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9 Tips for Breastfeeding a Newborn

breastfeeding newborn

It’s World Breastfeeding Week, and while there is a lot of great information about breastfeeding vailable to new moms, most of it is aimed at moms and babies that are past the “newborn” stage (the first 2-3 weeks of life). With this post I’m hoping to provide some tips to moms with babies under three weeks of age.

Many expecting mothers hear that breastfeeding is going to be very challenging and that they might not make enough milk to feed their baby.

While some women do experience these struggles, they aren’t the norm.

Breastfeeding a newborn is time-consuming, sometimes exhausting and requires a real commitment.

But with preparation, help and support, you can most likely breastfeed successfully for as long as you want.

Below are some tips to make breastfeeding your newborn an easier, more comfortable experience.

9 Breastfeeding Tips for The First Few Weeks of Your Baby’s Life

1. Breastfeed frequently in the first 2 days. Don’t follow the clock, just breastfeed as much as possible. Not only does this soothe your newborn, it also triggers your milk production. Not much is coming out at first, but your baby’s sucking will soon change that.

2. Avoid swaddling for the first few days. Studies have shown that swaddled babies breastfeed less frequently. You want your baby to wake up often to nurse, since this is what encourages a good milk supply. If you do choose to swaddle for sleep at the hospital or in the few days after, make sure to un-swaddle the baby every two hours for feedings, and that the baby’s hands are free – not in mitts – when nursing (his hands also help trigger milk production).

3. Feed your newborn whenever she wakes up. Brand new babies only wake when they’re hungry. By the time a baby is “rooting” or sucking on her fist, she’s really hungry. If she’s reached the stage of crying, she’s extremely hungry and now burning precious calories via crying. Feeding your baby the moment she wakes up will help establish your milk supply.

4. Avoid using a pacifier until your baby has surpassed his birth weight. Babies burn calories by sucking, so ideally they should only be sucking while they’re eating. Once your baby is steadily gaining weight, you can safely introduce a pacifier or other artificial nipple.

5. Hold your baby on your chest as often as possible, even when you’re not breastfeeding. This helps to increase your milk supply over the long term.

6. Pay attention to your pain. You may experience discomfort as your baby begins feeding, but after a minute or two you should only feel a “tugging” sensation that doesn’t hurt. Pinching, biting or other really painful sensations are signs that your baby needs some help with her latch. Make sure to ask for a lactation consultant’s help within the first few days if you’re experiencing a lot of pain. A little pain is normal, as your nipples get used to the sensation, but excessive pain is probably preventable.

7. Remember that newborns feed frequently for short periods of time. For the first week or two, it may feel like your newborn wants to nurse all the time. This can be tiring for the mom, but it’s very temporary. Within a few weeks your baby will start to go longer periods without eating (a few hours), which gives you a little more freedom.

8. Keep your baby cool. Babies are comfortable in whatever clothing you are. Dress them in the same amount of layers as you yourself would want based on the weather. Avoid overdressing your baby, since this makes her sleepier and less likely to wake up when she’s hungry. Being too hot and sweating also burn unnecessary calories.

9. Ask for help. Breastfeeding isn’t always straightforward. Little adjustments can make a big difference in your level of comfort, and this often requires the help of an expert (note: most doctors & nurses are not breastfeeding experts). Before having your baby, research the different avenues of getting help in your area (lactation clinics, lactation consultant at the hospital, etc) and don’t hesitate to call right after giving birth. Stanford also offers some great online breastfeeding videos, and La Leche League and KellyMom are good resources.

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  • Willow Jarosh
    August 6, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    This is a really great post. It’s not the same old stuff you always hear about breast feeding.

  • Amelia Winslow
    August 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks, Willow!

  • Tana
    August 8, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Great post! Even though I’ve nursed two kiddos successfully, there were some tips I hadn’t come across (never heard that about swaddling!). Lovely breastfeeding photo too.

  • Amelia Winslow
    August 11, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Thanks, Tana!

  • Charissa
    August 14, 2014 at 7:16 pm

    Thanks for the post! I will be breastfeeding my third child in a few months. I have to argue with your statement that it is a misconception that there is often pain in breast feeding. Is that based in personal experience? Of the many, many mothers that I know that have bfed, only about two of them have not experienced pain at some point. Whether it’s flat nipples, blebs, thrush, mastitis, or something else-pain is quite common. With both of my children I had horrible pain the first week as my nipples were stretched out. If I had known before hand and was prepared with those little soothies, things would have gone much better physically and emotionally. I was about ready to quit both times! After that, I experienced pain of other sorts that was not due to latch issues several times. I think mothers should be prepared for those times so they can fight through them, knowing that things will get better if taken care of. I get tired of mothers who have an easy time at bfing with a lot of supply saying it’s not challenging or hard. The simple truth is that you are lucky and more often than not, that’s not the case. Saying this kind of thing makes people quit or think there’s something wrong with them when they aren’t like you. Other than that, I appreciate your other tips!

  • Amelia Winslow
    August 15, 2014 at 9:26 am

    Hi Charissa,
    Thanks so much for your comment. I definitely don’t want to mislead moms into thinking breastfeeding doesn’t have it’s challenges, or that pain is totally abnormal. (I had a LOT of pain at the beginning with my first child, and it took a few trips to a lactation consultant to overcome!) The point I was trying to make is that excessive pain isn’t always a necessary component of breastfeeding. Getting help from an expert can lessen the pain and discomfort. But I see what you’re saying and I’ll make some changes to my language in this post to better reflect what I’m trying to say so that it’s a more supportive post. I agree that moms who know that there may be obstacles- but that they’re usually temporary- will probably feel more motivated to keep going when they hit road bumps. Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Happy Mommy
    August 20, 2014 at 5:56 am

    I strongly a agree with number 4. Great tips shared here. Thanks a lot. It’s totally helpful.

  • amy
    August 20, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I’m about to give birth to my second daugjtet and I have decided to only breastfeed. I do not want formula any where near my daughter.
    I’ve been reading everything I can to prepare me for breastfeeding since I messed up the first time. I made the mistake of focusing on pumping more instead of trying to get her to latch on which I had difficulty with that.

    I just had a question. So when I do give birth I know my milk takes a few days to show up. In the meantime how do I feed my baby? Is the teensy bit that does come out enough for her? Any advice will help greatly. Hope this doesn’t make me sound dumb.

  • Amelia Winslow
    August 20, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Great question! Your pediatrician/lactation consultant in the hospital will be able to give you the best advice on this when your baby arrives, but in general, yes the tiny amount you produce is enough for your newborn, as long as you feed her very frequently. Brand new babies might eat pretty much all the time for a day or two (after an initial sleepy period – 1-3 hours after birth – which may last about 12 hours) and if you just continue to nurse them that tends to be soothing enough, and also helps your milk come in. Best wishes!

  • Sara
    August 30, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Colostrum comes out before your milk comes in. And when they do have their long stretch of sleep, still wake them every 2 hours. Once they surpass their birth weight you can feed on demand. Id also add to this list to keep a giant cup of water with you at all times. I brought the one from the hospital home!

  • Jessica
    September 28, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    This post has some very useful information EXCEPT the part about dressing your baby in 1 layer more than yourself. Keep your baby in the same layer of clothing you would keep yourself. It is far more dangerous to overheat your baby, like on the car ride somewhere; than it is for them to be slightly cool. It’s a common misconception new mothers have when they have a young child in the colder months. As a pediatrician it is something I encounter frequently.

  • Amelia Winslow
    September 29, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Thanks for chiming in on this. I agree with you, but most published info says what I wrote. I will update the info since I think your perspective makes the most sense!

  • Kristen
    November 15, 2014 at 8:14 pm

    Great article, so much of it is common sense, but as new moms, we stress so much, so it’s nice to see it in writing. 🙂

  • Amelia Winslow
    November 17, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Thanks, Kristen! And I agree, when you’re a new mom and sleep-deprived, it’s helpful to have a list to refer to 🙂

  • Eunice
    December 7, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    This is very helpful. With my first daughter, I couldn’t breastfeed because I was stuck on pumping and gave her bottles while I pumped. So wrong! I wish I had prepped better. I had no clue what to do and had Been given the wrong advice by my MIL. So, for this next baby, I’m planning on ditching the pump completely and following this advice to keep breastfeeding. Hopefully, she will not discourage me this time.

  • SusanMarie
    December 16, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Thankyou for this post!! Fantastic advise

  • Kaitlin
    December 26, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this information, I am a soon to be mommy (single mommy at that)& this really helps me understand and have a mind of what i’m getting myself into as of breastfeeding & how to go about things.

  • Amelia Winslow
    December 29, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Sending you my best wishes, Kaitlin! Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it – we all need it! 🙂

  • AdoringFamily
    January 29, 2015 at 3:08 am

    Great info! I have had four kiddos and I never heard about the no swaddling or no pacifiers! Much appreciated 🙂

  • Amelia Winslow
    January 29, 2015 at 8:16 am

    I’m glad you found this info helpful. You’re certainly an expert with four kiddos!!

  • Kate
    February 4, 2015 at 7:40 am

    Man, I wish I found this 3 weeks ago! Breastfeeding started out great but about day 2 my son stopped wanting to latch, and when he did it felt like I was being stabbed with nails! It was awful! if I wasn’t crying out of pain, i was crying cause he wouldn’t latch!! I felt bad needing to give formula but he was only wanting to latch after 6+ hours of screaming out of hunger:/. He’s 4 weeks tomorrow, and only latches when I’ve given him some breastmilk from a bottle, and hes hungry after… and that’s not common for him:(.
    Great info! I’m going to Pin this for my next baby! (They didn’t tell me it shouldn’t hurt that bad with his latches!)

  • Amelia Winslow
    February 4, 2015 at 9:51 am

    I’m sorry to hear about your experience, Kate – that must have been so hard and frustrating (especially when sleep deprived like all new moms are)! But, I’m glad to hear you’re getting into a rhythm now with your baby. If you add in one extra pumping session per day, you may be able to keep your supply up so he can continue to get breastmilk via the bottle…or, just keep doing what you’re doing and feel good that your baby is getting enough food & growing 🙂 Thanks for stopping by to read this!

  • Janine Lueck
    March 8, 2015 at 9:54 am

    I am so glad that I came across this website when I did because my daughter is about to have her baby and plans on breastfeeding. This will help her in so many ways. I have tried breastfeeding too with my kids but never produced enough milk to make it work, as well as severe pain that caused me to give breastfeeding up each time,(pediatrician agreed on this because my child was dehydrated and almost ended up in the hospital). Since it didn’t work out for me, I am not able to help my daughter when it comes to her time here shortly. Thanks to you and your great tips, I will now be able to offer your advice to her in hopes that it will help in her having success with breastfeeding.

  • Amelia Winslow
    March 8, 2015 at 12:26 pm

    My pleasure, Janine – I really hope these tips help make her breastfeeding experience easier! Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  • Lindsay
    March 19, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Good tips. I think too many people (and doctors!) are grossly unaware of the presence of lip and tongue ties and just how badly they affect the latch. My mother tried to nurse me for 6 weeks and ended up with mastitis and switched to formula. I have a tongue tie and unbeknownst to her my inability to latch properly is the main reason she ended up with mastitis – an incomplete latch will not sufficiently empty the beast and things get backed up, mom produces less and less and it’s a downhill cycle. I successfully breastfed (still going at 3.5yrs) my tongue tied daughter but she suffered some colic issues in the beginning due to taking on air. We were able to work through it but many babies require a quick procedure to clip the tie and allow their tongue to move more freely.

  • Amelia Winslow
    March 19, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Thank you for pointing this out, Lindsay – I really didn’t know how common this was either. I appreciate you chiming in for other moms to see that this is surmountable with a quick procedure and when addressed sooner rather than later can prevent supply issues/mastitis.

  • Laura
    May 1, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Thank you for the this helpful list. I’m going on my second baby girl and looking to refresh. My first one is only 10 months! Yes a little stressed out but hoping to have a great nursing experience with my second little one like I did with my first. I think another thing that is very important is that you have to have a good support system. Before I gave birth I was very vocal with my my husband, MIL and my own mother about my desire to breastfeed. I told them it wouldn’t always be easy but I wanted to really try. And all of them were amazing. Nobody ever said just give her a bottle! I went back to work when she was 3 months old and pumped 3 times a day and I would go home and nurse her in the evenings. I was able to nurse her until she was 7 months and I was 3 months pregnant. She weaned herself! It was amazing to share this with all of them!

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