Like most aspects of motherhood, breastfeeding is a topic everyone has an opinion on, both positive and negative. Because breastfeeding a baby is one of the hardest things in the world, it makes sense that many new moms turn to those with more knowledge when they have questions or concerns. But so many different people can give you conflicting advice, making you feel even less confident than before. I'm a big believer in going with the flow (pun totally intended) when it comes to nursing, but breastfeeding tips straight from a lactation consultant can be extremely helpful for every nursing mom.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 76.5 percent of moms breastfeed in the United States and by the time their babies are six months old, that number drops to 49 percent. Of course, breastfeeding is obviously a mother's choice, but I can't help wondering if the drop is because of problems and issues that arise during a mother's breastfeeding journey. It's no easy feat to nourish another human being with your own body, but with the right tips, you can hopefully bypass a lot of frustration and hard days.
I spoke with Leigh Anne O'Connor, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, to get the expert-approved breastfeeding advice every mom needs. If you haven't delivered yet, be sure to also check out a La Leche League meeting. "La Leche League meetings and other breastfeeding support groups can teach you the various ways babies nurse," O'Connor tells Romper. There's nothing like learning with live models." And if you can't make it to a meeting, don't stress. These 13 tips will get you through the highs and lows that comes with breastfeeding.
When I was breastfeeding my own newborn daughter, I couldn't ever master the football hold position that the hospital tried to teach me. Eventually, I found a position that worked for me and, according to O'Connor, that's the most important part. "I honestly think there is too much emphasis on trying to master a specific position with a specific name," she says. "The best nursing position for a mom is one where she is comfortable, not hunched over, and her baby is super close. We are all different sizes and shapes, so there is no one size fits all."
"The important thing when positioning is that both mom and baby are comfortable and that baby is breathing well and removing milk from the breast," O'Connor says. But she does have one great tip if you're trying to find a good hold. "I like to suggest that moms imagine there is Velcro on her belly and her baby's belly, and they are stuck together at the belly."
I remember the days where I had to make sure my daughter ate every two hours, but she would snooze right through her meals. Waking her up was always a total pain, but O'Connor has a great trick. "If a baby is sleepy at the breast, a cold washcloth can be used to 'annoy' baby enough to wake up."
If you can't get your baby to wake up or you decided to snooze, too, O'Connor says that, "it is very important if baby is too sleepy to nurse that the milk is removed by either hand expressing or pumping." Not only will it relieve any engorgement, but it will also keep your supply up.
Having a good latch is essential to a successful breastfeeding journey, and O'Connor has a pretty simple tip for making sure your baby is latched on correctly. "Make sure baby is close and that the baby's mouth can open wide," she says. A good latch can also help you avoid sore and chapped nipples.
Breastfeeding pillows can be a big help for nursing moms, but they can also potentially cause sore, painful nipples. "Many moms let babies lay on the breastfeeding pillows and hang from their breast, causing sore nipples," O'Connor says. "The mouth needs to be open very wide for effective and comfortable nursing, and a good latch and position can help you avoid sore and chapped nipples."
"If your baby is a good nurser, the best way to increase your milk supply is to nurse a lot," O'Connor says. The more your baby feeds, the more milk your body will produce in order to meet baby's needs.
"If a baby isn't nearby or nursing effectively, a mom can hand express or pump," says O'Connor. "But not all pumps are created equal. A hospital-grade pump is best for increasing milk."
Suffering from a blocked duct or mastitis, an infection of the breast tissue, is no fun and can be incredibly painful. O'Connor suggests that moms avoid wearing bras to bed and definitely avoid bras that are too tight so you can decrease your risk of a blocked duct or infection.
It's important to keep the milk flowing from your breast so you can avoid any enorgement or swelling, so O'Connor recommends not timing feedings, and to keep the milk flowing for as long as your baby wants to feed.
Another way to keep your breasts from being at risk of a clogged duct? "Don't skip feedings," O'Connor says. "The best way to avoid clogged ducts is to keep the milk moving." Remember, she also suggests that if your baby sleeps through a feeding or isn't nearby, you can also pump or hand express that milk.
The early days of my daughter's life are a blur, but I remember one day in particular where I watched approximately 18 hours of Netflix as she stayed hooked to my breast. Apparently, this is totally normal. "Babies' tummies are tiny when they are born and they need lots of tiny feedings as opposed to fewer big feedings," O'Connor says. "Babies are also born with a strong sucking reflex, which can be confusing to new parents who think a baby should be finished nursing by a set number of minutes."
When you're preparing to go back to work (or simply want someone else to take over a few feedings), you'll wonder how to get your baby to take the bottle. Every baby book gives a different guidline, but O'Connor's advice makes perfect sense. "If a baby is nursing well, a bottle can be introduced," she says. "You want breastfeeding to be like second nature for both mother and baby."