Regardless of where you are in the process right now, there are some simple breastfeeding hacks that will help you feed your baby like a pro from infancy to the first birthday and maybe even beyond.
Are you a little worried about breastfeeding? Or are you struggling to make it work for you, your baby, and the overall family? These hacks can make life a whole lot easier with a breastfeeding baby.
Top 25 Breastfeeding Hacks for New Moms
1. Breast pump flanges make excellent funnels for breast milk.
Do you plan on keeping a freezer stash so that you never run out of milk? If so, you will need to transfer your milk from plastic storage bags to the bottle. This can get messy, but it won’t if you have your breast pump on hand. Turn the flange into a funnel by turning it upside down in the opening of the bottle.
If you don’t want to worry about transferring the milk at all, consider using drop-in storage liners. They allow you to store your breast milk in the liner that conveniently drops right into your bottle at feeding time.
If you plan on breastfeeding exclusively and don’t want to use a bottle, keep this breastfeeding hack in mind. There are many circumstances that may leave you reaching for the freezer stash in the future.
2. Use breast shells to ensure your precious milk doesn’t get wasted or make a mess.
You’ll see breast shells referred to as milk savers, but a high-quality shell can do more than just save your milk. These shells fit comfortably inside your bra and will catch milk that is released by your free nipple while your baby is feeding on the other side.
Many women also find that they block sore nipples from touching their bra or shirt, and they can catch milk that may leak if you can’t breastfeed your baby right away. They work well for breastfeeding, working mothers who worry about engorgement and leakage while away from their babies.
3. Take advantage of apps.
Doctors, nurses and lactation consultants will ask a lot of questions about your baby’s performance. How many dirty and wet diapers is she producing per day? How many times a day does she breastfeed, and for how long each time? How long does she go between feedings? How much time does she spend sleeping?
There are paper logs that allow you track all of this, but remembering to write it down each time you breastfeed or change a diaper quickly becomes a bother, if you remember at all. That’s why you should download a tracking app before your baby is born. If you already have that bundle of joy in your arms, make your life easier by downloading an app right now.
Here are a few of the leading options:
4. Get some sleep! Invest in a side sleeper or co-sleeper.
There’s a lot of controversy about cosleeping, which is the practice of families sleeping together with babies and possibly older children snoozing alongside parents. Instead of researching both sides and trying to determine which way is correct, just invest in a side or co-sleeper. These are structured units that allow you to safely keep your baby in your bed for easy feedings. You don’t have to worry about safety concerns because your baby has his or her own space, but you get to keep your baby right next to you.
This is invaluable when your baby wants to feed every two or three hours but you don’t want to get up and down all night. There are several different types that you can use, so look at each of these options to see how they work:
5. Use Clips to Mark the Breast that Should Start off Your Next Breastfeeding Session.
You want to rotate your breasts to make sure that they’re both being depleted, sending a strong message to your body that more breast milk is needed while ensuring that your baby gets adequate milk flow at each feeding. The problem is that remembering which breast you left off with during the last feeding isn’t always easy, especially in the middle of the night.
Fix the problem with breastfeeding reminder clips. They slide into place quickly and stay put until your next session. You can also slip a hair band around a wrist to mark the side, but that gets uncomfortable after some time.
6. Pack a Diaper Caddy – or Two, or Three.
A diaper caddy is a portable storage unit that you can place anywhere in your home or even in your vehicle. It keeps all of your breastfeeding and diaper changing supplies in one convenient place, ensuring that you have what you need at all times. It’s easy to move a caddy from room to room, so you’re always prepared. Depending on your lifestyle and the size of your home, you may want to keep one or two indoors and one in your vehicle.
This is a low-cost item that every expectant mother should add to her baby shower registry. After the diaper changing and breastfeeding days, you can use your caddy to organize your car or home.
7. Keep Single-handed Snacks on Hand at All Times.
Buy snack and sandwich-sized plastic baggies and pack snacks that are easy to eat with a single hand. It’s important to stay nourished and satisfied, but you won’t always have the time, energy or desire to cook. Preparing your baggie lunches in advance will make it easy to treat yourself to something healthy and filling while your baby breastfeeds.
If you’re looking for an easy way that older children or your spouse can help you and the baby, put them in charge of packing your snacks and bringing them to you as needed. Our next hack will each you a convenient breastfeeding position that will keep your hands free for snacking and other activities.
8. Learn the Football Hold.
Most new mothers breastfeed in the position that seems most natural and intuitive. This is also the position that is most often seen on TV and in magazines. This position requires you to hold the baby across your abdomen and chest, but there are many other positions that allow your baby to latch naturally while keeping you more comfortable.
The football hold allows you to place the baby under your armpit with his or her body pointing out behind you. Use pillows to hold your baby securely, and you will have two free arms and a direct line of vision to your baby’s face. This even works when you’re breastfeeding twins.
9. Store Frozen Breast Milk Flat or Use an Organizer.
Have you seen those pictures of freezer stashes with bags of breast milk standing in a line? It may look cute, but standing those bags up will allow your stash to overtake your freezer quickly. Fix this problem by investing about $10 in a freezer organizer or make your own by placing each bag of milk flat in an empty baby wipe container. The organizer is more convenient because you can see the label on each bag without removing them from the container.
10. Don’t Leave the House Without Layering with a Nursing Tank Top.
You probably already know that there are innovative covers that make breastfeeding in public easier, but layering is the key to complete comfort in all settings. Look for lightweight, stretchy nursing tanks that are built like nursing bras on top. They’re often more comfortable than bras and provide excellent protection when breastfeeding. You simply fold down a top flap, keeping everything but your nipple covered at all times.
11. Allow your Significant Other to do the Burping and Diaper Change.
One big problem for breastfeeding parents is the disconnect that is felt by the person who doesn’t get to breastfeed. Many couples think that this is just something that they have to accept, but don’t let your hubby off the hook so easy. Allowing him to burp the baby and change the diaper turns breastfeeding into a family affair. He will get to bond with your baby while feeling a part of the process, and you will have a few minutes to rest after breastfeeding.
12. Don’t Assume that the Flange on your Breast Pump is the Right Fit for Your Breasts.
This is often a problem for women with large breasts. Many new mothers assume that the flanges on a breast pump are what she has to deal with even if it doesn’t fit properly or it leaves her nipples sore. In reality, you can choose a breast shield size that works for your body. You’ll feel more comfortable, and your baby will benefit from more breast milk and a happier mama. Medela and many other breast pump manufacturers sell custom fit flanges or extended sizes, so you don’t have to settle for whatever comes with your pump.
13. Drink your Pineapple Juice.
It’s believed that drinking pineapple juice helps unclog ducts and relieve engorgement naturally. There is no scientific evidence that this works, but it’s one of those breastfeeding hacks that just might come in handy when you’re ready to try anything.
14. Use Cabbage Leaves (in moderation) to Keep Your Nipples Healthy and Free of Pain.
Cabbage has a natural anti-inflammatory property that can help eliminate tenderness and soreness in the nipples. Cabbage is also believed to help prevent and cure engorgement as well as mastitis, which is a condition that involves hardness, redness and pain in your breasts. Mastitis may also leave you with a fever and feeling under the weather, and you may need to see a doctor if you don’t act fast enough and an infection sets in.
There are two ways to use cabbage leaves. You can tuck dry, fresh leaves into your bra or the cups of your nursing tank and let them sit until they wilt. The second option is to get them wet with warm water and use them as compresses.
Either way, don’t apply cabbage more than once a day and only use as needed. For some women, this can decrease milk supply slightly. This is why it works so well on hard, engorged breasts.
15. Get Steamy!
Put some steam in your shower. It’s common for new mothers to skip the shower in favor of sleep, but you want to make steamy showers a daily routine if at all possible. The hot water and steam will help keep the ducts in your breasts open and free of obstruction. This goes a long way to prevent pain and may help you prevent mastitis. If you do start to suspect mastitis coming on, relaxing in a hot tub with lots of steam is a good idea.
16. Use Treats To Improve Your Milk Supply
Keep your milk supply strong by treating yourself to lactation cookies and smoothies. Just type “lactation cookies smoothies” into Pinterest to find tons of recipes. These delicious treats are nutritious for your body and include ingredients believed to encourage the production of breast milk. There’s nothing in them that would hurt someone who isn’t nursing, so don’t panic if your hubby wants to nibble with you.
17. Ibuprofen trumps Tylenol for Painfully Engorged Breasts.
Engorgement is often considered a problem of too much milk, but in most cases, inflammation is equally to blame. This is especially true if you experience hard, swollen breasts early in the breastfeeding process. Your breasts are adjusting to the process of creating and delivering milk, and inflammation can set in.
While Tylenol is considered the best over-the-counter pain medication for many concerns, reach for the Ibuprofen instead. It will help relieve the inflammation, making it easier for you to pump out some of the milk for relief. You can take up to 600 mg of Ibuprofen products every six hours until you feel better.
18. Ice Works Better than Heat for Severely Engorged Breasts.
Back off the steamy showers and start applying ice packs to your breasts if you experience severe engorgement. The heat will make it worse, but something cold will help ease inflammation. You want to soften the breasts so that it’s easier to get the excess milk out.
If this happens routinely, you may want to breastfeed more often or start pumping for relief between feedings. Pumping until your breasts are empty will tell your body to produce more milk, which only complicates your problem if your body is already overproducing. Pump or hand express just enough milk to prevent engorgement, and then encourage your baby to breastfeed if possible.
19. Take Black Elderberry to Keep Your Immune System and Milk Supply Strong.
It’s important to keep yourself as healthy as possible when nursing a newborn because any bug or virus that you pick up is easily transferred to your baby due to close contact. Many women supplement with vitamin C, but it can potentially interfere with milk supply.
Black elderberry is a safer supplement that boosts the immune system without that interference. Taking 400 mg daily during cold and flu season will help, but you may want to take it any time of year if you feel mastitis coming on or worry about cracked, dry nipples becoming infected.
Always check with your doctor before taking any new supplement if you take prescription medications or have a diagnosed medical condition. In most cases, this is a safe supplement for healthy mothers.
20. Practice the “Koala Hold” if You’re Traveling on Airplane.
This is a special breastfeeding position that places the baby facing you on your lap in an upright position. The baby straddles your leg while sitting straight up and then leans forward to rest on your chest and breastfeed straight on.
You may not use this position often at home, but it works best while on an airplane. It’s best suited to babies who are big enough to hold the position, but smaller babies can be placed in this position and held there. Airplane seats are narrow, so side holds aren’t as comfortable if they’re even possible.
21. Travel Smart!
Hospitals, airports, and other locations often have private areas for breastfeeding. This is a hack that takes a few moments of your time, but it’s invaluable when traveling. Call ahead or check the location’s website to see if there is an area set aside for breastfeeding mothers and where those areas are located. If nothing else, figure out where the bathrooms or other private areas are so that you know exactly where to go if you don’t want to breastfeed in public. Knowing where to go often relieves anxiety for new moms.
22. Take a High-quality Probiotic Daily.
Probiotics place healthy microorganisms into your gut, naturally boosting your immune system and keeping your body health and strong overall. A lot of amazing research is now showing the importance of maintaining a balanced gut microbiome, and it becomes even more important when you’re breastfeeding a little one. This is one supplement that can keep you healthy while possibly enhancing the quality of your milk and arming your baby’s immune system in the process.
23. Turn Pacifiers into Breast Milk Popsicles that are Good for You and the Baby.
Buy pacifiers that have caps so that you can turn them into breast milk popsicles that your baby will love. Remove the cap and fill it with breast milk, and then reinsert the pacifier. Place it in the freezer, and then offer it to your baby as a teething chew toy that is nourishing. You can even rub these popsicles on your nipples if they get sore, swollen or red. Breast milk is the natural way to keep those nipples moisturized and free of pain.
24. Stop Accidental Weaning
Protect your nursing time during holidays, vacations and other busy periods! Have you heard of accidental weaning? This often happens when babies are given fewer chances to breastfeed due to lifestyle circumstances. The mother is unusually busy, family and friends are waiting in line to spend time with the baby, and there are so many distractions that aren’t normally surrounding mom and baby.
The natural result is less focus on breastfeeding, which means feeding less often, which in turn means the baby may start to wean unintentionally. This is especially likely if you’re pumping and feeding with a bottle more often than usual.
What’s the hack here? It’s simply to protect your pumping schedule no matter what is going on around you. Even if you’re on vacation or you have a home full of guests for the holidays, you still need to breastfeed 10-12 times a day or according to your normal schedule. You can pump some of the time, allowing loved ones to help feed the baby. You just don’t want to do this too often because your run the risk of the baby starting to prefer the bottle to your breast.
25. Get a Free Breast Pump!
The Affordable Care Act has opened the door to more women receiving insurance-covered breast pumps, but you might not get the pump of your choice if you go this way. You definitely want to check to see what is offered for your insurance plan, but keep in mind that you may want a higher quality model than what is covered. (Learn more….)
While some of these breastfeeding hacks rely on baby products that come with a cost, they’re most inexpensive tools that make feeding your baby easier, less time consuming, or less painful. Even just one or two of these products will equip you for more efficient breastfeeding.
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