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When it comes to breastfeeding, all of us want to do our best for the well-being of the baby. But unfortunately, nursing a baby doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Many moms experience some difficulties breastfeeding (cracked or sore nipples, the baby is not latching properly, not having enough milk, etc.). If you are also struggling to nurse your little one, then you should know that you are not alone. A higher number of moms find breastfeeding a challenging task than you would think!
(I remember imagining an easy breastfeeding journey, that was definitely not the case with my first! But it eventually got easier with some amazing support.)
Today we will dive into nursing and review a few great tips about breastfeeding. Thus, hopefully, after reading this article you will find nursing your baby much easier.
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Understanding that breastfeeding is not just for milk or nutrition is crucial. There is so much more to it! This is why I decided to discuss briefly the main benefits of breastfeeding before I give you some useful tips for breastfeeding.
Here are some of the most important health benefits of nursing for a baby:
- Breast milk contains all the necessary nutrients for the baby in the first 6 months of their life. Also, the milk adapts to the changing needs of the baby as they grow. In fact, your body starts producing colostrum (baby’s first milk) in the second trimester!
- Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of various infections, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), vomiting, diarrhea, and more.
- Breast milk promotes the brain development of the baby and prevents obesity by promoting ideal weight for the baby.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to develop cardiovascular disease later in adulthood.
Besides the amazing benefits for the baby, moms can also gain from breastfeeding. Do you want to know how? Let’s see below a few health benefits you can enjoy as a breastfeeding mom.
- After giving birth, nursing can help the uterus to gain back its previous size (this process is also called the involution of the uterus) in a shorter time.
- Breastfeeding moms are more likely to lose weight after childbirth than those who feed their babies with formula.
- Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of postpartum depression, arthritis, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.
- Breastfeeding can reduce your risk of getting pregnant again too early (when the body is still healing)
After going through these fantastic health benefits, it’s easy to see that breastfeeding can be extremely beneficial for both you and the baby. Thus, it’s worth the struggle (for most moms), don’t you think?
Worried about returning to work? See our tips about returning to work.
Now that you are aware of the main benefits, it’s time to get into the actual tips about breastfeeding. Let’s start with some breastfeeding tips related to latching.
Having a good latch is vital when breastfeeding. By getting a good latch, you can help your little one to get the most milk possible (it will stimulate milk production). Plus, it can provide more comfort for you as well. However, if you are new to breastfeeding, both you and the baby may need some practice to get a proper latch.
How to Ensure Your Baby Gets a Good Latch
Follow the following steps to a good latch:
- Find a comfortable position for nursing.
- Start to caress your baby’s chin. This is important because it will help stimulate the rooting reflex in your baby.
- Then with your nipples tickle your baby’s lips to make them open their mouth wider.
- Make sure that your baby’s chin is in the right position (it shouldn’t be tucked into their chest) and aim your nipple a little bit above their top lip.
- Finally, let the baby latch onto your breast.
Feeling a little discomfort during breastfeeding, it’s considered normal. But if you find breastfeeding clearly painful, it indicates your baby is not latching properly. In this case or if your little one latches solely on the tip of your nipple, you will need to gently put your finger in your baby’s mouth to break the latch. This way, you can try latching again.
How to Know If Your Baby Is Latching Properly
If you are not sure that your baby is latching properly, some signs can help reassure you. Here are a few signs of a good latch you might want to look out for:
- You don’t feel any pain, the latch is quite comfortable.
- Your baby’s head is straight with their chin touching your breast.
- Your baby’s nose is not covered and their lips seem to be turned out.
- The mouth is widely open and covers your nipple and at least part of the areola.
- You can hear how your baby is swallowing.
- You can see their ears moving slightly.
If you’re having issues, make sure to ask for help asap. They may give valuable recommendations for positioning, use of a nipple shield, and more.
There are plenty of different breastfeeding positions nursing moms can choose from. However, some positions may work better than others for you and your little one. How will you know which one works the best for you? You need to try a few of them to find it out!
Finding a good breastfeeding position has many benefits. Proper positioning can help you feel more comfortable, promote good latching, prevent the soreness of your nipples, and many other breastfeeding problems related to nursing. Thus, it’s worth looking for the right position(s).
In the following, we will review some of the most popular positions that are recommended for comfortable nursing.
1. Cradle Hold Position
Probably, the cradle hold position is the most popular position among breastfeeding mothers. If you want to try cradle hold, follow these instructions:
- Sit in a comfortable chair with armrests. But if you prefer to stay in your bed, you can also do that. Just place a few cushions around you or use a nursing pillow.
- Facing you, lay your baby down over your lap.
- Then place your little one’s head on your forearm on the side you want to breastfeed with their nose pointing towards your nipple. With your hand, make sure to support the rest of their body.
- Verify that your baby’s lower arm is placed under yours and their body is straight (the ear, shoulder, and hip should be in a straight line).
2. Laid-Back Position
The laid-back breastfeeding position can be especially beneficial for you if you have smaller breasts, or your little one has a lot of gas. This position is also called the biological nursing position as it feels very natural for both the baby and the mom. Plus, it’s great for tired breastfeeding moms! For this position, follow a few easy steps:
- First, lean back on a bed or sofa. But you should not lie flat, rather take a semi-reclined position.
- Use some pillows or cushions to support your neck, shoulders, and back.
- Lay your baby on you so their tummy will rest on yours. If you find this uncomfortable or you had a C-section, you can also place your little one to one side.
- Gently help your baby get closer to your nipple so they can start latching.
3. Side-Lying Position
The side-lying position is highly recommended for moms who had either a difficult delivery or a C-section. This is because in this position the nursing mom doesn’t need to hold her baby, she can just lie comfortably next to them.
How can you get into the side-lying breastfeeding position? Let me explain it to you.
- Lie on your side as comfortably as you can and lay your baby on their side next to you (with their tummy facing your tummy).
- Place some pillows or cushions behind your back and under your neck for better support. You can put a small pillow or a rolled-up blanket behind your baby’s back as well.
- Support your baby and guide their head towards your breast with your arm.
The side-lying position can be a great choice for night feeding as it allows you to relax next to your baby.
Breastfeeding Tips for Comfort
Unfortunately, it’s very common for new moms to feel uncomfortable while nursing or find breastfeeding even painful. In fact, this unpleasant experience is one of the reasons why so many moms give up nursing.
If you find breastfeeding painful or you just don’t feel good about it, consider it as a sign that something is not okay. However, the good news is that in most cases, with small adjustments this uncomfortable breastfeeding experience can be turned into a good one. Here are a few useful tips about breastfeeding for better comfort:
- Focus on supporting your body. Use pillows, cushions, a breastfeeding recliner, a footstool, or anything you think can help support your body and make nursing more comfortable.
- Find the right breastfeeding position. As mentioned above, you need to find the position that works the best for you and your baby.
- Relax. Relaxation can help a lot when it comes to nursing. Before you start breastfeeding, take a deep breath through your nose, keep the air in for a few seconds, then exhale slowly through your nose. Repeat it a few times until you feel more relaxed.
- Opt for comfortable breastfeeding clothes. Choose a nice nursing bra, and other nursing clothes, that are comfortable and provides easy access to the breasts.
- Drink enough water. Staying hydrated is vital for milk production. Therefore, keep a water bottle next to you while nursing and make sure to drink enough throughout the day.
- Pump. If you are on the edge of giving up breastfeeding because of the pain, try pumping. It can give you some relief from the pain and allow you to continue nursing your little one.
- Soothe your sore or cracked nipples. Ease the pain with a lanolin-based nipple cream and try to keep your nipples clean. If you feel like a human pacifier (we’ve all been there) and need a break, consider introducing a pacifier too.
- Pain relief. If you’re struggling with pain, talk to your doctor about what types of medicine you can take while breastfeeding.
How Often to Feed and How Long
Since every baby is different the frequency and duration of the feedings will always depend on your little one’s needs. Although there are no strict rules concerning how often and how long you should breastfeed your baby, here is what you may expect:
First Days of Your Baby’s Life
A newborn’s stomach is very small. Therefore, your baby doesn’t need too much milk to feel full in the first days of their life. However, breast milk is digested quite easily so it leaves your baby’s stomach in 1-2 hours. This also means that you need to feed your newborn often, about every 1-3 hours. You might find the frequent feedings, especially night feedings exhausting. But don’t worry, after a few weeks, the time between feedings will elongate.
First Weeks/Months of Your Baby’s Life
As your baby grows, so does their stomach. This is why after a few weeks your baby will be able to drink more milk at each feeding. The time between feedings will become longer as well. You will need to nurse your baby about every 2-4 hours in the first few weeks/months of their life. During this time, you may also experience at your baby a longer sleep period of 4-5 hours.
The length of each feeding will depend on how much milk your baby needs. Therefore, allow them to nurse as long as they want. The best is if you breastfeed for at least 15 minutes on the first breast, then offer the other breast.
If you’re concerned about your milk supply and whether you’re baby is getting enough (hint: they probably are), talk to your baby’s pediatrician or a lactation consultant asap. They will assess baby’s latch and maybe recommend a baby scale if baby isn’t gaining weight like the should be.
After 6 Months
After 6 months, you will need to nurse your baby fewer times. This is because after you introduce solid foods to your little one, they will be less interested in nursing. Make sure to look out for the signs of hunger, and breastfeed on demand.
Most organizations recommend moms breastfeed their babies for at least 6 months. Therefore, if possible, aim for 6 months or more (here the more the better).
Tips for Night Feedings
Night feedings can leave you feeling exhausted. But remember that they also offer you a great opportunity to bond with your baby. Below you can read a few great tips to make night feedings easier and help your baby go back to sleep.
- Use a low night light and blackout curtains
- Burp your little one after each feeding
- Use a comfortable chair or support your back with pillows. But you can try the side-lying position as well.
- Stay hydrated by drinking enough water at night as well.
- Co-sleep if you want.
- Change your baby’s diaper only if it’s really necessary.
Related Read: 10 Quick and Healthy Breastfeeding Snacks
Dealing with Growth Spurts
Growth spurts are completely normal, they are part of every child’s development. You may experience them at different times, usually around 2 weeks, 6 weeks, and later at 3, 6, and 9 months. When growth spurts occur, you will notice that your baby wants to nurse very often (every hour or every 1 and a half hours) for a few days. When this happens, don’t panic. Your breast milk supply will adjust quickly to the changing needs of your baby. All you need to do is to stay hydrated and allow your baby to nurse as often as they want.
Nursing While Your Baby Is Sick
If your baby is sick, you can continue breastfeeding. This is because breast milk can help the baby recover faster. Plus, nursing can help soothe them as well. The most amazing thing is that the composition of your milk will change automatically when your baby is sick. Thus, it will contain all the antibodies your baby needs to combat the illness.
However, if you feel that your little one is too unwell to nurse, make sure to contact a healthcare professional.
The Importance of Asking for Help
As I previously mentioned, breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally for all of us. Thus, you will need to practice and find out what works for you and your baby. When struggling with some issues or having any concerns regarding breastfeeding (for example, you are worried about your baby’s milk intake), don’t hesitate to ask for help. You can consult a breastfeeding specialist or see a lactation consultant. But getting support from your family or friends can help a lot too!
The Bottom Line
Nursing a baby is undoubtedly one of the most significant experiences of a mom’s life. While sometimes nursing can be exhausting and unpleasant, other times you may see it as the most wonderful act of nurturing.
Hopefully, with the help of the above-mentioned breastfeeding tips, you will have a pleasant breastfeeding experience and be able to nurse your baby for a long time. I wish you good luck with your breastfeeding journey!
Do you have some other useful tips about breastfeeding? I would like to hear them out!