4 Best Tips for Breastfeeding Your Baby
Updated: Jul 11
My breastfeeding journey with my son was complicated, to say the least. Truly, in almost every sense of the word, we struggled.
My son had a lip and tongue tie and experienced reflux, while I was dealing with an oversupply (which resulted in a foremilk/hindmilk imbalance, causing more than a few upset tummies) and dysphoric milk ejection reflex (aka D-MER - which is a little-known condition that can range from annoying to devastating for the mother).
Additionally, we traversed through lactose intolerance, vasospasms caused by a bad latch, cracked and bleeding nipples, and probably more that I can’t recall through the haze of new-mom exhaustion. In those moments, breastfeeding felt anything but natural.But for me at the time, breastfeeding was something I wanted to do.
And before I go on, I want to focus on that statement.
Breastfeeding was something I chose to do. It was a parenting choice I made, and if breastfeeding is a choice you make, this blog is for you. However, we’re not lactivists here. We believe that fed is best, regardless of your choices or abilities.
We understand that, for some families, breastfeeding isn’t the right choice. And for others, breastfeeding isn’t possible. There’s never any shame or judgment in how you ultimately feed your child. Please know that.
For families that do decide to breastfeed, it can feel like my journey – challenging and exhausting. But through the trials I faced, I learned a thing or two. And it’s my hope that, by sharing these tips with you, your breastfeeding experience can be easier to navigate.
Or, dare I say, enjoyable even.
Tip #1: Share the Load with Other Caregivers
When you have your new baby and you’re working to establish a breastfeeding relationship, sharing the load with other caregivers is paramount.
Historically, infant feeding has been the mother’s responsibility. If she chooses to breastfeed, the responsibility leans heavily on her due to biology. But even with exclusively formula-fed babies, the reality is, mothers carry an unequal burden when it comes to feeding. And that imbalance can lead to overwhelm.
There are plenty of ways that partners and caregivers can support a breastfeeding mother and help carry some of the parental load. Here are a few ideas of ways you can ask for help in sharing the baby-feeding duties:
While you’re breastfeeding your baby, ask your partner to bring you food and water. Mama needs nutrition and hydration, too!
If you use bottles or a breast pump, ask another caregiver to handle washing the bottles and pumping parts. Even if you don’t use bottles or a pump, I’m sure there are plenty of dishes they can help wash.
Keep an open line of communication regarding feeding goals, struggles, and transitions. Even though it may feel like you’re an island alone, sharing with someone else can make all the difference.
Tip #2: Address Breastfeeding Issues Right Away
If you know something isn’t quite right in your breastfeeding relationship – maybe you’re experiencing excruciating pain, bleeding, or discomfort – address it right away. I know breastfeeding is often seen as a natural process, and you may feel shame for not being able to do it “right.”
But not addressing concerns right away benefits no one. Not you. Not your baby.
In some cases, you may decide to get professional help in determining any underlying causes to what’s going on. Here are a few tips when you reach out for support:
Keep notes. Record what you’re experiencing, how often it happens, and what it seems to be affecting. Sharing these details with your team can help them identify any issues.
If your concerns are brushed aside, don’t be afraid to seek another opinion. Some pediatricians or doctors may miss something during an evaluation, so reaching out to a local lactation consultant, counselor, or other specialized provider is always an option.
When you address issues right away, you and your baby will likely have a better breastfeeding journey overall.
Tip #3: Focus on Your Baby, Not the Clock
Instead of feeling tied to a set feeding schedule, focus on your baby by watching for hunger cues. During the first month of breastfeeding, feeding sessions will vary between 1-3 hours during the day and night.
In time, your baby will likely transition to feeding every 2-4 hours during the day, with at least 1-2 feeds overnight.
When you’re wanting to establish breastfeeding and ensure adequate milk intake, following your baby’s hunger cues is most beneficial. Here are how those hunger signs typically present in newborn infants:
Rhythmic sounds, like smacking or sucking
Seeking behaviors, like turning their head, rooting toward the chest, or looking at your face
Tongue movement, like sticking their tongue out, licking their lips, or sucking objects
Body movements, like putting their hands to mouth, orienting their limbs toward a caregiver, fidgeting, flexing their limbs, closing their fists
Of course, as your baby ages, they will begin to show their own unique signs of hunger.
It’s important to be mindful that crying and agitation are signs of late hunger. Hunger cues may be expressed by your baby before they wake up, including turning and acting restless. And when early hunger cues are ignored, babies transition to crying.
Tip #4: Stay Positive, and Take Breastfeeding Day-By-Day
The best advice that was given to me is the same advice I now give. “Don’t quit on a bad day.”
Now, it takes a little discernment to differentiate between “bad day(s)” and “this is not working overall for me, my baby, and my family over a period of time.” This is a decision only you can make.
But on my bad days, I would tell myself, “This is a bad day. Don’t think about tomorrow. Just don’t give up today.” It was an encouraging mantra that helped me take my decision to breastfeed day-by-day and got me over many hurdles.
If you ultimately decide nursing isn’t for you but you want to maintain the breastfeeding relationship, there are other alternatives you can consider, like pumping and feeding breastmilk to your baby in a bottle.
But at the end of the day, remember that fed is best.
If you’re interested in gaining valuable breastfeeding knowledge that enables you to help families get better rest without compromising the feeding relationship, check out our Integrative Feeding Specialist course.
Not only will you gain a comprehensive education about breastfeeding, but you’ll leave our course confident in your ability to educate families on how to balance breastfeeding and getting a good night’s sleep!
What a dream! Find out more today!