A Breastfeeding Guide for New Mothers

Even though breastfeeding is the most natural and instinctive process in the world, it isn’t necessarily the easiest given that so many women find it difficult and challenging, particularly in the beginning. Nursing mothers, especially new mothers learning to breastfeed for the first time, face common challenges and have lots of questions during the first weeks of nursing their babies. 

After all, breastfeeding is a learned process which requires preparation and guidance, and that’s exactly what we’re here to do!

In this breastfeeding guide for new mothers, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions nursing mothers have and give you essential tips and advice to help you out. Breastfeeding can be easy and comfortable once you get the hang of it, so stop stressing and let’s get started.

How Soon After The Birth Can I Breastfeed My Newborn?

The short answer is – right away or as soon as you two are stable.

Infants can start nursing only minutes after being born and it’s best if you start breastfeeding right after birth. 

Place your baby on your chest and make sure he or she is in direct skin-to-skin contact with you in order to stimulate the feeding instinct. Don’t get discouraged if your baby won't latch on your nipple immediately since some require more time than others.

Give him or her some time to lick it first and get comfortable while you remain in direct skin-to-skin contact. It may take some time but your little one will latch on and start nursing eventually. 

What is the Proper Way to Hold My Baby During Breastfeeding?

There isn’t one single way but rather a number of breastfeeding positions that can help your baby latch on better and make both of you more relaxed and comfortable. We’ll go over the five best ways to hold your baby during breastfeeding, so you can try them all and see which ones work best for both of you.

Cradle hold. When thinking about breastfeeding positions, this is the first one that comes to mind. Sit in a comfortable position and support your back with a comfy cushion. Place your baby on the side with his or her head along your forearm and the body against your chest or stomach. 

The cradle hold is this classic position that’s particularly great for babies over 1 month old. It can be uncomfortable if you’ve had a C-section as it puts pressure on the belly.

Crossover hold. This is a similar position to the cradle hold, only you support your baby’s head and body with the opposite arm. So, if you nurse with your right breast, support your infant’s body with the left arm and vice-versa and you can put your other arm below for extra-support. 

If your infant has difficulty latching on your nipple or is born prematurely, this position should be helpful.

Football hold / Rugby ball hold. Hold your little one as if you’d hold a rugby ball - his or her body tucked under the arm that’s on your nursing breast’s side with his or her face, of course, on your breast. With the same arm support the tiny head and you can use your other arm to adjust it nicely on your breast and help him or her latch on the nipple. 

This position is perfect if your baby has difficulty latching on or if you’ve had a C-section since there’s no pressure on your tummy. It’s also a great way to breastfeed two babies at the same time.

Side-lying position. Faced belly-to-belly, lay on your side with your little on alongside you on a bed or a large sofa. If he or she cannot reach your breast, you can support the head with a pillow or gently hold it with your arm.

This is a great position for late-night feedings, especially if you’ve had a C-section or a difficult delivery.

Koala hold. Also known as the upright hold, this breastfeeding position requires that your little one sits upright on your tight or hip. Support your baby’s head and body with the arm that’s on your nursing breast’s side, and use the other arm for extra support.

The koala hold is perfect both for infants and older babies who can sit in an upright position by themselves. 

How Much and How Often Should I Breastfeed My Baby?

During the first month, it’s recommended that you breastfeed your baby at least 8 times in 24 hours to about 12 times, if not more. 

Remember, you should regularly nurse your baby, breastfeed each time he or she is hungry, and not let him or her be unfed for more than 4 hours. The more the better rule works in this case given that regular breastfeeding is beneficial not only for your baby but for you and your milk supply as well!

After the first month, you should strive to breastfeed around 8 times a day. If you have more milk than your baby can eat, use a breast pump to express the extra milk and keep it for next feedings.

Wondering what breast pump to use? Check out the best breast pumps and find the one that’s ideal for you.

How Long Should I Nurse On Each Side?

On average, a breastfeeding session can last from 20 to 45 minutes or more during the first month of nursing. We’d recommend that you breastfeed your little one on each breast until he or she no longer suckles or about 10 to 15 minutes on each side.

Remember, newborns require longer breastfeeding sessions since during the first month your milk or foremilk is with a thinner consistency. Over time it becomes thicker which is why older babies require shorter feedings.

If your baby is full after nursing on one breast only, you can use a breast pump to express the milk from the other one. The more regular expression of milk via breastfeeding and/or pumping, the more milk will your breasts produce.

How Many Oz of Breastmilk Should My Baby Eat in a Day?

A newborn’s stomach is the size of a cherry and cannot hold more than a teaspoon or 0.1 oz of foremilk. This is exactly why they require frequent and regular feedings during the first month. After a few days, the stomach becomes larger and can hold up to 1 oz of milk, while after the first month it can hold up to 5 oz.

That being said, the amount of breast milk your baby should eat in a day depends on his or her weight.  Here are some guidelines.

My Baby is Having Trouble Latching On, What Do I Do?

Let’s start by saying that every single baby is born with breastfeeding instincts to find the nipple and latch on. However, some babies need a little bit of assistance, so here are some things you can do to help your precious one awaken this instinct.

If nothing works, ask a certified lactation consultant for advice. 

My Nipples Are Sore, What Do I Do? 

Tender nipples during the first days, even weeks of breastfeeding, is something completely normal. Sore nipples that stay sore for weeks is not. 

Even though breastfeeding is oftentimes uncomfortable, your nipples shouldn’t hurt. If they do, it’s because of one or more of the following things.

So, what do you do?

Firstly, make sure that your entire nipple, even some part of the areola, is inside your baby’s mouth since this is considered a good latch that’s not supposed to cause any pain.

Secondly, breastfeed your baby regularly. The more milk in your breasts, the more they’ll hurt. If you produce more milk than your baby can eat, use a breast pump to express it. Make sure that you use the right breast shield size since the wrong size will hurt your nipples.

Wear loose clothes and use a nipple cream to help your nipples heal faster. Wash them regularly and use shampoos with natural ingredients. 

If the soreness doesn’t go away or you see cracking or blood, you might have an infection, so see your doctor to receive proper care.

Maintaining a Steady Milk Supply While Breastfeeding

There are a few ways in which you can maintain steady milk supply while breastfeeding, even increase it if you think you’re not producing enough. 

Our first advice is to regularly drink water and other fluids like tea or milk (plant-based milk is great as well). Beware that drinking an insane amount of water will not increase your milk supply, but not drinking enough will decrease it, so don’t allow yourself to be thirsty and always stay hydrated.

Regular breast milk expression is the most effective way to maintain a steady milk supply and also increase it. Whether with breastfeeding or pumping, make sure to frequently and regularly express your breast milk seeing that more milk is produced when the breasts are regularly emptied out. 

Eat foods that support lactation like green veggies, avocado, oatmeal, garlic, nuts, carrots, fennel and fenugreek seeds, papaya, apricots, and so on. You can create your own lactation smoothie each morning by combining some of these ingredients and boost your milk supply over time.

Breastfeeding or pumping at night, especially during the first couple of weeks, is also very helpful for maintaining and increasing your milk supply since this is when the hormone that’s most responsible for producing milk is mostly present.

And lastly, try to be as relaxed as you can during the first few months of breastfeeding. Stress and negative thoughts are breastfeeding’s worse enemies and can be the biggest reason for someone’s low milk supply. 

So, try to incorporate meditation in your life, take frequent walks in nature, listen to relaxing music, and do everything you can to stay stress-free, both for yours and your baby’s well-being and, of course, for your milk supply.