Breastfeeding Tips for First-time Moms

With the month of August being world breastfeeding month, now is a more appropriate time than ever for me to write about just that: breastfeeding! I’ve been lucky in my journey with both of my children that they latched immediately and I was always able to nurse when needed. That being said, I did (and still do) struggle with pumping at work. My body just doesn’t love a pump. I know a lot of women struggle with their baby not latching, tongue/lip ties, no support from those around them, pumping, etc. There are a lot of challenges on the road to feeding your baby, but almost every single one of them CAN be overcome (with certain exceptions like disease, etc).

If this is your first baby, learning about breastfeeding can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of mis-information out there, and a lot of Negative Nancys!

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This must-know information for breastfeeding should help you be successful:

  • You need a support system – The number one thing I hear from other moms is that they quit breastfeeding because they didn’t have a good support system in place. This can be a challenge when those around you don’t support your breastfeeding journey. Words like “you can always supplement with formula” when you express that you aren’t sure you’re getting enough output or “are you sure she’s gaining enough? Maybe it’s time to switch to formula” sound helpful to the person saying them, but they ARE NOT HELPFUL! You need people backing you. You need people answering your questions who don’t automatically tell you to switch to formula. If you don’t have this in your life, find a support group on Facebook or in your local area. The La Leche League USA page on Facebook is a great first step. My favorite group on Facebook for this is Milky Mamas Breastfeeding Support. Some of my favorite local Facebook groups are La Leche League of the Triangle Area and Triangle Natural Birth and Parenting. Each of these groups have been extremely helpful when I have questions. And yes, even as a second-time mom, I STILL have questions sometimes!
  • If baby isn’t latching properly (ie, it’s hurting), don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant – Many pediatricians (and some OBs/birth centers/hospitals/etc) offer free lactation consultants to their clients. USE THIS SERVICE. You may feel awkward whipping out a boobie at their command, but I promise you, just like a midwife has seen a lot of lady bits, they’ve seen a lot of areola. When Hattie had an ear infection, I told her pediatrician that her latch was hurting unlike it had been. She had her lactation consultant come in to help. First thing she did? Had me show her my breast. Within a second she said she could tell Hattie was biting me and suggested different positioning for baby girl while she got the ear infection under control. After that, her latch went back to normal. If I hadn’t asked, I probably wouldn’t have known to switch her position. They have a wealth of knowledge about different issues that could arise while breastfeeding, so don’t be shy about giving them a call!
  • Follow the 6-6-6 rule – I’ve had so many friends at the beginning of their breastfeeding journey have no idea how long breast milk can be out or stored for! I don’t know how I became the expert, but somehow here I am throwing out evil numbers constantly (Get it – 666! No, not funny?). When in doubt, I follow the 6-6-6 rule of thumb.
    1. Breast milk can be at room temperature for 6 hours after pumping.
    2. Breast milk can be refrigerated for 6 days before needing to be frozen.
    3. Breast milk can be frozen in the freezer on your refrigerator for 6 months before it needs to be used.
    4. This isn’t a 6 but is important too – Breast milk can be in a deep/chest freezer for one year before needing to be used.
  • How long do I have to use breast milk after it’s been thawed? – The answer is 24 hours, mama. After that, it’s no good. Another question relating to this is once it is warmed up, how quickly it needs to be used… this one I’ve heard different theories on but I say use within one hour, if possible. If baby hasn’t finished it and you want to save some, you can put it back in the fridge within 30 minutes and reheat ONE more time. After that if that baby doesn’t eat the rest, ditch it.
  • Do I have to pump and dump if I’m drinking?! – The age old question! This has changed a lot since I had Jude (like many things). There is no evidence that you need to pump and dump if you’re drinking. SAVE THAT LIQUID GOLD, girl! If you can hold the baby (ie, you are wasted out of your mind) then you should be okay with breastfeeding. I don’t recommend breastfeeding if you’re so drunk you’re throwing up and can’t stand. That’s just bad parenting…
  • HOLY CRAP THE POWER WENT OFF AND MY BREAST MILK STARTED MELTING!!! DO I THROW IT AWAY?! – Girl, take a deep breath. Woooooo-saaaaa. Is there at least one ice crystal left? If yes, you can re-freeze! If no, use that milk within 24 hours. If you have too much for baby to drink that you need to use up, it’s time for a milk bath! This brings me to my next point…
  • Somehow baby didn’t drink all the milk I gave her daycare for today and I normally nurse her after work, what do I do with this extra bottle? – If the breast milk was fresh when it was put in the bottle, save it for the next day. If the breast milk was thawed, make your hubby give the baby a bottle tonight and pump while he does this. Sometimes I do this but in the morning instead. Either is fine depending on when it was actually thawed.
  • There are five million breast pumps to choose from… which one is the best? – This is something that varies person to person. When in doubt, hospital grade is always best. I used a rather “cheap” one with Jude and it did alright. This time with Hattie, I’ve been using a Medela and it’s been better. I’ve heard wonderful things about the Spectra. That will be my choice for next time, although I’ve heard there is a learning curve.
  • You can qualify for a FREE breast pump through your insurance – Not only can you get a free breast pump, but there’s an awesome company called Aeroflow Breastpumps that makes getting your pump a breeze. Simply click this link and fill out the form. They’ll take care of  filing through your insurance, curating a list of what pumps you can get through your provider, helping you make the final decision, and they’ll make sure it’s shipped to your door, free of charge. 
  • Start a stash as soon as your milk comes in – One thing I did with Hattie that I never thought to do with Jude is to have a milk stash going before I went back to work so if I had any issues pumping, I could have an extra supply of milk to “supplement” my supply. While some recommend the Haaka, I used a milk saver. Essentially, a milk saver is placed in your bra on the opposite side that you nurse. The milk saver catches the “leaking” milk from that breast rather than just wasting it in a breast pad. In the beginning, I was able to get 2-4 oz each time baby girl nursed just from this! 
  • Baby does not have to eat on both side – This really depends on the baby. Some babies want to eat a little on each breast, others want it all from one. Jude was the former, Hattie the latter. Both have been successful with breastfeeding. No matter which you do, always alternate which breast you start with to even out your supply. If you’re switching, make sure they are not just getting foremilk and they actually get to the hindmilk. The hindmilk contains more fat that is essential for brain development.
  • Drink a crap ton of water and eat breastfeeding-promoting foods – Water is your BFF now. Breast milk is mainly water so if you’re not drinking enough, it’s common sense that you won’t make enough. Try to drink a big glass of water every single time you pump or nurse and another in-between. There are a lot of foods that help your supply, like oatmeal for example. Try to keeps these in your diet.

A couple of tips to make breastfeeding easier:

  • Get two breast pumps – one for work, one for home. You don’t want to accidentally forget it and it’s one less bag to carry.
  • Get a manual pump for those days in the beginning where you wake up engorged and just need a little relief before baby can latch. 
  • Make these lactation cookies and eat them alllll the time. Girl, it’s your excuse to eat cookies! DO IT!
  • If you don’t want to purchase a pumping bra, cut holes in an old sports bra.
  • Quick clean bags you put in the microwave are a lifesaver for cleaning pump parts at work.
  • If you have a long commute, purchase on-the-go pump parts so you can pump on your drives to and from work.
  • Know your rights for pumping at work. You should NOT be pumping in a bathroom. Try to see if your work can supply a mini-fridge to store your milk away from your coworker’s lunches.
  • If you notice your pumping supply going down, try these tricks to increase it again.

Anything else you want to know? Leave me a comment below and I’ll add it to the list!