The Complete Breastfeeding Guide for New Moms

You made it: you gave birth to another human being. You should be proud of yourself for all the challenges you faced during pregnancy and labor. Now you might be worrying whether your life as a mother will become any better in the few months and years ahead. It can be, but it shouldn’t.

Breastfeeding is a task that sounds more daunting than it is. All you need is enough guidance on where and how to start. That’s why we compiled this quick guide to provide an answer to most of your questions and empower you to become the best mother you can possibly be.

Without further ado, let’s jump straight to your questions.

Note: We’ll be referring to you as a powerful mom, but we encourage all powerful dads to learn more about what lies ahead in your journey as new parents. :)

Note 2: Since the use of he/she and him/her can be distracting, this guide often uses “he/him/his” when referring to the baby.

 

The Basics

We have worked hard to provide an answer to all your breastfeeding questions. We will add links to our Breastfeeding FAQs page; feel free to check it out at any time for more valuable information. :)

  • Why is breastfeeding important?
  • What are the benefits of breastfeeding?
  • What are the benefits of breastfeeding for mothers?
  • Is breastfeeding better than formula?

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Learning to Breastfeed

Breastfeeding is a process that takes time to master. The more you do it, the better you’ll become at feeding your baby. After all, practice makes perfect.

Keep in mind that you make milk in response to your baby sucking at the breast. When your baby removes milk from the breasts, you’ll make more of it. It’s a natural process that is fascinating and complex.

Not to mention that with breastfeeding, there’s nothing to prepare.

  • How to get started with breastfeeding?
  • How to do breastfeeding for the first time?
  • How to prepare myself and my body for breastfeeding during pregnancy?
  • How can I feed twins?
  • Until when should I feed my baby?
  • How can I breastfeed in public?
  • How long should a breastfeeding session last?
  • How often should I feed my baby?
  • When can I stop breastfeeding?
  • How do my breasts change for breastfeeding?
  • Can I supplement with formula?

Looking for a nursing bra to get started with breastfeeding? Check our wide collection of pumping and nursing bras!

 

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Latching

By breastfeeding, you are doing something good for your health and your baby’s health - for life. Plus, there are very few reasons not to breastfeed.

If you’re worried about how to get started, you’re not alone. Keep scrolling to learn more on how to thrive when feeding your baby.

  • What is colostrum?
  • How to express colostrum by hand?
  • How to get a baby to latch on during breastfeeding?
  • How to tell if my baby is well-attached?
  • How to tell if my baby’s feeding is going well?
  • How to know if my baby is getting enough milk breastfeeding?
  • How do I know if my baby is full while breastfeeding?
  • How to hold my baby when breastfeeding?
  • What if my baby bites me?
  • How to know if I have too little milk?
  • How to know if I have too much milk?
  • How do I know my baby is eating enough when breastfeeding?
  • How do I know if my baby is hungry?
  • How to tell if my baby is still hungry after breastfeeding?
  • Why is my baby fussy while breastfeeding?
  • How can I deal with a sleepy baby?
  • How do I know if my baby is full while breastfeeding?

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Breastfeeding Troubleshooting

Breastfeeding can feel like a rollercoaster of emotions. You feel excited to be so close to your baby. However, breastfeeding is also often exhausting, painful, and difficult to master. But, feat no! We have summarized some of the most common breastfeeding issues and how to solve them.

Nursing Strike
With “nursing strike,” we’re referring to when a baby has been breastfeeding well for months and then suddenly begins to refuse your breast. It’s a way for your baby to let you know that something is wrong.
Some babies start becoming fussier, while others refuse your breast entirely. A nursing strike is not a sign that your baby is ready to wean. It’s more often caused by one or more of the following reasons:
  • Your baby is suffering from a fungal infection, cold sore, or mouth pain from teething;
  • Your baby is suffering from an ear infection;
  • A particular breastfeeding position is painful for your baby;
  • Your baby is upset after a long separation from you or a significant routine change;
  • Breathing is difficult for your baby, often because of a cold or stuffy nose;
  • You have a lower milk supply because you started using bottles or a pacifier;
  • Your baby is reacting to stress or overstimulation;
It’s normal to feel upset during a nursing strike. Don’t feel guilty or think that you did something wrong. Talk to a pediatrician to find a solution to the reason behind your baby’s nursing strike.

What you can do

  • Follow a breastfeeding schedule to avoid breast engorgement and plugged ducts;
  • Try other methods to give milk to your baby, such as a spoon, cup, or dropper;
  • Keep track of your baby’s wet and dirty diapers to make sure he’s getting enough milk;
  • Keep offering your breast to the baby. If he’s annoyed, stop and try again later, especially when he’s sleepy;
  • Test various breastfeeding positions;
  • Touch and cuddle your baby when feeding him;
  • Nurse in a quiet room free of distractions;
    Jaundice
    Jaundice is a yellowing of your baby’s skin and eyes caused by an excess of bilirubin, a substance that is usually present in our blood in tiny amounts. In a newborn, bilirubin can build up faster during the second and third of life.
    Jaundice usually clears up by two weeks of age and is generally not harmful. Infants can be affected by two types of jaundice: breastfeeding jaundice and breast milk jaundice.

    What you can do

    Your baby’s bilirubin levels can be monitored with blood tests. Jaundice can be treated by breastfeeding more frequently or for more extended periods. If your baby develops jaundice, inform your doctor to start the treatment.

    Reflux Disease
    Some babies suffer from a disease called “gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).” This disease occurs when the muscle at the opening of the stomach opens at the wrong time. GERD causes food and milk to come back into the esophagus, the tube in the throat.
    Here are some symptoms of GERD:
    • Spitting up, especially after every feeding or hours after eating;
    • Projectile vomiting (milk is shot out of the mouth);
    • Inconsolable crying;
    • Arching of the back;
    • Refusal to eat;
    • Pulling away from the breast during feeding;
    • Waking up often at night;
    • Slow weight gain;
    • Gagging or choking;
    • Other problems swallowing milk and food;

    These symptoms are not necessarily a sign of GERD. Many healthy babies may show some and not have this reflux disease. We recommend you ask for help from your doctor or lactation consultant, especially if your baby refuses to nurse, gains not enough weight or is losing weight, has periods of gagging or choking.

    Cleft Palate & Cleft Lip

    Cleft palate and cleft lip are common birth defects that develop when your baby is developing in the womb. An opening - cleft - in either the palate or lip can happen together or separately. They can both be corrected through surgery.

    Babies with a cleft palate or cleft lip find it challenging to form a good seal around the nipple and areola with their mouth. They also struggle to remove milk from the breast effectively.

    In some hospitals, babies with cleft palate are given an obturator, a mouthpiece that fits into the cleft and seals it for easier feeding. If your baby has a cleft palate, you can start expressing your milk right after birth to keep up your supply. However, your baby will be able to breastfeed normally only after surgery.

    Premature or Low Birth-Weight Babies

    A baby is premature when he’s born before 37 weeks gestation. Premature babies are very lightweight, usually weighing less than 51/2 pounds. The causes of premature birth can depend on the mother’s malnourishment and other factors.

    Breastfeeding premature babies is more challenging but still necessary. Smaller babies need even more frequent feedings, and they may get sleepier each time. Breast milk can provide them with enough nutrients to grow slowly but steadily.

    Your premature baby may not be able to breastfeed at first. You can feed him with expressed colostrum by hand or pump. The cross-cradle hold is one of the preferred breastfeeding positions for mothers with premature babies.

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    Common Issues and Challenges

    Breastfeeding strengthens the bond with your baby. It can also be challenging at times, especially right at the beginning. Remember that whatever you’re facing now, you’re not alone. Ask for help from your partner or a lactation consultant.

    Read on to discover some of the common issues and challenges for new moms. We’ll also share some suggestions on how to overcome them.

    Flat or Inverted Nipples

    Some women have nipples that are flat or turn inward instead of protruding. Most babies can breastfeed on this kind of nipple without problems, considering that babies are latched on the breast, not the nipple. So even inverted nipples can work just fine. However, sometimes flat and inverted nipples make it harder to breastfeed.

    Sometimes nipples can be flattened temporarily due to engorgement or swelling. Often, flat or inverted nipples will protrude more over time as the baby sucks more. If you still want to make breastfeeding more manageable, you can wear breast shells with a small opening that causes nipples to stick out.

    We recommend wearing them between feedings until your milk comes in. When possible, avoid sleeping with them once your milk supply has been established. If you still need help after your milk is in, limit their use to 30 minutes before each feeding. Before nursing, you can gently roll your nipple between your fingers. This will stimulate the nipple to protrude outward. You can otherwise use your hand or an electric breast pump to draw the nipple out.

    What you can do

    1. Consult a lactation consultant or your doctor if you’re concerned about your nipples;
    2. Use your fingers to pull your nipples out;
    3. Avoid using pacifiers or bottles for feeding your baby;
      Engorgement (Swelling)
      When breastfeeding, your breasts will naturally become larger, heavier, and a little tender. Sometimes this fullness can turn into engorgement when your breasts feel very hard and painful. It can occur when the volume of milk increases on the third or fourth day after delivery and your breasts are not emptied often enough.

      Other symptoms of engorgement include breast swelling, tenderness, warmth, redness, throbbing, and flattening of the nipple. It can also sometimes cause a low-grade fever.

      Engorgement is often confused with a breast infection, as some of the symptoms may look similar. Engorged breasts can develop into plugged ducts or a breast infection.

      Besides the obvious pain, your breasts become so swollen that it is almost impossible for the baby to grasp them properly.

      The best way to deal with engorgement is to prevent it with frequent and effective breastfeeding. Try to stick to at least 8 to 12 times each day and on-demand. Don’t skip feedings, even at night. If your baby is willing, you can also try to breastfeed for more extended periods. It’s proven that longer nursing times can prevent engorgement.

      What you can do

      1. Breastfeed often after birth, especially within a four-hour window during the early weeks;
      2. Improve the baby’s latch with the help of a lactation consultant;
      3. Switch between breasts every 10-15 minutes to prevent each side from becoming overly full;
      4. Hand express or pump some milk to soften the breast, areola, and nipple before breastfeeding. This technique is called “Reverse Pressure Softening (RPS)”;
      5. Massage your breasts while nursing to stimulate milk flow;
      6. Get enough rest, proper nutrition, and drink enough water;
      7. Apply moist heat to your breasts for 10-15 minutes before nursing. You can use warm, moist towels and washcloths or take a warm shower;
      8. Wake your sleepy baby to nurse every 2 to 3 hours;
      9. Use cold compresses between feedings to ease pain;
      10. Wear a well-fitting supportive bra that is not too tight;
      11. Follow the same breastfeeding schedule even after you go back to work;

        When to call a doctor

        • Ask for help if the breast engorgement lasts for two days or even more.
        • Ask for help if you can’t manage on your own an oversupply of milk;
          Plugged Ducts

          A common issue many women face is to have a plugged duct at some point in the breastfeeding journey. It happens when a milk duct does not drain properly and becomes inflamed.

          A plugged milk duct feels like a tender and sore lump in the breast. It doesn’t entail fever or other symptoms. A plugged duct usually occurs in only one breast at a time.

          What you can do

          1. Wear a bra that fits well and is not restrictive;
          2. Breastfeed at least 8 to 12 times every day and on-demand;
          3. Nurse as often as you can, beginning on the side with the plugged duct;
          4. Apply moist heat to the breast and massage toward the nipple;
          5. Change your baby’s position often when breastfeeding;
          6. Massage the area, starting behind the sore spot;
          7. Use a warm compress on the sore area;
          8. Get extra sleep or relax to speed healing;

            Mastitis

            A mastitis is a form of breast infection that is just as infamous as it is common among new moms. Its symptoms include soreness or extremely painful nipples. It can also be accompanied by fever or flu-like symptoms. Some moms with mastitis also refer to feeling nauseous and having yellowish discharge from the nipple. Other symptoms include the appearance of a hot, reddened, and tender area on the breast.

            A breast infection can occur when other family members have a cold or the flu. It is also a sign that you’re doing too much, and your body is becoming overly tired.

            Mastitis can present itself in one breast. It’s not always easy to spot the differences between a breast infection and a plugged duct, as their symptoms are similar.

            Most infections can be solved or improve within one or two days, primarily if you treat them with antibiotics. In case your breast infection doesn’t get better within this period, ask for help from a doctor or lactation consultant.

            In case you’re wondering about transmitting this infection to your baby, remember that mastitis is an inflammation in the breast and not in the milk. You don’t need to stop nursing, even though you may find it more painful and difficult. If you don’t nurse for a while, your mastitis will get worse.

            The best way to prevent mastitis is by feeding your baby as often as possible to empty your breasts often and effectively.

            What you can do

            1. Feed your baby often on the affected side, possibly every two hours;
            2. Massage your breast, starting behind the sore spot;
            3. Use a warm compress to apply heat to the sore area;
            4. Get plenty of sleep and relax with your feet up to speed healing;
            5. Wear a well-fitting supportive bra that is not too tight to avoid constricting your milk ducts;

              Ask immediately for help if a breast infection affects both of your breasts and if there is pus or blood in your milk.

              Low Milk Supply

              Most mothers can make plenty of milk for their babies, while others are worried about not having enough. Check your baby’s weight and growth to tell whether you’re not feeding enough milk. However, most times, your body will regulate itself to provide all your baby needs.

              Many times you may think your supply is low, while it’s actually just fine. Take, for example, when your baby is around six weeks to two months old. Your breasts will no longer feel full, but this is just a sign that your body is adapting to your baby’s growth. By that time, don’t worry if your baby nurses for only five minutes at a time. He’s growing stronger and needs your milk less often than right after birth.

              Other times, you will face growth spurts where your baby wants to nurse longer and more often. These spurs usually happen around two to three weeks, six weeks, and three months of age. Don’t worry if your supply is too low to satisfy your baby. Follow your baby’s rhythm as much as you can, and your body will adjust to producing more milk soon.

              What you can do

              1. Ensure your baby is latched correctly on your breasts;
              2. Breastfeed often and as much as your baby needs;
              3. Offer both breasts at each feeding. Let your baby stay at each breast as long as he’s still sucking, and offer the second breast when he slows down or stops;
              4. Avoid using baby formula, as this can make your baby less interested in breast milk;
              5. Limit the use of a pacifier;
                Sore Nipples

                It’s pretty common to feel the soreness of your nipples, especially as your body gets used to breastfeeding.

                Some of the leading causes of sore nipples include:

                  • Improper positioning of your baby at the breast;
                  • Flat or inverted nipples;
                  • Engorged breasts;

                You should contact your physician if nipple or breast pain doesn’t improve with changing position or re-latching your baby. In this case, you may be suffering from a yeast infection.

                What you can do

                1. Breastfeed often to make your baby used to suck more gently;
                2. Start each feeding session on the least sore side first;
                3. Before nursing, take a warm bath or shower or apply warm compresses to encourage milk flow;
                4. Let your nipples air dry for 15 minutes after a feeding;
                5. Alternate different nursing positions each time you breastfeed;
                6. Wear breast shells inside your bra to keep the bra from rubbing against your nipples;
                7. After breastfeeding, express a few drops of milk and rub it gently on your nipples with clean hands. Breast milk has natural soothing and healing properties;
                8. Avoid wearing bras and clothes that are too tight, especially on your breasts;
                  Oversupply of Milk

                  You may be wondering whether you’re producing too much milk. Having a breast that is too full can make feeding more stressful and uncomfortable for both you and your baby.

                  What you can do
                  1. Breastfeed on one side during each feeding;
                  2. If your breasts feel unbearably full, hand express for a few moments to relieve some of the pressure;
                  3. Use a cold compress or washcloth to reduce discomfort and swelling;
                  4. Feed your baby before he becomes overly hungry to prevent aggressive sucking;
                  5. Burp your baby frequently, especially if he’s gassy;
                    Yeast Infection

                    A yeast infection can develop on your breast or in your baby’s mouth. Sometimes yeast infections are noticeable only in either one of you, but there is a high risk of re-infecting each other. Both you and your baby need to take some precautions and medications.

                    Some symptoms for you include cracking, itchy, or painful nipples that cause discomfort for more than a few days. Your nipples can also become red and swollen. On the other hand, your baby can develop a yeast infection in his mouth. This is called “thrush” and consists of white or grayish raised patches. These patches develop on your baby’s tongue, throat, inside the cheeks, or the lips.

                    Fungal infections can take several weeks to cure, so it’s essential to act immediately to spread the infection.

                    What you can do

                    1. Change disposable nursing pads often;
                    2. Wash all towels and clothes that come in contact with the infection in very hot water;
                    3. Wear a clean bra every day;
                    4. Wash your hands and your baby’s hands often;
                    5. Put pacifiers, toys, and bottle nipples in a pot of boiling water for over 20 minutes. You can then discard them and buy new ones after one week of treatment;
                    6. Boil every day all breast pump parts;
                    7. Take the medications prescribed by your doctor for you and your baby;
                    8. Rinse your nipples with warm, clear water after each feeding;
                    9. Apply a layer of antifungal cream to your nipples and areolas after each feeding for 14 days;
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                      Moms’ Self-Care

                      You may have read the title of this section and thought “I don’t have time for all of that”. Or, on the other hand, you felt you really needed some tips on how to take care of yourself during such stressful times. Remember that your life is just as important as your baby’s happiness. Don’t lose yourself in the process of taking care of him.

                      • How can I handle stress when breastfeeding?
                      • How to take care of myself when breastfeeding?
                      • How can I ask for help from my partner?
                      • Will my partner be jealous if I breastfeed?
                      • Can I breastfeed if I am sick?
                      • Is it safe to exercise while breastfeeding?
                      • How can I know if I have postpartum depression?

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                      Nutrition

                      Eating well when you’re breastfeeding is just as essential as getting proper nutrition during your pregnancy. Milk production makes your body burn from 300 to 500 calories a day. That’s why you need to add about 300-400 extra calories daily. The exact amount depends on your metabolism, weight, and activity level. Make sure to get all the nutrients you need from the foods you eat. You don’t need any special “breastfeeding diet”, your body will bounce back in no time.

                      • Can I drink coffee while breastfeeding?
                      • Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
                      • Is there any food that can cause problems for my baby?
                      • Can a baby be allergic to breast milk?
                      • What should vegetarian moms eat?
                      • How much water should I drink when breastfeeding?
                      • How can I make sure my baby is getting enough vitamin D?

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                      Breastfeeding FAQs

                      Click on each question to visit our Breastfeeding FAQs page. Contact us or send us a message on social media to request an answer to more of your questions.

                      • Can I smoke when breastfeeding?
                      • Can I take medicines if I am breastfeeding?
                      • Can I have sex while breastfeeding?
                      • Can I get a vaccine when breastfeeding?
                      • Can breast surgery affect breastfeeding?
                      • Can I smoke, drink or take drugs while breastfeeding?
                      • Can I still get pregnant while breastfeeding?
                      • What will happen when I’m apart from my baby?
                      • Do I still need birth control if I am breastfeeding?
                      • How can I breastfeed during an emergency?
                      • I heard that breast milk could have toxins in it from my environment. Is it still safe for my baby?
                      • Do I need to give my baby cereal or water?
                      • Can I give a pacifier to my baby?

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                      Conclusion

                      Congratulations on giving birth to a beautiful baby! Congratulations also on making it to the end of this extensive guide. :)

                      We hope that the tips you found here above can help you make the most out of this special moment. It may be hard at first, but breastfeeding will soon become a happy and rewarding experience.

                      Our staff at Momcozy is eager to help and support you in whatever way possible. Stay tuned for more similar guides and helpful content! Check out our collection of nursing bras and breast pumps.

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