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Six Tips for Successful Breastfeeding

Okay, I’ll be the one to admit it: Nursin’ ain’t easy. Am I right, ladies?

When I was pregnant I read everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and childbirth. I had no idea what to expect and I was going to be prepared! (Ha!) The breastfeeding, though, I took that for granted. I’d know what to do when the time came, right? (Ha! Ha!) Turned out I needed the help of the hospital staff and a lactation consultant, advice from my mom and mama-friends, and the support of my husband to figure out how to feed this squirming hungry tiny human and to keep feeding him as he grew and grew.

It was work, but in my experience, it was worth it and I was glad to do it (most of the time). If you’re determined to give it your best go, here are some tips that should help you with breastfeeding.     

TBreastfeedingop Tip: Get Close

A growing body of research provides evidence that the #1 way to get breastfeeding off to a great start is for baby and mommy to have immediate and continuous skin-to-skin contact after birth. It’s even been shown that given the chance, a newborn will crawl to their mom’s breast and self-attach on their own within the first hour.   

Even if baby must be separated from mom – to go to the neonatal intensive care unit, for example – getting back to skin-to-skin contact as soon as they are reunited increases the chances for successful nursing.

Breastfeeding Tips: Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby

We asked Anna Getty, a green-living-lifestyle educator, mother and founder of Pregnancy Awareness Month, to share some of her tips to help baby and mom thrive while nursing.

  1. Eat well. Just as during pregnancy, what you eat still goes to your baby while you’re nursing. Aim for a balanced diet full of whole foods and choose organic options, when possible. In those first months, with all those sleepless nights, it’s easy to rely on high-sugar and high-salt convenience foods but eating a healthy, high-protein and fiber-rich array of foods including whole grains, fruits, vegetables and high-quality protein will not only help sustain your energy but their nutritional benefits will also get passed on to baby through your milk.
  2. Stay hydrated. Milk production can drop if you experience dehydration, and it can also drop if you drink too much water. Instead of relying on a number, it’s recommended that you drink to thirst. It’s easy to get super-focused on your baby’s needs and forget your own needs. Keep water on hand, like in a diaper bag or near the spot where you nurse most often, and try and take time for soothing herbal teas.
  3. Nordic Naturals DHAKeep taking your DHA. This Omega-3 fatty acid is vital for brain and visual development. It turns out that breast milk contains DHA (Docosahexaenoic acid) but it’s still important to keep your dietary levels up in order for your baby to get adequate amounts. Fatty fish is a great source of DHS but the FDA has advised that women limit their intake of some fish due to its high mercury content. As an alternative, look for fish oil that has been purified (often called "molecularly distilled"). Whole Foods Market®’s Whole Body department offers vegetarian options for DHS supplements, as well.
  4. Keep taking your prenatal vitamin. Although producing milk is a natural part of having a baby, it does require increased energy and nutrients from your body. Eating well, staying hydrated and resting are all important aspects for healthy milk production, and getting an extra nutritional boost from a quality prenatal supplement is incredibly helpful as well. During breastfeeding getting enough calcium, vitamin D and iron is important.
  5. Nap when your baby naps. This was by far one of the best bits of advice I got when I had my babies. It’s easy to be excited in those first few weeks postpartum and want to get things done while the baby naps. But napping when your baby naps and getting the rest you need has been shown to support healthy milk production, help with your own energy levels and to even decrease the chances of postpartum depression.

BreastfeedingYour breast milk has many ingredients that help baby grow and thrive – it actually changes depending on your baby’s needs. It nourishes and supports a healthy immune system, builds good intestinal flora, helps protect against allergies, and many other benefits that are still being uncovered. It’s an all-natural super food!   

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization recommend feeding baby breast milk only for about the first six months and then continuing to breastfeed for at least a year, and longer as baby and mom want, while solid foods are being introduced. Ultimately, how long you choose to breastfeed is up to you and your situation. Any amount you can give your baby is a bonus.

Sometimes, breastfeeding doesn’t come naturally. If nursing your baby hurts (it shouldn’t), you’re having problems positioning baby, or you’re having other difficulties or concerns, don’t grin-and-bear it. Seek help. There are resources you can turn to for help: Certified lactation consultants in your area, a local La Leche League support group, and perhaps the hospital where you delivered. Your OB, midwife or pediatrician may also be able to recommend more resources in your area.

And, returning to work doesn’t have to mean the end of nursing. Though it can be quite challenging to keep up with nursing and pumping, under Federal and some state laws employers have certain legal requirements to support their breastfeeding employees.

What helped you succeed at breastfeeding? Were there any challenges you overcame? Share with us in the comments below.

We've collected more of our favorite simple tips that cover the very basics of having a healthy pregnancy and preparing for a new baby!

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Kristin says …

I hear every word you are saying! I'm in my 8 month of exclusive nursing and it is one of my life's biggest accomplishments. That's a surprise to me to say, but it was so hard getting started and managing the time committment and some clogged ducts along the way. Have your mind set up front how determined you are to nurse and set goal for length. Take courses. Hire lactation consultant. During hard moments remember how the health benefits and bonding (takes time) for mom and baby are unparalleled to anything else. It's not forever so it is something now I truly cherish and will likely miss one day. It's our quit time together now. What a soap box! I became very passionate advocate about it, in case you can not tell!

Susan Mayer says …

If returning to work, check with your insurance carrier for coverage of electric breast pumps. The new health care plan covers pumps and other breastfeeding services.

Denise K says …

I breast fed all three if my children. The first time was the hardest because even with the books and the classes it was really in the job training. My first was a boy exind a girl then the last was a boy. I found each baby had an individual way they liked to feed. My first boy loved to use me as a pacifier and was a littler re frantic moving his head back and forth looking to latch on. Some of it had to be because I was a little anxious and was also learning how to latch him on comfortable past the nipple to more of the aereola. Once I figure out how to squeeze my breast sideways it make it more narrow I did it better and quicker. My daughter was I much easier due in part to experience but also she was much more gentler latching on and did not need me as a pacifier. Every 2 -3 hrs she did her business and back to sleep. My 3rd and final boy had the added fun of laryengomalacia which is strider AKA floppy larynx. It made it hard for him to suck so I had to use a lactaid trainer to breastfeeding him bin went to a lactation specialist and she helped me use it. It is a little 2iz upside down bottle you pin to your bra or clothes. I would put 1 oz of Nutramagen formular in the open bottom of the upside down bottle. At the bottom end of the bottle was a long thin silicone tubing with an opening in the end that i would tape to the top edge of my nipple. So I would use a little clamp to control the flow of the milk into the tube. Baby would latch on my breast w the tip of the tube. The baby would relax his jaw suck normal and the Lynette was no floppy larynx. He would eat for 10-15 m each side using just the 1 oz of formular and the rest would come from me Andy breast milk. So even though they tell you certain ways to breast feed in books or classes it it a very individual learning process between you and your baby. Many tha ks even these 18 years later to Binky Petok my lactation consultant that help me breastfeed Luke now 18 when everyone else said just give him the bottle and be done with it. And believe me I have no prejudice against those who choose to bottle feed. But for me I really want to have the choice as well to breastfeed. And I have to this day no regrets. Hope this helps those if you looking for support. Peace.

elyssa goldman landau says …

Do u carry baby coconut sauve or olive oil sauve?

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@ELYSSA - Our products vary between locations so check with the store you plan to shop with to find out!

Courtney McQueen says …

I have a problem and need help!! I have to pump because my baby is in the nicu and my milk supply is getting low I'm drink water every minute of everyday I was wondering is it because I'm pumping and not actually feeding him off of my breast?!? If you could email me I would appreciate it thank you!!

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@COURTNEY - Thirst is associated with the body’s needs for additional fluids when breastfeeding (or pumping). Kellymom.com is a great online resource for breastfeeding information. According to the site, you should follow your body’s cues and drink to satisfy your thirst. However, drinking extra fluids (beyond your thirst) does not increase milk supply. You can read more here: http://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-calories-fluids/ We suggest contacting a lactation consultant or the La Leche League if you have questions about keep up your milk supply while your baby is not able to nurse.