Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms
Are you looking for some practical breastfeeding tips for new moms?
Then our guide on breastfeeding tips for new mothers is sure to help you on your breastfeeding journey.
Breastfeeding is one of those things that can be very difficult to navigate, especially in the first few weeks.
Well, breastfeeding is unlike anything you have done before, and it doesn’t always come naturally for your or your baby.
You have to figure out when your baby is hungry, if your baby is getting enough milk, how to latch, how to keep baby on the boob, how to establish a good milk supply, how to pump, and the worst, when you miss the hunger cue and have a screaming baby, how to calm baby down enough to latch and nurse.
And even if you have breastfed previously, each baby is different so your experiences can be very different too.
But don’t let that scare you! We are here to help guide you with breastfeeding tips for first time moms and breast feeding tips for those that may be experience but are needing a little extra guidance.
And if you love this guide on breastfeeding advice for new moms, make sure you check out our guides on best breast pumps for low milk supply, best freezer for breast milk, best bra for breastfeeding moms, and best lactation supplements. Or even our guide on the best collagen for breastfeeding moms!
Breastfeeding Tips For Newborns
Before we dive in, it is important to note a few things:
- These tips for breastfeeding are specifically designed for how to start your breastfeeding relationship with your newborn (0-4 months) so you and your baby can succeed at breastfeeding. As your child develops, the tips for successful breastfeeding will change.
- If you are struggling to breastfeed we highly recommend that you seek advice from your pediatrician and / or lactation consultant.
- Always remember, fed is best!
Breastfeeding A Newborn Tips
1. Sucking Produces A Let-Down And More Sucking Leads To More Milk
Firstly, let’s look at what the let-down reflex is and why it is important. The let-down reflex is what makes breastmilk flow.
It is activated when your baby sucks, stimulating tiny nerves. This then causes the release of the hormone’s prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin helps to produce your milk supply, whilst oxytocin causes your breast to push the milk out.
At first, the milk is released very fast. This milk is known as the foremilk and is mostly water to quench baby’s thirst. After a few minutes, the flowrate of milk slows down as the milk changes to hindmilk.
Hindmilk is your baby’s food and is very fatty. Therefore, it is important to keep baby on for the full duration, so they get both the foremilk and the hindmilk.
The milk flow will then slow down to a stop and that completes one let-down.
If baby stays on and continues sucking after one letdown, after about 5-10 minutes, your body will produce another let-down and the process will repeat.
The important part to note here is that it is sucking produces a let-down. And it can take at least a few minutes of sucking to cause a let-down.
Another way a let-down is sometimes produced is due to hearing a baby cry. Crying is a signal to your body that baby is hungry.
At first you might not feel your let-downs so look to see if baby is swallowing to know. A let-down feels like a tingling sensation.
So how does sucking equal more milk?
Well, the quantity of milk produced is actually quite a simple system in most cases. The more the baby sucks (even if there isn’t milk coming out), the more the body makes.
More sucking signals to the mom’s body to make more.
The good news here is that there is no harm in letting baby continue to suck on a boob after you think they are done, and there is no harm in feeding them ‘too often’. Extra sucking will just mean your body will make more milk for baby.
You actually can’t overfeed a baby breastmilk.
In fact, allowing your baby to feed on-demand (that is let your baby feed when they want to) in the first few days and weeks following your baby’s birth can help to establish your milk supply.
2. What Do Hunger Cues Look Like? Is My Baby Hungry Or Tired?
Knowing the difference between a hungry baby and a tired baby can make your breastfeeding journey a lot smoother.
But identifying the signs can take time.
Early hunger cues often start well before your baby cries and may include signals such as turning their head side to side, eating their hands, and rooting. Rooting is when you stroke the side of your baby’s mouth, and your baby will turn their head and open their mouth to follow and root in the direction of the stroking.
Crying is a late cue for hunger, meaning you missed the early cues. For a newborn, the time between early cues and late cues is anywhere from 5-15 minutes because their tummies are so small and empty so quickly.
Just a quick note, as a new mom it is very easy to miss hunger cues as there is a lot is going on and you aren’t always looking for them. Just remember that you and baby are getting to know each other. If you miss a cue, that is okay, in a few weeks, you will be able to catch hunger cues well.
A tired newborn baby will sleep as long as they aren’t hungry. In fact, you might find it hard to keep them awake long enough to finish a nursing session.
It is very normal for a newborn to fall asleep nursing, as your milk contains hormones that promote sleep. Try to nurse for as long as possible to get both the foremilk and hindmilk but don’t worry if they fall asleep nursing. At this age, you will not create any bad habits.
We recommend, feeding your baby as often as possible to build a fantastic supply. Your milk supply grows the most and is fully established by 3 months, so it is extra important to build the supply early on.
3. In The First Week, Breastfed At Least Every 2 Hours During The Day And Every 4 Hours At Night
To establish a strong milk supply, in the first week, we recommend that you breastfed or offer a boob at least every two hours in the day and at no more than 4 hours at night.
The 2 hour / 4 hour window should start from the beginning of a feed until the start of the next, so it is actually less than 2 hours. For example, if you baby has a daytime feed that lasts for 15 minutes, you will need to offer another feed in 1 hour and 45 minutes.
If you choose to feed when your baby signals that they are hungry by crying, you may find that it is much harder to get your baby to latch on and stay latched.
Whilst feeding every 2 hour / 4 hours can feel overwhelming, it is ideal in the first week to help establish your milk supply.
After the first week, you do not need to wake your baby after the 4 hours, instead wait until they wake to nurse.
We recommend tracking your feeding sessions by setting a timer on your phone, using an app, or even using a pen and paper.
Tracking your breastfeeding sessions can also serve as a point of reference to show the pediatrician or a lactation consultant if your baby is having problems with gaining weight.
It can also be useful in noticing patterns in when your baby eats for longer periods of time, more often than every 2 hours, and to look at initial night-time patterns emerging.
All of this can be helpful in forming a routine for when your baby is around 12 to 16 weeks.
4. A Good Rule Of Thumb Is To Nurse 15 Minutes On Each Side After The Let-Down
How often do you switch? What side should you do? Should you do both sides each time?
These are great questions to be asking!
As a rule of thumb, it takes around 15 minutes once baby is swallowing milk to ensure baby gets both fore and hind milk. If you switch too soon, your baby will not get enough hindmilk.
Once you have fed for 15 minutes on one side, if your baby is still hungry then you can switch breasts. Whilst you can keep your baby latched to just the one breast and wait for a second letdown, you may find that your baby is a little impatient to wait. As well you may find that it is much more comfortable to feed from the other side that is already engorged with milk.
In the beginning it is a good idea to start each nursing session on the side that was nursed from second if you nursed both sides, or the opposite side if you only nursed on one side.
This is because baby’s initial sucking will be the most vigorous so by alternating which boob is nursed first on a regular basis you will help your body to regulate a more even supply on both sides (though some variation is normal). It will also ensure that each side is adequately ‘emptied’ to help prevent clogged ducts.
A great trick to keep track of which side you last nursed from it to keep a hair tie on that wrist. Simply switch the hair tie to indicate which side you should start on next time.
5. What is Cluster Feeding? And why it is important.
Having multiple let-downs all in a row or very close together is known as cluster feeding.
A baby cluster feeds in order to increase the amount of milk they are getting. This is very common when baby goes through a growth spurt, usually around 3,6,9 weeks and then 3,6,9 months.
If you’re finding your baby wants to breastfeed more than normal, let them.
Expect marathon (cluster) sessions when baby is going through a growth spurt.
Your first experience of a ‘velcro baby’ might be around 7-10 days old. This is when the first growth spurt happens and their primary job during that time is to increase your supply so it keeps up with their needs. They do this by nursing a lot more than normal, especially in the evenings. So sit down, grab a novel, or put on a show, or just enjoy the snuggles and let baby nurse.
And remember, it doesn’t stay this challenging, the most intense is at the beginning and it just keeps getting better as time goes on.
6. One Breast Will Probably Produce More Milk Than The Other
It is not uncommon for one breast to produce more milk than the other, but it is still important to try to nurse as evenly as possible.
As we mentioned previously tracking your feeds is a great way to ensure you are feeding evenly.
If you don’t nurse from both sides, you run the risk that one side will quit producing milk altogether.
7. Babies Usually Have A Side Preference
While it is important to try feed from both sides evenly, you might be surprised to find your baby preferring one side over another.
There are a few theories on this including the way in which you hold your baby differently on each side depending on if you are left or right-handed.
Another is that some babies prefer the left side because they can hear your heartbeat.
8. Your Baby Might Only Root On You
We talked about rooting as a sign your baby is hungry, but what we haven’t talked about yet is that your baby might only root on you.
New babies tend to attract a lot of visitors so it can be hard to see the cues your baby is hungry, especially if they only root on you.
You smell like milk to them so when they are hungry, they know to search for the breast. However, they may not search for the breast while being held by a friend of family member. Then, when baby is handed back to you, baby will be over-hungry and start screaming the moment you hold them. Most babies when they reach that point are challenging to latch.
This is another reason why setting a timer or using a breastfeeding app with an alarm can be a great tool.
9. Breastmilk Is Digested In 60-90 Minutes
You may be surprised to learn how quickly breastmilk is digested!
So, whilst you may have only finished nursing your newborn 60 minutes ago, it is possible that your baby could be hungry again.
Breastmilk is so quickly and well digested that breastfed babies need more frequent feedings than formula babies at the start.
This is very important to understand if you are exclusively nursing so you can meet the needs of your baby.
10. When Your Milk Comes In, You Could Get A Clogged Duct Or Mastitis
When you leave the hospital, they will say if you get a fever to call immediately. This is because of mastitis, an inflammation of the breast tissue that can sometimes involve an infection.
Mastitis is often very painful and hot to the touch and includes swelling and redness of the breast tissue.
When your milk comes in, it comes in fast, so it is very easy to get a clogged duct, which can lead to mastitis.
To help prevent this, when your milk comes in, usually around day 3 through to 5, breastfeed your baby on both sides, often.
Your milk coming in will make your breasts feel rock hard.
If you have some pain and/or lumpiness in a breast, be sure to nurse from that side as much as you can. You can also run the pump to try to get a clogged duct free.
However, if you show any signs or suspect that you might have mastitis seek medical attention.
11. Nursing Should Not Be Painful
Nipple pain (transient soreness) is common in the first or two weeks while your nipple are getting use to breastfeeding, however if you find that your nipples are bruised, cracked, blistered, or bleeding then you will need to investigate further.
The same goes for pain throughout the entire feeding session, pain between feeding, and pain that continues past the first few weeks.
Some potential causes of nipple pain and damage include:
- shallow latch
- unusual palate shape
- strong/unusual suckling
- jaw clamping/clenching
- unusual nipple anatomy such as inverted or flat nipples, very long, or large nipples
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then we recommend you seek the help of an experienced lactation consultant or breastfeeding counselor to help identify the issue and provide a solution.
12. The Breastfeeding Trick When You Missed The Hunger Cues
It is highly likely that as a new mom you will miss a huger cue and end up with a frustrated baby who won’t latch.
If you find yourself in this situation, try express enough milk or colostrum to fill a syringe or eyedropper. Give your baby the milk or colostrum directly from the syringe. They try nursing again. The small amount of milk/colostrum should be enough to calm them down and aid in the latching process.
You could also try calming them down in a baby wrap or carrier and feeding them in the carrier once they have calmed down.
Here are our top pick for the best baby carriers for breastfeeding.
13. Educate Your Partner On Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding can be a big learning curve.
So, it is best to ensure that you and your partner are on the same page right from the start.
Make sure they understand that it might be a process and how you feel about it.
No doubt they will be feeling helpless as you try navigate the early stages of breastfeeding, so let them get you your favorite breastfeeding snacks, take on diaper changing duties, give you words of encouragement, or attend lactation appointments with you.
Arm your partner with tips on how they can best support you.
14. Invest In A Good Nursing Bra
Nursing bras are a specific type of bra created for breastfeeding mothers.
They have latches on the straps make it easy to hold down parts of the bra for easy nursing access, and they often have a thicker lining to help reduce leaks that might go through your shirt.
They are great for getting access when you have a hungry baby, as well as help to keep you comfortable and feeling supported.
There are several different types of nursing bras which we explain in our how many nursing bras do I need guide.
15. You Can Get A Pump Through Your Insurance Company. It’s Covered!
A breast pump can be a great way for you to still exclusively breastfeed your baby, but also give you break.
The good news is, if you live in the USA and have health insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), you are entitled to a free breast pump and supplies through your insurance.
The best way to find specific details about your coverage is to contact your insurance company directly.
Here are some guides on breast pumps to help your find a breast pump best suited to your needs:
- best electric breast pumps
- best breast pumps for twins
- best portable breast pumps for travel
- best manual breast pumps
- manual vs electric breast pump
- best bottles for breastfed babies
Final Thoughts On Breastfeeding Advice For New Moms
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, but we hope these tips for successful breastfeeding have helped you on your breastfeeding journey.
Remember to take the time to learn your baby’s cues and breastfeed often to build up that supply. Get help if you are struggling. You will be surprised to see how many different ways you can find support and help within your community.
Most importantly, always remember fed is best.
And if you loved this guide on breastfeeding tips and tricks, make sure to check out our guides on best bassinets for breastfeeding, My Brest Friend vs Boppy Nursing pillows, best pacifier for breastfed babies, and best nursery gliders and rockers. Or even these best protein shakes while breastfeeding.
Allison Banfield an experience mom of two, wife, writer, editor, and passionate parenting advocate! Backed with a Masters Degree in Public Health, a Bachelor of Science in Health Promotion, a long career in health and safety, and 10 years of hands on experience using, researching, and testing baby products, Allison loves to use her parenting experience to support and encourage other parents.