For many mothers, breastfeeding is a natural process, but for some, latching, positioning, feeding may not always come naturally. Breastfeeding can make new mothers anxious and overwhelmed. This article provides 21 breastfeeding tips for first-time mothers.
Most new mothers want to breastfeed their baby as long as they can. They know the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. However, studies show the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months is only around 55%.
This shows that only around half of all mothers meet the goal of exclusive breastfeeding, even though they plan to. This is because most of the new mothers face some breastfeeding problems and give up breastfeeding soon.
A majority of new mothers complain about various breastfeeding problems within a week after giving birth. However, most of these issues are not REAL issues. Here comes the importance of breastfeeding information for new mothers.
What Makes Breast Feeding Challenging For New Mothers?
Many breastfeeding problems get in the way of nursing and make breastfeeding challenging for new mothers. Most of these issues are temporary and can be solved by following some tips and tricks. However, many new mothers find it hard to deal with and give up breastfeeding soon.
Nearly half of the new mothers face latching issues. Inability to get the baby properly latched on to the breast is the most common issue among new mothers. Breastfeeding pain is the second common issue most new mothers face during the lactating phase.
Improper latching is the leading cause of pain during breastfeeding. Sore and cracked nipples can make breastfeeding very painful and uncomfortable. This is another cause many mothers tend to discontinue breastfeeding earlier.
Improper size and shape of the nipples is another common issue. But in fact, babies can have milk from breasts of all sizes and shapes and also from all forms of nipples. That is how nature works.
Breast engorgement and plugged ducts are other factors that pose a challenge for new breastfeeding mothers. Even though painful, this can be easily solved by applying a warm compress.
New mothers thinking they are not producing enough milk to meet the baby’s requirement is another reason they give up breastfeeding fast. However, a true case of low milk supply is very rare.
As you see, many early breastfeeding difficulties are simple to deal with. Time and practice will solve the majority of these issues. All you need is little patience and an urge not to give up. A lactation consultant can easily help you to learn the proper latching method.
Things To Remember While Breastfeeding Baby The First Day
First, breastfeeding after birth can be quite challenging for new mothers. However, if there is no medical condition that requires keeping the baby to be away from you for a while, it is important to breastfeed for the first time within the first hour after your baby is born.
First, one hour is an excellent time window to breastfeed because the baby will be fully awake and alert during this time. After this, most of the newborns tend to fall deep asleep for another couple of hours. This will delay your first feeding.
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Skin to skin contact is very important on the first day. Keep the baby always close to you. This is an excellent way to help the baby to get adjusted faster to their new environment outside the womb. This also helps the baby to find the way to the breast naturally.
Never expect the baby to latch perfectly at the first attempt itself. Just like you, they’re also into learning a new skill. It may take several attempts before both of you end up with a successful latch.
A reclined or laid back breastfeeding position will be perfect to start your first breastfeeding. Feel free to ask the help of elders and nurses to get into a good position and latch during the first day of breastfeeding.
The duration and frequency of feeding depends on several factors like the pace of milk flow, how well the baby is latched, if the baby is in his “active window,” etc. Moreover, keep in mind that the milk supply might take two to five days to come in.
21 Breastfeeding Tips For First Time Mothers
Here are 21 breastfeeding tips for first-time mothers that help to ease their worries and doubts about breastfeeding.
1. Stay well hydrated
Nursing mothers must stay well hydrated and increase their fluid intake. This is because breast milk is 90% water, and while breastfeeding, the body is losing a significant amount of fluids. It is important to restore this fluid. Or else there will be an inevitable consequence- dehydration.
A low degree of dehydration may not cause any significant health issues, but it could adversely affect the mood of the mother. It could also bring about headaches and tiredness. None of these favors a happy breastfeeding session.
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A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water just before or after every single time you breastfeed. This will ensure you are restoring the fluid lost during breastfeeding.
2. Get in a comfortable breastfeeding position
Getting into a comfortable position is very important when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding session normally extends to 20 to 30 minutes (this may vary with feedings though). Choosing an uncomfortable or wrong position for a prolonged period can bring about a neck, shoulder, or back pain.
Two feeding positions comfortable and easy for new mothers are reclining position and holding the baby in arms, and lying on the side facing the baby. You can use plenty of pillows to support your back and arms.
You don’t have to stick to the same position. What is important is making the breastfeeding session comfortable and enjoyable for both you and your baby.
3. Let the baby determine the frequency of feeding
New mothers might get into breastfeeding with a perception of its duration and frequency that they get from a nurse, the internet, or other sources, but this perception is not always accurate.
Let your baby decide how often and how much to nurse. However, keep in mind that during the first month, the newborn babies should breastfeed 8–12 times per day. Also, the baby should breastfeed every 2 to 3 hours. Just make sure the frequency is not too low or duration is too high than this parameter.
However, no need to wake up the sleeping baby just because he crossed the three hours benchmark. Likewise, dont deny the needy baby breast milk just because the predetermined interval is not over. Likewise, let the baby decide the duration of nursing. No need to panic if nursing time only lasts ten minutes or if it stretches for forty-five minutes.
Related Reading: 6 Benefits And 5 Concerns Of Comfort Feeding
4. Help the baby to get a good position and deep latch
A deep latch not only helps to reduce the pain associated with breastfeeding but also helps the baby to feed easily and effectively. Eventually, the baby will find a position that suits him. However, you can help the baby to find it quickly.
For deep and proper latching, position the baby in a way that the baby’s stomach touches the mother’s stomach. This ensures the baby does not have to turn his head to latch. Also, make sure the baby latches onto the entire areola, not just the nipple. A latching specialist can help new mothers to find a good latching position.
5. Take care of nipples
Nipple care is very important for a nursing mother. Regular breastfeeding can adversely affect the skin of the nipple, making it chapped, cracked, and even end up in bleeding in due course. As you know sore nipples will make breastfeeding an excruciating experience.
Some measures will help to protect the skin of the nipple. Never use soap on your nipples during the bath. This will make the nipples dry. Never rub the nipples. Just gently dab them with a soft and moist cloth.
Fresh breast milk is excellent for the skin of the nipples. So make it a practice to massage a few drops of breast milk into the nipples before and after nursing.
Even if you get sore nipples in spite of all the precautions, which is not rare, don’t worry. There are nipple care products like nipple cream, nipple shields, hydrogel pads, etc., which help to relieve the pain and irritation of sore nipples. We also have home remedies for cracked and sore nipples that can be helpful.
6. Learn to manage/prevent a few possible potentials associated with breastfeeding
There are many breastfeeding problems commonly found in first-time mothers. It is important to detect these issues at the right time and intimate it to your caregiver. It is also important to learn how to manage these issues.
It is important to empty the breasts completely during the feeding. Or else it could bring about plugged ducts that appear as painful lumps. You can gently massage the area and softly squeeze these lumps to unplug it.
Engorgement is another issue that many first-time mothers contracts, especially when they produce more milk than the baby consumes. Emptying the breast through pumping or feeding is the way to prevent this painful condition.
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Mastitis, a breast infection caused due to severe plugged ducts and breast engorgement, is another issue many new mothers face during breastfeeding. Fever and chill will be accompanied by redness, swelling, and pain in one or both breasts. This condition necessitates medical attention.
7. Don’t get worried about low milk supply
The top one common worry of the majority of first-time mothers is they think have a poor milk supply. However, in fact, true low milk supply, which cannot be resolved, very rarely happens.
Usually, most of the mothers produce one-third of surplus milk than what the baby needs. In case there is a decrease in breast milk production due to some underlying conditions, there are several means to boost breast milk production.
8. Look for signs of a well-fed baby
Instead of doubting whether the baby is getting enough milk or not, look for the signs your baby is well fed. If the baby sucks eagerly and regularly swallows with gulping sounds now and then, your baby is getting enough milk.
If the baby appears content and happy after every feed and releases the breast himself, he is getting enough milk. If the baby is gaining weight at a normal pace and peeing and pooping normally there is no need to worry about his feeding.
9. Never introduce bottle or pacifier before breastfeeding is well established
If you introduce a bottle or pacifier before the breastfeeding has become well established, there is an increased chance the baby experiences nipple confusion. The shape of the nipples of pacifier and bottles are different from breast nipples.
Likewise, the flow of milk from the bottle nipple is very much different than from a breast. When the baby gets more milk without much effort from the bottle, there is an increased chance the baby refuses the breast altogether.
10. Patience matters
When it comes to breastfeeding, first-time mothers should practice patience. It is a skill both mother and child learn together. Both mom and baby must come on the same page for a successful breastfeeding session. Like everything new, it takes time and patience.
Never expect you will be able to breastfeed your baby well from the first day itself. The breast milk itself takes a while to come in. Usually, it will take up to three to four days. Again some hurdle may show up until you and your baby are able to enjoy the breastfeeding session in its full swing.
11. Seek help whenever needed
No matter how many breastfeeding classes you attended, how many books on breastfeeding you finished reading, real breastfeeding can be a totally new story for first-time mothers.
Therefore, no need to hesitate or be embarrassed to seek help and support from your mother, nurse, or even a lactation consultant whenever issues arise in your breastfeeding journey. Lactation consultants are accessible at birthing centers and hospitals. Many of them even attend house calls.
12. Choose a calm environment to breastfeed the baby
This is very important as a noisy and uncomfortable environment will not favor breastfeeding. Both mother and child should be calm and relaxed during breastfeeding, or else it will adversely affect breastfeeding.
In the beginning, first-time mothers should try to breastfeed in the comfort zone, preferably in their own room. No visitors should be allowed during the initial weeks of breastfeeding.
13. Figure out the hunger cues of baby
Even though a bit tricky for first-time mothers, it is important to watch and respond to the hunger cues of the baby. Crying is not the first sign the baby is hungry. On the other hand, it’s a sign of distress.
It is not easy to handle and latch once the baby is already too hungry, upset, and starts crying. Therefore, feed the baby as soon as you sense the hunger cues. Fist moving to mouth is a classic hunger cue of a baby.
Drooling more, rooting reflex, smacking lips, turning head in search of the breast, sucking fingers, clothing, etc., are other signs the baby is hungry.
14. Eat well- pay attention to your diet when breastfeeding
Just like when you are pregnant, it’s important to eat well when you are breastfeeding. The diet should be calcium-rich. Include lots of fruits and vegetables in your daily menu.
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Include healthy fats like omega-three, and you can continue taking prenatal vitamins as well until the exclusive breastfeeding period.
15. Drain one breast fully
Always make sure the breast you feed the baby with is well-drained. This will not only reduce the risk of breast engorgement or blocked ducts, but it also makes sure the baby is getting hindmilk, which is rich in fat and calories.
If the baby drains one breast and refuses to drink from the other, that is because the baby is full. In that case, start with the other breast at the next feeding.
16. Switch sides
It is always important to switch sides while breastfeeding. However, if the baby is latching well and drains the breast he is being fed on, no need to switch the breast. On the other hand, if the baby is not latching well, he is sleepy, and your breast milk supply is slow, switching the breast during feeding will be beneficial.
17. Healthy lifestyle
It is important to follow a healthy lifestyle during breastfeeding. Smoking and drinking alcohol will adversely affect breastfeeding.
18. Use a well-fitting nursing bra
A nursing bra is a must-buy item when it comes to breastfeeding. The cups of the nursing bra can be unclipped from the strap so that the mother doesn’t have to take off the whole bra every time she breastfeeds.
Go for a well-fitted good quality bra. Avoid sports bra and underwired bra. Anything tight on your breasts will increase the risk of blocked ducts and breast engorgement.
19. Be cautious with medication
When you are breastfeeding, you should be watchful about the medicines you take. If you contract some health issues and require medication, you should tell your doctor you are breastfeeding. Many medicines can get into breast milk, and when the baby has that milk, they might bring about several health issues.
20. Avoid stressing out
Breastfeeding should be done in a relaxing mood. It is important to make breastfeeding enjoyable and successful for both mother and child. Therefore, avoid the thoughts that stress you out during breastfeeding. Remember, the baby can also sense the mother’s stress, and it will affect him as well.
21. Stock some breastfeeding essentials
There are many breastfeeding essentials available in the market that help to manage many breastfeeding challenges and thereby makes breastfeeding easier for first-time mothers. Here are some of the top first-time mom breastfeeding essentials.
Nursing pillow that supports the baby on the lap helps with positioning the baby so that he can reach your nipple more comfortably. A good nursing pillow helps to relieve stress on the neck, shoulders and back of the mother.
Related Reading: 6 Things You Will Need For Breastfeeding
Nursing covers help new mothers who are self-conscious to breastfeed the baby in public places. Nursing pads help to soak up the milk that leaks from the leaky breasts and avoid embarrassing moments. Nipple creams to soothe the sore nipples are also an essential.
Breast pump that helps to relieve the engorged breasts and also to stash milk for feeding the baby later. Breast compresses that help to soothe the pain of plugged ducts or mastitis.
Let’s wrap it up
Breastfeeding can be overwhelming at times for first-time mothers. However, putting the tips above into practice will help to make breastfeeding a marvelous experience.
All you have to do is stay well hydrated, pay close attention to your little one’s needs, make yourself comfortable and relaxed. Moreover, never hesitate to seek help whenever needed.