Although breastfeeding is natural, many mothers don’t realise it’s also a learned skill.
Like any new skill, it takes time, practice, patience and support to get it just right.
For many new and expectant mothers, breastfeeding is not seen as a part of everyday life.
This is unfortunate, as many of us tend to learn faster when we can actually see how things are done.
Research shows 96% of Australian mothers initiate breastfeeding at birth. However, that number drops significantly each month.
By two months of age, around half of Australian babies are fully or partially on formula.
You can probably understand why it’s critical to seek breastfeeding tips and advice from a reliable source.
Here are the 9 best breastfeeding tips, based on common questions asked by new and expectant mothers.
The answers to these questions can help you avoid common breastfeeding problems and challenges.
#1: How do I get my baby to latch on correctly?
Find a comfortable position to feed your baby. New mothers often experiment with a few different positions before they find one that works best for them.
Unwrap your baby and hold her close to you. Skin-to-skin contact allows your baby to use her natural instincts to find your breast.
Position your baby so she is chest-to-chest with you and her nose is in line with your nipple.
Encourage your baby to open her mouth wide by gently stroking her baby’s top lip with your nipple.
Your baby will open her mouth wide and stick her tongue out over the bottom gum line. When this happens, bring your baby onto your breast with your nipple aimed toward the roof of her mouth.
#2. What foods should I avoid while breastfeeding?
Unless you or your baby have been diagnosed with a food intolerance or allergy, there are no particular foods you should avoid while breastfeeding.
In fact, now is the perfect time to enjoy the foods that were off-limits during pregnancy!
Before you crack open the soft cheese and bottle of wine, though, it’s important to understand alcohol is easily passed through your breast milk to your baby.
You can read more about in Alcohol And Breastfeeding – Is It Safe To Drink Alcohol?.
Sometimes babies have symptoms that might be due to something in their mothers’ diet.
Some of these symptoms are:
- Excessive gas
- Bloody stools
- Unusual fussiness
If you suspect something in your diet is affecting your baby, seek advice from a healthcare professional such as an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) or a registered dietician.
#3. How long should a breastfeeding session last?
In the early days, while you and your baby are still learning, a breastfeeding session can take around 45 minutes.
It’s common for the amount of time to be reduced, as your baby becomes more efficient at breastfeeding.
It’s important to watch your baby, not the clock.
Breastfeeding works best when you feed your baby according to her needs.
Just like adults, sometimes babies will eat what seems like an entree, main meal and dessert. At other times, they might just feel like a snack.
Babies breastfeed not only for nutrition, but also for comfort.
Forget about timing feeds and be led by your baby’s cues.
You can read more about how feeding schedules can be harmful to breastfeeding here.
#4. What is the best way to breastfeed a newborn?
Babies are born with a natural instinct to seek a breast and feed from it. You can encourage this instinct by practising baby-led attachment.
This can be done from your baby’s very first breastfeed.
Here are some breastfeeding tips to help you with baby-led attachment:
- Lie in a semi-reclined position with your baby on your chest
- Have your baby in no clothes or just a nappy to increase skin-to-skin contact
- Watch as your baby starts to bob her head in search of your breast
- Allow your baby to take her time to locate your breast
- Wait for your baby to open her mouth wide and attach to your breast.
This instinct lasts several weeks in newborn babies and can be practised as often as you like.
#5. Tips for producing more breast milk
While it’s common for breastfeeding mothers to worry about how much milk they’re making, most of the time, their supply is actually fine.
Breastfeeding works on the principle of supply and demand. This means the amount of breast milk removed from your body will be replaced.
Babies go through growth spurts and periods of development where they require extra nutrients. Simply by feeding to your baby’s needs, your body will continue to make the right amount of milk for your baby.
A breast pump can come in handy If you are trying to increase your supply while still getting breastfeeding established.
In the early days, a baby might be sleepy, or not yet feeding effectively enough to build your supply adequately.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association or a lactation consultant can help you determine whether or not you need to use a breast pump to increase your supply.
#6. Breastfeeding tips for pain
When your baby is attached to your breast correctly, breastfeeding should be pain free.
To ensure your baby is attached properly, look for the following signs:
- Baby’s chin is pressed into the breast and her nose is clear
- Baby’s lips are flanged
- Baby’s mouth is open wide enough to have some aerola (not just nipple) in the mouth. The aerola is the darker area around your nipple
- Baby’s cheeks are full and not puckered
If your baby isn’t attached correctly, it’s ok to insert your clean finger into the side of her mouth to break the suction and attempt to attach properly again.
Practice makes perfect!
If you’re finding it impossible to breastfeed your baby without pain, it’s important to seek help from a qualified professional, such as an IBCLC.
#7. Breastfeeding tips after a c-section
In most cases, you can breastfeed your baby straight after birth – even if you’ve had a c-section.
If you and your baby need to be separated for any reason, you can breastfeed as soon as you’re reunited.
It’s likely you‘ll be in some pain after your c-section.
Pain around the incision site is common, and sometimes this interferes with more common breastfeeding positions.
One of the top breastfeeding tips for c-section mothers is to embrace breastfeeding lying down.
Not only does this allow for much needed rest and recovery, it keeps your baby’s body away from your incision site.
Make sure you read our article about how to breastfeed lying down and the benefits of doing so.
Another helpful breastfeeding tip after a c-section is to hold your baby in the underarm or football hold.
You simply tuck your baby under your right side when you are feeding from your right breast, and under your left side as you feed from the left breast. This prevents the baby putting pressure on your abdomen.
Ask for help! This is the perfect opportunity to take up any offers of help.
Let your support team help you get breastfeeding established. They can do this by bringing your baby to you for feeds, helping to settle baby after a feed, and changing baby’s nappy between feeds.
#8. Breastfeeding tips for the first time mother
Breastfeeding is a skill and first time mothers can find it a challenge.
Here are our top breastfeeding tips for first time mothers:
- Own a reliable breastfeeding book. Here are some of BellyBelly’s favourites
- Join a support organisation such as The Australian Breastfeeding Association or La Leche League in the US
- Don’t delay in seeking help from a qualified breastfeeding expert (such as an IBCLC) if you need it
- Surrender to the power of breastfeeding: when in doubt, whip it out! Breastfeeding becomes many mother’s go-to solution for unsettled babies and toddlers
- Look after yourself so you can look after your baby. Exercise regularly, eat healthy foods and keep up fluids. Breastfeeding is thirsty work.
- Keep up your passions and hobbies and make time for you
- Ignore unhelpful comments. If what you’re doing is working for you and your child, then there’s no need to stop.
#9: Remember you’re a wonderful mother, no matter what
Every mother’s breastfeeding journey is different.
No matter what happens in terms of breastfeeding, you’re a wonderful mother.
Being a mother is so much more than about how your baby is fed.
If breastfeeding doesn’t work out but you aren’t ready for your breastfeeding journey to end, it can be heartbreaking.
As you grieve your loss, it can help to seek support from a breastfeeding counsellor or grief counsellor.
No matter how long you breastfeed – whether for one day, one week, one month or one year – it’s something to be proud of.
“Your milk is liquid gold – ANY amount you give is worth the effort” – Sharon Barber
And if, given your individual circumstances, it was best for you not to breastfeed at all, you can also be proud you did what was best for you.
More great breastfeeding tips from BellyBelly fans
Here are some more great tips from fans on BellyBelly’s Facebook page.
“Don’t buy formula! Seriously, if I’d have had it in the cupboard during the hardest times, I definitely would have used it and it can be a slippery slope…” – Jocasta
“Persist for six weeks. I hated breastfeeding because it hurt, and my daughter wanted to feed all the time, cluster feeding for the first couple of weeks.
“I wanted to give up, but told myself to get to six weeks and reassess. It got easier! She’s now four months, breastfeeding well, and I’m enjoying it too” – Samantha
“I joined the Australian Breastfeeding Association and did a breastfeeding class designed for expectant mothers. I think all women should do a class whilst pregnant. It was great!” – Belinda
“Patience and trust yourself. I had cracked nipples for the first 10 weeks of breastfeeding, so bad I used to cry putting my babe on to feed.
“A lactation consultant helped with attachment and positioning and it slowly got better. Now he’s 10 months and I’m still breastfeeding!” – Anonymous
Who you spend time with is important
“Initially you’re encouraged by everyone to breastfeed but, as time goes on, it really can feel like the world is conspiring against you to stop breastfeeding.
“Having a support network is so important if you are a first time breastfeeding mum. To find and hang out with other breastfeeding mums was such a godsend for me.
“When we fed our babies together at a meet up, we felt confident and powerful. We were so grateful to know each other.
“We knew how hard the breastfeeding journey can be, alone, and how many barriers we had faced to be breastfeeding at all” – Angela
“Persevere in the early days and it will pay off” – Amanda
Why you need people who know how to support you
“I tell people you need the kind of support that will back you the way you need it, not just undermine your wishes when the going gets tough.
“You don’t need to hear, ‘You need your sleep, here, I’ll give baby a bottle’, when you’re at your most vulnerable.
“Constantly being told ‘I’m allowed to give up’, or that ‘It’s ok if it doesn’t work out’, even with good intent, really affected my confidence before I’d even begun” – Rebecca
“I was surrounded by women in my family who either didn’t breastfeed at all, or who breastfed their babies for less than 6 months.
“In order to reach my goal of 12 months of breastfeeding, I wanted to ensure I had people around me who shared a similar philosophy and encouraged me with my choices.
“As a result of having found such communities, my goal has now morphed into 2 years breastfeeding – something I never imagined I would be doing at the outset.
“But it’s something I’m so proud of. My toddler and I are well on our way to achieving together” – Bel