfeeding hurts all of the time and doesn’t get better. This can lead to less frequent nursing sessions, more bottle feeds and potentially a loss in milk supply.
If you experience high levels of pain for extended periods of time while nursing, don’t wait it out – go see a lactation consultant!
5. Don’t Stress Out
Yes, breastfeeding as a first time mom can be frightening. For many women, having the opportunity to feed our baby from our own body is one the most magical roles of motherhood.
All that said, breastfeeding for the first time will be clumsy, foreign and dare I say HARD.
Even so, don’t stress out about it and don’t put added pressure on yourself for things to go flawlessly, because most likely they won’t.
Remind yourself often that it will take time and practice to master this ancient art and if you want a head start, you should take an online breastfeeding class like this one by Milkology.
6. Prepare Ahead of Time
What to do before starting breastfeeding? There are a few crucial ways you can prepare for success before you begin your breastfeeding journey.
As already mentioned above, registering for an online breastfeeding class would be a fantastic place to start.
Not sure which one to take? These are the best online breastfeeding classes in my opinion.
You should also prepare for breastfeeding by making sure you have some supplies purchased ahead of time. Some breastfeeding essentials are things like:
- Breast Pads
- Nipple Ointment
- Nursing Pillow
7. Leaking is Normal – Here’s What to do
If you’re new to breastfeeding, you may or may not be prepared for HOW MUCH leaking occurs. Leaking will happen anytime you have a letdown, when pressure is applied to your full breasts and sometimes for no reason at all.
You can combat leaking breast milk by using breast pads, breast shells or a silicone breast pump. My preferred way to catch leaking breast milk is with a silicone pump or milk collectors like these that Haakaa makes.
Using a vessel versus a pad will mean you don’t waste any of the letdown milk. This is a great way to build a freezer stash before you return to work!
8. Keep Your Breast Tissue Healthy
We already addressed how breast tissue needs to “toughen-up” when it’s new to being used to feed a hungry newborn. That being said, there are steps you can take to care for your breasts while breastfeeding.
- Use a good nipple butter (like this one).
- Keep your nipples clean and dry to avoid painful thrush.
- Change breast pads often.
- Unlatch your baby from your breast correctly:
- Using clean fingers, gently place your pinky finger at the corner of baby’s mouth. Very carefully slide your finger into the side of the mouth. Insert it past your baby’s lips and between his gums and press down against your breast.
- Wear a supportive nursing bra.
What is the Fastest Way to Heal Sore Nipples?
If you’re a new-to-breastfeeding mom, you’re probably also asking yourself “will my nipples ever stop hurting”?
There are some natural remedies you can try to help soothe your sore nipples, such as using warm moist heat.➁ Simply run a clean wash cloth under warm water, ring it out and place it directly on your nipple.
This Happy Boobs Bundle from LaVie should do the trick with nipple balm, lactation massagers and more (shop the link for 10% off).
You can also use your own breast milk as a healing agent applied directly to the sore nipple and left to dry.
However, in the case your nipples are bleeding or pain lasts for more than 7 days, goes away and returns you should then make plans to see a lactation consultant.
9. Don’t Stress Over Milk Supply
This breastfeeding tip for first time moms cannot be said loudly enough. Don’t worry yourself sick over milk supply! As long as you are regularly stimulating your breast tissue with a rhythmic nursing pattern, your milk supply will regulate accordingly.
Yes, there are mothers who struggle with under-producing no matter what they do, but this is generally an exception and not the rule.
Plus, there is help even if this the case for you!
Now, there are there are some things you should avoid while breastfeeding that could potentially hurt your milk supply or give baby unwanted gas.➂
- Fish (high in mercury)
10. Avoid Engorgement
Engorgement is not only uncomfortable, but it could also lead to other serious breastfeeding problems if not taken care of.
Thankfully as time passes and your hormones level out, your body begins to adjust to this process. In the meantime, here are some breastfeeding tips to help alleviate engorgement:
- Use ice between feedings to reduce swelling.
- Feed your baby frequently.
- Before you nurse your baby, apply moist heat for 15-20 minutes (a hot shower works well too).
- Massage the breasts in a circular motion toward the nipple. Try these lactation massage tools from LaVie to assist (shop the link for 10% off!).
11. Remember Which Side to Breastfeed on Next
What breast do you start with when breastfeeding? The answer, is to try and feed from the breast that was not nursed from during the last feeding. However, if you feed from both breasts during each feeding, remembering which side to start on may be a little tricker.
You can try to rely on which breast feels more full or try these breastfeeding tips to help you remember:
- Use a breastfeeding reminder bracelet (like these milk bands).
- Use a last feeding log (FREE to download).
- Wear a hair band or scrunchie on your wrist.
- Put a pin on the strap of your nursing bra.
- Try and app.
- Keep a journal.
How do You Know When to Switch Sides?
When you first begin breastfeeding your newborn, it is important to offer your baby both breasts during each feeding.⑤ Doing so will help establish your milk supply and avoid engorgement.
You’ll know when to offer baby the other breast after they have stopped swallowing and suckling or if he has fallen asleep. Burp baby and then try to re-latch on the other breast.
You can also try tickling baby’s lip with your nipple if they are reluctant to latch.
For the next feeding, offer baby the breast they last fed from or didn’t feed from at all. If the un-nursed breast becomes too engorged, you can hand express some milk or pump to relieve the fullness.
Practicing feeding baby from both breasts during the early stages will help to reduce uneven milk supply or a slacker boob.
12. Stay Nourished
Breastfeeding success cannot be unlinked from a mother who is properly nourished. A mother who restricts her calories and water intake while breastfeeding will have a very hard time producing enough breast milk.
Our bodies work hard to make milk and they need plenty of nourishment to do so effectively. If you’re not sure what to eat while breastfeeding, here is a big list of breastfeeding snack ideas.
I would also recommend that you go ahead and grab this breastfeeding cookbook full of baby-friendly and breastfeeding approved recipes that can be whipped up without much effort.
13. Keep Track of How It’s Going
Regularly “checking in” to evaluate whether breastfeeding is going well or not may not be a bad idea. One way to to keep track of how well breastfeeding is going is by looking for markers that would indicate baby is receiving adequate amounts of breast milk during each feeding.
It is not uncommon for a first time breastfeeding mom to worry about how she will know if her baby is full when breastfeeding. One way you can measure if baby is getting enough breast milk, is to weigh them before and after a feeding.
You can do so easily by using a baby scale like this one at Amazon.
You can also use a wet and dirty diaper tracker to make sure baby is sufficiently hydrated. This printable baby tracker includes that option as well as other important daily habits worth keeping track of!
Best Breastfeeding Tips Summary
These 12 breastfeeding tips for first time moms may be the most consequential pieces of advice you will receive on the topic. For one, knowing your baby’s hunger cues will give you confidence and ease.
Understanding the benefits of breastfeeding on demand will simplify things. Putting into the practice and mastering the many different breastfeeding positions will lead to comfort and security.
Showing yourself grace while you figure it all out is vital. Invest in your breastfeeding journey early on and start with an all video online breastfeeding class.