The joys of a new baby are endless. The snuggles! The new baby smell! But we’d be lying if we didn’t say new babies come with their fair share of challenges, as well. One of the biggest challenges facing new moms is breastfeeding. It may be natural and it may be beautiful, but honey, it can be a real challenge for some people. If you want to breastfeed your newborn, here are some hacks to make your new-mom life a little bit easier.
1. Invest in Nursing Pads
Your baby isn’t always on the boob when you let down, which can result in a milky mess. Being around someone else’s baby, hearing a baby cry, the cold air after a shower, and a number of things can trigger this response. Invest in nursing pads you can stick to or place inside your bra to catch the excess milk. If you need to store breastmilk for when you go back to work, consider investing in some Milk Savers — little pouches you can wear inside your bra that capture leaky breast milk so you can freeze it for later.
These little things are lifesavers if you’re the kind of mom that loses 3-4 ounces of breastmilk from the opposite breast during a feeding. The Haakaa – a silicone suction based breast pump – is another incredibly popular and easy to use “milk catcher” if you let down from the side you’re not feeding on.
2. Take Care of Your Nipples
We won’t beat around the bush — breastfeeding is hard on your nipples, especially in the early months when your little one is eating every couple of hours. If you don’t take care of your nipples, they’ll crack and bleed, and each feeding will be your own personal hell until they heal.
If you notice some cracks, start treating them immediately by rubbing some expressed breast milk onto the area, and let it air dry. You can also apply a nipple ointment like after each feeding. (Lansinoh, makes a good one.)
Make sure you read your labels, thoroughly, as some are safe for baby to consumer and others must be washed it off thoroughly before the next time you feed.
If your nipples are getting cracked a lot, take a look at your latch and how you’re holding the little one. Shifting your position and making sure they’re latched properly can save you a lot of pain.
3. Feed Yourself Too
While feeding your baby is important, don’t neglect yourself in the process. Meal planning is a literal lifesaver when you’re too tired to do anything other than throw something in the microwave — a common state for new moms.
If you find yourself with a lot of leftovers, you don’t have to eat the same thing every day. You’ll get bored, and that makes it even harder to make yourself eat. Instead, repurpose your leftovers into something new and tasty. Turn leftover vegetables into a wild rice and veggie salad, or leftover sweet potatoes into pancakes you can eat with one hand while feeding your baby.
4. Pay Attention to Your Supply
It’s not always easy to tell if your little one is getting enough milk. Pay close attention to your supply, and take steps to supplement if you’re not producing enough. This is especially important if your baby is into cluster feedings, which can swiftly sap your supply.
One thing that many new moms neglect is their water intake. Your body needs water to produce milk, so make sure you’re getting enough to drink every day. If you’re worried about your supply, let your little one nurse on each side, then use a pump to empty each breast. This helps to augment your supply naturally, while also giving you a stash of breastmilk in the freezer if you ever need it.
5. Don’t Ignore Pain
Breastfeeding is hard, but it shouldn’t be painful. If you are experiencing lasting pain that gets worse when you’re feeding, or something other than standard engorgement pain — which, if we’re honest, is bad enough it’s own — talk to your doctor or pediatrician. If you’re feeling feverish, it could be Mastitis – a common infection that breastfeeding moms experience where your milk duct becomes inflamed and clogged, and can be extremely painful if untreated. You should also rule out the possibility of a tongue tie in your little one – which makes it difficult for them to latch properly and can cause extreme pain and discomfort while nursing.
Sore nipples and engorgement are one thing. If you’re experiencing additional pain, don’t ignore it. Don’t assume it’s a natural part of breastfeeding. Talk to your doctor or a lactation consultant to make sure you’re healthy and everything is working like it should.
Hope for the Breast
Breastfeeding isn’t always easy, but it’s one of the best things you can do for your little one! It’s essential to remember that this is a learning experience for you and your infant. Ask for help — your hospital will likely have at least one lactation consultant on hand. Remember to take care of yourself, too. As a breastfeeding mother, you are your infant’s whole world – and sole food supply – so if you’re not feeling well, it’s harder to do your job as a new mom.