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Breastfeeding for Beginners
The first time I breastfed I felt like I was supposed to know what I was doing. How in the heck would I know how to do something I had never done before?
You may feel just as clueless when you begin your breastfeeding journey.
Although I had helped countless moms with their first breastfeeding session it was like I forgot everything I knew.
Fortunately, my baby eventually nursed. That first successful feeding was probably more luck than anything else.
After you’ve read all these breastfeeding tips you won’t have to count on luck.
We know how important it is when breastfed babies eat sooner rather than later. Early contact and early initiation of breastfeeding are correlated with moms breastfeeding for longer. (Source 1).(Source 2).
We also know so much more now about how to help babies breastfeed. We know how important those early hours, days and weeks are. Nurses are better educated and lactation consultants are readily available.
There is an abundance of information out there so you can educate yourself.
My goal is to pull the most important parts of all that information together for you to read here.
I’ve been a lactation consultant a few years shy of forever. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. It’s been 25 years. That has provided me with the benefit of seeing the before and after. Before we did things the right way and how much better breastfeeding went after we started doing things the right way.
These are the breastfeeding tips that I have seen make a difference. These are the answers to the most common questions moms ask when they are beginning to breastfeed.
This is the information that will help you get off to a good start.
Over the years I have seen these breastfeeding tips make a huge difference. I want to share with you what I have learned that will help you in those crucial first few weeks.
Breastfeeding is like every other part of parenting, it is always changing. That means the answers to these questions will change after a period of time. If you get off to a good start though, you have a much better chance of reaching your breastfeeding goals.
Breastfeeding Tips for the First Few Days
- Do skin to skin
- Breastfeed early and often.
- Let your baby breastfeed as soon as he is showing that he is interested. You’ll know he is interested when he shows you feeding cues.
When will my milk come in?
Your milk should come in between 48-72 hours after your baby is born.
When your baby is born you will have colostrum.
Colostrum is early milk but it has a special name. Don’t ask me why. I think it having a special name confuses people. It makes moms anxious because they think it’s not “real milk.”
Colostrum is freaking awesome.
- Colostrum is made in really small amounts.
- This is a good thing because your baby’s tummy is really small.
- It is packed with antibodies.
- The micronutrients (carbs, proteins and fats) are in proportions to what is easiest for a brand new baby to digest.
- It has a laxative effect to help pass the meconium.
Within a few days you will start making mature milk. This is when your milk “comes in.” This is a process that can take up to a day or two.
How often should my baby breastfeed?
Often. Like, whenever your baby is showing feeding cues. The more your baby breastfeeds, the faster your milk will come in.
- By the second day your baby needs to eat at least eight times in a 24-hour period.
- Some babies will eat more often and that is fine.
- In the first 6-8 weeks most babies will not gain enough weight if they eat less than 8 times/24 hours.
Should I wake my newborn to feed?
Yes, if you need to. You need to if your baby is eating less than 8 times every 24-hours.
Your baby doesn’t need to eat every 3-hours. But don’t let him go longer than one 4-hour stretch without eating for each 24 hours.
As long as it’s 8 times each 24 hours, it’s all good.
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How long should a breastfeeding session last?
As long as it needs to for your baby to get what she needs. This will vary from baby to baby.
Watch her cues. If she breastfeeds for ten minutes on one side, then looks milk drunk and falls asleep she has probably had enough. If she comes off and is still showing feeding cues, give her the second side.
Let her finish on the first side before offering the second side. She does not have to spend the same number of minutes on both sides.
Signs that she’s finished:
- She comes off the breast
- You are not hearing swallowing anymore.
Count diapers in the early days. Look for 6-8 wet diapers and 4-5 stools in moderate quantity.
Lots of swallowing and lots of diapers are encouraging signs that your baby is feeding for “long enough.”
The bottom line is weight gain.
Positions for breastfeeding
There are the four most common positions.
How to get a deep latch
- His tummy is turned in to you.
- Tummy to tummy for cradle, cross-cradle, and side-lying,
- His tummy to your side for football.
- Position your baby’s nose across from your nipple
- Touch his upper lip. Just touch it. You don’t need to move it back and forth. That can make it a moving target for your baby.
- Touch it and wait for him to open wide.
- Then pull him in quick and close.
- His lips should be flanged out.
- His chin should be pressed into your breast.
- His nose should not be touching your breast.
Breastfeeding Pain Relief
The two most common things that cause pain in the first couple of weeks are sore nipples and engorgement.
How Do I Prevent Sore Nipples
You should be able to prevent sore nipples with good positioning and good latch technique.
But let’s get real, nipple pain is common.
- Any pain should be brief.
- It usually happens when she first latches on.
- It should pass within the first 20 sucks.
- It usually peaks within the first four days.
- It should be much better at the end of the first week.
- It should be completely resolved by the end of the second week.
Any kind of trauma like cracks, bleeding or bruises are never normal.
If you have trauma or the pain does not improve the way I described contact a lactation consultant.
Gel pads and breast shells can help sore nipples.
My favorite gel pads are the Ameda Comfort Gels.
Breast engorgement management
- Feed frequently
- Pump if needed
- It’s needed if you are still uncomfortably full after a feeding.
- Use ice packs to decrease swelling.
- Apply for up to 20 minutes, never longer.
- Bags of frozen peas make great ice packs.
- Avoid heat on engorged breasts.
Cabbage can help decrease swelling. I know, weird, right? Whatever works though.
This isn’t everything you need to know about breastfeeding. That’s why I have a whole blog about it!
But this information will get you off to a good start!
Breastfeeding for Beginners – Don’t Sabotage Yourself
Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.