Breastfeeding

Your Survival Guide to Breastfeeding a Newborn

Breastfeeding a newborn is one of the biggest challenges a new mother faces. Not only are you trying to keep a helpless tiny little human that you’ve just met alive, but you also have just gone through one of the greatest physical endeavors of your own life (plus crazy hormones, lack of sleep, etc. etc. ETC.)!

Breastfeeding is supposed to be natural, but at the beginning it can feel anything but natural to a new mom. Not only does baby have to learn how to breastfeed, but mom also has to learn.

Needless to say, breastfeeding a newborn is a huge undertaking that can be very stressful for new moms! Even veteran moms are often surprised at the learning curve that comes with breastfeeding a second (or third or fourth!).

Well mamas, I’ve got your back. Below are tips you need to know to help you through this difficult (but beautiful!) transition. Breastfeeding a newborn is definitely a learning curve. If you can make it past the newborn phase (even the first 3 weeks), you have a great chance of achieving your breastfeeding goals!

My number one tip for new moms is to take a breastfeeding class. It will give you so much information and you will feel MUCH more prepared to breastfeed your newborn. 

If you’re pregnant and don’t feel like going out to a class (or maybe your baby is here and going to a class isn’t an option), don’t worry.

Milkology is the ultimate ONLINE breastfeeding class that you can watch from your couch! This course is incredibly helpful and the instructor, a qualified lactation consultant, explains things to well.

Be sure to check out Milkology today. You won’t regret it!

Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn

Tips for Successfully Breastfeeding a Newborn

Frequency

Tip #1: Feed on demand.

Newborn babies who are breastfeeding should be fed on demand, meaning that whenever baby is hungry, feed him/her! If baby is showing hunger signs half an hour after feeding, try feeding again.

When my baby is fussy, this is usually the first thing I try to calm her.

Even if your baby is not showing hunger signs (maybe taking an extra long nap) they should be fed every 2-3 hours (this means 2-3 hours from the time you start breastfeeding)

It’s ok to allow baby to sleep for one 4 hour stretch at night (if they will sleep that long: many won’t), but any more than that and you should be waking them to feed.

Rooming-in with baby and specifying that he/she is not to be given pacifiers or be bottle fed are important steps to ensuring a good breastfeeding relationship. You may want to include this on your birth plan as well.

 

The First Hour After Birth

Tip #2: Feed your baby and have plenty of skin-to-skin contact after birth.

It is important to feed your baby in the first hour or two after birth. Baby will be quite alert at this time and ready to nurse.

After this period, baby gets drowsy (who wouldn’t after a spectacular entrance into the world!) and it can be harder to get him/her to latch.

Having skin-to-skin contact is also very important at this time and can help encourage baby to latch, so whip off that nursing gown! Believe me, you won’t care who sees what after you give birth!

You may want to add this to your birth plan to ensure that skin-to-skin and breastfeeding are a priority.

Take advantage of in-hospital (or wherever you choose to give birth) support for breastfeeding mamas. Some have lactation consultants in-house.

In my experience, the nursing staff on the maternity ward are very knowledgeable about breastfeeding a newborn as well.

The First Few Days

Tip #3: Your milk production will be minimal at first–Don’t panic!

Your milk will not come in until 3-5 days after birth.

In the first few days, your breasts will produce colostrum, a nutrient-dense substance. Your baby’s stomach is tiny, about the size of a cherry, so they will not need much fluid to fill them.

Your milk will come in 3-5 days after birth (be sure to let your baby nurse often to encourage this to happen). In the following weeks, their stomach will grow substantially and they will drink more.

If you pump before your milk comes in, don’t be alarmed that you only get a tiny bit (the colostrum); it’s all baby needs.

Tip #4: Watch diaper output.

You probably have heard that you should be expecting your newborn to have at least 8 wet diapers a day. In the first few days of the baby’s life, this is actually not true. You should expect one wet diaper for every day of your baby’s life. For example:

1 day old=1 wet diaper

2 day old=2 wet diapers

3 day old=3 wet diapers

4 day old=4 wet diapers

By day 8, you should expect 8 or more wet diapers a day.

Latching

Tip #5 Expect some, but not severe, pain.

Latching in the early days is tough. Your baby doesn’t totally know what to do, and their little mouths can be pretty painful. Deep breaths and counting down from ten can help you deal with the worst of the pain. If severe pain persists, it probably means baby is not latched well.

Tip #6: See a lactation consultant.

Two words: lactation consultant, lactation consultant, lactation consultant! I guess that’s really six words.

Don’t hesitate to seek help from an expert. These women are a wonderful resource that can check the baby’s latch, answer any question you have, and provide you with support and encouragement.

It’s also great to visit one just to confirm that everything is going right, just to make you feel more self confident. 

Ask your healthcare provider for information, or go to La Leche League Canada to find a lactation consultant near you.

Milk Coming In

Tip #7: Ease engorgement before feeding.

When your milk comes in, it can be quite uncomfortable. It may be trickier to get baby to latch. Easing engorgement (i.e. express some milk so your breasts are not so full) can help baby to latch more easily. Hand expressing some milk is a good way to do this, as is taking a warm shower.

To Ease the Pain of Engorgement:
  • Hand express some milk.
  • Take a hot shower.
  • Use a heating pad.
  • Use cabbage leaves in your bra (some people say this may dry up your milk, but others swear by it).
  • Try not to pump a lot. This will only encourage your breasts to produce more milk.
Tip #8: Choose your wardrobe carefully.

Dark or patterned tops can camouflage leaks if you’re out and about. You probably won’t want to wear anything too tight until your supply has regulated and engorgement has stopped (yes, things will go back to normal–relatively–after a few weeks).

Tip #9: Have plenty of breast pads on hand.

You will find that your breast leak often, so keep breast pads handy. Reusable, breathable pads are the best. Look for ones that are not lined in plastic, which can trap moisture. Get lots; you’ll need them!

Breastfeeding a Newborn at Night

Tip #10: Keep baby awake for a full feed at nighttime.

Babies often fall asleep at the breast, before they finish a feed. It’s important to keep them nursing, especially at night, when a full feed will encourage baby to sleep a little longer! Here are a few tips for keeping your baby awake to finish a feed:

  • stroke their cheek
  • tickle their toes
  • blow on their cheeks/neck
  • strip them down to their diaper
  • touch their feet with a wet facecloth
  • change their diaper before switching sides
Tip #11: Nurse laying down at night.

Learn how to nurse your baby laying down (side-lying position)! You might not sleep while nursing, but you can at least rest your eyes and be comfy in bed.

Tip #12: Keep distractions at a minimum.

If your baby is wide awake after a feed you will want to keep the lights low and not interact with your baby too much so you can get them back to sleep quicker. You don’t have to change their diaper every time they wake, unless of course their diaper is dirty. You might keep them swaddled while feeding in order to easily transition them back to bed.

Let Others Help You

Tip #13: Find a support group

Breastfeeding support groups are another great resource, which can connect you with other mamas who have been there. Especially if you don’t have many friends/family who have breastfed, a support group can give you the encouragement you need to keep going.

Tip #14: Rely on friends and family

Friends and family have a role in supporting you in your breastfeeding journey. You will breastfeeding for hours a day and it might feel like you permanently have a little babe hooked to your boob (this will only last a few months; as babies grow they become much more efficient nursers!).

Don’t feel like you also need to be a super housewife. Getting the dishes and laundry done when caring for a new baby can seem impossible, much less having a spotless house.

Put your husband or partner in charge of cooking supper; ask friends or family to help with housework or make you a casserole. Ignore the dust bunnies in the corner and the clutter building up on counters (you’ll soon be ignoring piles of toys all over your house).

Now is the perfect time to rely on others while you concentrate on nourishing your little one. Don’t feel guilty about it for a second!

Get the Right Gear

*This post contains affiliate links. I may receive a small commission at no cost to you if you make a purchase.

Tip #15: Find a nursing pillow that fits.

All you really need to breastfeed is a hungry baby, but there are definitely some products that can make things much easier! A nursing pillow can make the long hours you will spend on the couch more comfortable. If you have a long torso, tuck another pillow underneath so you don’t have to slouch. See my recommendations for nursing pillows here.

Tip #16 HYDROGEL PADS!!!!

Hydrogel pads literally saved my nipples when I had a cracked nipple when nursing my second. It is now my go-to baby shower present for first-time moms. A definite must-have. See my list of other essentials for breastfeeding a newborn and which items skip here.

Things to Avoid

Tip #17: Use a pacifier sparingly

Experts recommend to avoid using the pacifier for the first 4-6 weeks, if possible. This will prevent nipple confusion.

This doesn’t mean if a pacifier touches your baby’s lips they will never nurse again. If you’re having a really awful night and baby is crying their head off, using the pacifier sparingly to get you through is not going to hurt. Try not to make it a habit though, just a last resort.

Not all pacifiers are created equally. You can read this post from McKinzie at Today Mommy about the best pacifiers for breastfed babies and learn more about the pros and cons about using a pacifier here.

Tip #18 Save the bottle

Likewise, it’s recommended that you do not introduce a bottle in the first 4-6 weeks. Bottles deliver milk to baby much more quickly with much less effort. If your babe gets used to this, they may not want to put the effort into nursing.

Best to wait until breastfeeding is well established to introduce a bottle (if you choose to at all).

Know This

Tip #19: Feel Confident that You CAN Feed Your Baby

Many new moms doubt their ability to breastfeed successfully.

The two most important signs of a well-fed baby are:

  • adequate diaper output (8 wet diapers per day)
  • a baby that is gaining weight.

As long as both these things are happening, you can feel confident in nursing your baby.

Here are some signs that do NOT indicate there is a problem with breastfeeding:

  • Your baby wants to nurse more frequently than every 2-3 hours (this is called cluster-feeding).
  • Your baby seems hungrier in the evening and your breasts feel empty.
  • Your baby wakes up often to feed at night.
  • Your baby seems fussy in between feeds.
  • Your breasts feel less full at night.
  • Your breast feel less full after a few weeks (engorgements only last for a few weeks, thankfully!).
  • Your baby has lots of gas and appears uncomfortable.

These are all absolutely normal and do not indicate that baby is hungry, or there is anything wrong.

Of course you should consult you doctor if your mommy instinct are telling you something is up, but all of these signs can happen when breastfeeding a newborn successfully as well.

If your healthcare provider does feel that you have low supply, check out my tips for increasing your supply in a hurry here.

Tip #20: You are amazing!

Breastfeeding a newborn is a lot of work. Know that you are a trooper and you can do this.

This phase truly does not last long (as all the annoying older people remind you when they tell you to enjoy every minute), even though, at times, it seems never ending.

Soon you and your babe will be pros and you’ll be able to latch him/her on in your sleep (sometimes literally).

Count down the days if you have to (I did!), but after three or four weeks of breastfeeding a newborn, you’ll be feeling so much more confident. Your body is doing amazing things and you deserve a lot of credit. You got this, mama!

Are you also planning on pumping, either the occasional bottle, pumping exclusively, or pumping when you return to work? Read my top tips for pumping here and my must-haves for pumping moms here.

Breastfeeding a Newborn Tips

Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn

Do you have any advice on breastfeeding a newborn or words of encouragement for other moms? Comment below!

Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn

6 Comments

  1. Crystal Russell August 11, 2018
  2. Valerie August 13, 2018
  3. Courtney Russell August 14, 2018
  4. Amy August 14, 2018

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