As a mama of a now 7 month old little boy, that first month home with him already feels like a lifetime ago. When I think back to that time, there are so many things I wish I could go back and tell myself, especially when it came to breastfeeding. Here are my biggest breastfeeding tips for first time moms.
Those first few weeks how with your new baby are magical. There are so many things I look back at and wish that I could tell myself: that the days really do fly by; to savor those teeny fresh newborn snuggles as much as you can (even when all you can think about is how much you miss regular sleep); that the first time your baby says “mama” will be so much better than you could have ever imagined, and so much more.
By far one of the biggest things I would tell myself in those first few weeks would be about breastfeeding tips and what I wish I would have known about breastfeeding tips as a first-time mom.
Breastfeeding is HARD, you guys. I don’t think I was nearly as prepared as I should have been for just how challenging it was not only for me, but also for every single one of my first-time mama friends. I had an idea in my head that breastfeeding was natural, and that my body would immediately know what to do, but the truth was it didn’t happen like that. I shed so many tears trying to breastfeed with baby A, and at times felt very alone in this struggle.
If you’ve come across this post because you are struggling with breastfeeding, I want you to know that you are NOT alone. Did you know that according to researchers to UC Davis, 92% of new mothers report problems breastfeeding? NINETY-TWO PERCENT! Half of the mothers reported problems with getting the baby to latch on to the breast (or other feeding issues, like nipple confusion); nearly half said pain was a problem for them; and nearly half again also reported that they just weren’t producing enough milk.
I remember feeling like such a mom failure in my breastfeeding struggles. It was so hard to see that not only was I not alone, but that nearly all first-time mamas struggle too!
We ended up having to end our breastfeeding journey much earlier than I had wanted because we struggled so much (from low production to repeated clogged ducts, lip ties and infected nipples). So if I could go back in time, I would want to share these simple breastfeeding tips with my first-time mama self.
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Tips for Breastfeeding as a First Time Mom
1. First: there are a dozen reasons why breastfeeding might not be working for you, and I want to preface this that I am NOT a breastfeeding expert. If you are continuing to have trouble within the first 24 hours after arriving home, you should reach out to a board-certified lactation consultant (find one near you by visiting HERE). These professionals are invaluable assets to breastfeeding families, and can provide resources and information on:
- Basic position and latch of your baby
- Preventing and managing common concerns such as poor latch, inadequate milk transfer or supply, nipple or breast pain, and calming a fussy baby
- Milk expression and storage (including help with pumping challenges)
- Strategies for breastfeeding and lactation after returning to work
- Breastfeeding and lactation in challenging situations, such as feeding twins or triplets, a premature or sick infant, or babies in special medical situations.
I remember being so convinced that I could make breastfeeding work on my own that by the time we DID see a lactation consultant baby A was nearly a week old, and I was completely zapped mentally, emotionally and physically.
Working with an IBCLC completely changed my breastfeeding journey. Lactation consultants are trained to help moms just like you, and many times their services are covered by your health insurance!
It’s ok to ask for help. These incredible professionals want to help you succeed! Find a board-certified lactation consultant near you by visiting the International Lactation Consultant Association here.
2. Sign up for a breastfeeding course.
Your OBGYN or midwife will be able to point you to some in person options, but if you are looking for something you can do from the comfort of your own home, I highly recommend The Ultimate Breastfeeding Course from Milkology.
This simple step-by-step program covers everything you need to know in 13 easy-to-watch lessons. You can go at your own pace, and you have access to the course for as long as you need it.
The course covers SO MUCH valuable information and important breastfeeding tips, including the most effective breastfeeding position to get a deep latch (which I really struggled with on my own), simple ways to ensure your baby is getting enough milk, and multiple strategies to help you make more milk whenever you need to.
This Ultimate Breastfeeding Course is phenomenal, and I learned so many really valuable tips from it.
3. The first time a new mom breastfeeds, there are two people trying to get the hang of what’s happening: both the mom AND the baby. This was something that was hard for me to realize could take a little time. While all babies are born with a suckling instinct, that doesn’t mean your little one is going to get the perfect latch from the very beginning.
Recognize that you are both learning, and that struggling to get the hang of breastfeeding is totally normal for both of you. Be patient with your baby, and with yourself.
4. Put baby on the boob early and often, even if you’re having challenges with breastfeeding. And while you might have been told that you should nurse every three to four hours, that doesn’t mean these are the ONLY times you should put your baby to your breast!
Frequent feedings help to create a great milk supply, and even if you’re exclusively pumping right now and feeding your little one with a bottle, each time you put him to your breast is not only great practice for both of you, but it’s also helping to stimulate that milk production.
Also: don’t wait until your baby is crying to breastfeed. Watch for clues (like rooting, sucking his fingers, moving his lips, etc) and put him to the boob.
5. If you choose not stop breastfeeding, it’s ok! Everyone’s breastfeeding journey looks different, and there is nothing wrong with that. You are not a failure if you decide to stop breastfeeding.
I struggled so much with getting my first child to latch correctly. I felt useless as a mom and like I was doing something wrong because it was so hard to consistently feed him from my breasts.
For me, feeding became so much easier and felt so much more stress-free when I moved to exclusively pumping. I was finally able to know that he was getting enough to eat (because I could see how much he was eating from his bottle). I was able to stop stressing about the process of keeping him on my breast, and focus more on being in the moment and bonding with my little guy.
If you are planning to exclusively pump, Milkology also has two fantastic classes on pumping that are just $19 and $14! Check out the Online Exclusive Pumping Class here, and the Pump It Up! class (to help maximize your pumping production) here.
My breastfeeding journey came to an end sooner than I had planned with my first baby because I just plain wasn’t making enough milk from pumping. I wish I would have known there were classes around pumping back then! This is one of the most valuable breastfeeding tips I could have used back then. I remember feeling like such a failure, and feeling this enormous amount of guilt over not being able to “feed” my baby.
But you know what? There is NOTHING wrong with formula. The most important thing is that your baby is happy, healthy and loved, and part of that for many mothers involves introducing formula. So if that’s the path that your journey takes, remember: you are AMAZING. Breastfeeding does not define your value as a mother!
Related: How to Take a Postpartum Sitz Bath
6. And because sometimes a great bra makes a huge difference in how you feel: not all nursing bras are ugly, unsupportive and matronly! And I know *technically* this isn’t a breastfeeding tip, but who doesn’t love a pretty bra??
There are SO many options out there to make you feel just as cute and supported when you make the transition to nursing bras, like these cute ones you can easily snag on Amazon:
Kindred Bravely Marvella Maternity & Nursing Underwire Free Bra: This super cute and award winning bra comes in 6 different colors, and also includes a really easy one-handed access to the cups, which fold down for skin to skin contact. This is the only nursing bra I’ve found that can accommodate your changing band size during breastfeeding. By far my favorite nursing bra out there right now!
Grab your own HERE.
Kindred Bravely French Terry Racerback Nursing Sleep Bra: Yep, another Kindred Bravely bra! This one is next on my list for a reason: it’s INCREDIBLY comfortable. I feel like I can practically live in this bra. It has an easy pull-aside design with gentle support, and is designed to accommodate fluctuating breast sizes during breastfeeding and beyond (which I learned the hard way not every bra does).
It comes in more than 15 colors, and is a cult favorite among moms with its under $30 price tag (check out the nearly 3,000 positive reviews!)
Snag your own HERE.
Leading Lady Lace Padded Nursing Bra: this lace nursing bra is perfect for those nights when you honestly just want to feel sexy again. With easy one-handed clasps and fold down cups, it’s functional while still giving you that fun option on special nights.
Check out more details HERE.
Caramel Cantina 4 Pack Maternity and Nursing Sleep Bra: I love a good bargain, and you can’t go wrong with a 4 pack of comfy and soft nursing bras! With multiple color options available, these bras offer the easy pull-aside style and support needed while you sleep.
See all of the options HERE.
I hope this list of breastfeeding tips has given you hope on your breastfeeding journey. Remember that it’s ok to ask for help, and that there are amazing resources out there for you. You are not alone!