6 Top breastfeeding tips for New Moms
I had it all mapped out. The very first time that I breastfeed was going to be perfect! When I brought him near, a light would shine down from the heavens like the one in The Lion King, and we would lovingly gaze into each other’s’ eyes and live happily ever after…
But when the ACTUAL moment arrived…nothing! No magical, magnetic mouth-to-nipple connection, no heavenly lights, no motherly instincts, no latch, NOTHING!!
What was supposed to happen at this point anyway?
After many attempts to haphazardly connect him to my breast, I felt a slight panic when a mild, burning sensation gradually began to tingle on the tips of my nipples. Trying to remain calm, I quickly brushed the fear out of my mind as the thought of ‘cracked nipples’ crept in. I was determined to make this work. All that I could hope for was that the next feed would be better.
As the 3-hourly cycle continued, the mild burning slowly developed into a red-hot, searing pain. The mere thought of interacting with the craters that now replaced my nipples made my teeth grind. By the end of the week, I was about ripe ready to give up, give in and grab the bottle of formula.
Was I misinformed here? Was breastfeeding NOT supposed to be a natural occurrence?
What followed was three crazy months of painfully cracked nipples, breast engorgement, google searches, late-night telephone calls with lactation consultants and lengthy chats with anyone who breastfed, albeit 40 plus years ago.
The combination of fatigue, hormones, pain, insecurities and downright frustration brought on some mixed reviews in response to the advice. I was determined to get it right. Based on all the information that I have gathered on my journey thus far, I have compiled my own personal top 6 breast feeding tips for new mothers.
1. Skin to Skin
Also known as Kangaroo Mother Care, placing babies naked chest to yours has a whole host of amazing benefits that can persist well into your child’s 20’s. The sooner you start, the better. Studies show that immediate skin to skin after birth lowers the levels of Cortisol (the stress hormone) and releases large amounts of Oxytocin (the love hormone) into the system.
This can be very handy for conquering that first important latch, for boosting mom’s confidence and for building that special bond.
You can perform skin to skin contact for as long you want, without worries of this ‘spoiling your baby’ as the old wives’ would like to say. In fact, having mom as close as possible makes baby more calmer and less likely to cry out.
I’d say those benefits outweigh the ‘’risk’’ any day.
2. Assume the Position
There are a few staple breast-feeding positions one can adopt, but we won’t get into that now. The bottom line is that everyone is different, so it helps to experiment with each of these positions, to see which one suits you and your baby.
When trying these postures remember, SUPPORT! SUPPORT! SUPPORT! Support your baby, support your breast and support yourself.
Naturally we will make every effort to pander to our baby’s every need. We never really think about it, but to be able to give baby the best care, we need to pay attention to our needs as well.
Start by finding a comfortable, supportive chair with additional pillow support so that both you and baby are relaxed. You are going to be doing A LOT of feeding, so to prevent any neck or back pain, it would be wise to avoid sitting on the edge of the bed.
Before engaging in any nipple to mouth contact, I find it extremely vital to take a moment to calm your mind. Try listening to relaxing music or taking a deep breathe before proceeding.
Once calm you and baby are more likely to get a better latch.
3. Game, Set, Latch
Once calm, it’s important to get a good latch. Not every mom and baby combo get this right immediately, I should know, I was one of them. Speaking from experience, it can be very helpful to watch a few videos to see what a good latch looks like.
Position baby’s nose towards your breast. At this point, baby should tilt his head backwards to open his mouth. His tongue and bottom lip should touch the base of your areolar, his top lip should naturally follow.
If you still find that baby is struggling to latch, then ask a Doctor, Nurse, mid-wife or lactation consultant to check if baby may have a tongue tie. A tongue tie is a condition in which tight bands of tissue affect the tongue range of movement. If that is the case, then DON’T FRET! This can be treated.
4. Responding to baby’s feeding cues
Unlike us adults, babies are unable to verbalise when they are hungry, so they dependant on us to pick up on their ‘’sign language’’ a.k.a feeding cues. There are normally 3 stages. The early stage is when baby starts to stir, turning his head to ‘’look’’ for mommy’s breast. This usually means ‘’I’m hungry’’.
As the hunger starts to settle in, so begins stage 2. Baby becomes restless and constantly brings his hand to his mouth to say, ‘’HURRY UP!! I’m starving out here!”
In the last phase, baby gets really, really hangry (hungry + angry, get it?). Movements become more agitated and baby becomes inconsolable. Breast feeding can become a little challenging, so best to start with cuddling or skin to skin to calm him down. Once a little calmer, feeding will be easier.
5. Don’t stress about the supply and demand
In the first 3 days of breastfeeding, baby feeds on nutrient rich Colostrum until your milk comes in 3 days later.
For some women, like me, this may even happen up to 6 days later. At this point it’s easy to stress and wonder if baby is getting enough milk. However, before you reach out for the ‘’top up feed’’ it’s important to know that:
- Expressing does not give you a true reflexion of how much milk you have
- New-borns are always hungry – their milk gets digested quickly which means regular feeds.
- Baby’s stomach is about the size of an apricot (45-60ml) after 1 week and about the size of an egg (80-150ml) after a month.
- The more you breastfeed, the more milk you produce…and you will be doing A LOT of breastfeeding, so get accustomed to the idea from the get go.
6. Join Breastfeeding support groups
Whether you have no experience or whether you are seasoned and eager to share your knowledge, having a community of breastfeeding women is a perfect place to find some much-needed reassurance. Should you find yourself overwhelmed in the early hours of the morning, chances are, there may be other mothers awake and willing to offer some consolation.
Not everybody has a bad first-time experience, but for some first-time moms, breast feeding can be quite an overwhelming (and sometimes painful) experience. Know that there are qualified health professionals out there, like Physiotherapists and Lactation Consultants, to guide you through this journey. And most importantly, whatever the situation, remember that remaining calm is half the battle won.
Got any other useful tips that helped you? Comment below