It is not difficult to learn how to breastfeed for most women. A woman’s body was created to breastfeed her baby. Breastfeeding is so natural, that we’ve been doing it for millions of years. (Think about it…without it, the humans would not have survived.)
However, for some women, the first few days or weeks of breastfeeding can be quite challenging. Here are some breastfeeding tips to establish a good breastfeeding supply right from the beginning. You will be successful and enjoy the experience if you prepare for breastfeeding, have the proper support and you and your baby get a little practice.
Pre-Birth Checklist – How to Prepare While Pregnant
1. Learn what to expect, and act on that information now.
Spend your pregnancy looking for resources online as well as in your local community. If your health insurance offers educational classes or even brochures, take advantage of that information. Read blogs and reputable websites that tell you what to expect. Connect with other moms through online forums. The more you read, the better you will know what to expect.
Self-education will also make it easier to buy the best breast pump, nipple shields, and other breastfeeding accessories. Whether you intend to rent a breast pump through your insurance or buy one out of your own pocket, it’s best to do this while you have the time to research and make a good selection. You don’t want to wait at home with the baby while you send a clueless dad out on a breast pump mission later on.
You can also use information that you find now to set your home up for successful breastfeeding sessions when you bring your bundle of joy home. Learn and act now.
2. Take a breastfeeding class.
This is the fastest way to learn what to expect from breastfeeding while meeting other expectant mothers going through the same experience. Bring your partner, and prepare to take notes and practice skills at home. If you’re doing your research, create a list of questions that you may want to ask during the class. This is your chance to get information from a professional who understands your anxiety and your excitement.
3. Build your support group.
Seek out other breastfeeding mothers in real life and/or online. They are vaults of valuable information and will eventually serve as your support system. They know what a woman goes through in all phases of breastfeeding, so they won’t bat an eye when you start talking about the color of your breast milk or the pain of engorgement later on.
When Baby is Here: How to Breastfeed by Getting a Good Latch
Breastfeeding comes naturally to some, while others have to work at it in the first hours or days after birth. Either way, it helps to know the basic technique for getting the baby to latch to your nipple properly. The stronger the latch, the more satisfying the feeding session will be for you both. All mothers will discover feeding positions they find the most comfortable, but the following steps can be followed in the beginning.
Here are step-by-step instructions on how to breastfeed and get a proper latch:
1. Find a comfortable position where the baby is facing directly into your breast. You can start with propping the baby up on a regular or breastfeeding pillow, with their body going out underneath your arm. Wrap a hand behind the baby’s head so you can easily move them towards and away from your body. You can experiment with other positions once the baby becomes a latching pro.
(For a discussion of favorite breastfeeding holds, click here.)
2. Move the baby toward you, close enough to reach their mouth with your nipple.
3. Use your nipple to encourage the baby to open their mouth wide. The mouth needs to be open as wide as possible to fully latch on. The easiest way to get them to open is to hold your nipple between your thumb and forefinger, and then touch it to the baby’s lips gently. Running it over the baby’s mouth a couple times should convince them to open, but a sleepy baby may take a bit longer.
4. The moment you see the baby’s mouth open wide, move them toward the nipple, so it goes into their mouth. Never lean over the baby or push your breast into their mouth. It should always be the baby moving toward and over the nipple.
5. The baby’s mouth should close over the nipple, and they should start to feed. For some babies, this will be all you need to do for a proper feeding. For others, you may need to break the latch and start over until it is done properly. You do not want to encourage improper latching habits, as it can hurt you breast and affect the nourishment of the baby.
Just remember, to latch your baby on to your breast properly, his mouth will need to be as wide open as possible as he comes onto the breast. His tongue, bottom lip and chin should touch your breast first, and you should aim his bottom lip as far as you can from the base of your nipple. This will help him to get a good mouthful of breast tissue when he starts to feed.
If you feel any pain, the baby seems to have trouble getting milk, or the lips are not fully opened around the nipple, the latch is not proper and should be started over.
Post-Birth Checklist – What to Do Now if You Need More Help Learning How to Breastfeed
1. Work with a midwife, lactation consultant, or other professionals at the hospital.
Depending on your insurance and the medical facility where you give birth, you may have access to lactation consultants, experienced nurses, or a midwife right after you give birth. Make the most of your time with these professionals because their job is to ensure that you and your baby get off to a great start with breastfeeding. From helping you explore the best breastfeeding positions to answering those questions that you didn’t know to ask before your baby was born, these professionals are there to help.
2. Contact a lactation consultant for help at home.
Some women feel disconnected once they return home because they don’t have nurses poking their heads in to see how they’re doing or lactation consultants on call. If you do feel uneasy about breastfeeding or experience any problems, don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant for at-home or local help. Start by talking to your doctor because they should know how you can find professional resources in your local area and/or provided by your insurance company.
You don’t have to feel like you’re on a deserted island all alone with a screaming baby and sore nipples that seem to be screaming just as loud. Reach out to the support group of women that you created before the birth of your baby, talk openly with your doctor, and make the most of all resources available in your local area.
If you are still pregnant, there are some ways to prepare for breastfeeding to give yourself the confidence to know that when you finally meet your new little sweetie, you will be able to breastfeed with ease. Here are some articles to help.
- Prepare for Breastfeeding
- Tips on Getting the Best Start
- Breastfeeding Myths and the Truth Behind Them
- How to Know if Your Baby is Getting Enough
- Learn the Many Benefits of Breastfeeding