Breastfeeding Tips for the New Mom

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This blog entry is intended to be practical breastfeeding advice, so it’s a little more serious than many of my posts will be. I tend to be lighthearted, but breastfeeding is a passion that I REALLY struggled with and feel that there is very little real life, practical advice out there. I wanted to offer breastfeeding tips to others who may be preparing to have a little one, are currently struggling with breastfeeding or have in the past and plan to have more babies in the future.

Words of Warning – Breastfeeding Can Hurt

Breastfeeding baby JonathanI don’t know if anyone warned me that breastfeeding would be hard.  If they did, I don’t remember hearing it.  I knew it wasn’t EASY because it was taxing on the mother.  I babysat for a family friend after her son was born and watched her struggle to keep up with work, pumping and feeding.  However, I didn’t realize the pain involved.  Sure, I had read about cracked nipples, and I had read sections of books and even one entire book on breastfeeding.  I’d be fine, right?  Wrong!

Jonathan had (well, has) what’s called a recessed chin.  It basically just means the lower jaw is set back and smaller than average.  It makes it hard for a small baby to open his mouth wide enough to latch correctly.  To say I was in pain is putting it lightly.  The pain I experienced those first MONTHS (yes, I said months) was 10 times worse than labor pains (this coming from someone who has had an all natural childbirth with no drugs – this story to come later).  My words of warning to expectant moms?  Breastfeeding is the hardest, yet the most rewarding thing I have done in my entire life.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding

You don’t have to look far to find information on breastfeeding.  Breast is best (in almost all situations).

  • It’s easier for baby to digest
  • It’s got immunities that help baby build a strong immune system
  • It’s got a natural chemical composition designed for human babies that supports the growth of brain tissue
  • The human nipple is shaped perfectly for human mouths – decreasing incidents of orthodontic issues in small children
  • It decreases the incidence of breast cancer in moms. In fact, the longer you breastfeed, the less likely you are to get breast cancer.
    • This, by no means, suggests that you WON’T get breast cancer, but it decreases your predisposed risk.  If you have a strong history of breast cancer in your family, it’s still possible to get it, but it certainly gives you a fighting chance that it will skip you!

The list goes on and on and on.  Does that mean formula is bad?  No.  It’s a fine substitute when you can’t (or don’t want) to breastfeed.  But, this was one thing I felt strongly about from day one.  I was going to breastfeed my baby for the benefits to him AND for the simple fact that it was FREE!

Preparing to Breastfeed

Jonathan, my first child, was born in 2003.  The internet had taken off, but wasn’t the wealth of information it is today.  I had a computer.  I had internet.  I did do some reading on the internet, but (SHOCKER!) I had read more books than internet information!  I think that breastfeeding may be something that is a “less is more” type of parenting thing.

When you research positions, methods, timing of feedings (both length and space apart), you begin to obsess and over think everything.  I had every issue in the book and I think that’s because I was over thinking everything.  Babies instinctively know what to do and just need a little guidance.

Breastfeeding babyI think it’s also important to remember that despite what “they say”, it may hurt at first.  Your nipple has probably never been stretched out an inch from your boob before, right?  Yeah, well, not often anyway ;).  It will probably feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, even if baby is latched on correctly.  I didn’t realize this and thought I was doing something wrong, so I kept adjusting things.  Eventually, the adjusting is what caused cracked/split nipples which, eventually, brought on supplementing.  Once you start supplementing, it’s a slippery slope to weaning.  I fell prey to that.  Pain and supplementing combined with bad information (a nurse at the pediatrician’s office who took one look at my nipple and told me it would never heal – not true!!!) caused me to wean.

I feel guilty to this day that I robbed my first child of the immunities and other health benefits I gave (give) to my other children.  There are situations where breast isn’t best, but true medical reasons are few and far between.  Most obstacles, in my experience, tend to be emotional (which is also a FINE excuse to stop if it is affecting your mental health and your relationship with your baby).  Preparing for the fact that it may not be as easy as it “should” be may help to overcome many of these issues.

Nursing While Living on the Couch

Those first few weeks (heck, MONTHS), you will be a slave to a tiny 7-10 pound little person who seems to want to eat constantly.  I recently read in a handout from the hospital that your milk goes from about 2 oz/day (colostrum) to 30 oz/day in the first 40 days!

How does that milk increase?

Nursing your baby (or pumping) often is the only way to let your body know it needs to produce milk.  Nurse your baby as often as he/she wants to establish a good milk supply.   It often takes a newborn up to an hour to nurse (sure, some of that may be comfort, but think about the trauma they just went through to get into this world!!! You’d want some comfort too!!!!) and you measure space between feedings from start to start.  So, you could literally finish feeding and start all over again in a few minutes.  Being prepared that this is normal might make it a little easier.

If you feed him, Milk will come

Those first few weeks (usually 6-10) are hard, but oh so rewarding.  Knowing that you provide everything your baby needs to survive and thrive is an amazing feeling.  You are giving your baby the perfect start in life by providing the food made just for him/her and the snuggles needed to make him/her feel comfortable in this big scary world.  My oldest was a lazy nurser.  He took at least 45 minutes, each and every time.  I thought there was no way I was producing enough because it felt like he’d want to eat again right after he finished.  Trust your body!  It’s like that movie Field of Dreams. If you feed him, it will come (milk, that is)!!!

Lactation Consultants Can Help You Be Successful

Check ahead of time and see if your hospital has a lactation consultant who can address problems before they become problems.  Try to latch the baby on within an hour after birth (even possible if you have a c-section if you tell your NURSES ahead of time!  I walked in the hospital asking for a lactation consultant and my baby in the recovery room before when I had my scheduled c-section).

Latching Can Be Difficult

Latch issues are common.  Newborn babies have small mouths.  It can be hard to get them to open up wide enough.  Having someone who knows all of the tricks to start your baby (and you!) off right will do wonders for your breastfeeding relationship with your baby.  Be prepared to have your boobies manipulated, tugged on, pinched,… And, no, not by the baby!  By an experienced lactation consultant who just wants to help!  Know that you are both new at this, but women have been doing this since the beginning of time and babies typically survived.

Success is Mine!

Trust your body, trust your baby, and if you have problems, don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Despite my rough start with my oldest, I successfully breastfed my second and third babies well into toddlerhood (and I was working and pumping with number three) and am currently breastfeeding my youngest little man.

Read more of my Natural Baby Blog

About The Author:

Mother of four boys and the wife of a minister in Georgia. The world is full of medical “miracles” but over time and lots of experience, this mom has discovered that raising a natural baby creates the most wonderful bonds and lessons for her children.

Disclaimer: The information provided through this website should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or a disease. It is not a substitute for professional care. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your health care provider.

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September 30, 2012 8:42 pm

I am so glad to read this mom’s account of what breast feeding is really like. It was so honest and forthcoming about the realities of the task. Many people, myself included, have these ideas that because breastfeeding is natural and normal that it will also be comfortable and easy. At least one of my friends had an experience not unlike the mom here and was totally put off by it, but I think part of the problem was that it hurt when she did not think it should have. Clearly there is a lot of misinformation out there, though, and that can make any new mom feel uneasy and unsure of herself, just like when the mom here was told her cracked nipple would never heal. It is also really nice that she laid out her whole experience complete with the expectations she had that were not met and her first-time mom panic about the process. It sounds like she gained a lot of wisdom over time! I definitely feel much better about the whole idea of breastfeeding now and have shared this information with my friends in hopes that some of them will reconsider it.

September 11, 2012 12:01 am

What a great article! It is refreshing to read some realistic advice from a real mom who has been there. She definitely was committed to breastfeeding, and I took away with me that that was the key to success. In reading about the advantages of it, I have become much more enthusiastic about breastfeeding. I especially liked the tip about hiring a lactation consultant. Women who have been through it can be very helpful to each other, and a trained and certified consultant is even better. Having someone be involved in the process of getting you any help as a new mom is invaluable.

On a side note, I am glad to see that more moms are bringing back breastfeeding. The subject was once taboo and kept secret in polite society. Today, the subject has become much more accepted, and that has opened a lot of doors as far as giving new moms more avenues to gather information. Tearing down the taboos paved the way for this article to be written, which was very candid and honest in the information it provided. It makes me, and many other new moms-to-be, much more comfortable with the decision to breastfeed.

August 31, 2012 5:56 pm

I noticed errors that my mother made in breastfeeding my sister. I’d recommend mothers who are breastfeeding for the first time to take cues from your baby. Most mothers who don’t listen to their baby’s cues do wind up having some trouble breastfeeding.

If the baby does not latch on, obviously, the baby isn’t hungry. Either the baby isn’t hungry or the breasts have lotion or something on them. Usually, the baby isn’t hungry yet, but sometimes, it’s difficult to tell.

I know some people who breastfeed their children until they’re in the first grade. In my opinion, that’s too much! Take the baby off of breast milk when the baby starts hurting you with her teeth. Anything beyond that is a little strange. When a baby wants breast milk in public, the mother should feed the baby, but the woman also needs to make sure she is covered up when around other people.

Most people around a mother breastfeeding don’t want to see her cleavage unless they find her attractive. However, I think that’s unnecessarily lust-full considering the circumstances.

August 26, 2012 4:06 am

As a new mother, I knew for certain that I wanted to breast feed my child. I know all the medical and psychological benefits it delivers to the baby and as I am sure most every mother would, I want to give them the best possible upbringing I can deliver for them going forward.

That being said, I had no idea how difficult a task it would be in the early months after I had my son. I really did not know nor did anybody really warn me just how physically straining it could be to get accustomed to doing this nor was a ready for the preparation I would have to undergo to do this on a daily basis.

I appreciate the tips you deliver in this article. I wish I would have come across it sooner because now my son is pretty much old enough where we do not need to do it anymore.

If I do have children in the future though, I will be sure to come back and reference this article for further tips on how to best get through that time.

August 18, 2012 1:03 am

I have a friend who just had a new baby and they have had a really hard time getting on a plan or system with breast feeding and care in general. Being that we are of the age that we have had internet in our lives almost since day one, they have been doing a lot of research on the web that has generated a lot of results, mostly from doctors and “professionals” that are very good at saying what is best for mother and baby.

However, an article like this adds a little more personal touch and I think a certain comfort level for a new mother to read. It is clear the author had a very positive, if not challenging, experience with breast feeding their children and it is nice to hear about a more personalized experience that ultimately ended on a very positive level.

Thank you for writing this and I will be sure to share it with my new-parent friends and advise them to do the same. Please keep the advice coming and I will share the knowledge with anyone!

August 8, 2012 12:32 am

I know first handedly just how important breast feeding is to creating a bond between mother and child. I breast fed all of my children and I know that it created such a connection between us that grew into the healthy, loving relationships we share today. I also know that it is important in other ways as well that are equally important and extremely vital for the child’s growth and physical development. That’s why I think it is great to see articles like this that share a mother’s experience with mothers-to-be and help them through what can be a difficult, but rewarding experience.

The anti-bodies that a mother passes from her system to her child’s bloodstream through the act of breastfeeding are invaluable. Without them, many more vaccines would be required or the child would just have to experience the illness first hand and develop their own anti-bodies. Children that do not breast feed are often sick with diseases that other children do not experience. For this reason alone, breastfeeding should be promoted through any means possible. The internet just makes for a perfect venue for sharing knowledge.

Kathy Faust
August 5, 2012 9:01 pm

You have given some great information here that every new mother needs to read. There are some very badly informed people out there that could do so much better if they just knew what to expect. I know because I was one of them. I applaud you not only for giving some valuable information, but for sharing your personal experience in such an entertaining manner. That is not always easy to do, especially with a personal topic like breastfeeding. I also appreciate the fact that you touched on the fact that breastfeeding is not for everyone.

I wish I knew why there is such a competition between mothers today. Why are we not doing more working together instead of comparing each other? Worse, why does the media instigate so much of it?

I for one wish more mothers would share their experience in an effort to share rather than compete. There is no competition. We all just do the best that we can do and hope that at least a fraction of that sticks with our kids. I mean, some days I feel like I will be happy if mine just don’t need therapy because of me.

July 28, 2012 12:50 am

I found this post to be very real, honest and hold an incredible amount of good advice. The first thing that should be repeated is that breastfeeding can indeed be difficult. I think that any mother who has been through this can also tell you that this is true, although different women have no doubt had very different experiences in this area.

I also liked the idea about getting some professional help right in the beginning. Most hospitals do have some excellent resources. Those lactation consultants can really help to get a mother started on the right foot and avoid some of the more common problems. If this woman had used one right from the beginning perhaps her difficulties would not have been so severe?

At any rate, every mom or mom to be can take a lot of good advice from this post. Just basically be ready for anything. But also take encouragement knowing that many have gone ahead and succeeded in this endeavor. Then again, maybe your adventure will be smooth sailing and there will not be any of the issues described in the post.

Kathy Faust
July 23, 2012 10:41 am

I think every new mother should read this before she has her baby. There is such a big push to breastfeed, and yet young women are poorly informed about it. It can be a really frustrating experience and any knowledge you happen to pick up along the way is going to be helpful. I was in my late twenties when I had my child, and I considered myself to be pretty well informed. But when it came to breastfeeding, it turns out I was clueless. And there was no help to be found at the hospital, so I was on my own. My mother died when I was a child and my aunts were busy with their own lives. An article like this probably would have saved me a lot of anxiety.

Breastfeeding just was not for me. The more I tried it, the worse I felt and I thought I was alone. I thought all mothers naturally embraced this method and were totally comfortable with it. I wasn’t. I was in pain and I was not liking myself as a mother because of the frustrations. The nurses treated me like I had a third eye when I expressed a desire to bottle feed. It was just a horrible experience. Thank you for sharing this information so other mothers don’t have to feel like I did.

July 19, 2012 2:07 am

One thing that frustrates me about the web is that there aren’t many people that give you a good idea of the whole process of childbirth and breastfeeding. I truly respect the series of articles that your blog has published on these huge milestones in a woman’s life.

I even find that when you talk to friends and family members they glaze over the whole event, or they might say make sure to take the medications they give you in the hospital because it hurts, but even that’s still vague. I like that you told us flat out in the very beginning that breast feeding will probably hurt. I feel that women that do not or cannot breast feed feel like there is something wrong with them in some way, but they should not feel that way.

My friend had a very hard time getting her son to latch and I think this is totally natural. It’s not an easy thing that every woman should be able to do. For many women, it hurts terribly to have something sucking hard on that sensitive area. It’s not easy and every woman is different.

July 14, 2012 12:52 am

This article was about the experiences a particular first time mother had while trying to nurse her new baby. There were many challenges and trials that needed to be overcome in order to successfully do this. The first challenge to be met was pain. The author reports that it really hurt when breast feeding. She also states that very sore and cracked nipples were another challenge.

I think that one of the strong lessons to be taken from this post is the fact that breast feeding will not be easy. In fact, it may be downright challenging and difficult. Do not be afraid to ask for or seek out help. The author mentions that many hospitals have professionals called lactation consultants. These folks know a lot about breast feeding. Talking to one as soon as possible after having your baby (maybe even beforehand as well) can certainly help to make your experience much more pleasant and easier.

Another important lesson is to simply not give up. Many women just stop out of frustration. However, this is a natural method and if you keep feeding, things will eventually work.

Kathy Faust
July 13, 2012 10:51 pm

I really love this article. I am so tired of the media pitting moms against each other. It is nice to read from someone who is not trying to compare, but is simply saying “Hey, some parts of this kind of suck,” right along with, “to each her own”.

There are so many things that no one warns mothers about and then when you do find out, people are acting like you should just skip over it, or you would if you were a “good” mom. It makes me wonder if they realize that June Cleaver had a pre-made set she worked and that it wasn’t her real house.

The reality is that breastfeeding is one of the absolute most painful things I have ever done in my life. There were other issues as well, but I expected those. I thought I expected the pain, but no one can really convey how that feels and you actually get it. That’s an experience you have to have or you just don’t understand. My own involved a hand pump <shudders>. Not an electric one, but a slow, and very painful hand pump. For the record, yes they are breakable, especially if you use a 20 lb. hammer.

July 7, 2012 11:44 pm

This article is probably one of the most real and honest looks that you are likely to find regarding the topic of breastfeeding your baby. I can sense the complete honesty and that the author is really trying to help others so that they can learn from (instead of repeating) her mistakes.

The first confession that I thought was very revealing was the fact that breastfeeding can hurt. The author apparently had a lot of issues ranging from pain to the baby having difficulty latching on to even cracked nipples.

I also thought it was very real to warn new mothers that they can expect to really feel tied to their little bundle of joy. Not many other books or advice posts tend to reveal that a baby may want to spend a lot of time with you at the breast, even if they are not really serious about feeding at the moment.

It may also be very helpful for a new mother to talk with a Lactation Consultant. These professionals can help you to address many of the common issues faced before they actually become problems.

July 3, 2012 3:34 am

This post provides a wealth of information and advice about how to breast feed your new baby. I think that anyone who is planning on using this method could really gain a lot of knowledge from the experiences which are shared here.

One of the most important aspects of this is to have proper expectations. The author clearly states that you will be a slave (as she put it) to a tiny little person who seems to want to eat constantly. She also did some research and discovered that that milk supply of a new mother increases from 2 ounces a day to as much as 30 ounces a day in just the first month and a half.

Another really helpful tip is that no matter, you want to continue nursing. A newborn may take up to an hour at each session. It is important to remember that they are taking comfort from you as well as just food. Also, understanding the fact that it may be only a few minutes after they finish that they are hungry again can be an eye opener.

Kathy Faust
July 2, 2012 10:09 pm

When I was pregnant there were two things I was afraid of. Obviously, one of them was the pain of labor. The other was breastfeeding. I went through some abuse as a child that made me want to avoid breastfeeding, but I really wanted to give my daughter the best nutrients that I could. I tried it for a while, but in the end I just could not do it. She was having problems latching and I am sure my anxiety did not help matters at all. I did my best but in the end we used formula.

What I really resented was the way the nurses treated me about it at the hospital. I had a C-section so I was already heavily medicated and unsure about letting my daughter end up with the meds in her body. I don’t care what they say, you can’t tell me I can’t take full strength aspirin because it might hurt my baby, and then try to convince me that morphine won’t. Those nurses really didn’t seem to care what I thought. They almost forced me to breastfeed and I will never forget that. I’m glad some women have good experiences with it. I just wasn’t one of them.

June 27, 2012 8:29 am

Having a new baby is an incredibly joyful time. Reading this post just gives off a new found exuberance and excitement that this new mom felt at having her own little bundle of joy. I think that many of us will benefit from this shared experience.

I was not aware that initially breast feeding could be quite as painful as the author described. Although I also wonder if this pain was caused by her son having the recessed chin.

Despite this, the practical advice imparted is very good and will be quite helpful to other moms to be who are interested in learning more about what to expect from the process. The idea of sort of just sitting back and letting the baby operate was pretty good. At a certain point instinct will take over and the little one just needs a tiny bit of guidance and help (but they basically know what to do).

This was a really good story which many mothers should read and take careful advice from.

June 17, 2012 12:53 am

There is now an overwhelming amount of evidence about what method of feeding is best for your new baby. This information has been put out in the public eye since at least the late 60’s and today there can be no question that breastfeeding is the best method as far as the needs of the baby are concerned. The author recognizes this fact by showing that this milk is much easier for the baby to digest. Also, there are natural chemicals in the milk that help the little one to develop a strong immune system right from the start.

There are a number of additional benefits and reasons to consider breastfeeding. Mother’s milk has a natural composition that is specifically designed to help support the growth of brain tissue in babies. It has also been shown that the human nipple is shaped perfectly for the mouth of a baby. In fact those babies who are breastfed have a much lower incidence of orthodontic problems (at least as small children). It is also a researched fact that longer you breastfeed, the less likely you are to develop breast cancer.

Kathy Faust
June 8, 2012 12:01 am

Did anyone else see the Time magazine insult to women? It was a photo of a boy breastfeeding from a sultry woman. The child looks like he just doesn’t know what to say as he stands on a stool and leans over for his afternoon snack.

I haven’t seen that many women going off about breastfeeding all at the same time… ever. The thing is, the world is too much into women’s business altogether. Then we get insulted by breastfeeding? Facebook was rolling that day.

The thing is, breastfeeding isn’t the easiest thing to do. It’s painful and not always pleasant. I know of one pump that went flying across the room. That stuff hurts. I didn’t like it and I stopped. That’s me. Sometimes I feel bad for it, but that’s what I needed to do. For those of you who got to bond with your children in that way, congrats. Breastfeeding just wasn’t for me, but I admire women that can do it for an extended period of time.