Inside: Feeling overwhelmed? Stressed? Reeling from information and hormone overload? I’ve been there, too. No worries, new mama. You’ve got this. Here’s my best breastfeeding help for new moms. All you need is a little encouragement. You’re not alone in this. Let’s do it!
Breastfeeding is one of those things I never thought I’d care so much about. When I was pregnant with my firstborn, the thought crossed my mind that I’d like to breastfeed my children.
But the moment I realized how incredible breastfeeding was? That’s the moment I realized that my last baby was completely weaned. The moment I realized it was worth it.
I nursed both my babies for over a year. With my son, my firstborn, we nursed exclusively up until eight months when I went back to work as a teacher.
From eight months until about 13 months, I nursed in the morning and at night, and supplemented with pumped milk and formula during the day.
With my baby girl? I was able to breastfeed her exclusively up until about 15 months old.
Listen, mama. I’ve been through it all. Mastitis, latching trouble, pain, and bleeding.
And did I mention the social consequences? I’ve missed parties, conversations, and sleep.
But there’s one thing I want to tell you.
It was worth it.
In spite of all the inconveniences and discomfort, I wouldn’t trade that time with my babies for anything!
So as you’re just starting out on your own breastfeeding journey, I want to encourage you with some truths. You can successfully nurse your baby!
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Tip #1: Remember that You are Capable
Yes. You! Isn’t it the craziest thing in the world that God gave you this tiny little human, and created him to be entirely dependent on YOU? He must have a lot of faith in us, because most first time moms (myself included) feel anything but dependable.
Crawl into bed and sleep for weeks? Yes, please. Care and provide for a helpless newborn 24/7 directly after undergoing a major medical experience? Yikes.
But the wonderful thing about this is that God did equip you for the job. As impossible as it seems right now, you are the perfect person to nourish your little one. If you don’t hear anything else I’m saying, hear this. You. Can. Do. This.
Tip #2: Understand the Internet is Your Frenemy
There are some really informative and empowering resources out there for breastfeeding moms. When I had a question about breastfeeding I was able to search and find answers quickly. KellyMom.com was a lifesaver!
However, a word of caution. Don’t go down that rabbit hole of over-researching and over-analyzing.
Here’s a quick tip to cut that habit down to size.
Don’t keep your phone by your bed. Plug it in on your partner’s side, keep it in the kitchen overnight, wherever. Just remove the temptation to “do a little research” while you nurse your baby. Especially in the middle of the night when you’re the only one awake.
If it’s that important, you can research it later. My personal rule was, “Only make decisions when the sun is shining.” It worked like a charm to stave of those sleep-deprivation-induced over-reactions of new mama-hood.
If you’re a book-worm, order this amazing book called The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. It gives you all the facts and tips you need without the risk of distraction that the internet brings!
Plus, I’m just in love with the title. Breastfeeding really is an art! And as with any good artist, you just need a little practice and a smidgen of confidence.
Common Breastfeeding Questions
To ease some of those worries and help you avoid the late-night research rabbit hole, here are a few of the most basic tips you need to know about breastfeeding your newborn.
How long should a newborn nurse on each breast?
Breastfeeding is an art, and both baby and mom have a steep learning curve at the beginning! Newborns may take around 20 minutes on each side. But as they grow, this time can shorten to around 5-10 minutes per side.
What does letdown feel like when nursing?
Letdown can feel differently for each mom, but some women feel a tingling as the nerves send signals milk ducts to release milk. Letdown usually occurs after your baby has been nursing for one or two minutes.
Pro tip: Did you know that your opposite breast will sometimes letdown as your baby nurses on the other side? Place a burp cloth or nursing pad over the opposite side to avoid leaks and messes!
How do I get my baby to have a deeper latch?
- Using your hand, make a “sandwich” with your breast. It sounds crazy, but this helps your baby manage the breast more easily.
- Bring your baby to the breast, not your breast to the baby.
- Rest the nipple on your baby’s upper lip. Sometimes it helps to tickle the lip to wake your baby up.
- Wait for your baby to open very wide, don’t try to latch with a half-way open mouth.
- The lower jar and lip should touch your breast first.
- Then tilt the baby’s head forward to latch the upper lip above your nipple. Think of “scooping” the nipple.
What foods help produce breastmilk?
In general, eating whole, non-processed foods and drinking plenty of water will help your breastmilk production. But there are numerous foods to increase breastmilk!
A few of my favorites are:
- sweet potato
Trust me, I know how easy it is to get lost in an endless stream of information about breastfeeding. But for now, enjoy those little moments!
Stare at your baby. Make those mental photographs you’ll cherish years later. Put away that phone.
Related: Real-Life Advantages and Disadvantages of Breastfeeding (and How to Conquer Them!)
Tip #3: Take Care of Yourself
When my little guy was about a week old, I had the crazy notion that I should go out to the movies with my husband and friends for a little “mommy break.”
“I’ll be fine.” I said. “No need to bring my pump!” I declared. Two things happened: 1. I fell asleep 15 minutes into the movie. 2. I got so uncomfortable from not nursing for five hours that I developed a nasty case of mastitis.
The next day I found myself shivering with a fever and chills. I spent the day crying because of the pain, and waiting for what seemed like eternity in the doctor’s office. Was it worth 15 minutes of a movie of which I don’t even remember the name? Decidedly not.
The moral of this story is that you have to take care of yourselves mamas! No, you won’t be able to go to the movies when your baby is a week old. Listen to your body. If something feels off, get checked out! It’ll put your mind at ease.
Related: Try my favorite breastfeeding essentials to take make breastfeeding easier.
Don’t worry, once you get in the swing of things you’ll be able to get a break and even go out on a date with your husband. You can steal my favorite pumping tools and supplies to pack in your purse to help you make date night happen as a nursing mom.
Get yourself a quality breast pump, and learn to use it so that every once in a while you can get a break. Let someone else feed the baby while you nap or take a bath! You can even get a breast pump for free through your insurance.
Besides medical issues, it’s also essential to take care of your emotional and spiritual self too. Let grandma watch the baby for the evening while you read a book in your bedroom. Close enough for nursing duty, but removed enough to have a stress free moment.
Read a Bible devotional for moms to help you keep things in perspective. Pray. Talk to someone your own age.
Do whatever helps you connect to who you are. Babies are needy little people to be sure, but you know what? More than anything they need a mama who is emotionally and spiritually grounded on the Rock.
Related: Grab this encouraging printable: 25 Bible Verses for your best and worst days!
Tip #4: Set Meaningful Goals
Whenever I talk to a new mama who is just starting on her breastfeeding journey, there’s one thing I stress over and over. Set goals!
I nursed my little boy for over a year. We weaned completely a few weeks after his first birthday. I know, right now it seems like one year might as well be 100 years. But what was my initial goal?
Two weeks was all I could wrap my mind around as a new mom. And trust me, those two weeks seemed to stretch on and on… But then I made it to two weeks, and my new goal was three months. When I made it to three months, everything felt so natural and easy that I just kept going.
Even when I went back to teaching at eight months, I only weaned him during the day and continued to nurse before bed and in the morning before work. It was just the right thing for our family.
Now, your goals might be completely different from mine. And that’s OK! Maybe you just want to make it for two days. What’s important is that you have that goal in the back of your mind, ready to bolster your courage during those disaster days, those growth spurts, and that steep learning curve.
So, what’s your goal? Set it now!
Tip #5: Get Educated About Breast Milk
Breast milk is one of those things that you never think about until you’re a nursing mom. And then suddenly, it becomes the only thing you think about. I call it Liquid Gold.
Have you ever researched the properties and characteristics of breast milk? It’s really one of the most amazing creations ever. Ever!
To me, the very existence of breast milk just screams: There is a Creator God and He cares! Let me give you just a hint of the goodness you’re giving your baby (and yourself!):
- The proteins in breast milk help create an acidic environment, which makes it difficult for harmful bacteria to survive.
- Breast milk contains long-chain fatty acids, which are needed for brain, retina, and nervous system development.
- During nursing, the mother passes antibodies to the child, which helps the child resist diseases and help improve the normal immune response to certain vaccines.
- Breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother (oxytocin) that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly. Plus breastfeeding burns up to 500 calories per day. (translation: back in your non-maternity jeans quicker!)
- Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the likelihood of ear infections and to prevent recurrent ear infections.
- Naturally occurring chemicals called nucleotides that have previously been linked to sleepiness only reach their highest concentrations in human breast milk that is expressed at night. (Yes, you read that right. Breast milk can help your baby fall asleep at night!)
Sources: AmericanPregnancy.org, NRDC.org, newscientist.com
So, mama. Are you ready?
Just promise me one thing: You’ll give yourself a little grace on the way. Your breastfeeding journey is beginning, and I can tell you it’s one of the most difficult and rewarding journeys you’ll ever travel.
Remember, it is worth it.
Chat with me below! What is your personal breastfeeding journey? What is the best piece of breastfeeding advice for new moms you would share?