N is for Nursing: Tips for the Breastfeeding Mother from Newborn and Beyond

When I calculate all the months I’ve breastfed all of my children thus far and put it into one lump sum, I figure that I’ve been nursing a child for over 5 1/2 of the last 7 1/2 years that I’ve been a mother.  It sounds like a LOT when you lump it all together like that, but since I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding constantly since May 2005, it makes sense. While I wouldn’t call myself an expert, I think this does make me a tad qualified to give a few helpful tips to moms out there who haven’t nursed a baby yet or who are just starting out.  Many of these tips are from a former post, but I have also updated a few things.  

Here they are my top tips for a successful nursing experience! 


1.  Invest in a good nursing pillow.  
I have owned three: a Boppy, and two from Leachco.  You can also get a printed nursing pillow for FREE at NursingPillow.com (just pay shipping) if you enter the code 5DACAB at checkout. I didn’t really have a preference between the two brands.  Nursing pillows are great for support while you are feeding your child.  Sometimes, your arm is going to want a break! They aren’t just for infants either!  I use mine with my toddler until she weaned at 29 months!

Both styles that I’ve owned were equally useful, but the Leachcos have velcro straps that are good for holding a baby still when you give them time in the floor.

They also have other uses, like helping eager siblings hold their new sister or brother,

or providing a cuddled-in-the-arms style resting place for little ones who like to feel like they are being held while sleeping.

If I could have just one thing to aid in my breastfeeding journey, it would be a nursing pillow!

2.  Invest in a good cover —-or not

I have written on my views on modesty and breastfeeding in the past.  I don’t believe that every woman NEEDS a cover, but I do believe that a woman should be discreet when she does feed her child. If you are the type that would prefer to use a cover (like me) you can get by only using light receiving blankets BUT your child will reach an age when their curiosity will get the best of them and they will positively insist on trying to pull that blanket OFF so that they can see the world around them!  That’s why I really preferred my Udder Cover (get one FREE {just pay shipping} by entering the code 5DACAB at checkout!) because it had a strap that hooked around my neck so that it couldn’t be removed by baby AND it had a little peek a boo hole so baby and Mommy can still peer in or out at each other. Some other brands that I know women I know have enjoyed are Bebe Au Lait and Leachco with its Cuddle U coverbreas.  Particularly crafty moms can even make their own covers.

3.  Purchase a tube of lanolin cream for soreness and cracking
Whether you are nursing your first child or your fifth, the first few weeks of breastfeeding include an adjustment period for your breasts and nipples.  It can be sore. It can actually be pretty painful.  All the moisture on this sensitive area from your baby’s mouth and breast milk can cause cracking and bleeding.  By applying a natural lanolin cream to the area before and between nursing sessions, these things can either be prevented or soreness and pain can be alleviated until your breasts become used to feeding.  I prefer the HPA Lanolin from Lansinoh which is endorsed by the La Leche League.

After the last time I posted this tip, some readers also recommended Motherlove Nipple Cream.

4.  Stay Hydrated!!!
I’m going to say this again because it is that important.  Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy and nutrients from your body and it can make you very fatigued if you aren’t careful.  Nursing will make you extra thirsty by instinct, but make sure that you don’t ignore your body’s signals and you drink, drink, and drink lots of water and fluids!

This is particularly hard for me because I have never been one to guzzle ANY liquid, including water.  Sip slowly through the day or suck on ice chips.  Try juice or eat water filled fruits and veggies.  If you don’t, your body will wear out and you WILL be exhausted.  Breastfeeding takes a lot out of you if you don’t take care of yourself!

5.  Before every nursing session, double check to make sure you have your book, the remote, your snack/drink before you sit down!
This one seems a bit silly, but if I told you all the countless times that I settled down in the chair or on the bed and got my little one latched on and only THEN realized that I left my book sitting across the room out of reach or my glass sitting on the kitchen counter after I poured it, I could fill a book.  Unlatching a ravenous baby is possible, but do it one time and you’ll know why I chose instead to just sit there thirsty or bored if I was forgetful. 😛

6.  Get support!
If you’re family and friends are supportive of your breastfeeding decision, then thank the Lord for blessing you!  Seriously.  There are many women who deal with intrusive comments, suggestions, and criticisms from even close family members and it makes their nursing relationship stressful.  Sometimes, it even causes women to give up or wean before they and their child are ready.  If your friends and family are not supportive you CAN find others who will be there to encourage you!  Find a local chapter of the La Leche League or another breastfeeding support group.  Ask around. I believe that all hospitals equipped with a Labor and Delivery unit either employ or have resources to find lactation consultants.  You may even check with the local health department.  The one here even has a breastfeeding support group that meets monthly.  You can also join forums filled with women who are full of knowledge and support.  Try these:
La Leche League Mother-to-Mother Forums
Breastfeeding.com Forums
Mothering.com Breastfeeding Forum

I’m not going to lie or sugar coat it.  The first month of breastfeeding is H.A.R.D. for most women, including me.  Feedings are time consuming and you might not know how to get your baby to latch correctly or they may not want to latch properly at all.  It hurts at first.  You’ll be tired.  Sometimes you will really truly feel like a walking milk machine.  But it is all so very worth it in the end and the difficult times will pass.  That’s why it is so vital to have other people to help you if you need it!  Don’t give up!

7.  Sleep!
This one is particularly of importance while your baby is exclusively nursing.  Once they start solids, it does get better!  I know this can be a hard one if you have more than one child or if you are like me and feel guilty about all the things you “should” be doing instead of taking a nap, but like I mentioned before, your body is working HARD to produce that mama milk for your wee one.  In order to maintain a good supply, your body will need to rest.  Breastfeeding WILL make you drowsy at times because it releases hormones associated with sleepy time(melatonin, I believe).  Take a nap!  Rest your eyes for ten minutes!  Kick back n the recliner while your other children read or even *gasp* watch a short television show.  Replenish yourself for your own good and for your baby!

8. Don’t Wean Until You and Your Baby are Ready
That’s right.  I said it.  Besides your husband, no one else in the whole wide world has the right to pressure you or lecture you into weaning your child.  No matter how many rude comments, old wives’ tales, or funny looks other people may give you, you do what is best for YOU and YOUR CHILD.  That may mean weaning at 6 months or at 3 years.  The bottom line is it is not anyone else’s decision.  There are so many benefits to extended nursing that people (or magazines who like to sell shocking propaganda to make money and stir up controversy)who think otherwise are mistaken.  I have nursed one child to 14 months, one to 2 years, and one to 29 months with another little nursling on the way who will likely nurse for at least a year, probably more.  Do what is best for YOU and YOUR CHILD, no one else.

Photobucket
One of my last nursing sessions with my youngest when she was 29 months old

9.  Buy a Quality Breast Pump
This one is intentionally towards the bottom of the list because while I think it is a good tip, depending on how many children you have, how experienced you are, or other variables (do you leave your child in daycare or with babysitters often? Are you prone to mastitis? Do you need to increase your supply, etc) you may not even need a breast pump.  I used mine for my first child for about the first three months and never touched it again except for once when I had a clogged duct when my second child was small.  My children were always with me when they were small enough to need frequent nursing sessions and I’ve been blessed with an abundant milk supply, so I simply didn’t need a pump.  BUT if you think you are going to be using one on a regular basis, I highly, highly recommend Medela brand pumps.  I’ve used a manual one and a small handheld electric one, but by far the most comfortable to use was my double electric pump.  

10. You can continue nursing while pregnant(if you choose)
I have still been nursing a toddler every time I’ve gotten pregnant.  (Yep, I wasn’t kidding when I said I’ve been constantly breastfeeding and/or pregnant for the last 7+ years).  If you choose to continue a nursing relationship with your child after you become pregnant, you will need to be prepared for some discomfort, especially during the first trimester.  Breast soreness is a common symptom in early pregnancy and this can be compounded if you have a child who regularly attaches themselves to them.  I will be honest and say that I never found anything that relieved this completely, but the lanolin I mentioned earlier helped.  Mostly, I just remained as patient as possible and also tried distraction techniques to give myself a break every once in awhile.  All of my children were walking and talking by the time I was pregnant again, so this was more possible than if you still had a younger child.  I would offer a snack or a drink in a sippy cup instead of nursing.  If your child is younger, you could pump and give bottles for a brief period. 

Nursing while pregnant will NOT harm your new baby.  

11. Don’t watch the clock
Unlike formula fed babies, breastfed babies don’t need to follow a strict schedule.  Unless there is some underlying health issue or they go extremely long periods without waking for feedings, feed your baby on demand.  Breastmilk digests differently than formula and breastfed babies are often hungrier faster.  Learn your babies hunger cues(typically rooting around with their mouths is a key one) and feed them when they are hungry, regardless of what the clock says. 

The length of nursing sessions can also vary depending on your child and the type of nursling they are.  My first child would nurse for over an hour during some feedings while my son got down to business and could be done in 20 minutes or less.  Take your time and figure out your own natural pattern.  

12. Learn the signs and symptoms of common nursing problems
Clogged ducts, thrush, and mastitis are no fun at all.  Make yourself aware of the symptoms of these things so that if you start experiencing symptoms, you can seek treatment or take the necessary measures to get well again.  A good place to start is KellyMom

13.  Invest in good, quality nursing bras 
The cheap ones might be easier on your budget at first, but you’ll have to replace them often if you nurse longer than a few months.  Go ahead and splurge on this item and you’ll be more comfortable and you can reuse them through multiple children.  Nursing bras don’t have to be frumpy either!  Shop around and you can find pretty and feminine bras as well!  Just like with a regular bra, make sure that you get a properly fitting bra.  Most maternity stores will measure you, if you are unsure.  The size of your breasts can fluctuate greatly while nursing, so make sure that your bra is the size that you NEED, not the size you were pre- or even during pregnancy!

14.  Stock up on nursing pads or buy reusable ones!
I have always used disposable nursing pads (I know, I know)., though I have friends that have sworn by the reusable variety, like LilyPadz.  Whichever one you choose, you NEED to have these or else you will find yourself in a rather embarrassing situation when out in public and it hits feeding time, or a baby cries, or you think about if it’s close to nursing time, etcTrust me on this one. 

15.  Cherish this time with your child
No matter the length of your nursing relationship, it is a special time that will bond you to your child in such an amazing way.  Spending that time holding your baby, cuddling them, stroking their little downy heads, all the while knowing that it is your body supplying their nourishment is something that is better experienced than explained.  It is a gift from God.  It can be hard, but it is oh-so-worth-it and it flies by faster than you can imagine. One day you’ll think back fondly of the sweet nicknames your child came up with to call their nursing time (my oldest called it “nigh-nigh”, my son called it “wuh,” and my youngest calls it “nursies”), the times when you watched your toddler do acrobatic moves while still attached to you (trust me on this one), or the times when the only thing that would calm a child with a boo boo was a nurse from Mommy and you’ll get wistful.  Fleeting moments.  Treasure them.

What’s your best tip for nursing mothers?

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Comments

  1. I highly recommend a heating pad for the first couple of weeks because you WILL have cramping as your nurse and your uterus contracts. Sometimes it can get really intense!

    All three of my girls refused to nurse if I used lanolin. I followed the directions of the tube and the lactation consultant and used it only after I nursed my girls, but they just hated it. I tried different brands, etc. What I ended up using instead was lanolin free from Gerber and it was excellent. It worked perfectly fine for me and I found it at my local Walmart. Here is a link if anyone is interested: http://bit.ly/16rx85O

    I also had to use a pump for a different reason than most. I was a cow when it came to milk production and my milk never regulated itself with any of my girls. My dr. said it was rare, but not completely uncommon. After several weeks of no regulation and extreme discomfort due to producing more milk than my girls could handle I used my pump to release the extra. You can freeze it and often donate to a milk bank. I couldn’t because we didn’t have one close enough.

  2. If at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up- ask for help.
    I was determined to nurse with my oldest, bu I couldn’t get her to latch on correctly. I was a nervous and frustrated fist time mom. My sister encouraged me not to give up but to schedule an appointment with the lactation consultant who happened to be on vacation until the next week. For the first week of her life dh and I both hung on. I pumped round the clock. He gave her the milk in a bottle because I was determined NOT to give the bottle myself in case it cause confusion and messed up the nursing later on.
    At one week, I had an appointment. In the first few minutes, the lactation consultant got her to latch on and taught me how.
    I went on to happily nurse her and three other children exclusively. All of my children nursed for more than a year, and my last nursed for three years. It was a wonderful thing for all of us, and I don’t regret it.
    So even though it may be hard- especially at first- stick with it and let an experienced mom or professional help you. It is worth it!

  3. Thank you for your advice.

    I’m currently nursing my eight-month-old daughter. I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to wean her close to a year or just let her keep going if she wants. I know breastfeeding is advantageous, but part of me is concerned about what other people will say.

    I definitely recommend the Mother Love Nipple Cream. I much preferred that to lanolin in my first month or so of breastfeeding.

  4. This is great advice! It’s so funny how different moms can be though. I use plain jane sports bras (not nursing bars), never use nursing pads or have trouble leaking and I gave my nursing pillows away because we never use them! Plus, we would be lost without our clocks, lol. I agree that a breastfed baby eats more often, especially in those first few weeks, but they can thrive on a feeding schedule just like formula fed babies. All babies need to be fed when they are hungry, but they can settle into a rhythm if you are consistent.

    I guess it’s all about finding what works for you and sticking with it. And if you’d gone to school for breastfeeding, after 5.5 years you most definitely would have your Master’s degree 🙂 Talk about an accomplishment! You’re a professional!

    Thanks for linking up at Babies and Beyond.

    Katherine
    http://www.proverbsandpacifiers.com

  5. Great post! One of my biggest regrets in my mothering career is that I stopped nursing my last baby at 6 months. I seriously regretted it within one week. It was completely selfish and I won’t let that happen again. I love nursing, it is a beautiful experience. I love the bonding and I love that it is one thing that only I can provide for my child. I’ve always nursed my babies on demand too, I never pay attention to the times they eat. My one tip would be: LEARN TO NURSE LYING DOWN!! 🙂

  6. A wonderful post! My daughter is expecting her first baby in January and I’m passing this on to her. I’ve nursed my 8 babies, but I know she’ll appreciate all that you’ve shared here. It’s always helpful to read what you’ve heard others say before. Thank you for putting this together. And enjoy your newest nursling!

  7. Making sure you drink enough is so true! I’ve noticed that my milk supply goes down when I’m dehydrated. So, I’m constantly trying to remember to drink water throughout the day. 🙂

    This is the first baby I’ve had a Boppy pillow for and it’s made all the difference in the world! It’s so much easier on my back…and arms. 🙂

  8. Much wisdom in your tips! Breastfeeding is so beneficial for both mom and baby. The years of breastfeeding that you have attained reduce the risk of breast cancer significantly.

  9. Thanks for the great tips! I’m a new mom to a 4-month-old boy and love reading stuff like this. The first few weeks of breastfeeding were frustrating and discouraging, but at around 3 months, it got SO much easier. Now I absolutely love having that closeness to my son.

    In my very brief breastfeeding experience, I would say all of your tips are right on. I’m a nursing cover-user and, wow, those are such a lifesaver!

  10. Great tips Dusty! Thanks for sharing this at the Babies & Beyond Link-Up!

    After reading your post, I had to go and do the math and figure out how long I have been breastfeeding – about 7 years and 3 months! Wow, that is crazy when you lump it all together! And I’ve been pregnant and/or nursing for my entire marriage except for about 2 months (we celebrated 10 years this past April)! I wouldn’t have it any other way though!!

    Blessings!

  11. Oh, and I’m featuring your post at the link-up tomorrow!

    I hope you’ll stop by and link up again and grab a ‘featured’ button!

  12. I have a 3 month old and have been perplexed as too why I’m so tired. I haven’t been drinking enough! ::light bulb::

  13. I love the Lily Pads! Thanks for your great advice, I’ve been looking for advice online in the nursing department and am so glad to have had the chance to read your post! 🙂

    Bibi

  14. Thanks so much for your tips!! In a few weeks I embark on my breastfeeding journey and I really appreciate your advice.

  15. I’m still nursing my 6 month old son and have had a wonderful experience so far. Yes, it hurt and felt like pins and needles when I first started, but it only lasted a few weeks.

    I didn’t put a whole lot of pressure on myself when I started and I found that helped me the most. I tried not to get frustrated when we were both learning how to nurse, and that made things so much easier.

    I didn’t get clear help at the hospital, so my best source of information and advice was my mother (who nursed 3 of us). So use the women in your life who have been successful with breast feeding, they have experience on their side.

  16. My biggest tip would be to check for a tongue tie, especially if you are struggling. I am struggling to nurse my 3.5 week old because of a tongue tie. I actually just had it reclipped yesterday because, although, they clipped it in the hospital, but not enough. The lactation consultants have been invaluable to me-they will advocate for you to make breastfeeding easier, in this case the lactation consultant actually made the appointment to get it reclipped for me.

Trackbacks

  1. […] like a champ. Throughout the years, I’ve come to fine tune my nursing regime, so to speak. I know what works and what doesn’t and I have always said that my breastfeeding pillow was my top favorite nursing accessory. […]

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