Breastfeeding a newborn? While it is what is best for you and for your baby, it doesn’t start out real easily…but there are ways to keep your sanity and actually enjoy the first few weeks.
The excitement of bringing a new baby into the family never really wears off, but it’s mixed with a lot of competing emotions. There are obstacles like sleep deprivation and crying fits that nothing seems to soothe.
15 Sanity-Saving Tips to Survive Breastfeeding a Newborn
Then there’s breastfeeding. Maybe it goes smoothly. Perhaps it brings even more obstacles like improper latching, tongue-tie, clogged ducts and sore nipples. Either way, we have 20 tips to save your sanity while trying to master breastfeeding and settle into a feeding routine that works for every member of your family.
1. Don’t go straight to the pacifier.
In some families, pacifiers are a natural part of parenting. How else are you going to get your new baby to wait just a few more minutes when she’s demanding a feeding? You may receive your first pacifier at your baby shower, but you might not want to introduce your baby to that replacement nipple just yet.
Plastic nipples don’t fit in a newborn baby’s mouth the same way as your breast. They require your little one to attach and suck in a different manner, which may impact their ability and willingness to latch onto your breast. That’s referred to as nipple confusion and occur not only with pacifiers with but bottles and other replacement nipples as well.
2. Trust your baby’s instincts.
Your baby knows when she needs to eat and how much milk she needs to consume. It’s a natural human ability just as you know when you’ve had one too many bites of that cheeseburger. What does that mean? Simply that you can allow your baby to determine when it’s time to breastfeeding as well as the length of each session.
Some babies will settle into a breastfeeding routine while others seem to change it up regularly. If you allow your baby to breastfeed on demand at least for the first month or two, you will see your little one’s natural schedule rather than trying to force her into a predetermined schedule that was created without her input.
3. Your comfort is just as important as your baby’s comfort.
Breastfeeding is going to consume a lot of your life for at least six to 12 months. Just as you may use pillows, blankets and positioning to keep your baby comfortable, you should have your own positions and props for comfort.
Whether that’s a rocking recliner, a glider with a cushioned footstool, or just a pile of pillows in all of your favorite feeding spots, it’s critical that your body remain calm and relaxed to avoid muscle strain. Your comfort will also impact your baby’s comfort and ability to successfully feed.
4. Experiment with vertical breastfeeding positions.
You don’t have to sit up for every feeding. Try lying on your side and nestling your baby in front of you. Maybe pushing your recliner all the way back with your feet propped up will allow you to and your baby to relax more for a productive feeding session.
5. Pay attention to early hunger cues.
Newborns will not hesitate to pitch a fit if they get too hungry. You can avoid many of those fits by initiating breastfeeding when you see one or more of the following early hunger cues:
- Sucking or biting down on fists
- Turning head toward your breast or the side
- Smacking lips
- Suckling motion
- Opening and closing the mouth wide
You may also notice your baby has her own cues or a breastfeeding pattern. For instance, your little one may want to breastfeed after waking up from an afternoon nap each day.
6. Bring your baby to the nipple rather than vice versa.
Don’t try to lean over to bring your nipple to your baby’s mouth. It’s more effective to position your little one so that her mouth is even with your nipple. Her head should tilt back slightly. You can hold your baby’s head and neck to gently guide her to the nipple, allowing her to latch naturally. With some breastfeeding positions, your baby will naturally rest in the perfect position to latch without guidance.
7. Your baby should latch onto most if not all of your areola.
Many people think of babies latching onto the nipple, but it’s more like the nipple and the entire surrounding areola. You want your baby to open wide and get a good latch, which may mean you can no longer see your areola at all. That’s a sign of good, strong latch.
8. Don’t hesitate to squeeze your breast to help your baby latch.
Many mothers find it helpful to grip one hand over the breast and squeeze it almost like gripping a hamburger when you eat. That can help your little one latch onto your nipple properly.
9. Consider leaking a natural part of motherhood.
You may assume that you can avoid leaking milk by simply feeding on a routine schedule or even implementing some pumping sessions. Unfortunately, most women will still experience leaking at least occasionally. Even when you haven’t missed any breastfeeding sessions and your little one is feeding like a champ, this can happen.
Arm yourself with nursing pads that slip into your bra. You have several options:
- Disposable Nursing Pads – Throw them way when you’re done. Who needs yet another thing to wash?
- Hydrogel Nursing Pads – The addition of gel soothes sore nipples.
- Organic Nursing Pads – Sustainable pads with an adhesive strip to ensure they stay in place. 100% organic materials.
- Reusable Nursing Pads – If you’re willing to wash your pads, you can save a bit of money over buying boxes of disposable pads.
10. Invest in a good nursing bra.
Nursing bras make it easy to access your nipple. When breastfeeding away from home, it will make it easier to feed under a cover if needed. A proper fit will do more than ensure comfort. It will also prevent the bra from applying too much pressure, which could lead to unnecessary leaking.
11. Breast milk is an effective solution for sore nipples.
When your nipples feel sore, trying gently rubbing breast milk over the top. You can also buy soothing balms designed for use between feedings. We recommend Mustela Nursing Comfort Balm because it’s plant-based and completely safe if residue makes it into your baby’s mouth. Lasinoh also makes a good organic nipple cream.
12. Your milk will take a day or two to drop, and that’s perfectly normal.
Some new mothers panic when their breasts aren’t gushing with lots of milk right after birth. You’re creating small amounts of colostrum at first, and that’s all your baby needs to fill her tiny stomach and start growing. Your milk will drop within a few days, and then it becomes a supply and demand equation. The more your baby feeds, the more milk you will naturally produce.
13. Ease engorgement before it interferes with breastfeeding.
Engorgement occurs when your breasts become too full of milk. They enlarge and get hard, which can make it difficult for your baby to properly latch and breastfeed. It may also become painful while increasing your risk of blocked ducts, so you need to ease it quickly. The fastest way is to express enough milk to soften each breast.
You may also find it soothing to stand in the shower and gently massage your breasts to release a bit of milk while the warm water runs over you. If you want to create a freezer stash of stored milk, you can use a pump between feedings to prevent engorgement while storing milk for later.
14. Don’t assume your partner is no help.
Sometimes daddies have the most comforting arms to fall into when you’re exhausted and your baby is determined to feed and cry all night. Other times, your partner may come up with the perfect solutions when something just isn’t working. From bringing the baby to you for a feeding to changing diapers and helping to keep a sleepy baby alert, there are many ways your partner can serve as a powerful support system to make feeding easier in the first few days or even weeks.
15. Lactation consultants can do a lot more than fix latch problems.
When latch problems occur or a baby otherwise has trouble breastfeeding, a lactation consultant or experienced nurse will help solve the problem. What many new mothers don’t know is that lactation consultants are a wealth of information even if there are no serious problems.
You can ask to see a consultant while you’re in the hospital after giving birth. They can help you with everything from positioning to simply understanding what to expect in the weeks and months to come. If you have the financial means, you may also meet with a lactation consultant in your local area after you return home. Most new mothers don’t need ongoing help, but you should reach out if you do need it.
Whether you encounter obstacles in the early days of breastfeeding or not, try to relax and enjoy the experience. These are also the first days that you get to spend bonding with your newborn. Those late-night hours will lead to years of love and adoration that enrich your world.
- How to Breastfeed a Newborn
- How to Survive Breastfeeding at Night as an Exhausted Mom
- How to Treat and Prevent Breast Engorgement