Breastfeeding for Beginners

Before you give birth, there are a few things to do to get yourself prepared for breastfeeding. Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need to wait until your baby is here to start preparing. First and foremost, always make sure that you prioritize your prenatal care. Take care of yourself, be healthy, get regular exercise, and never skip your prenatal vitamins. Strong, healthy babies are easier to breastfeed.

If you have any concerns, talk to your doctor. Even if you don’t have concerns, talk to your doctor. Your doctor is an amazing information source and will be able to give you resources, answer your questions, and even recommend lactation consultants or specialists just in case you need them.

If you want to go above and beyond preparation, look into joining a breastfeeding class. Yes, they are real and yes, they do involve practice.

Finally, stock up on all of your breastfeeding essentials. Get your room ready, create a breastfeeding sanctuary, and make sure you have everything you need before your baby comes. We recommend getting a comfortable nursing pillow, finding your perfect nursing bra, and stocking up on your breast pump supplies pre-delivery. Thankfully, the Affordable Care Act dictates that all new mothers are eligible to receive a breast pump covered by their insurance provider. In the rest of this article, we’ll explore breastfeeding for beginners and a few newborn tips.

Breastfeeding 101

Remember, breastfeeding isn’t always as easy as it seems. A lot of women struggle at first, but that’s normal. Don’t worry and keep trying. Eventually, you and your baby will form a bond and get into a routine that works for both of you. In the meantime, here are a few breastfeeding 101 essentials.

Breastfeeding hygiene

Breastfeeding is an intimate time and your baby’s immune system is still developing. Make sure that you always wash your hands and use clean clothing or cloths during breastfeeding. If you plan to pump, always clean your breast pump according to the CDC guidelines.

When to Start Breastfeeding

If your baby is born healthy, you should begin breastfeeding almost immediately—within 1 to 2 hours after birth. If your baby is premature or has complications, breastfeeding is not recommended until they are strong enough.

After birth, your breasts fill up very quickly with colostrum. This is a type of “pre-milk” that is packed with nutrients and is a bit thicker than regular milk. The thickness of colostrum contributes to a slow flow, making it easier for your newborn to learn how to breastfeed. After a few days of nursing, your colostrum will end and the real milk flow will begin.

Your baby’s feeding schedule will be sporadic at first and frequent—about 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Once you develop a schedule, your feedings will become more consistent and farther apart.

The First Few Nights

It’s not uncommon for you to be up all night feeding your newborn during the first few nights. They’re bodies are adapting to life outside the womb and they’re hungry all the time. This is completely normal. Most mothers get worried that they’re not producing enough milk to satisfy their babies. Don’t worry, your body is reacting exactly how it should. If you want to address these concerns, call your doctor.

The more often your baby eats, the more milk your body produces milk. Avoid supplementing with formula, as this will end up causing your body to reduce milk supply and make breastfeeding more difficult.

Hunger Cues to Look Out For

While newborns can’t verbally speak, they still communicate their needs through reflexes and hunger cues. Babies will perform the sucking reflex and the rooting reflex when they’re hungry.

The sucking reflex occurs once you start breastfeeding. When the baby feels something touch the root of their mouth, they immediately start to suck. The rooting reflex is when your baby turns their head and starts to suck after their cheek is touched.

If your baby is making sucking motions, opening or closing his or her mouth, and turning their head to try and suck on the nearest object, they’re hungry.

Some other, subtler cues include:

  • Stirring awake from a nap
  • Opening eyes
  • Making cooing noises
  • Poking their tongues out
  • Putting their hands in their mouths
  • Making cooing noises

If your baby starts to cry, their hunger cues were missed and they’re starting to get cranky. Try to learn your baby’s cues to make breastfeeding easier and avoid headaches.

How to Tell if Your Newborn is Latching

One of the main struggles with breastfeeding is latching. If your baby doesn’t have a good attachment, breastfeeding becomes more difficult and discomfort increases. To ensure your baby is latching correctly, aim your nipple towards the roof of their mouth. This will induce their sucking reflex. It should be comfortable and produce a tugging sensation.

Look at your baby after they have latched. Both of their lips should pout out and cover almost all of your areola. You should see their jaw move back and forth. If you’re not feeling any pain and you see your newborn sucking/swallowing, your newborn is latched!

If you have questions about whether or not your baby is latching correctly, reach out to your doctor or a breastfeeding specialist.

Latching Techniques

If you do find discomfort during breastfeeding, one of the first things to do is try changing your technique. Babies are known to mimic things within their sight, so draw him or her in close and open your mouth while gently pulling on their chin. This will help improve your baby’s ability to open their mouth wide enough to latch.

Try pinching your breast to help elongate your nipple and line it up with their mouth. This makes latching easier for your baby and will ensure they get the most out of their efforts. Make sure their lips are flared out to avoid soreness and if not, gently pull them out.

Preparing for Your Baby’s First Poop

Once you start breastfeeding, your baby will eventually experience their first poop. This is a big one. Colostrum acts similarly to a laxative and contributes to your baby’s first #2, which is called meconium. It has its own name because it is very unique. Meconium is black, sticky, and will remind you of tar. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal and will fade once the colostrum is out of their system. Afterwards, your baby’s poops will have a greenish color then start fading to yellow before taking on the typical brown color.

How to Hold Your Nursing Baby

There are also a number of positions to try to help encourage latching and increase comfort.

Side-Lying

Lie down and place your baby closely next to you. Use a pillow to help prop you up and start breastfeeding. Do not fall asleep in this position!

Football Hold

Hold your baby like a football. Tuck them under your arm, along your side and rest their head in your hand. Keep them supported using your forearm and make sure they’re turned towards you.

Cradle

Place your baby’s head into the crook of your arm and support them with your forarm. This position will make sure your breast is directly in front of your baby’s face.

Cross-Cradle

This is the same as above, except while holding your baby with the opposite arm of the breast your nursing with. This position is great for babies who need a little more head support or have trouble sucking.

Dealing with Discomfort

If you experience nipple pain during breastfeeding, don’t continue to endure it. While tenderness is common, breastfeeding should not cause cracking, bleeding, or excessive pain. If you experience any of the latter, try adjusting your breastfeeding position. Your baby’s latch depth will change with a different position, which helps avoid excessive pressure on your nipple. If you continue to have discomfort or pain, talk to your doctor or consider hiring a latching consultant. We also recommend opting for a baby-safe nipple cream to help mitigate any soreness.

Conclusion

Breastfeeding is a difficult process for many new moms. It’s a completely new experience and while you hope for it to go smoothly, it usually never does. Make sure you surround yourself with a strong support team and don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it. To make your breastfeeding efforts easier, your doctor will help you find a latching consultant or breastfeeding specialists. Additionally, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, new and expecting mothers are eligible to receive an electric breast pump covered by their insurance provider. Now that you’re ready to start breastfeeding, browse our wide selection of manual and electric pumps.

If you have any tips or advice about breastfeeding for beginners, head over to our Facebook page today and leave a comment. A few words of encouragement go a long way!

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