Breastfeeding Tips, Setting up a Breastfeeding Station and How to Get Support
We hear that “breast is best” all the time—the news, the hospital, our doctors, our friends, and even that random lady in the organic foods aisle at the grocery store. Even our social media feeds are peppered with research articles telling us why breast is the right choice. That’s all well and good, of course we all want what’s best for our babies! But it’s one thing to know what is best and another thing to know how to actually accomplish it. As a lactation consultant, I’m called to give specific advice for breastfeeding issues but I also get asked all the time what my top breastfeeding tips are—so here they are!
Top Breastfeeding Tips from a Lactation Consultant
Take a breastfeeding class while you’re pregnant!
Prenatal education is a top indicator of breastfeeding success after baby arrives! When you know what to expect and what’s normal, you can prepare! If you don’t know what latching is or looks like or how often baby should breastfeed per day, it’s hard to succeed.
Women find support from all different sources—some women find the best support is their husband. He may never have breastfed before, but he can certainly help you and cheer you on no matter what! Other women find their friends or mothers who have breastfed to be their top supports. Either way, research shows that women who have support have more success in breastfeeding.
After baby arrives, make plans to make no plans!
Skin-to-skin time is so important with a newborn. In the first couple of days after birth, keep your naked-in-a-diaper baby on your chest as much as you can! This can be easy in the hospital since it’s pretty private, other than the nurses who want to look under your gown all the time, anyway. Once you get home, you may have to make more of an effort to rest and keep baby close. Make sure your partner knows ahead of time it will be his job to take over the cleaning, cooking, and bringing home the bacon (literally and figuratively!) for a few weeks after baby arrives. I love this shirt for convenient skin to skin time—or this one that comes in plus sizes too!
Feed baby very frequently.
I tell moms all the time during personalized consults that you can’t feed baby too much, only too little! Follow baby’s lead: during those first few days after birth before your milk volume increases, baby’s tiny tummy will need to be filled often. If baby’s awake, turning his head, or fussy: put him to breast!
Get help if you need it!
Breastfeeding may be the best and seem like it should be “natural,” but that doesn’t mean it always comes naturally. If you’re in pain, baby’s not feeding well, or something seems off—get help right away. There’s no shame at all asking an IBCLC for some personalized help. In fact, research shows that IBCLCs increase the rates of women who start breastfeeding as well as the rate of women who breastfeed exclusively. If those are your goals and you don’t feel confident in your ability to meet them, call an IBCLC!
Setting Up a Breastfeeding Station
Now that we’ve gone over some great tips for meeting your breastfeeding goals, let’s talk practicality. Just like “breast is best” is only helpful when we know how to actually breastfeed, those breastfeeding tips are only helpful when we can actually fit breastfeeding into our lives! One of the best ways to accomplish this is to set up a breastfeeding station in your home.
If you anticipate that you’ll breastfeed your baby in many different rooms depending on the time of day, then create your station to be a basket that’s easily transportable. If you know you’ll always be sitting down in the nursery to feed your baby, then it can be a shelf or drawer near your chair. What should you fill this station with? Anything and everything that you think you might even need! This can vary some from mom to mom (are you a reader who will need your Kindle nearby, or do you prefer to binge watch a show on your tablet?).
Lots of Water
Get a water bottle you can operate one-handed while you’re nursing, I recommend one with a straw because you will drink more. Some moms get very thirsty as soon as baby latches on. A straw type can be great so you don’t have to lean your head back and get off balance, disrupting that perfect latch. I always kept two water bottles or cups at my nursing station at all times because I would inevitably drain all of one and then baby falls asleep on you and you feel trapped and oh so thirsty!
Healthy Energy Snacks
Did you know breastfeeding moms burn an average of 500 extra calories per day? You’ll need to make that up somewhere, so portable snacks like granola bars (these are great if you are trying to limit sugar intake—turkey flavor is my fave!), a piece of fruit, or a simple sandwich can be great to keep close by in case baby is on a marathon nursing session.
Netflix and Chill
Whether it’s a book, your phone, the remote, a tablet, or a sleep mask to catch some zzz’s while baby nurses, you’ll want something. Babies eat very often, so you’ll be spending a lot of time feeding!
Nipple care supplies
If your latch is good, you shouldn’t have much more than transient soreness for the first week or two. If your latch is painful, talk to an IBCLC and have some of these supplies on hand. A good nipple cream can be very soothing. Some moms love lanolin and some love simple coconut or olive oils from the kitchen. If there are open wounds, something like All Purpose Nipple Ointment (a prescription) or Medihoney can help prevent infection and heal your nipples. A Milk Saver is great to catch extra milk on the other side when your milk lets down and breast pads are great to protect sore nipples.
Baby care supplies
Babies often will poop during or after a feeding—it can’t come out if it didn’t go in, after all! So have a diaper and wipes nearby. In the same vein, veteran moms know that an extra outfit can be needed in this situation, too! Also make sure you have burp cloths (I’m a a big fan of a stack of plain prefolds as they are super absorbent, cheap and have a million uses!). Burping can be messy and just in case some of that milk makes another appearance, you’ll be reaching for them. Baby nail clippers (obsessed with these!) can be a good idea, in case baby falls asleep or is just finally still enough for this surgery-like activity.
When You Need Breastfeeding Support
We’ve gone over top tips to be successful with breastfeeding, in addition to practical ways to implement those tips, but what if you do everything you can and things don’t seem to be going well? Ask for help! The tip to have a support system wasn’t just lip service—it’s really important! If things are hard now that you’ve been thrust into the trenches with a brand new, needy baby, some simple love, help, and attention from your partner, mom, or friend can be just what you need.
If breastfeeding itself is the issue, ask an IBCLC for some help!
Nipple pain isn’t normal outside of some soreness in the first few days. If you’re in pain or baby isn’t gaining well, breastfeeding support by a professional can be the ticket to breastfeeding success. Lactation Link offers in-person consults in Utah and e-consults for anywhere else, or you can find an IBCLC in your area through ILCA.
If motherhood seems lonely, know that you’re not alone.
Even though you’re constantly around this new little person, it can feel very isolating. Finding a local group like La Leche League can be the answer to getting out of the house and making some mom friends.
Breastfeeding is Possible!
Breastfeeding can seem overwhelming, but you don’t need to go into motherhood unprepared! A little education, support, and preparation can go a long way in helping you achieve your goals. Next time you see “breast is best” online or in the news, now you can add “breastfeeding is possible” to it!
This guest post was written by Kristin Gourley, IBCLC. Kristin is a mother of 5 and one of the 3 International Board Certified Lactation Consultants with Lactation Link, a private practice offering breastfeeding support through breastfeeding video classes, blog, and online support forum. She also offers in-home (or hospital) lactation support services as well online lactation support services before and after baby is born. Lactation Link’s goal is to empower women through education to reach their goals, whatever they may be.