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Tips for Breastfeeding Success

Breastfeeding is wonderful in so many ways. (I know, I know, we’ve said it before! But it’s true.) And part of its beauty is that the journey is different for everybody. 

Some breastfeed for years, some for just a few months, some settle on side-lying as their favorite position, while others like cross-cradle. Some do it only at home, others on the fly. Some like a set schedule, while others take an intuitive approach.

Similarly, different questions and concerns arise for parents. A parent who is breastfeeding their fourth child might experience mastitis for the first time and need help addressing it. A first-time parent might be unsure of how this whole breastfeeding thing even works. (Because breast + baby does not always equal breastfeeding!)

But there are some universal experiences, diversity aside. No matter what your breastfeeding relationship looks like, there are certain tips that all breastfeeding families can benefit from. 

Tip #1: Listen to your body and your baby

Breastfeeding isn’t like learning the cello; it’s more like ballroom dancing, in the sense that you can’t do it alone. It’s a dance coordinated between two people: you and your growing and changing baby. 

And just like ballroom dancing, you both need to be comfortable and secure.

OK, what does that even mean? It means that you should try your best to take care of your body. Hydration, nutritious foods, rest, attention to mental health, and social support are foundations for successful breastfeeding.   

Most importantly, don’t sit and suffer if you experience pain. If you have trouble with your latch or have a clogged duct (or anything else that “doesn’t feel right”), get help from an IBCLC.

When it comes to babies, it may sound trite to say that “baby knows best,”... but they do know what they want. When babies are very young, their wants and needs are the same, and they communicate with you in many ways—feeding cues, crying, and body language. It may take time, but you’ll become an expert in your baby’s own unique language. Trust them during the process!

It’s normal for babies to want to nurse… a lot. This is especially true during cluster feeding, which may happen in the evenings, during growth spurts, and when they’re learning new skills. As they grow and are introduced to solids, this may change (or it may not!). Instead of watching the clock, pay attention to hunger cues and nurse accordingly. Each baby has their own breastfeeding personality. Some nurslings are always slow and contemplative, while others are more active and efficient at the breast.  

Finally, trust yourself and what you know about your baby. You’re their top advocate and know them better than anyone else in the world.

Tip #2: Understanding the fundamentals of breastfeeding will go a long way

Breastfeeding is a relationship between you and your baby, but it’s also a complex physiological process. You don’t need to take an anatomy class or get certified as a lactation consultant, but a little insight into basic breastfeeding processes can be enormously helpful. 

We have a great blog on breastfeeding basics to check out, but here are key points: 

  • Breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand process
  • A good latch is essential
  • Feed your baby on-demand and pay attention to hunger cues, not just the clock 
  • Don’t judge your milk supply by how much you pump (especially if you’re also nursing your baby)

Tip #3: There are lots of positions to try

There’s a mental image we all have of a baby in arms, cradled comfortably. It looks quite natural and simple, but it’s not always that simple.

Cradle, cross-cradle, football hold, and side-lying are just some of the breastfeeding positions that can work well with a newborn. As your child gets bigger, they may want to sit upright on your lap to breastfeed or lie across you with feet planted as you recline in bed.

There are also options that work well for nursing in public, like nursing in a carrier and the upright position with a thin blanket or nursing cover (that’s not to say you need to hide—breastfeeding in public is a protected legal right). Regardless, all parents should nurse in the way they feel most comfortable.

An IBCLC can advise you on positions to try if you have discomfort, if you’d like to add to your repertoire, or if you need help maximizing breast drainage to deal with or avoid issues like mastitis or other common problems.

Tip #4: Build a breastfeeding support team (a little help can go a long way)

One of the best things you can do for yourself is get support and share experiences with others going through similar struggles—and triumphs!—with breastfeeding. Consider joining a group like La Leche League, or one that meets virtually, to chew the fat about all the things: latching, spit-up, pumping, weaning, your health… It really helps to share.

You can also lean on lactation consultants who are available locally or for online consults from the comfort of your home. They can be especially helpful if you feel shy, anxious, need more individual support, or simply uncomfortable sharing your concerns in a group setting.

Tip #5: It’s okay for your experience to be different than others

What works for you will be different from what works for the next person. This can include exclusive breastfeeding, exclusive pumping, a combination of pumping and breastfeeding, and supplementing. Each one can have special benefits and challenges.

Some use donor milk. Some have enormous success with pumping and serve as donors themselves. Some non-birthing partners have success with induced lactation, the physiological process of producing milk without a prior pregnancy. There’s also a lot of information out there about chestfeeding that many folks can benefit from.

There are many, many, possibilities. Your lactation consultant will surely be glad to help you find your way.

Tip #6: Believe in yourself!

During your breastfeeding journey, you may find reserves of strength and resolve you never even knew you had. You will inevitably have proud moments as you notice how you’re contributing to your baby’s health, nourishment, and growth. It’s pretty incredible. 

Pat yourself on the back. Tune out any unsolicited “advice” from friends, family, or strangers that doesn’t feel helpful. Your body and your breastfeeding journey belong to you and your baby.

Set the breastfeeding goals that feel right to you, and keep them in mind while allowing for some flexibility along the way. You’ll have a lot to be proud of when you meet them.

Tip #7: Don’t hesitate to get help

It’s normal to need support during different stages of your breastfeeding journey. However, evidence-based support is increasingly available no matter where you’re located, thanks to virtual lactation consultations.

We at Nest Collaborative have been helping lead the way in this area. At Nest Collaborative, our unbiased, evidence-based, multi-lingual team increases access to lactation support by providing virtual appointments, offering flexible appointment windows, and even assisting patients with insurance billing. We’re here to support you through every step of your nursing journey.

Get in touch to book a convenient online appointment today.

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