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13 breastfeeding tips for new moms from a lactation consultant

The best time to start learning about breastfeeding is before the baby is even born.
Breastfeeding tips for new moms can help make an emotional time easier.
Breastfeeding tips for new moms can help make an emotional time easier.Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Breastfeeding tips for new moms can help make an emotional time easier. Feeding a newborn may be one of the challenging parts of being a new mom. Moms who choose to breastfeed might wonder how they can get their baby to latch more easily, or want tips for producing more milk.

Registered nurse and lactation consultant Hillary Sadler told TODAY Parents that breastfeeding is one of the most intimate yet challenging parts of motherhood.

Sadler, the founder of Baby Settler, a sleep and lactation education brand, offers 13 tips and tricks for new moms.

Related: Breastfeeding mom fights off bald eagle to save pet goose

13 breastfeeding tips for new moms

Take time to educate yourself about breastfeeding (or pumping) before birth.

Yes, breastfeeding is “natural” but it isn’t easy for most.

"Having some knowledge about lactation and how your body makes milk — it’s all about supply and demand — will help you feel more confident during the postpartum period," Sadler said.

Know that complications are very common among breastfeeding mothers in the first four weeks postpartum.

"According to the CDC, 60% of women stop breastfeeding before they planned," Sadler said. "Knowledge is power, and investing your time and energy in understanding how your body makes milk will help you meet your goals, whatever they are."

Sadler recommends moms-to-be take an online breastfeeding class, schedule a one-on-one prenatal breastfeeding consultant with a lactation consultant, or read a book to help understand how the breastfeeding process works.

Be assertive and advocate for immediate uninterrupted skin to skin contact until after the first breastfeeding. 

Hospital procedures don’t always align with what’s best for breastfeeding mothers.

"As a labor and delivery nurse I’ve seen 'routine' processes negatively affect the mother/baby breastfeeding duo too many times," Sadler said

Sadler told TODAY that when a baby is born without complications there are nine instinctive stages the newborn will go through to latch, or breastfeed. Each baby moves at their own pace, and any interruption during the nine-stage process can affect the latch and first breastfeeding session. 

Being in skin‐to‐skin contact with the mother after birth elicits the newborn infant’s internal process to go through what could be called nine instinctive stages: birth cry, relaxation, awakening, activity, rest, crawling, familiarization, suckling and sleeping.  

Feed on cue. 

Especially during the first two weeks postpartum, which is during the transition stage of breast milk production.

"It’s really important to feed your baby on cue to establish a good milk supply that matches your baby’s intake needs," Sadler said. "The most efficient way to 'feed on cue' is to follow the feed-wake-sleep-feed cycle."

Sadler explained that feeding your baby at the start of their “wake window” will help ensure your baby is feeding vigorously and efficiently at the breast. Newborns often fall asleep and switch to non-nutritive sucking within 15 to 20 minutes of waking. With non-nutritive sucking, your baby isn’t adequately removing milk (or giving you the stimulation you need to establish your milk supply).

Related: How to stop breastfeeding and what to expect physically and emotionally

Don’t let your mind take you too far into the future. 

Breastfeeding can be really overwhelming, and it’s often changing from day to day.

"The first six to 12 weeks postpartum can be really challenging for many reasons, but especially for breastfeeding moms," Sadler said. "When you are breastfeeding or pumping every two to four hours around the clock and you are sleep deprived, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed thinking about how you’re going to continue breastfeeding and get back to all your other responsibilities. Take it day by day."

Breastfeeding doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

"As a parent, we all want to do what’s best for our child, but remember, what’s best for your child is a parent who is the best version of themselves," Sadler said. "It’s not all about the baby. It’s about mom and baby. Breastfeeding should be mutually beneficial, and when it’s not, it’s time to look for another plan."

Every breastfeeding journey is different.

There are many different factors that can affect initiating and establishing breastfeeding.

"Your pregnancy, labor, and birth can affect how breastfeeding starts off and your baby’s gestational age at birth might make breastfeeding challenging during the early days," Sadler explained. "A baby who is experiencing jaundice might have difficulty breastfeeding. Some babies have oral ties that affect their latch and can affect a woman’s milk supply."

Don’t compare — even between your own children.

"There are so many things that can affect breastfeeding that are specific to the mother and her new baby, even when she’s breastfed successfully before," Sadler told TODAY, adding that working one on one with a lactation consultant (an IBCLC) is the best way to receive the support moms deserve.

Breastfeeding positions

Check baby's head position.

No matter what position you use (cross cradle, football hold, laid back) make sure your baby’s head is in alignment with their body.

"Think about it like this. If you put something in your mouth and start to chew it and then have to turn your head sideways while chewing it makes it more difficult," Sadler said. "You always want you baby’s head straight and in alignment with their body, not turned."

Breastfeeding latch tips

Think “nipple to nose.”

"When you start the latch you want your baby’s nose to be directly across from your nipple," Sadler said. "Once they open their mouth, think about pointing your nipple to the roof of their mouth."

Aim for a deep latch.

"Use the 'breast sandwich' technique to ensure your baby has a deep latch," Sadler said, referencing the technique that encourages moms to compress their breast with their hands for baby to gain a deep latch.

Keep your baby’s chin in constant contact with your breast.

"Once your baby is latched you want to make sure you’re supporting your baby to keep pressing their chin into your breast," Sadler said, adding that there should be a small space between your baby’s nose and your breast, but their chin is constantly pressing into your breast. "This helps ensure the 'angles' are correct."

Related: How long should you breastfeed?

Do what works best for you and your baby.

"At the end of the day, if anxiety (or pain) is taking the joy out of breastfeeding your baby, don’t feel pressured to continue," Sadler told TODAY. "I know it’s crazy to hear a lactation consultant say it, but you don’t have to breastfeed to provide your baby adequate nutrients. There are other options."

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