Mother’s milk is, no doubt, the best thing for your baby. And who doesn’t want all that blissful bonding, with your baby nestling up to you and nursing to their heart’s content. Unfortunately, for many new moms, the reality is often different. When not done right, breastfeeding can become a nerve-racking experience as you struggle with pain, discomfort, and a baby who refuses to latch on.
If you’re all geared up for an adventure with your new-born, take heart, though! We’ve lined up all the info you need to get a good start. Make breastfeeding a warm, soothing experience for your baby and you with these tips.1 2
1. Breastfeed Right After Birth
Colostrum, the first milk you produce, is concentrated milk rich in protein, immune factors, and vitamins. It is nature’s way of jampacking all that goodness for your baby’s tiny belly, so make sure they get all of it!
Babies usually like to feed in the first hour after birth. Welcome your baby gently into this brand new world by cuddling and rocking them on the chest. When your skin touches your baby’s skin, it helps keep them warm and lowers stress. It also triggers both your milk production as well as your baby’s feeding reflex. Start breastfeeding immediately afterward. You could also ask for help from a lactation consultant at the hospital if it’s the first time you’re breastfeeding.
2. Find A Comfortable Way To Hold Your Baby
You can use a range of positions while feeding your baby. Experiment to see what works well for you:
Cradle: Crook your arm and place the baby’s head there while using your forearm to support their bottom and back. Your breast should be positioned in front of the baby’s face.
Cross Cradle: Use the arm opposite to the breast that your baby’s feeding on to hold them so they’re facing you. You can support your baby’s bottom and head with your palm and forearm. This position gives you additional head support and may help babies who are premature or those with a weak suck.
Football: With the baby’s head resting in the palm of your hand, tuck them under your arm. And, of course, the baby should have their face turned toward you.3
The football may be the best position for you if you’ve had a C-section. You may also find it more comfortable if you have large breasts or your baby is small.
3. Master The Art Of Getting Your Baby To Latch On
A good latch is essential for successful breastfeeding. If your baby is not latched on properly, it can turn what should be a wonderful experience into a painful, frustrating episode.
Here are a few tips to make sure your baby latches on properly:
When a baby is latched on properly, both their lips pout outward and cover the areola almost entirely. While feeding, your baby should move the jaw back and forth and make swallowing sounds rather than smacking sounds.
- Choose a comfortable position and bring your baby toward you while feeding. Don’t try leaning toward the baby as that can strain your shoulders and neck.
- Make sure your baby’s hip, shoulder, and ear are aligned. This makes it easier for your baby to swallow.
- Touch your nipple to your baby’s upper lip. This should prompt your baby to open their mouth. If that doesn’t happen, it’s best to touch the lip with your nipple again rather than trying to push your nipple into the mouth. Babies naturally tend to latch on after they open their mouths wide.
- Make sure your nipple goes all the way into your baby’s mouth. This allows your baby to use their jaw to squeeze milk ducts present under your nipple.4
- Avoid using a pacifier till breastfeeding is established. Since the sucking motions used on a pacifier and during breastfeeding are different, it can confuse your baby and make it difficult for them to latch on.
Keep in mind that if you experience pain while nursing, it’s quite possible that your baby may not be properly latched on. A lactation consultant at your hospital should be able to help you figure out how to hold and feed your baby. Don’t shy away from asking for help!
4. Let Your Baby Lead
Don’t set a schedule for breastfeeding. Instead, look for signs that your baby’s hungry and follow their lead. Babies tend to lick their lips, make a sucking motion, become excited, put their hands in their mouth, or turn and search for the breast when they’re hungry. Learn how your baby signals that they’re hungry – if your baby starts crying, you may have left it too late. And crying babies find it more difficult to latch on, so pre-empt that!
So, how long should you nurse your baby? Some babies like many short feeding sessions while others may like a single long feeding. Again, your baby should set the pace – don’t rush them. When they fall asleep or simply detach themselves after vigorously sucking for up to 30 minutes, know they’re done. You may find that your baby feeds as often as 8 times or more, during 24 hours. And though it may be tiring, it’s important to feed during the night too. This flurry of feeding helps your baby gain weight. It also helps maintain the production of breastmilk and establish breastfeeding.
Here’s a typical pattern that you can follow while breastfeeding:
- Feed the baby with one breast and make sure that they finish the milk there before they start on the other one. This might take about 15–20 minutes and your breast will feel soft when they’re done.
- Burp the baby and change their diaper if needed.
- Now feed with the other breast. If your baby’s full, they might not latch on. In which case, start your next feeding session by offering this breast. Make sure that milk is emptied from both your breasts by using a breast pump if you need to. This relieves pressure and protects milk production.
- Some little ones fall asleep within minutes of latching on. If your baby does this, switch between breasts 2–3 times during a feed whenever you see them slowing down.
5. Improve Lactation Naturally With Dates And Fenugreek
Are you running low on breastmilk? Breast supply normally increases when you feed frequently. As more milk is removed from your breast, your body is prodded to make more. You can also turn to some traditional remedies to give you a hand with milk production.
Fenugreek: A herb that’s been historically used to increase milk supply, fenugreek, has a slightly bitter taste. Studies show that having fenugreek tea can increase milk flow in new mothers. A compound known as diosgenin which is present in fenugreek may be responsible for this beneficial effect. That’s because diosgenin has properties similar to the female hormone estrogen.
Palm Dates: Another remedy for a low milk supply comes all the way from the Middle East – yummy dates! As one study found, women who ate dates had much higher milk production within 3 days of the baby’s birth. Dates are also a nutritional powerhouse. They contain antioxidants, minerals like copper, magnesium, selenium, and potassium as well as vitamins B and C – essentially, everything you need right now to fortify your body!5
6. Treat Sore Nipples With Breast Milk, Coconut Oil, Or Honey
Many mothers find that their nipples get sore and tender when they begin breastfeeding. As we already saw, an improper latch can cause you pain. So first, check that your baby is latching on properly. But if you’re dealing with cracked or dry nipples, rub a little breastmilk on your nipples and let them dry naturally. Your breastmilk has soothing oils and anti-infective properties that can help your nipples heal.
Looking for other natural remedies? Try rubbing on some medical grade honey or food grade coconut oil. Both of these have antibacterial properties that can help prevent breast infections. They’re also well known for their moisturizing effects. 6 But do wash them off before feeding your baby. Honey, in particular, is not advisable for babies below the age of 12 months as it may contain the bacteria that causes botulism.7
7. Get A Castor Oil Massage To Prevent Plugged Milk Ducts
Plugged milk ducts can cause the stagnation of milk in your breasts. And they are a pretty common problem faced by breastfeeding mothers. But don’t worry yet – the ancient science of ayurveda has your back! Massage your breasts gently with warm castor oil. Go from the breastbone toward your armpits both under and around your nipples.
Avoid massaging your nipples or areola with castor oil, though. Your baby may get diarrhea if they suck on it. But if castor oil does get on your nipples, don’t worry! Just wash it off before you start feeding.8
8. Eat Healthy: Your Diet’s Feeding Your Baby!
Eat a healthy, balanced diet that’s rich in calcium while you’re breastfeeding. Here are some tips on what you should be eating at this time:
- Make sure you have 3–5 servings of dairy or other calcium-rich foods a day so you don’t fall short of your calcium needs. Think milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and yogurt. If you are vegan, legumes, beans, and nuts like almonds can just as easily do the job.9
- You need to have around 500 extra calories a day to meet your energy requirements during this time.
- Avoid foods that bother the baby. Some foods may make your baby gassy or fussy. This may include vegetables like broccoli or cabbage or foods that are spicy. Your baby may also have a reaction to something that you eat. Signs of a reaction can include vomiting, gas, diarrhea, colic, or a rash. Peanuts and eggs are commonly found to trigger allergic reactions. So pay attention to how your baby reacts to feedings and see if there’s a link to your diet.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine. Both alcohol and caffeine can get into breastmilk. Don’t have more than 2 cups of caffeinated drinks such as coffee, soda, or tea in a day. And if you do have alcohol, limit yourself to 1 drink a day. Also, avoid having both caffeine and alcohol at least a couple of hours before feeding your baby.
- Check before you take common medicines. Various medications, including many over-the-counter ones, can make their way into breastmilk. So speak to your doctor to confirm that a medicine is safe for use while breastfeeding before you take it.10
9. Get Some Rest
While it’s natural for you to focus on your new baby, don’t forget to take care of yourself too. And that starts with ensuring you get enough rest. Make up for lost sleep when the baby sleeps. And involve your partner in taking care of the baby so that you’re not carrying the load alone. Also, reach out to family and friends for help when you need to. They could pitch in with housework or help out with meals. Remember, it takes a village!
10. Think Happy Thoughts
Enjoy the time that you spend with your baby. Smiling, cuddling, and talking to your baby can give them a sense of security – and make you happy too!11
According to ayurveda, a happy state of mind is also important for a breastfeeding mother. It is thought that a nursing mother’s emotional state affects her baby. In fact, some texts even suggest that a mother who is overwhelmed by a negative emotion like grief should not breastfeed.12
Why Breastfeeding Is Important: Nourish Your Baby, Boost Immunity, And Enhance Your Wellbeing
Any time your resolve to breastfeed weakens or you wonder whether it’s really worth it, remind yourself of these benefits!
- Breast milk contains all the nutrients required, in the right balance, to help your baby grow into a healthy, strong toddler.
- Breastfeeding boosts your baby’s immunity and reduces the risk of getting diarrhea and ear infections. Babies who are breastfed even have a lower risk of diabetes, childhood obesity, and asthma when they grow older.
- Breastfeeding helps build a special emotional bond between you and your baby.
- It’s good for the mother too! It may help you get back to your pre-pregnancy weight, recover from pregnancy and childbirth more quickly, and lower your risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer.13
|↑1||Ten Valuable Tips for Successful Breastfeeding. Government of Canada.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑10||Breastfeeding: Hints to Help You Get Off to a Good Start. American Academy of Family Physicians.|
|↑4||Breastfeeding latch. American Pregnancy Association.|
|↑5||El Sakka, Abeer, Mostafa Salama, and Kareem Salama. “The effect of fenugreek herbal tea and palm dates on breast milk production and infant weight.” J Pediatr Sci 6 (2014): e202.|
|↑6||Walker, Marsha. “Are There Any Cures for Sore Nipples?.” Clinical Lactation 4, no. 3 (2013): 106-115.|
|↑7||Botulism. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑8||Lad, Vasant. The complete book of Ayurvedic home remedies. Harmony, 1999.|
|↑9||Healthy Eating during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding. WHO.|
|↑11||Bachman, Margo. Yoga Mama, Yoga Baby: Ayurveda and Yoga for a Healthy Pregnancy and Birth. Sounds True, 2013.|
|↑12||Pradesh, Uttar. “Review On Ayurvedic And Modern Concept Of Human Breast Milk And Breast Feeding.”|
|↑13||Incredible facts about babies, breast milk, and breastfeeding. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.|