Breastfeeding has been around for as long as the human race and over time, not much has changed.
Inside: learn the best breastfeeding tips that EVERY mom needs to know to make life easier (and less painful).
Sure, now we have doctors to help when we go in wondering, “why does my nipple hurt?”, and we have lactation consultants to give us breastfeeding advice and to tell us the keys to breastfeeding success.
However, the main concept has not changed:
Our bodies produce the nutrition and food source that our babies need to survive.
(Of course, some mother’s simply can’t breastfeed for various reasons, and in that case, we have formula to come to the rescue. However, if there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to breastfeed, read on to learn the best breastfeeding tips and the answers to all your breastfeeding questions.)
(THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS FOR YOUR CONVENIENCE. YOU CAN READ OUR DISCLOSURE POLICY HERE.)
Before we dive into the top tips for breastfeeding success and answer all your pressing breastfeeding questions, if you’ve struggled with PAIN during breastfeeding (or haven’t yet, but want to be prepared for if/when it happens), here are my top must-haves for how to make breastfeeding less painful…
How to make breastfeeding hurt less:
– Nipple cream (make sure it has lanolin in it – that’s the most important ingredient. This cream does.)
– Ice packs that fit around your boobs
– Haakaa manual pump. I didn’t have one of these at first and I SO WISH I did. It works as well as any other pump, except its NO work at all.
– Nipple shield. If your nipples become sore, these take away the pain while allowing you to continue breastfeeding.
– Milk saver. These keep fabrics like your shirt or bra from rubbing on sore nipples, and they also collect any leaked milk throughout the day so your bra doesn’t become soggy – and so that you don’t have to waste that leaked liquid gold.
Whether you’re a first time mom or you’ve been a mom 5 times over, coming around to breastfeeding a newborn is a challenge regardless of how many children you have.
For first time moms, breastfeeding can often feel hopeless, impossible, and like something you just weren’t created to do.
By the time you’ve had a kid or two already, you know that you’ll get the hang of breastfeeding, but it doesn’t mean those first few weeks aren’t still filled with challenges of their own.
Some common breastfeeding challenges may be:
- Sore nipples
- Low milk supply
- High milk supply
- Plugged duct
- Added hormones
- Time consuming
- Nursing strike (when baby decides to quit nursing on their own)
- Struggling to get out of the house (especially in the first few weeks)
As wonderful as breastfeeding is, it definitely comes with its challenges. But, that isn’t to say that the benefits don’t outweigh the challenges, because they do… by far.
Here are just a few of the many benefits of breastfeeding.
Benefits of breastfeeding for baby & mom
- Bonding with baby
Breastfeeding brings a certain level of bonding with your baby that you just can’t get through anything else. The large amounts of skin-on-skin while breastfeeding is one of the main factors of bonding while breastfeeding.
- Saves money
Thanks to breastfeeding, you don’t have to dish out upwards of $75/month on formula. Instead, you can save that money and use it to pamper yourself.
You can find a breakdown of just how much it costs to formula feed a baby, here.
- Gives you time to rest
Breastfeeding requires a LOT of downtime. At first, it won’t feel very relaxing. But with time, as both you and your baby become accustomed to breastfeeding and learn how it works, it will become one of the most relaxing parts of your day.
And, as a mom, you know how hard it is to take time in your day to just sit down and do nothing. (In fact, it’s just about impossible.) So, breastfeeding forces you to take that down time and refresh your body.
- Helps your baby develop
There have been numerous studies done showing the ample benefits of breastfeeding in regards to baby’s health, both mental and physical.
Not only has breastfeeding been proven to reduce the risk of asthma, respiratory tract infections, and ear infections (along with a long list of other more serious childhood diseases), it has also been proven to improve child neurodevelopment. (Source)
- Decreased chance of PPD
Breastfeeding isn’t just good for the baby, though, it also has benefits for mom (like losing the baby weight faster and decreasing your chances of getting breast cancer). On top of many other benefits, it helps decrease mom’s chance of getting postpartum depression.
- Is easier to digest
Breast milk is easier for baby to digest than formula. Which means, by breastfeeding, your baby could have fewer stomach aches, less constipation, and less diarrhea. Your baby can break your breast milk down easier than they can formula.
- Lower risk of SIDS
When my oldest was a baby, my husband and I were absolutely freaked out by the SIDS statistics. Breastfeeding helped me feel more at ease since studies have shown that breastfed babies account for only half as many SIDS incidents as formula fed babies do.
Here’s some more information on how to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Releases oxytocin
Oxytocin is ultimately the bonding hormone. When you breastfeed, your body releases ample amounts of oxytocin which helps you bond with your baby.
Oxytocin is also the same hormone that is released during childbirth (and after childbirth), triggering your uterus to contract. This is why in those first few weeks postpartum, you may notice painful cramps while your baby is breastfeeding, this is because the oxytocin is helping your uterus contract back to its pre-pregnancy size.
This article gives far more information on the role that oxytocin plays while breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding tips for new moms
Now that you’ve heard the good, the bad, and the ugly, it’s time to move on to some breastfeeding tips to help you navigate the challenges and conquer breastfeeding.
It’s something both you and your baby will be glad you did.
…let’s address a couple common breastfeeding questions new moms have.
How do you get a good latch when breastfeeding?
Getting a good latch is something I quickly learned isn’t as easy as it looks.
When I was in early labor, I walked around the hospital for the hours leading right up to the birth of my son (you can read the incredible benefits of walking while in labor, here).
One thing I recall very clearly were all the posters in the postpartum unit that showed pictures of mothers lovingly breastfeeding their new babies.
I remember thinking how wonderful breastfeeding was going to be.
But, I didn’t know all the challenges my son and I would face before breastfeeding finally did get wonderful.
After having my son, the very first struggle we had was getting a good latch when breastfeeding.
Since we couldn’t get a good latch, it caused my nipples to become cracked and blistered and I was starting to resent breastfeeding…
…and my sweet baby wasn’t even 24 hours old.
After getting his tongue tie snipped, using ample amounts of nipple cream (if you have cracked nipples or just want to prepare, this is the nipple cream that I used and it completely healed my nipples in TWO days), and meeting up with a lactation consultant, we finally learned how to get a good latch all the time.
If you’re wondering, “how can I get my baby to latch deeper?”, here are the top tips for getting a good latch while breastfeeding:
- Get your baby into your breastfeeding position of choice
- Cradle the back of baby’s head
- Grab your boob like a sandwich (with your hand in the shape of a “C”)
- Aim the nipple upward, and run it from the tip of his nose down to his top lip
- Tickle the top of his lip until he opens his mouth wide
- Drop the nipple into your baby’s mouth – keeping it facing upwards
- Lift your baby’s head in an upward position to help him got a solid latch – with the nipple in his mouth, push his head towards the nipple so that his top lip is the last part to latch onto the nipple
Give yourself time while you’re trying to get a good latch while breastfeeding. Although breastfeeding is the most natural thing you can do, it won’t always come naturally at first, so lots of practice is key.
Once you’ve learned how to get baby latched on the breast, here are a few signs to look for that tell you your baby has a good latch. Here are the breastfeeding tips latch:
Signs of a good breastfeeding latch:
- No pain. Though there may be some discomfort or milk pain when your letdown happens, there shouldn’t be any nipple pain.
- Baby’s ear is in line with his shoulder. One thing to look out for is that your baby’s head isn’t cranked to the side while he’s breastfeeding. Imagine trying to drink through a straw with your head turned completely sideways. It wouldn’t be very fun OR easy. To make it as easy as possible for your baby, try to keep his ear in line with his shoulder, which should be in line with his hip.
- Fish lips. Your baby’s lips should be puckered out over your breast, not tucked into his mouth.
- More breast. Check that your baby isn’t sucking just on the tip of your nipple. That’s when pain, bleeding, and irritation will start. Make sure your baby’s mouth is open W-I-D-E so they can get a mouthful of breast, not just nipple.
- Tongue cups breast. Watch under your breast to see if you can see your baby’s tongue peeking out under his bottom lip. His tongue should be nicely tucked around your breast.
- Moving ear. Watch your baby’s ear as he eats. Your baby is getting a good latch when you can see his ear move slightly. It won’t be huge movements, just small, repetitive movements. This means that baby is using the right muscles to feed. I didn’t know this trick until my son was a few months old, and when I met with a lactation consultant that’s the first thing she told me – she could tell he didn’t have a good latch because his ear wasn’t moving.
- You can hear swallowing. If your baby is sucking but isn’t swallowing, then there’s likely a problem with his latch that could be resulting in him not getting milk. Check that you can either see or hear him swallowing. If you can’t, try re-latching.
Learning how to get a good latch can be a difficult and frustrating process, especially for first-time moms that feel like they have no idea what their doing.
These are the best tips you can use to tell if your baby is latching. Follow the steps laid out above if you’re wondering, “how can I get my newborn to latch better?”. Getting a good latch isn’t rocket-science, but it isn’t too easy to do, either, especially when your baby is so young and your hormones are all over the map.
If you feel yourself getting worked up and wanting to quit breastfeeding, take a break and assure yourself that it’s okay to feel like this. Then, try again at the next feeding.
How long should a breastfeeding session last?
This is a question with many different answers. The answers may vary depending on:
- The baby
- Baby’s age
- The mom
- The latch
Different baby’s will feed for different lengths of times. And, each baby will feed for more and less time at certain ages and stages. It also depends on the mom and how quickly her letdown comes and her milk supply.
A typical average feeding will be 10 – 20 minutes long (once you and your baby have established breastfeeding). But, it is not uncommon for babies to feed anywhere from 5 – 45 minutes.
Typically, the older the baby gets, the shorter the feedings will become.
Here’s a quick breakdown of feeding times for baby’s based on age:
Newborns will usually eat every 2 – 3 hours and feed for an average of 25 – 30 minutes.
However, my son took an average of 50 minutes per feeding, eating every 2 – 3 hours day in and day out for the first while.
3 – 5 months
Once your baby reaches this age, you should find the breastfeeding sessions becoming shorter and easier.
Baby’s three to four months old will typically feed for 5 – 10 minutes.
6 – 12 months
Approximately 5 – 10 minutes.
At this point, you’ve likely started your baby on some solid foods, which means your baby doesn’t need to feed as long, or often, from the breast anymore.
They will also become more distracted at this age, making breastfeeding sessions short and sweet.
12 months +
At this age breastmilk no longer becomes the main source of nutrition for your baby. Although breastfeeding is still beneficial for older babies, they won’t tend to breastfeed as often.
They may still breastfeed before a nap and before bedtime and will likely seek comfort in the form of breastfeeding if they get sick or injured.
How long does cluster feeding go on for?
Cluster feeding is when your baby wants to nurse very frequently, but likely won’t nurse for very long.
It is believed that babies tend to cluster feed when they are about to enter, or are in, a growth spurt or are going through a developmental milestone (hello, rolling over!). The amount that a baby will cluster feed changes from baby to baby. While some babies will cluster feed on and off until they’re 6 months, then stop, other babies may carry on up to a year – and some babies may skip the cluster feeding stage altogether.
Learning how to deal with cluster feeding is key to keeping your sanity (because some days you’ll think the only thing you did ALL DAY LONG was sit on the couch and feed your baby).
The best way to cluster feed is to accept that this is a perfectly normal thing your baby is going through, and be excited as this likely means your baby is growing or getting ready to tackle a brand new task.
Remembering that cluster feeding is merely a stage – and isn’t permanent – will help you get through those long and exhausting long days and nights.
How can I increase my milk supply fast?
If you’re struggling with low milk supply learning how to increase milk supply will help you to be able to continue breastfeeding your baby without having to supplement with formula.
(I want to note that supplementing or strictly using formula is perfectly OKAY… in this post, however, we are talking about breastfeeding tips and how to continue breastfeeding when it’s hard.)
Increasing milk supply isn’t impossible, but it does require some dedication on your part.
Breastmilk is made on-demand. Meaning, the more you breastfeed, the more milk your body will produce.
So, one of the quickest ways to increase breastmilk supply is by encouraging your baby to cluster feed, and pumping in between feeds.
How often should I pump to increase milk supply?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to the frequency you should pump to increase milk supply, since every woman’s body is different from the next.
Simply make sure to pump between feedings. The key is to not let breastmilk sit in the breast – you want to pump it out, triggering your body to make more.
After doing this consistently, your body will naturally start producing more milk between feedings, which will enable you to quit pumping and keep up your milk supply.
Here are a few more things you can do to increase milk supply fast…
Nurse frequently. Even through the night. (I know, if your baby is finally sleeping well at night this is DEFINITELY not something you want to hear… but if you want to increase breastmilk supply fast, it needs to be done.)
Have baby eat off of both sides at each feeding. If your baby normally eats from just one side per feeding, try to have them drink from both sides.
Have a healthy diet. This isn’t an excuse to go eat a bunch of junk food – in fact, that could decrease milk supply. Eat healthy foods, plenty of healthy fats, and stay well hydrated.
Take a nursing vacation. This is when you and baby spend a couple days in bed doing nothing but nursing and resting. (And eating, for you.) This jolts your system and tells it “we need more milk. STAT.” A nursing vacation can be a lot of work if you have a busy schedule, but it’s a great way to increase breastmilk supply fast.
These tips are the best breastfeeding tips for producing more milk and the best breastfeeding tips for milk production.
How can I increase my chances of breastfeeding?
The best way to increase your chances of breastfeeding is to follow each step laid out in this post carefully.
If you take just one thing away from this post, let it be this: breastfeeding takes time.
Most new moms (myself included) think that breastfeeding is just something that will come naturally, but for just about every new mom (myself VERY MUCH included), breastfeeding is one of the biggest challenges they face in new motherhood.
So, to increase your chances of breastfeeding, don’t go into it blindly.
Educate yourself with tips for breastfeeding, take breastfeeding advice from doctors, lactation consultants, and other moms who have been there and done that (but take everyone’s advice with a grain of salt – remember, YOU are the mom, YOU get to decide what’s best for your baby).
Related: How to Manage Labor Pain Naturally
FINALLY we’ve made it through the most common breastfeeding challenges new moms face, we’ve addressed breastfeeding questions, and now you’re ready to learn the absolute best breastfeeding tips for pain, breastfeeding tips for sore nipples, and just all-around best breastfeeding tips every new mom needs to know that will make their life a thousand times easier…
1. Give yourself plenty of time
You’ll find, especially in the beginning, that breastfeeding isn’t a quick ordeal. It’s completely normal for a single breastfeeding session to take up to 45 minutes – and then your baby’s hungry again an hour later.
(Breastfeeding is hard, exhausting work.)
Don’t go into a breastfeeding session with only 5 minutes – because even if your baby doesn’t take 45 minutes at each feeding, you can bet that the time when you’re trying to be quick will be the time that your baby decides to take a long time to eat.
And you can’t just stop a breastfeeding session halfway through.
So, give yourself time. Especially in the beginning when you haven’t gotten completely used to breastfeeding yet, go into each feeding expecting it to last a while.
2. Realize that newborns nurse a lot
For the first few weeks, expect to feel like you’re nothing more than a feeding machine.
Newborns nurse A LOT, and it’s completely normal.
When babies are born their stomach is about the size of a marble. On day 10, their stomach has grown to the size of a large chicken egg. Since their stomachs are so small and can’t hold much, their food is quickly digested and they’re ready for more.
3. Have a breastfeeding station/basket ready to go
A breastfeeding basket or station is the most genius invention I’ve come across regarding breastfeeding.
There’s not much worse than sitting down and finally getting your screaming baby latched, then realizing you forgot to bring something to do… especially if your baby takes 45 minutes to nurse.
It’s not like you can just get up and grab whatever it is you need.
Like a book, nipple cream (I had cracked nipples from day one with my baby. I used this specific nipple cream for two days & they were completely healed. My only regret is that I waited so long to purchase it), the burp cloth, etc.
That’s why a breastfeeding station is so important, because you can keep everything you need for a feeding session where you are – instead of running around all the different rooms of your house to find each individual item.
I like this “caddy” for a breastfeeding basket.
4. Use a hair elastic to remember which side you fed on last
If you feed on one side one feeding, then a different side the next, it’s easy to forget which boob you fed off of last.
I started keeping a hair band on the wrist I fed on last, so I’d never have to worry about forgetting again. (Because I tried for a couple weeks to rely on my memory. Mommy brain? A real thing. Remembering which breast I fed on last? Not happening.)
5. A Boppy
Now that my son is over 8 months, I don’t use my nursing pillow anymore when I feed him. However, when he was under 6 months, I struggled to feed him without it (especially since he wouldn’t breastfeed in the “traditional” position, so I needed my boppy to get us both in a position he would feed in).
6. Back support for nighttime feedings
Feeding baby in the middle of the night is exhausting. Never mind having a sore back screaming at you. I found when I didn’t use my Boppy, my back would get extremely sore from slouching over towards my baby to feed him.
Then, when my back was sore, feeding him leaning up against the headboard of my bed was miserable and painful.
That’s why having some back support like this is SO important.
7. Change positions
I always thought there was the “normal” breastfeeding position, and then the ones that weird people used.
(I was one of those “weird people”.)
After a conversation with my lactation consultant, she assured me that there was no “normal breastfeeding position”.
There were just different positions.
After struggling with my son and failing to be able to get him to breastfeed easily, we tried the football hold breastfeeding position and just like that, he was able to latch easier, feed longer, and be less fussy while feeding.
All this to say, don’t be afraid of changing it up if the position you’re using isn’t working for you and your baby.
Best breastfeeding tips for new moms
And there you have the 7 top breastfeeding tips to help you make breastfeeding easier and more enjoyable.
Download Your Free Cheat Sheet to Ditch the Mommy-Tantrums & Become a Calm Mom
- Download the free cheat sheet: The Calm Mom Checklist: do these 6 things every time you want to lose your cool. You’ll get the free printable, plus join my newsletter! Click here to download and join
- Print. Any printer paper works for this cheat sheet, and you can choose whether to use color or black ink, then grab a pen to start checking things off the list.
- Keep it somewhere central and easily accessible, like the fridge.
Remember, mama – there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to breastfeeding… or parenting in general. So take your time, get to know what works for you AND your baby, and enjoy every moment of the crazy new-mom ride (it really does go by in the blink of an eye).