While breastfeeding is completely natural, it’s not always easy. Some mamas have a fairly stress-free experience; others have a tougher journey. Because of that, you may need to let go of whatever your expectations are when that time comes for you and your baby. So to help you prepare, we spoke to the local experts—lactation consultants—and got their top tips for breastfeeding.
Tip 1: Try “Laid Back Breastfeeding” for Comfort
“[This] is a great position for moms that are having trouble getting comfortable due to being hunched over when breastfeeding,” says Kara Rosales, a lactation consultant with For Babies Sake. “It also stimulates baby’s reflexes, so it’s great for very young babies.”
How do you do this? “Get yourself into a reclined position (about 45 degrees) with lots of support under your arms and back,” Rosales explains.
“Baby should lay on top of you, belly to belly with their head on your chest. Baby will lift their head and search for the nipple if they’re hungry, or just doze on you if they’re not. Their neck should extend, and your nipple should point towards the roof of baby’s mouth. You can relax and gently guide them toward the nipple. Your main job is to cradle your arm around them to keep them from rolling off your belly; they will do the rest of the work.”
Tip 2: Tend the Nipple
“Sore nipples can often be helped pretty easily,” says Rosales. “If there’s any damage, soak the nipples for a minute or two in saline solution. It can be made easily by mixing 1/2 tsp of salt and 8 oz of warm water.
If there’s no damage but the skin of the nipple is raw and tender, focus on applying a nipple butter that has calendula in it, like Motherlove. If there’s sign of infection, or nipples won’t heal, contact your doctor or an IBCLC [International Board Certified Lactation Consultant] quickly.”
Tip 3: Massage and Compression
Cleo Marchese, a lactation consultant at Natural Beginnings (based in Plano and Garland and offering home visits), suggests doing deep breast compressions or massaging your breast to speed up the milk flow. “If your baby is really sleepy [this] will speed up milk flow…start at the chest wall sweeping down towards the areola.”
Tip 4: Forget the “Hard and Fast” Rules of Breastfeeding
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about when you should feed your baby. Is it every two hours? Three? Should you feed on a schedule; or on demand?
For Babies Sake lactation consultant Mellanie Sheppard says that the reality is it’s impossible to make hard-and-fast rules about breastfeeding, because every mom and baby pair is different. “We can give some general guidelines that you can tweak for your family. Most newborns eat 10–12 times per day.”
Sheppard notes that you should expect the intervals between feedings to be erratic (ranging from 30 minutes to three hours). “As babies get older, there may be more predictability,” she says. For example, when they’re first born, babies may require help to wake up for feedings, especially if they are swaddled.
Sheppard says that after babies have regained birth weight (and are about two weeks old), you can begin feeding according to hunger cues. “Feeding babies according to their hunger cues is the best way for your body and your baby to get in sync, to stimulate milk production and to help baby learn to recognize their body’s signals for hunger and satisfaction.”
Tip 5: Learn the Difference Between Active Nursing and Nibbling
“When your baby is actively drinking milk, the jaw moves up and down,” says Marchese. “The movement is so strong that the ears twitch and sometimes the forehead moves. Your baby will also make a ‘kaw’ sound when swallowing milk.” Ultimately, know what rhythm to look for: suck, suck, swallow.
Tip 6: Keep an Eye Out for Jaundice
Marchese also recommends being proactive with your little if he or she has newborn jaundice. “Wake your baby [every] 2–3 hours to breastfeed [and] don’t let your baby sleep long stretches without eating—your baby will become harder to wake up.”
Marchese stresses that really hungry babies with jaundice feed poorly. “Babies appear to be sleeping to their parents; most moms will say, ‘My baby is lazy and will not suck at the breast.’ Your baby is not lazy; babies will shut down to conserve calories.”
Tip 7: Remember, Lactation Consultants Can Help With More Than Just Milk Transfer
Heather Martin with Beyond the Breast in Fort Worth wants moms to remember that while lactation consultants help primarily with milk transfer, many also offer continuous education to help families with hormones or allergy concerns, tongue or lip tie, even induced lactation in the case of adoption.
Tip 8: Hire a Lactation Consultant
This may seem obvious, coming from lactation consultants themselves, but it’s a reminder that help is out there if you need it. And it doesn’t make you any less of a mother. “IBCLCs are often the only health professionals who look at both mom and baby as a pair,” notes Sheppard.
“We help with a variety of issues, from the very simple to the very complicated. A mom might struggle with milk supply with a baby with a tongue-tie, or have mastitis with a baby who can’t latch. She may need help navigating pumping and introducing bottles while still protecting breastfeeding. She may have a chronic health condition or baby may have special medical needs.”
IBCLCs tend to have experience with babies of all ages—from newborn to toddlers—in addition to different moms with various struggles. “If breastfeeding is not going as smoothly as you thought, seek out an IBCLC in your area for help,” says Sheppard and Rosales.
Additional Resources for Breastfeeding
Did you know there are various groups out there that specifically offer support in terms of breastfeeding? One major group is the La Leche League of Texas. There are multiple groups around the DFW area from Denton to Bedford to Dallas and Collin County. Some hospitals also offer lactation support, regardless of whether you delivered there.
This article was originally published in October 2020.