One of your first nurturing acts as a first-time mom will likely be feeding your baby. For many women, that will mean breastfeeding.
As natural as breastfeeding is, you may still worry about providing the proper nutrients for your baby. And you probably have a million questions about how it all works and how to do it correctly. My Baby Nursery is your one-stop baby product store.
Breastfeeding your newborn baby doesn’t always come naturally or easily, especially initially, and nursing can have its share of ups and downs. It can be an intensely loving, bonding experience, or it can be filled with tears when nursing sessions don’t go quite as planned.
Our best advice: relax; you and your baby will get the hang of it eventually. To help calm your worries, we’ve put together a list of the best breastfeeding tips for new mothers.
Breast Milk Comes in Three Stages
It might surprise you to know that in the beginning, your breast milk changes by the week and each formulation is designed to meet your newborn’s precise needs:
At first, you’re producing a yellow substance called colostrum. Colostrum helps provide your little one with the nutrients and antibodies he needs to fight infections in the early days. A little goes a long way, so the baby only needs a few teaspoons at a time, which might be all you’re producing.
Three to five days after birth, colostrum is replaced with transitional milk. Just as the name suggests, transitional milk — which looks like a mixture of orange juice and milk — is the stage between colostrum and mature breast milk.
Usually, between the tenth day and second week, mature milk finally comes in. It’s white and slightly thinner than transitional milk, resembling watery skim milk, and can appear bluish at first.
How to Tell When Your Baby Is Attached Properly to the Breast
Your baby is attached correctly if:
- Their mouth covers the nipple and a large amount of the areola, more on the lower side than the upper
- Their chin is touching the breast
- Their nose is clear of, or just touching the breast
- Their upper and lower lips are opened out or ‘flanged’ over the breast.
Your baby should take a few quick sucks, and maybe a pause, before sucking firmly and rhythmically. You should not feel nipple pain if your baby is attached correctly.
Signs That Your Baby Is Getting Enough Milk
Signs that your baby is getting enough milk include:
- Sucking action – this should be slow and rhythmical after the initial fast sucking burst. The bottom jaw should be moving up and down with deep action.
- Breast sensations – you may feel a drawing sensation in the breast after the baby has been sucking for a few minutes. Your breasts will feel less complete and tight after a feed.
- Body language – your baby becomes still and peaceful. They may gently touch a hand against your breast or open and relax their fists.
- Wet nappies and bowel motions – these will also indicate how much a baby is getting.
What to Expect in the First Days
You can expect on:
- Day 1 – your baby will receive about half a teaspoon of colostrum at each feed; the poo will be sticky and green-black, and there will be one wet nappy.
- Day 2 – your baby will receive about one teaspoon of colostrum each feed, have a soft green-black poo and two wet nappies.
- Day 3 – milk volume is increasing. Poo changes to a greenish-brown colour, and there will be three wet nappies.
- Day 4 – poo becomes more mustard in colour. There will be four wet nappies.
- Day 5 – milk increases to 500–800 ml per day. Poo will be mustard-yellow, soft or liquid and occurs three to four times. There will be five wet nappies.
- From day six on – you can expect at least five heavy wet disposable nappies or around six to eight pale wet cloth nappies with frequent bowel motions. As your baby gets older, there may be fewer poos.
Establishing Natural Breastfeeding Patterns
To establish natural breastfeeding patterns:
- Let your baby feed as often as they like, day and night.
- Offer both breasts at each feed. Whether your baby takes the second breast will depend on the baby’s appetite. If the second breast isn’t taken for long, offer that breast the first next feed.
- Allow your baby to finish the first breast before offering the second.
Positioning and Attachment
Good positioning and attachment is the key.
- Position yourself comfortably with your back well supported
- Allow your breast to fall naturally.
- Unwrap your baby to allow easy handling, skin contact and avoid overheating
- Ensure your baby is well supported behind the neck and shoulders with your baby’s body facing you with your body flexed and held close. Your baby should be able to reach your breast easily, without having to stretch or twist.
- Your baby’s head should be free with the top lip in line with the nipple.
- Your baby should be slightly lower than the breast with their lower arm brought around under your breast.
- Your baby’s chin is touching or tucked into the breast.
- Support your breast using your free hand with fingers well back from the nipple/areola, aim your nipple towards your baby’s nose
- A wide-open mouth is encouraged by allowing your baby to feel the underside of the nipple with the top lip.
- As your baby’s mouth opens wide, bring your baby to your breast, aiming the nipple towards the roof of the mouth with the chin coming to the breast.
Getting “the Latch” Takes Practice
For some moms, the baby is magnetically attached to the breast starting at birth. But for most, it takes a little more practice to master a proper latch.
Once you and baby get the hang of it, latching on does come naturally. These tips can help:
Choose a chair or a glider with back, neck and shoulder support.
Line it Up.
Your baby should always be tummy to tummy with you. You may need pillows to elevate the baby to nipple height.
Guide the Baby Into Place.
Place your nipple around the baby’s lips, running it back and forth and waiting for a wide yawn.
Bring the baby toward the breast instead of leaning in toward the baby, which could cause back and neck pain. The Baby’s chin and the tip of her nose should be on the breast.
Suckling and Sucking Are Different.
You can tell that the baby is latched on and suckling (extracting milk from the breast) when there’s a suck-swallow-breathe pattern.
If you’re having trouble getting the baby to latch on, a nipple shield can be an effective tool to give him something larger to aim for at first.
Always work with a lactation consultant when using a nipple shield, though, as they should ideally be a temporary solution.
Break the Seal.
If you don’t get a good latch, try again. Put your finger into the corner of the baby’s mouth and pull your breast out. Start the cycle until you get a seal with both the nipple and the areola covered.
Breastfeeding Tips for New Mothers
Anticipate Your Baby’s Desires
Rather than waiting for your baby to cry, you can anticipate their needs by watching for a few tell-tale signs. When your baby is hungry, they may:
- Turn or raise his head repeatedly.
- Open and close his mouth.
- Stick out his tongue.
- Suck on whatever is near.
If you see your baby making these moves, offer your breast right away.
Your baby will be happy that they don’t have to struggle to get your attention, and you’ll build a level of intimacy that will deepen your mother/baby relationship.
Let Your Baby Determine How Often and How Long to Nurse
Your baby knows their needs better than you do right now. Let them determine how often to nurse.
Don’t set a predetermined interval between feedings and then deny your baby food just because not enough time hasn’t gone by.
On the other hand, there’s no need to wake a sleeping baby to feed them simply because three hours have passed.
Let your sleeping baby lay peacefully and feed them when they wake.
Similarly, let your baby determine how long to nurse. Remember, your little one knows how much they need better than you do right now.
Don’t worry if nursing time only lasts ten minutes, and don’t panic if it stretches on for forty-five. Some babies are fast eaters, while some like to take their time.
Get Comfortable While Nursing
You’re going to be spending a significant amount of time holding your baby to your breast while they feed.
If you do this in an unsupported sitting position, it can get uncomfortable quickly.
Additionally, maintaining an uncomfortable position for a prolonged period can lead to significant back, shoulder, and neck pain.
Not to mention, the constant squirming and moving on your part can disrupt your baby’s breastfeeding and result in irritability and increased hunger.
That’s why it’s so crucial for you to be comfortable throughout the process.
We recommend one of two positions for comfortable breastfeeding:
- Lie on your side with your baby facing you.
- Sit in a reclined position with your baby lying in your arms.
A bed or an oversized couch with plenty of pillows to support your back and arms make these positions ideal for breastfeeding.
Find the one that’s right for you but don’t be afraid to mix it up once in a while, depending on your own needs. The more attentive you are to your comfort, the more nursing sessions will be a pleasant break for both you and your baby.
In addition to making sure you and the baby are comfortable while nursing, try your best to relax.
Your baby can sense if you’re tense and nervous about breastfeeding, and they won’t latch on correctly. Your baby can’t relax if you’re not relaxed.
Examine your environment as well. If you’re in a stressful environment or an environment that makes you uncomfortable, opt for a change of scenery.
Maybe spend a few minutes before nursing to give yourself a pep talk. Take a few slow, deep breaths. Visualise your happy place. This is supposed to be an enjoyable time bonding with your new bundle of joy, not a stressful one.
Help Your Baby Find the Right Position
Through the course of breastfeeding, your baby will likely find the position that’s best for them. Please pay attention to this position so that you can make it easier to get into quickly.
Every baby is different, but there are a few general guidelines that you can use to find a position that works for both you and your baby.
- Your baby should be positioned so that their mouth is level with your nipple.
- They should not have to turn their head much, if at all.
- Their head should be tilted backward slightly.
- If possible, they should latch onto the entire areola, not just the nipple.
- Their chin should be right up against your breast so that their nose is clear.
First and foremost, don’t force these positions. Your baby may prefer a slightly different place. Just let it happen naturally while you make sure that your baby is comfortable and can breathe while they nurse. We have the best range of baby nursery blankets to keep your baby just right day and night.
Don’t Be Alarmed; Leaking Is Natural
In the first few weeks of breastfeeding, it’s common for milk to leak from your breasts.
Don’t be alarmed; this is entirely natural.
When you hear another baby cry, it can happen when your baby hasn’t nursed for several hours when you think about your baby, or even when you feel a strong emotion.
This leaking will eventually lessen or disappear entirely as your baby continues to nurse. In the meantime, place a nursing pad in your bra to absorb the leaks.
Take Care of Your Skin
The skin of your breasts is very delicate. With regular nursing, your skin can become dry, chapped, irritated, and even cracked over time.
This can make breastfeeding a painful experience. Luckily, you can protect against chapped, cracked skin by taking a few precautions.
- Don’t overwash. One or two showers a day with a gentle cleanser is plenty.
- After feeding, pat your breasts dry with a soft cloth.
- Let your breasts air out periodically to avoid irritation from clothing.
- After feeding, apply a healing product.
- Use a soothing balm in-between feedings to ease discomfort and moisturise sensitised nipples.
Taking care of your skin with a healing product is one of the best ways to keep the breastfeeding process enjoyable for both you and your baby. When you’re comfortable, your baby will be comfortable, and you can use nursing as a way to deepen the already strong bond you feel for your newborn child.
Don’t Worry; You’ll Have Enough Milk.
Milk production depends primarily on your baby’s needs. Your little one’s sucking stimulates the release of the hormones prolactin and oxytocin, which further stimulate milk production. But it doesn’t start with your baby’s first suckle. Your breasts have been preparing to give milk since the start of your pregnancy.
So don’t worry, you will have enough milk—the more your baby nurses, the more milk you’ll have.
During the first two or three days of breastfeeding, you may notice a thick yellowish-orange fluid coming out of your breasts. Don’t panic. That fluid is colostrum, and it’s just what your baby needs at the moment.
Colostrum is very nutritious and contains high levels of antibodies. These antibodies boost your baby’s immune system so they can fight off infection.
Look for Signs That Breastfeeding Is Going Well
Your baby’s behaviour and health will tell you if nursing is going well or not. Don’t worry if you don’t see these signs all the time. Even just one is an indication that your baby is well-fed.
While feeding, your baby should suck eagerly and swallow regularly. Keep in mind that when your little one first starts feeding, they’ll eat each time they suck.
As milk decreases, they get full or fall asleep; swallowing will reduce. That’s perfectly natural and nothing to worry about.
At the end of a nursing session, your baby should release your breast and appear tired. Their skin will be a healthy pink, and their muscles will be relaxed.
Your baby’s diapers should be very wet while they are breastfeeding.
They will likely have four to eight bowel movements each day during the first few weeks of life. This is due primarily to colostrum consumption. As time goes on, your little one will have fewer and fewer bowel movements.
There may come a time when they only have one bowel movement or less per day. As long as those bowel movements remain soft and the diapers are wet with urine, there’s no need to be worried about constipation.
Your baby is gaining weight regularly. It’s not necessary, however, to weigh your baby daily or, worse yet, to weigh them before or after each feeding. That would serve no purpose other than to cause you anxiety.
Engorgement is a painful swelling and hardening of your breasts that occurs when you produce more milk than your baby consumes. Engorgement is most frequent when your milk first comes in right after your baby is born.
The swelling can make it more difficult for your baby to feed, which only increases the likelihood that engorgement will continue.
The best way to avoid this painful condition is to nurse your baby as often as possible.
If engorgement persists, you can hand-express breast milk by gently massaging the areola between your fingers.
You may want to express milk under a warm shower, which helps the milk flow more easily. If you fail, try using a pump, and continue until your breasts soften and feel comfortable again.
Ask for Help
Reading and taking a class about breastfeeding is one thing breastfeeding on your own is a different story.
So ask for help within that first hour after birth when you’ll want to start breastfeeding your little one.
In your local hospital, a nurse will check on you and your baby while breastfeeding. She may even offer some advice and help you.
But if you’re still having trouble, the lactation consultant can help further…but you have to ask. Otherwise, they won’t know your needs.
While you’re still in the hospital, the lactation consultant can come in to see for herself how your baby is latching on. She’ll be able to give you guidance and advice on how to position your baby and your body.
The lactation consultant is more than happy to help you and guide you in your breastfeeding journey.
We know it can be a little nerve-wracking leaving the hospital and the support of the nurses, but feel free to call your local hospital and ask to speak to the lactation consultant with any questions you may have.
Breastfeeding might be uncomfortable at first when your baby latches on, but it shouldn’t be a painful experience for you.
If breastfeeding is hurting bad enough to make you cringe, seek out help from a professional.
Last but certainly not least, stay hydrated. We can’t stress enough how important this tip is for you and your baby. After all, you’re still eating and drinking for two!
Water replenishes the body, so a good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water whenever you breastfeed.
Yes, every single time. This will ensure that your body can make enough milk and that you’re staying hydrated.
If Your Baby Remains Unsettled
Babies can remain unsettled after your milk comes in if:
- They aren’t getting enough milk – for example, if they are not correctly attached to the breast.
- You detach them from the breast before they finish – for example when their sucking slows down. This can deprive them of the later, high-fat milk and leave them unsatisfied. Babies should detach themselves.
- They haven’t established a good sucking technique – this can take several days to develop. In the meantime, milk may need to be expressed and given to the baby by cup or teaspoon.
- They are not being given enough feeds – check that your baby is being offered 8–12 meals per day.
- Babies may also become unsettled because they are lonely, bored or need attention or comfort. The use of a baby sling may help in this case.
If You Need Help
In addition to midwives, some hospitals employ lactation consultants who can help you with any breastfeeding problems. You can also contact a privately operated lactation consultant.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association offers a free and confidential seven-day-a-week counselling service for breastfeeding mothers.
Breastfeeding a Newborn Can Be a Full-Time Job
Newborns need to be breastfed every two to three hours initially, and each session can take a while. Check out our range of baby nursery products and furniture for all your baby needs.
You’ll know that feeding is done when the baby has wholly drained at least one breast. For newborns, this can take between 20 and 45 minutes at each feeding.