Breastfeeding: the seemingly simple yet completely eye-opening experience most moms aren’t prepared for. After having breastfed all three of my kids, I learned one or two breastfeeding secrets about nursing, pumping, the health benefits as well as complications that can arise.
Breastfeeding didn’t come easily for me in the beginning, especially with my eldest. I wanted to give up every day and would need to motivate myself to keep going. After a few weeks though, I finally got the hang of it.
With my twins, I breastfed easily from the start, as if my body picked up right where it left off with my eldest. However, after four months, I got hit with thrush, and needed to find ways to cope and overcome that obstacle.
And throughout both times I breastfed my kids, I dealt with clogged ducts and engorged breasts—both uncomfortable hassles, however common they may be.
Still, I chugged on, and I’ve learned a lot of breastfeeding secrets and tips. Not everything is as picture-perfect as you may assume (as I did) and may face challenges. And still, you’ll realize some pretty amazing benefits that come from breastfeeding, as well.
12 breastfeeding secrets every mom should know:
#1: Increase milk supply by pumping the other breast.
Trick your body into producing more milk by pumping one side while the baby is nursing on the other. Then at the next feeding, have baby nurse on the side that was pumped and pump again on the other side. You can use the extra milk for bottles or freeze for later.
#2: Unlatch the baby by inserting your finger.
One mistake to avoid is pulling baby right off while he’s latched. This can hurt you especially when baby is sucking hard. Instead, break the suction by inserting your finger into his mouth. Then, gently create an air pocket by moving your finger, breaking the suction. Only then should you pull baby off.
#3: Ease engorgement manually if needed.
Sometimes your body will produce way more milk than you need at the most inconvenient times. If you’re in the shower, manually relieve engorgement by pressing down and toward the nipple. Imagine a tube of toothpaste you’re trying to push out of the tube from the bottom. Doing this in the shower is helpful because you won’t have to deal with any mess, plus the steam of the room will make the milk come out easier.
#4: Offer your less-sore nipple first.
There might come a time when you’ll suffer from soreness. If one breast isn’t as painful, offer that one first. Your baby will likely suck more vigorously in the earlier part of nursing than the latter.
#5: Try to empty the breast with each feeding.
Breast milk comes in cycles. The first few minutes are more water-based, the “fore” milk. Then, a few minutes later, the fattier part of the milk comes down, the “hind” milk. For those who pump, you can actually see the difference. The first few ounces you pump are lighter-colored, and only later will the milk turn whiter with the fatty milk. To give your child a balanced feed, try to empty the breast so he gets both cycles of milk.
Want to keep track of which side you nursed and how often? I created this feeding and diaper tracker that’s yours free when you sign up for my newsletter:
#6: Wear breast shells to protect nipples from contact.
In the early days, your nipples might feel uncomfortable from anything that chafes it, including your clothes. I found comfort in breast shells. They allow your nipples to breathe without coming into contact with clothing. And if you apply cream, the shells will help even more by making sure it doesn’t rub off.
#7: Feed frequently (and eat more) to increase supply.
Increase supply by feeding or pumping often. I know, easier said than done. But your body will produce less the less you nurse. You’ll also want to make sure you’re eating and resting enough. Your body is hard at work converting your calories into milk.
#8: If you’re pumping at work, leave several parts there as well.
I can’t tell you how many times I broke these darn white membranes. Thankfully I kept a stash at work and at home so I wouldn’t have to skip a pump or run to the store.
If you plan to pump, introduce the bottle early enough before going to work (but only after breastfeeding is well established). Your baby should have had enough time to nurse and latch correctly. But you’ll also want to introduce it early enough that he’ll be comfortable with the bottle.
And when you do, have someone else give him the bottle and leave the room when you do. For instance, have dad or your regular caregiver offer the bottle while you step into the next room. That way, the baby won’t be confused why he’s getting an unfamiliar item, especially when you’re right there.
#10: Make sure baby’s mouth covers a wide area of the breast.
When your baby is latched, his whole mouth should cover the dark part of your breast, the areola. If your baby is only sucking on the protruding part of the nipple, it’ll pinch and hurt you. Plus, the baby won’t be able to suck as much as he can. Instead, encourage him to open wide before latching and sucking.
#11: Use breast milk to soothe and prep your nipples.
Spread a few drops of breast milk over the nipple to soothe it after a nursing session. You can do this along with the lanolin cream, or if you happen to run out. Not only that, you can also use breast milk to prep the nipple for your baby before he latches. Not only will it moisten the area, your baby will also smell it and find it easier to latch.
#12: Prevent common complications.
I came down with thrush when my twins were four-months-old and it was so painful. Prevent thrush and other potential complications from happening by air drying your nipples, eating non-sugary foods and wearing a clean bra or nursing top each time.
Bonus Reader Tip: Nurse over your baby to get rid of plugged ducts.
I had to add this useful tip from SSBE reader Kathleen:
I struggled with plugged ducts until I learned this trick. Lay the baby down, maybe prop their head up a little. Arrange yourself over them so your breast is hanging freely and allow them to nurse. Never had a plugged duct thru more than 2 nursing sessions when doing this. Have passed it on to other women with great success for them, too.
It can be a strange position, but one I’ve done it myself with much success.
I’ll be honest: I had a love-hate relationship with breastfeeding. The first few weeks were some of the toughest. I But I also knew I’d miss the special moments only breastfeeding can offer. After all, this isn’t one of those things you can pause and get back into down the line. I learned to enjoy breastfeeding as much as I could, knowing how beneficial it was for both me and baby.
Read more about breastfeeding secrets and tips:
Tell me in the comments: What are your top breastfeeding secrets and tips?
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